Hi Virtually Readers! I recently finished Half Wild, the second book in the Half Bad series. Shanti, however, doesn’t like these books at all. So as a quasi-review and full me being me, I’m going to list some reasons this series is actually great.
1. It’s really unique
These books are about witches and magic in Europe… but are nothing like Harry Potter at all (even though some of Half Bad is set in Scotland). Here are some comparisons:
- Age 17: In Harry Potter, you come of age. In Half Bad, you have a ceremony, receive 3 gifts and drink the blood of a family member, and will get a Gift (i.e, special power) that will develop and manifest itself over time.
- Governance: Harry Potter has a fully developed Minstry of Magic. In Half Bad, there’s a Council of White Witches in Britain, and a law enforcement group known as the Hunters. But the rest of witches in Europe are basically free to do whatever they want and not be persecuted by the nasty council.
- Good and evil: In Harry Potter, morality is pretty clear in most cases (Voldemort is Bad. Harry is Good. Dumbeldore is Good. Bellatrix is Bad.). But Half Bad isn’t like that. It’s not as simple as white witches being good and black ones bad, although the council wants people to believe this. Rather, many White Witches do wrong things… and Blacks aren’t much better.
- Culture: Both these books develop a culture of magic-wielders. I’d say Harry Potter is more detailed and frivolous (wacky spells, wands, magical creatures, etc), while Half Bad has its own intricacies but the system of magic is more wild and unexplained(potions, apprentices, and alliances)
2. The travel
Half Bad takes place in England, Scotland, Wales, and Switzerland. Half Wild starts in Switzerland, but also has scenes in Barcelona, bits of France, Norway, and Germany. And apparently the third book takes place partly in the US? Having been to a few of these places myself, it’s nice to see them in book settings! Also, the changing landscape affects the character’s actions (e.g in Norway they have to dig a hole, but the ground’s frozen).
3. The writing style
Especially in the first book, the writing style is really unique! But overall, the books are really well written. It changes to reflect Nathan’s physical (if you get what I’m saying) and emotional state. Sometimes proper nouns have all lower cases, and sometimes there are long run-on sentences. These books are quite long yet very readable. Also, the action is. actually. possible. to. follow. Often, I get very confused by action in books because it’s hard to visualise, but this works really well for me! Also, I should mention that there’s a lot of blood and violence, which isn’t normally my thing, but I put up with in these books.
4. Exploration of identity & relevance to social issues
If you ask me, all good fantasy books (actually, make that books in general) should say something relevant to society and human culture. The Blacks and Whites don’t get along, and fight and kill and are prejudiced…even though they’re a magical minority in the world of fains/muggles, and really more alike than different. This is like most human conflicts. Although the rebels are a group of Black and White witches, and half bloods, there’s division and conflict and it just feels so familiar.
Also, Nathan is half Black, half White, and the book also explores his conflict with identity, because he’s neither. I really like books that explore character’s sense of belonging, because it’s something that I think about as well. I’m half from India, half from New Zealand, and I have some of the same feelings about belonging. I just really related.
What are you waiting for?
I don’t think Half Bad is for everybody, but I definitely enjoyed this series, and I’m looking forward to reading the next book! What’s a book series you really enjoyed? What’s something that’s relevant to present politics?