Oct 17, 2015

As dark as YA can get || Half Bad by Sally Green

Title : Half Bad
Author: Sally Green
Release Date : March 27th 2014
Publisher : Penguin
Wanted by no one.
Hunted by everyone.

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 took up Half Bad since I wanted something dark for the month of October. I expected the book to be about witches, our hero trying to kill his villain father and lots of action and magic. But boy, this book was a lot more than that. Half Bad was probably one of the darkest YA fantasy books I've ever read and there's no talk of morality or goodness in this book, rather lots and lots of wickedness, conflict, brutality and ends up as an unforgettable read which will definitely leave a mark on you.

Nathan is the son of a white witch and a black witch - the latter being the Voldemort of his world of witches. Being a half black and half white witch, makes Nathan a feared, hated, despised and shunned boy, who suffers a lot despite being so young. After experiencing a lot of abuse in the hands of white witches and the council, he escapes and is in a run where he is off to find his father, his identity and his destiny. Half Bad is his story, which dabbles in the fine line between good and bad, what's right and what's wrong, and the questioning of the labeling of a "hero" and "villain"

It isn't a secret that I love morally ambiguous characters to death. To me, such characters, if well written, are the most complex, beautiful and deepest creation an author can ever produce. Nathan falls in such a category, and I adored his character! He has so much darkness in him by default, and throughout the story, there's a battle between the light and dark inside him and what's so beautiful in this book is that he himself doesn't know which side to choose. While I've read about a lot of characters who go through this battle, they clearly know where their loyalty "should" lie. But Nathan doesn't know that, and that conflict is beautifully portrayed in Half Bad.

"I've never met my father. Never seen my father. But I know that my eyes are his eyes."

The world building of Half Bad is so clean and perfect. The folklore, the backstory, the timing of the revelations, the foreshadowing were all treated so well. Then there's the writing. I love unique formats in books, and Sally Green's take of it was interesting. There were a few chapters which were written in second person POV - which I adored - the writing was unique and prose like at times, and I loved the symbolism of the unique formats. For example, I adored Sally Green's usage of bullets when she wrote lists. The bullet was in a form of a cross when she talked about late white witches while the bullet was a blood spatter when it was a list of dead black witches. 

“The trick is not to mind.
Not to mind about it hurting.
Not to mind about anything.”

The characters. Like I said above, Nathan's character was so well crafted and awesome! Also, he went through so much abuse in this book that I just wanted to kill everyone around him and cuddle him tightly. Just how many horrors can such a young boy endure? I just wanted to kill everyone who gave him a hard time - which is a looooong list and almost all of the characters in the book except a handful. My heart broke for the small boy who experienced so much hate and the young adult whose future was so unclear and uncertain.

The rest of the characters brought out a lot of mixed feelings from me. I loved that all the characters were complex and different. (Except Annalise - she's a bland pudding and I want her to jump off a cliff.) My favourite are probably Gabriel and Celia. Celia was the tough and supposedly "cruel" guardian the council appoints for Nathan for two years, who started off as brutal - for God's sake, she kept him in a cage, shackled and bound, and beated him often - but at the same time, it was evident that a part of her loved and cared for Nathan deeply. I didn't know whether I liked her as a person, but I certainly adored her as a character who had contrasting emotions and actions.

Gabriel. My darling. He appears in the book only during the latter 25% of the book, but still, he managed to make me fall for him! He is such a sweet and wonderful character who was everything Nathan needed - and didn't have - until now. I SHIP THESE TWO SO HARD!!!!! It better happen, or I am going to be really really mad!

"I'm going to find my friend. Gabriel."

The rest were quite interesting as well! I want to know more about Marcus as he intrigued me so much. Mecrury was an enigma - who again I want to know more of. Arran and Deborah - Nathan's half siblings who were quite sweet though not that remarkable. Jessica - his other half sibling who was a brat I wanted to throttle. Annalise's whole family - whom I wanted to kill in very different ways! Especially her brother Kieran! He was the worst! AND THE WHOLE COUNCIL!!!! I WANT TO BURN THE WHOLE GROUP!!!

Half Bad wasn't without flaws. First of all, there was a pacing problem in some parts. I felt like there's a loss of direction during the middle of the book, where it was as if, the story is in a temporary struggle in deciding where to move. There were also a few disconnections here and there, some questions left unanswered, but it all fades in comparison to the intensity of this book, if you ask me.

Overall, Half Bad was amazing! It was dark, thrilling, and it brought me to tears often with the intensity of feels and emotions and made my heart weep for Nathan. This book also ends with an opening for a lot of possibilities and endless questions, which I am super eager to know the answers of in the sequel.

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