Black…white…blood… magic… Oh my my! {Half-bad ~Sally Green}


Sally Green has struck gold with her first ever book “Half-bad”. Striking where it counts (that greedy imagination) Sally has created a world filled with Witches and Whets (Baby-witches). But that’s not all! The witch world is divided among the Black Witches, the White Witches and the fain (basically- muggles) {Hints at the racial segregation during apartheid?} The White witches are the ones with hegemonic power and they’re making the lives of half-bloods a living hell. The Blacks are a “dangerous” population and there’s a cold, bloody war ensuing that’s eating at the lives of the common people.

Enter our protagonist: Nathan. His mother is a White Witch from a pure white family line and his father is a Black witch. If this is not complicated enough, Nathan’s father, Marcus, is an infamous murderer and his mother is dead. Marcus’s ancestral line (like any other black witch’s ancestral line) is filled with gruesome murders and surprising conflicts well within family grounds.

The juiciest part: Nathan is in love with a White witch, Annalise, whose (Lucius Malfoy-ish) uncle is in the council and her brothers include a “Crabbe and Goyle” and also a “Fernir Greyback” like Hunter brother. Nathan himself lives with a loving grandmother, a favourite half-brother and two half-sisters: one sweet, the other- an annoying bully. Family love is definitely a theme going on here. We see that beautiful connection between Arran, Deborah and Nathan. (The way Sally Green managed to depict that adorable sibling bond is something admirable, almost as brilliant as Tom and Maggie from “Mill on the Floss”. Though I would say it was oblivious to any anger or battles embedded within the love: which is essential in sibling relationships.)

Haven’t had enough? Oh no! The plot gets even more thrilling as we watch the Council sending in notification after notification, stifling the boy’s voice and movements, barely letting him live, even though his existence is already a mistake. Nathan is quickly reaching the age of 17. And you know what this means? The coming of age ritual which, if not conducted on time with three gifts and the blood of the parent/grandparent/any ancestor, can result in the boy’s slow and painful death! Duh duh duh!!!!!!!! :O

The book is packed with restless movement. It uses a technique where we find ourselves going back and forth in time, catching up with Nathan’s past as he is being beaten up and kept a prisoner for reasons which we slowly come to learn about as we stick to the book. The characterization in this novel is quite constant, where we can see that the characters have almost the same sense of humour, presence of mind and emotional turmoil, though they vary in their strength of expression based on where they stand in the power-politics and how much rage and necessity can instill them to action.

What I personally loved about the book was the way the grey areas within a society, operating within a strict binary system, were exposed. While this particular setting involved its characters inside a rigid black-and-white, good-and-bad, right-and-wrong, powerful-and weak framework, we have a protagonist who lands smack-dab in the middle of it all, putting into question the very basis of hegemonic structure. He’s neither black nor white and yet he is both and needs both. He knows his father is a murderer but he can also not judge him enough to kill him. And in this state, where all that is instilled in him by the outside world getting questioned, we have Nathan trying to merely survive a whirlwind as he grows slowly to be strong enough to stand his own ground.

So far, I like what I’ve read. I’d recommend it to those who are looking for a modern day, dystopian, magic-filled, male-narrative, stream of consciousness type of book series.

Current rating*: 4/5

(* to be reassessed according to the sequels)

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