Half Lost by Sally Green
I’ve loved all three volumes of Sally Green’s Half Bad Trilogy.
In the first, Half Bad, we were introduced to the young Nathan Byrn, son of a white witch mother and the most powerful of the black witches as his father. England is controlled by the Council of (white) Witches, and Nathan is approaching his seventeenth birthday when he should be given three gifts and blood by an ancestor. With his mother dead, that means Marcus, his father, should do the giving. Kept captive by the Council, Nathan must escape and find his father. The main sub-plot has Nathan falling in love with Annalise, the daughter of high-up white witches – a relationship that can surely never flourish in this divided land.
Being about witches, some rather unfairly described Half Bad as Harry Potter for teenagers – there was a lot of setting up to do with flashbacks to Nathan’s earlier years, but the opening chapter where Nathan is being held a prisoner in the Welsh hills told me that these books would be more Chaos Walking than Harry Potter.
If you’ve not read the books, you should now skip to the bottom of the post,
for here be spoilers…
In Half Bad, most of Nathan’s time was spent with white witches – some of whom are very bad indeed! In Half Wild, the sequel, he spends most of his time with black witches – most of whom are more tolerant than you’d expect; rather a role reversal. Nathan is getting to know his father Marcus, and discovering how to use his gifts which are X-Men type superpowers rather than spells. We also meet a key character in black witch Gabriel, a Frenchman, who will become Nathan’s best friend.
The white witch hunters are still after Nathan and Marcus and the novel becomes a thriller – a classic chase across Europe. There is a real feel of European witchcraft being something venerable and ancient and the upstart white Hunters emanating from England upsetting the apple-cart in this – a little bit of politics there! The battles between Green’s black and white witches will outdo the Volturi in Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight books. Additionally, Annalise is still in the picture – Nathan believes that if they can defeat the Hunters, then he and Annalise can be together – but it’s never going to be that simple. Half Wild is a pacy thriller and definitely more grown up than the first novel – huge fun.
Which brings us to Half Lost…
It’s the Witch Hunters versus the Alliance of Free Witches (the group of disaffected white witches who have joined Nathan and his black witch band). They travel all over Europe chasing and hunting each other. Now Marcus is dead and Nathan has received all his powers, he is learning every day just how powerful his father was.
I feel my cheek and the stubble there, but I don’t need to shave much. I’m still only seventeen. My chin and my patchy beard say seventeen but my eyes, and maybe my sould, say one hundred and seventeen. I guess I’ve done a lot more than the average seventeen-year-old.
I see my father in my face too: a younger version of him. I’m not sure if that’s part of my problem. That what everyone sees when they look at me is his name, his myth, the people he’s killed and eaten. […] We’re alike in so many ways. […] But I’m unlike him too. I had a White Witch for a mother and a grandmother.
Nathan knows that they have to bring the battle to a close before they all end up dead. He must defeat the leader of the Hunters so the Alliance can take control of the Council using himself as the ultimate weapon, but he will also need his friends more than ever – and not all of them will survive.
Despite Nathan’s continual picking off any Hunter that gets near him, the first half of Half Lostgives a real sense of the calm before the storm. The tension mounts as Head of the Alliance, white witch Celia, readies her troops for action and Nathan experiments with his new extra powers, especially once he’s visited the mystic witch Ledger for advice and more than a little soul-searching. What Nathan hadn’t reckoned on though was that he would work out whom he truly loves – another complicating factor.
The battle at the climax of the novel is thus on two levels – the larger scale armies fighting, and then the small-scale as Nathan infiltrates a small band into the target – as you may expect, he has to fight the final conflict one to one – twas ever thus.
*** End of Spoilers ***
Half Lost brings this bloodthirsty trilogy to a close – and we can all breathe again. The three books turn the normal convention about witches on its head and combines the magic with a gripping thriller/chase/quest. I enjoyed the resolution in the final sections which make a fitting end to this chapter in the story of Nathan Byrn, the half black and half white witch.
I think that Sally Green is quite brave but also correct to bring the series to a close after three volumes. There must be a temptation to dream up some new foes for the witches; a prequel about Nathan’s parents perhaps – there are already two ebook singles Half Lies andHalf Truths which follow Gabriel – but for now it’s best to give the books space, especially as there is to be a film made. I shall, however, look forward to whatever Sally Green does next. (9/10)
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Source: ARC from the Publisher – thank you!