Half Bad - Sally Green
The trick is to not mind. Not mind about it hurting, not mind about anything.I admit to being slightly apprehensive about the book due to the opening chapters being in the second person, though it does do a remarkable job of making the reader experience the pain and longing of our trapped and abused protagonist, Nathan.
The trick of not minding is key; it's the only trick in town. Only this is not a town; it's a cage beside a cottage, surrounded by a load of hills and trees and sky.
It's a one trick cage.
You wait until she appears and throws you the keys. You catch the keys, unlock your ankles, rub them to emphasize the pain she is inflicting, unlock the cage door, toss the keys back to her, open the cage door, step out—keeping your head down, never look her in the eyes....
But as apprehensive as I was at first, I couldn't help but get drawn into the story. I was left with a gnawing desire to know how he ended up in this cage, how he plans to escape, whether or not he will, and what then? I also appreciated the setting and overall atmosphere of foreboding within the book. And even though magic is a part of the narrative, this novel never becomes a book about magic and spells; it is, at its heart, a story about a young man who just wants to know if the same blood that courses through the veins of the terrifying and evil Marcus, is the same blood running through his own.
The title and cover are also interesting in that they mirror many of the themes within the novel. The witches, though some are White and some are Black, more often than not inhabit a grey area. Some of the White witches do bad things, and some of the Black witches aren't quite as despicable as you might expect. And then there's Nathan, who is at war with himself over whether or not he will turn out evil like his father. There is a lot at work here in terms of ideas of nature vs nurture, and whether or not our actions and futures are pre-determined. I love the messiness of these questions and I think they help give the story a depth it may not have otherwise had.
Annalise feels relatively unnecessary in my opinion, but perhaps she is of more importance in the next book of the trilogy. Her own character development is lacking because she mostly gets explored through Nathan's eyes, as his dream girl, rather than getting page space to be more fully developed in her own right. She is almost always mentioned in passing using descriptions almost entirely based on her appearance as opposed to her personality. I'm unsure of the necessity of her addition to the story.
Other than that, however, I felt that the book was well-developed and filled with a rich setting, which truly comes alive for the reader. Nathan is also a wonderfully complex character, and I felt myself becoming attached to him throughout, no matter how he ends up turning out, and no matter what happens with Marcus. The secondary characters were intriguing for the most part, though as I said before, Annalise could have, in my opinion, been more fleshed out.
Kudos to Sally Green for this incredibly complex and compelling new novel!
(Note: This review is from an Advanced Reading Copy - Out March 25, 2014)