This Review contains spoilers.
“The trick is not to mind. Not to mind about it hurting, not to mind about anything.”
Series: The Half Bad Trilogy
Published: 2014, by Penguin
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult, Paranormal, Magic
Contains: Violence/Torture/Abuse, Death
Half Bad is set in modern day England, with a population split into those of magic (Witches) and those without (Fains). However, amongst the magic there are those of good and bad; white witches and black. The first of the series follows the early life of protagonist, Nathan Byrn, a half-code (white/black), who happens to be the illegitimate son of Marcus Edge; the most feared Black Witch in England. The story follows his life up towards his seventeenth birthday, where each witch will inherit three gifts, allowing their magic to become fully formed. If not, the witch will die. However, the council of White Witches refuse this due to his code, leaving him for the majority of the novel to seek Mercury; a powerful black witch who he believes will give these gifts regardless.
The book itself is split into six parts, each full of short chapters with interesting inner thoughts of Nathan, most of which lured me to continue to the final page. Being also uniquely written in first person, it seemed easy for Green to allow the inner voice to flow and place us within the protagonist’s mind. Nathan as a character is immediately likeable, being a quiet warrior, yet is quick to become brash in intense situations. However, this isn’t the character’s downfall. Once Nathan’s upbringing is revealed it simply adds an understanding explanation, which only reinforces the character’s likeable aspects of his personality and develops them further into the strong hero at the end of the novel. The dark plot of Nathan’s life also adds to the multiple reasons why I adore this novel, from his life whilst in the cage to the beatings he took from the O’Brien’s. This novel is full of violence and angst up to the twist of a climax, and I can’t wait to read the next in the series.
As someone who loves to fall in love with characters, the best thing about this book to me is Gabriel Boutin. He’s mentioned around the middle of the book, whilst on the hunt for Mercury’s whereabouts. Being a contradiction to the protagonist, Gabriel is cool-minded and gentle, speaking enthusiastically about art and literature whilst Nathan is set on the task at hand. His talkative nature is what initially draws us to his character, seeming to be one of the first carers of Nathan, other than his Grandmother, who desires to connect with him. Regardless of how much Nathan appears to resist. However, towards the end of the tale Mercury’s assistant, Rose, reveals Gabriel’s romantic interest in him, which is barely touched upon afterwards other than enjoyable teasing. As a sucker for LGBT representation, I’d love for it to be expanded on further in the rest of the series.
Having been so connected to the novel since the first page, it’s difficult for me to find much fault. However, I sometimes found the sentence structure too long and difficult to digest. Due to this I did have to reread parts a few times to understand. Although, it hasn’t impacted my love for this series at all; I have the next book at the ready.