Sixteen-year-old Nathan lives in a cage: beaten, shackled, trained to kill. In a modern-day England where two warring factions of witches live amongst humans, Nathan is an abomination, the illegitimate son of the world’s most terrifying and violent witch, Marcus. Nathan’s only hope for survival is to escape his captors, track down Marcus, and receive the three gifts that will bring him into his own magical powers—before it’s too late. But how can Nathan find his father when there is no one safe to trust, not even family, not even the girl he loves?
Half Bad is an international sensation and the start of a brilliant trilogy: a gripping tale of alienation and the indomitable will to survive.
I’ve been in a bit of a reading slump lately. Enchantress started out with some promise, but devolved into a clichéd tale with a main character that was smart except when the plot needed her to be stupid. Paladin of Souls was a lovely book that didn’t grab me and Born Human was a complete disappointment. I have a few more days before I have to start reading some ARCs again and was scanning my shelves looking that I was almost certain would grab and hold my interest.
Half Bad was sitting on my desk and had been raised my curiosity so I picked it up.
I wasn’t disappointed.
When this book first came out, I vaguely remember it being a bit polarizing: there’s a lot of love for the book, but also a decent number of vocal detractors. To my pleasant surprise, I rather enjoyed this book and finished it in maybe three hours of time. It’s been while since I’ve done that for a full novel that I enjoyed because I’ll admit that when I’m not liking a book, I’ll skim. This was instead just a quick, enjoyable read.
And as I was reading this book, another book came to mind: Marie Lu’s Prodigy. Hear me out on this: Prodigy is supposed to be a tale of a girl who becomes a villain, but when you read it, her story is one where she has no one to blame but herself for where she ends up at at the end of book: the world didn’t conspire against her, she just continually made poor choices.
Compare that to Nathan here: hated since birth, he’s all but lived on borrowed time his entire life, forever under the surveillance of the White Council who seem to be striking out laws aimed solely at him. And it isn’t paranoia either: as he approaches his 17th birthday, the day that marks his ascension into his adult powers, he’s given a choice: kill your father (whom, despite people comparing him to Voldemort much more strikes me as Sylar from Heroes) or we kill you. Obviously, he does not die, but still. Here’s a kid whose life is such that if he went villain it’d be to the absolute surprise of no one: the White Council, in their attempts to use Nathan, has all but pushed him into becoming a Black Witch by the awful way they’ve treated him. And yet, he hasn’t gone Anakin Skywalker, he isn’t trying to embrace his Black heritage. Literally all he wants is to be given his Gift and be left alone. It’s rather admirable, actually, though I absolutely would have no qualms if he DID go all Black Witch on their ass because they kind of deserve it.
If I have one gripe about this book, it’s that the limited point of view means we never see the world of the White Witches from any perspective other than Nathan’s. How bad are they treating him, versus how badly do they treat the rest of the White Witches as a whole? It does seem like we’ll be getting some of that in Half Wild but still, it does too conveniently paint the White Witches as bad guys in an overly simplistic way. I also think there was some room for nature-vs-nuture debate here that didn’t get touched, but you can’t have everything and I admit that it wouldn’t have fit the narrative here.
Over all, I thought this was a fun read that set out what it accomplished to do. It may have taken me a while to pick this up, but I’m glad I did.
Verdict: Buy It