Monday, 21 March 2016

I sadly didn't fall in love with Half Bad by Sally Green like I was hoping to

Half Bad (Half-Life Trilogy, #1)Title: Half Bad
Series: Half Life #1
Author: Sally Green
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Paranormal
Publication: March 4th 2014, Viking Books for Young Readers
Pages: 380 Pages, Paperback
Source: Thank you to Penguin Random House for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review!
Rating: 3.5/5 CUPCAKES!
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.

When I was given the opportunity to be sent the Half Bad trilogy to review, I immediately jumped at the chance. I've heard fantastic things about the books and I've been craving a delicious fantasy read to sink my teeth into. So upon starting the book my expectations were high and for the first few chapters, I thoroughly enjoyed the novel, however, as the story wore on, my love and interest in the book slightly decreased.
Half Bad features Nathan Byrn - the child of a White Witch and one of the most wicked, darkest Black Witches in the country. Due to the cruel, despicable natures of Black Witches, they are generally hunted and killed. As Nathan is the child of Marcus, one of the most feared Black Witches, Nathan is abused, tortured and hunted due to his parentage. The book follows Nathan from when he's 8 years old up until the age of 17, the year he becomes a fully fledged witch and receives his Gift. It chronicles his life, showing the inhumane suffering he experiences, the friends he makes and the journey he takes in order to discover what lies in his heart - a void of darkness or the purity of a white heart?

My feelings on this book are quite jumbled. I feel like it's one of those books that I could have potentially fallen in love with and I thought I was falling in love with the book as I read the first few pages but as I progressed through the story I began to feel slightly...bored, a feeling that I wasn't expecting to experience when I first picked up this book. That was my main problem with Half Bad, I was bored because this book moves at such a slow pace. As I reached the half way point of this book nothing much had happened and it really disappointed me as I was expecting this book to take me on a fast-paced, thrilling adventure and it didn't contain that. I just felt like more needed to happen and at a faster pace. There were a couple of instances when things did  speed up and there was a riveting, tense scene between Nathan and the Hunters and I devoured those scenes. 

I was also quite disappointed at the limited amount of magic featured in Half Bad, they're witches, they can do magic and there just wasn't enough of that, in my opinion. Perhaps I had too high expectations about witch books because the only other wizardry type books I've read are Harry Potter. Another thing is I never really felt connected to this book, it didn't play like a movie in my head and I was always fully aware that I was reading - it didn't sweep me away like I thought it would. Perhaps that's just me.

Despite that, there were some things about Half Bad that I really enjoyed. I loved our main character, Nathan, in fact, he's probably what saved the book for me. He's angry, he's defensive, he lashes out, he's wonderfully snarky and he's just this adorable mess of frustration and hurt and I just wanted to hug him because he's experienced the most vicious abuse and torture despite him never having done anything to harm anyone. The White Witches are using him as their personal punching bag to unleash the bitterness and hate they hold towards Nathan's father and it broke my heart, because we have a boy who is just that...a boy. He's not purely good and he's not devastatingly bad and he doesn't deserve to be treated as an abomination because of what his parents were. I cried several times whilst reading this book because Nathan's hopeless situation tore at my heartstrings and I think what made reading this even more devastating is because we've grown up with Nathan in a sense. The book starts when he's eight years old and ends when he's the age of seventeen and we see throughout all the years he's lived, the hate and torture he receives every year and because of this he almost begins to feel like your little brother or a close friend you've known for years, someone you'd do anything to protect because he's 8, 9, 10 years old and even at 17 it's still so young to be hunted for something you might not even turn out to be. So, it can safely be said, I definitely have a soft spot for Nathan and I highly admire his bravery and resilience. 

I adored the other characters too, especially Nathan's family (not Jessica, that girl is hell personified). Deborah, Arran and Nathan's gran were so supportive, loving and protective and it warmed my heart to see all they were willing to do to help Nathan and the lengths they would go to in order to protect him. Also, Nathan's relationship with his older brother was just SO ADORABLE. The family dynamics in this book were utterly wonderful. Seriously.

There are two other characters who are important in this book. A White Witch named Annalise who befriended Nathan and who he is spellbound by (not literally but can we appreciate my pun?) and Gabriel, a boy Nathan befriends in the process of trying to find his father. I liked Annalise, she's a very sincere and such a lovely person and I'm looking forward to seeing her character develop further in the sequel as I didn't really see enough of her in Half Bad in order to form a strong emotional attachment to her but that what I did see I really liked.

I also LOVED Gabriel! HE READS BOOKS obviously not the only reason I like him but he reads. Not only is he a fellow bibliophile, he's also incredibly brave, kind, sweet and just a wonderful character. As with Annalise, I didn't feel as connected to him as we didn't see much of him either but I absolutely adored him whenever he appeared and I'm super excited to see his character development in the sequels.

Another thing I really liked about this book is the writing. I've heard quite a few complaints about the second person narrative in the first part of the book but I loved that. Not many authors write in second person but I can really appreciate it when one does. I personally love writing my poetry from second person so I absolutely relished in the delightful surprise of that. It does switch to first person narrative after that though and it was quite intriguing having two different narratives taking place. I also loved how connected we were to Nathan's emotions like every thought he gets, every slice of pain he excruciatingly experiences, every pang of fear that stills his heart and then sends it into overdrive the readers feel as well. When reading Half Bad, you become Nathan.

I also enjoyed the representation of good vs evil and nature vs nurture. It evokes thinking and conversation upon the topic of what makes us who we are. The way we're raised or the DNA laced through our bodies? How do you define who is essentially good and evil when both sides have murdered and both sides have shown love and compassion? I really enjoyed the depiction of the wars between good and evil that rages within our hearts and how nothing is ever simply black and white, no matter how much we want it to be.

Half Bad wasn't the exhilarating, breathtaking adventure I was hoping for but nonetheless, I loved the complex but lovable characters, the unique, magical writing, dark and the thought-provoking questions of what determines who we are, who we're meant to be and whether any of us are truly good or completely evil, wrapped up in the twisted, gritty world of witches.

I give it: 3.5/5 cupcakes!
- Graphic scenes of violence

- Mild swearing
- Violence

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