First in a trilogy
By Sally Green
Available now from Viking Juvenile (Penguin Random House)
HALF BAD is the first in a trilogy, coming out on a massive wave of buzz. Huge bidding war at the Frankfurt Book Fair, sales to multiple countries, and so on. I enjoyed HALF BAD quite a bit, although I did expect a good more. It's a good introduction to a series, but it comes to an end when things really kick into gear. I'm excited about Nathan's future adventures, probably more excited than I am by anything in HALF BAD itself.
Nathan was born to a family of White Witches, but his father was a Black Witch - the most infamous Black Witch, in fact. As he grows older, his freedom becomes more and more curtailed until he ends up in a cage. His ordeal is harrowing and told in an immersive fashion, but it can be difficult to spend so much time on horror. I did like the glimpses of the wider witch world, as more ambiguous figures start coming out of the woodwork once Nathan begins journeying. Much explanation of how the witches work and how they interact with the larger human is told very generally, partially because Nathan is kept deliberately ignorant and HALF BAD is restricted by his point of view.
The romance starts out fairly predictable. Nathan falls hard for Annalise, a full White Witch from a family of Hunters. (Hunters hunt Black Witches, fairly obviously.) It's your bog-standard star-crossed romance. I preferred Nathan's interactions with the more morally ambiguous characters who show up toward the last third of the novel, including one with a major attraction to Nathan.
HALF BAD is an intense read. It brings up some interesting questions about morality, ethics, and disobeying authority. The child abuse can be tough to take, although it's not told in a prurient manner. I'm excited by the potential for the future books, for the world of White and Black Witches to be explored more and for Nathan to grow, free of the cage.