By Sally Green
An enjoyable read, Half Bad is the first-person account of Nathan Byrn, a teenage witch, living in deprivation. Nathan is the son of a black witch father and a white witch mother who committed suicide (although my suspicion is this will eventually prove not to be the case and will instead be a heroic sacrifice, yawn.) Nathan lives with his three half-siblings, being raised by their maternal grandmother as his dad killed their father – and ate his heart – a fact his older sister isn’t likely to let him forget, blaming him for death of both her parents and strengthening his outsider creds.
His early years at school whizz by and before long, he’s fallen for the daughter of a powerful white witch family and things are about to get more complex. Where would we be without forbidden love, eh?
The book uses proclamations from the witch council to good effect, filling in back story and world-building, foreshadowing the spitefulness of the white majority as embodied the girl’s brothers, who torture and scarify Nathan for getting too close to their sister. It builds a portrait of school life which is believable, if extreme, as the Witch Council keeps a close eye on him, narrowing his options and driving him further from respectability and the possibility of a ‘normal’ life in their efforts to make him straight and narrow. He’s summoned to annual assessments and questioned repeatedly about his magic abilities and if he knows of his mysterious father’s whereabouts. He manages to keep them guessing, despite (or more perhaps because) he can’t read and just acts dum.
But the clock is ticking, as when he reaches 17, he’ll need to undergo a Gifting, to define and solidify his witching strengths. Is he capable of good, or is he just naturally bad?
The book uses vampire symbolism, making the Gifting a blood rite as every witch child must drink the blood of a parent to bring out their latent ability. But in the absence of his own parents, Nathan will be given some generic blood which he is convinced won’t bring out the real him, so he goes on the run in search of the mysterious Mercury, who is supposed to have some of is father’s blood in a bottle.
The characterisation is strong, even as the pacing is a little uneven and some of the motivations seem a bit too much DO SOMETHING DON’T WORRY ABOUT WHY AT LEAST SOMETHING IS HAPPENING. Despite that, there is a fair amount of waiting about for outside influence, and I’m looking forward to the sequel – ‘Half Wild’.
On the shelf
A library loan, which BR1 said was great, although I didn’t rush to pick it up: 3
Found myself looking forward to each read and wondering what was going to happen next: 4
A decent read which has fallen apart a bit on analysis. Would still recommend tho: 3