Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Book review: Half Bad

Sally Green's Half Bad is the latest attempt to create a young adult fantasy phenomenon. In a world where witches live alongside "fains," the witches are divided into Black and White, with the White side very much in charge - officially the good guys, they run the witches' bureaucracy and seem to have carte blanche to kill any Blacks they come across. The protagonist, Nathan, is the son of a White mother and a Black father, and as such is under a cloud of constant suspicion as he grows up, and relentlessly bullied. In theory everyone's waiting to see which side of him will become dominant when he comes of age, and dispose of him if it's the "wrong" one, but as he gets older he increasingly suspects the authorities have some other plan for him.

Using the classification of Black and White means Green is able to make Half Bad an allegory for racism, and of things being controlled by the side that's arbitrarily put themselves in the right and everyone else in the wrong. It's hardly the subtlest metaphor, and she hammers it home somewhat in the first half, but by the second half when Nathan has escaped the clutches of the Council and goes on the run, the story picks up. The ending is a bit too abruptly and obviously setup for further volumes but Green's story had had enough interesting moments by then that I'll probably look out for future installments.

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