The trick is not to mind.
Not to mind about it hurting.
Not to mind about anything.
Nathan Byrn is a Half Code; half White Witch, half Black Witch. The son of an average White Witch and the most powerful Black Witch of modern times, Nathan shouldn’t exist. Even with the Council of White Witches’ persistence at determining his true nature (White versus Black), Nathan resists. Unwilling to take the chance, the White Council decides to do everything in their power to contain him.
When I finished this book my feelings were pretty much all over the place. Did I like it? Didn’t I? I think I did…? I even went straight to Recaptains’ summary to make sure I had all of the information and still couldn’t come to a conclusion. So here I am, putting my thoughts on paper (on a blog, but still).
The first thing I noticed about this book was the writing. Half Bad opens with second person perspective and honestly I was really confused. It’s not the first time I read second person, it was a key part of Jennifer Lynn Barnes’ The Naturals series that I read just last month, yet it didn’t feel as polished. The writing soon switches to first person but the second person narrative does return at a later point in the book for a few pages. This time I wasn’t as affected by it and the rest of the book being in first person pretty much nullified any confusion that lingered.
Once I got past the writing, it was time to deal with the setting. The story takes place in 2014 Europe with key locations like Wales and Switzerland. Yet as I was reading I had a lot of difficulty believing it — especially in the beginning of the book. As a result there was this disorientation that came whenever something modern like cell phones was mentioned. I kept reminding myself ‘Oh right, this is 2014!’
The last thing that bothered me was plot related — the relations between the Black and White Witches. Why do they hate each other so much? Nathan is raised by his maternal grandmother, a White Witch, so we get that very White-centric view of witchcraft. “Black witches are vile”, “Black witches are murderers”, etc etc. Yet, as we can clearly see early on, Nathan’s sister Jessica is as vile as they come. Don’t even get me started on the O’Briens and the Council! If the point of the ambiguity between the factions was to allude to the ambiguity of good and evil, I think it frustrated people more than it served that purpose.
Needless to say, at this point I was pretty unsure about continuing this story. I read a couple reviews and decided to keep on reading. Luckily, there were some redeeming points.
The first of which was Nathan himself. Nathan was such an interesting character to read and see him struggle with the idea of his identity as a witch. He was raised White but it quickly becomes obvious that his mind is Black. And he is forced to hide that fact from the Council or face the consequences. Even in the more boring parts (and there were some boring parts) I was pretty interested in Nathan himself rather than what was going on with the other characters. Especially what would become of him and his Gift.
At one point in the book, Nathan is kept caged by a White Witch and retired Hunter named Celia. I was glad once we got this change of scenery because we got a new character. For approximately the first 60% of the book we see only Nathan and his family, the Council and the O’Brien’s so some new blood was much appreciated. Celia was good but the real beauties in the cast came a bit later in Ellen, Gabriel and Rose.
Once these guys were introduced the story picked up and things started happening. Witch on fain (the witch term for human) violence, witch on witch violence and some key events happened to Nathan that have potential for development in the sequel. Sadly, this took just too long to happen.
Overall, the vast majority of this book felt like a character novella following Nathan while the last few chapters felt like the real story was just beginning. Yet it was done in such a way that makes you think twice about picking up book two in the trilogy, Half Wild. Thankfully Half Wild was released yesterday (24/3/2015) and yes, I am currently reading it. The book gods know I need answers!!