This post contains a review and a bookish manicure.
Half Bad (Half Life #1) by Sally Green
Source: the publisher
Rating: 2 stars
From the blurb: You can't read, can't write, but you heal fast, even for a witch.
You get sick if you stay indoors after dark.
You hate White Witches but love Annalise, who is one.
You've been kept in a cage since you were fourteen.
All you've got to do is escape and find Mercury, the Black Witch who eats boys. And do that before your seventeenth birthday.
I am not sure what to make of this book. The very first time I heard of it was via a review on a book blog and as soon as I read the blurb about White Witches vs Black Witches I thought “Seriously?” But then this book was everywhere, with lots of positive feedback and when I saw it available here, I requested a copy. I still can’t shake the feeling that naming the groups of witches white and black was a bit of a bad idea, not to mention unimaginative and overdone.
The change in person was interesting, I didn’t mind the chapters written in second person, it made for a unique start to the story and allowed the reader to put themselves in Nathan’s position.
While the rest of the book being in first person, it didn’t make me feel all that connected to Nathan, but this could be because he’s quite untrusting and keeps a lot to himself. I did like the relationship between him, Arran, Deborah, and his Grandma. Despite attending primary school and seeming to be quite an intelligent boy, somehow Nathan gets to high school and is unable to read and write. I don’t know why this was added to his character description, but it didn’t sit right with me. Wouldn't his illiteracy have been noticed at school? And the teachers in his new high school seem to ignore the problem, too. It also means that every time he receives written instructions on his journey, he needs to ask a stranger to read them to him, again I wonder why make him illiterate when it was going to pose such an issue for him.
The time frame jumps around, starting with his captivity, then going back to his childhood, slowly information trickles in about witches, with a focus on Nathan’s father, Marcus, supposedly the worst Black Witch alive. I spent most of the book wondering why Black Witches were so bad. According to the White Witch Council, Black Witches are evil, they kill innocent people, and they need to be destroyed, but it all felt very one-sided. Perhaps this is because Nathan is kept in the dark when it comes to black witches, I assume there will be more of an explanation in the sequel, but that means this book felt incomplete.
I found a lot of the events and location changes confusing. One minute we’re in his town in England, then camping in Wales, then Nathan is in London, then he’s in a secret apartment in Geneva. All of these movements felt unconnected and unexplained, and also very coincidental.
Despite being a book about witches, there wasn’t a lot of witching or magic going on. There are many of descriptions about how when a child is old enough, they have a ceremony where they receive three gifts, drink some blood, and become a proper witch, which sounded really interesting and unique, but for most of the book, the cast felt human, not paranormal.
The story started out well, I was intrigued by Nathan’s imprisonment and his family history, what he goes through is horrific, but after a while the story started to drag and I wanted nothing more than to have this book done with. The ending especially felt quite anticlimactic and it definitely didn’t leave me craving book two.
Thank you to the fantastic people at Penguin for my review copy.
So, while I didn't like the story, I do like the cover. I was looking at the design and thinking about how to go about painting it, when I realised if you turn the cover upside down, the blood looks like a bloom of jellyfish, so that's how I painted it! But, as I was typing up this post, I noticed for the first time that the blood outlines the profile of a face - I've looked at this cover so many times and now that I see it, it seems so obvious!
I used 2 coats of Orly Liquid Vinyl. Once dry I used acrylic paint for the design.
This mani made for a nice change, it was super quick to do but I like how simple it is.