Genre: Dark Fantasy (YA)
Half Bad is the first instalment of the Half Life fantasy series. It tells the story of Nathan, a boy who has never met his father and whose mother died when he was very young. All Nathan knows is that she committed suicide after both she and her husband came into contact with a powerful Black Witch who killed her husband and left her pregnant with him. Nathan lives with his grandmother and half-siblings who are from a line of White Witches.
The village where Nathan lives is run by a council of White Witches whose primary objective is to lure and kill Nathan's father. As Nathan grows up he is constantly targeted by the council. He has to attend regular assessements to determine whether he is truly 'White' or if he is 'Black'. If it turns out to be the latter, it would have devastating consequences. His grandmother has taught him how to evade classification. Nathan's grandmother and 2 out of 3 of his siblings keep telling him he is 'White', but as he grows up he increasingly shows signs of something 'other'.
The Council keeps issuing rules to half-bloods, e.g., preventing them from associating with Whites and having them get council permission to go beyond the boundaries of their home. It is obvious who they are targeting. Outside of his family only Annalise, one whom is among the purest of White Witches, will give him the time of day, and to his surprise, she is sweet to him.
His grandmother tries the best she can to protect him but she is no match for The Council and at 14, after Nathan is caught breaking council rules, he is taken from her and his siblings and kept in a cage by a 'guardian'.
After 2 years as a prisoner, Nathan is determined to escape and find Mercury, a Black Witch who, for a price, will help him achieve what is necessary for him to become a witch himself. He has to do this before his seventeenth birthday, and time is running out ...
Half Bad a is very well written and compelling read. I enjoyed the story very much. I also liked the prose. Nathan tells his story alternating betweem the first and second person POV, depending on context and time.
This is a fairly dark tale of a young boy who is marginalised and discriminated against because his paternal bloodline is considered to be evil and as a half-blood he is seen as tainted (hence the clever design on the front cover). White Witches consider themselves to represent good while Black Witches are considered evil. And yet, the way most of these White Witches behave suggests otherwise. Who Nathan is and how he came into the world is not his fault. There are not many Black Witches in the book but what we learn about Nathan's father would suggest things aren't what they seem.
Half Bad is a young-adult fantasy story with a serious message about racial discrimination embedded in the subtext.
It only came out in March and the next one isn't due out for a while. I can't wait!