Set in a world where good witches are “White Witches” and bad witches are “Black Witches”, Nathan is a Half Code – his mother was a White Witch, but his father Marcus is thought by society to be the most evil Black Witch out there. Unluckily for him, this means that he has a lot of people judging his every action (and inaction), and usually unfavourably.
This is the first book in the projected Half Life trilogy, and will be followed up next year by the sequel Half Wild. The third book is currently untitled.
The story is plot-heavy, but not enough so as to make the book incredibly slow-moving, and the plot itself is gripping right from the start. Interestingly, the story actually starts in the middle, and when we’re first introduced to Nathan he’s in a cage – so the narrative progresses as follows: Nathan in a cage (part 1) ➟ How Nathan got in a cage (part 2) ➟ Nathan in a cage again & everything that happens (chronologically) after part 1 (the rest of the book).
First up, I just want to say that I really, really liked almost all of the characters in this book, and that the ones that I didn’t like were very clearly ones that I wasn’t supposed to like (i.e. Jessica), but were still interesting. Nathan, of course, is the most developed character in the story, and he makes a very compelling protagonist. The side characters are less developed, but still very likeable. My personal favourites were Gabriel and Ellen (a.k.a. Nikita!), though Annalise and Celia were both pretty intriguing, & I hope I’ll get a chance to learn more about them in future books.
Somewhat Harry Potter-ish, in that it’s basically set in our world and our time, but with a hidden society of people who use magic. It’s not a hugely-developed setting yet, as the majority of the book takes place in non-magical society, but the role of the Council (the Witches’ governing body) and particularly the Hunters (an organisation within the Council that hunts Black Witches) is well-explained.
The first few chapters of the book are written in second person, which took me a little by surprise, & after reading them, I was kind of expecting the whole book to be that way, but it slips into first person at the beginning of Part 2. I’m aware that some people find second person narratives annoying, but I actually quite like it, & Sally Green pulls it off remarkably well. Her writing style in general is fast-paced and easy to read.
OVERALL IMPRESSION [4/5]
Half Bad starts out a little slowly, but once it gets going, it’s a lot of fun. The main appeal of the book for me was Nathan’s characterisation, and his interactions with the book’s supporting characters (Jessica, Celia, Gabriel, &c.). I enjoyed this book immensely, and am very excited for the sequel, which is currently projected for release in March, 2015.
Fans of the fight-and-flight aspects of Patrick Ness’ Chaos Walking trilogy, or the socio-political issues in Malorie Blackman’s Noughts and Crosses series.