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The Boy Who Lived (In A Cage)

Sally Green’s debut novel is not Half Bad!

The Boy Who Lived (In A Cage)

BOOK REPORT for Half Bad (Half Bad #1) by Sally Green

Cover Story: Montell Jordan
BFF Charm: Let Me Love You
Swoonworthy Scale: 7
Talky Talk: You Know You Love It
Bonus Factor: Harry Potter
Relationship Status: Groupie

Cover Story: Montell Jordan

My husband did look at this cover and say “Bad Half?” So there’s that. But for those of us with a commitment to left-right reading, it’s not confusing. In fact, it's awesome!

The Deal:

Nathan Byrn was taken from his family at age 14 by the Council of White Witches and placed under the care of a militant ex-hunter witch, Celia, who makes him sleep shackled in a cage and trains him to become an assassin so he can kill his father someday. You wanna know what I was doing at age 14? Homework.

Nathan is a “half-code,” as his mother was a White Witch and his father, Marcus, is a Black Witch. Nathan grows up exclusively among White Witches, most of which fear and/or hate him. They believe all Black Witches are evil and dangerous, Marcus worst of all. In fact, Nathan's mom was killed for having an affair with someone so bad. So Nathan's never met his father, never even met another Black Witch. After a couple of years in captivity, though, it’s time to make that happen. Nathan's 16 now, and when witches turn 17, they need to have a blood relative perform a Giving Ceremony so they can come into their powers. The consequences of missing this ceremony can be deadly. Nathan doesn’t want to die; he doesn't want to kill his father, either. He wants to find his father, find his freedom, find his Gift—before it’s too late.

BFF Charm: Let Me Love You

Oh Nathan, I just want to pat you on your head, scratch you behind the ears and ask, “Who’s a good boy?” It’s you! You’re a good boy! And don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

A fantastic Shakespeare quote prefaces this story: “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” And wow, yes. Despite being written off as evil by like 97 percent of his community, Nathan is pure and honest and good. Some pretty gnarly shizz is done to Nathan in this book, and it’s hard to see him so unfairly mistreated. For Pete’s Dragon's sake, it would be hard to see him mistreated even if he “deserved” it. Thankfully, Nathan is raised by a loving grandmother and a couple very sweet half-siblings (oh, and one very NOT sweet half-sibling that I don't want to talk about, the biatch), so he grows up knowing love and light, and believing he’s capable of both.

Plus Nathan’s kind of fun. He’s got such an attitude. He reminds me a little of Ronan Lynch. And Simon Snow. He’s like if Ronan and Simon had a baby. In which case Adam and Baz would be so heartbroken, but also probably impressed. (Why hasn’t there been a magical fantasy YA book written where boys can carry and give birth to children?!)

Swoonworthy Scale: 7

If you’ve read this book, which came out a couple of years ago, you might be saying, “Lace, where did you find 7 whole swoon points in this book?” To which I say, MIND YOUR OWN BUSINESS.

Sorry, that was completely uncalled for.

It’s just that I totally fell in love with this book and the good people in it. There are two significant relationships budding in this first installment. One is very cute and very sweet, kind of giving Nathan hope and getting him through his days in captivity. The other is of the unrequited variety, which just tugs away at the heartstrings, I tell ya! But I adore the relationship for what it is: teasing, funny, selfless and, well, swoonworthy IMO.

Talky Talk: You Know You Love It

Half Bad starts out in the second person, which is rare, but works really well here. I was immediately drawn in. It’s not overdone; after the first few chapters, the narrative switches to first person and stays there for most of the book.

Nathan’s voice is distinct, and matches his personality. He’s an old soul, and there’s a lot to him: warring bloodlines, a conflicted conscience, millions of questions about who he is and what that means. But he’s also just a boy—a boy of very few words. He doesn’t know how to read, despite being taught a few times. He’s a physical, feeling character. Most of his thoughts are for himself alone (and me!). There’s this one scene where he meets a stranger who seems like she might want to help him, but he says his name is Ivan. She knows he’s lying, and plays along, giving herself a Russian name, too:

She takes a sip of her hot chocolate. “I’m Nikita.”
I don’t think so.
“Do you work for Bob?” I ask.
She looks about fourteen, fifteen tops. She should be in school.
“Do the odd job for him. A bit of this. A bit of that. Run errands for him. You know.”
Not really.

I can totally imagine Nathan sitting there with his Black Witch eyes, brooding and mysterious, deciding what to say and who to trust.

Bonus Factor: Harry Potter

There are a lot of similarities between HP and my boy Nate. (Nobody calls him that, 'cept me.) But this is a different story—a new, terrific story. Yes, it takes place in modern-day Europe with witches living amidst humans who are oblivious to the fact that a powerful orphan boy is learning magic and finding himself caught up in a fight between good and evil. But this isn’t Harry Potter. And it’s not Carry On, either, although I see more Simonish qualities in Nathan than Harryish. This is Half Bad, and it's fully good.

Casting Call:

Douglas Booth as Nathan

Elle Fanning as Annalise

A younger Gaspard Ulliel as long-haired French speaking Gabriel. But we have to all agree to forget about Hannibal Rising. *Shudder*

Relationship Status: Groupie

Book, I hope you liked having me around, cuz I’m keeping you forever!

FTC Full Disclosure: I purchased this book with my snack money and it was worth every penny! I received neither money nor my Three Gifts for this review. Half Bad is available now.

Lacey Nadeau's photo About the Author: It's taken a decade, but Lacey has finally decided she misses the beaches of Southern California where she grew up. (It took only about a minute for her to miss the Mexican food.) However, she's pretty committed to the fun and sun of Denver, CO, where she plays with spreadsheets by day, and drinks boozy slushies with her husband and puppy by night. The puppy just pretends.