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February 21, 2019

Book 12 on my “March to 100 for 2019″—Sally Green: Half Bad—A half-Black half-White witch in modern England fights for his place in the world.

As a little background, I found this trilogy because of a terrific promotional feature—a book trailer. The marketing idea is to create a movie trailer feel for a book. This works to attract not only readers, but as a way to market the book to the movie industry (and, yes, this is in movie production).

https://vimeo.com/87531472

The trilogy is set in modern England where the humans are unaware that they share the world with witches, both supposedly good white witches and the evil, bad black witches. The white witches are ruled by a powerful, capricious council everyone fears. The council’s behavior belies in a heavy-handed way any notion the white witches are good.

The council is also incredibly inept. An early escape attempt by our protagonist is foiled by a very effective method. And, yet, the same prevention is inexplicably not deployed later.

The central character of the story, Nathan, lives with his grandmother and three half-siblings, all white witches. But Nathan’s father is a powerful black witch who is being hunted by the council. As a “half code” (half white and half black), Nathan’s future is uncertain. The council imposes increasingly harsh restrictions on him in anticipation he might become a black witch, including his confinement to the cage pictured in the trailer.

I should warn that the protagonist, who is a teenager, is subjected to some quite cruel and barbaric treatment, including separation from his family, confinement, and painful torture. Of course, other popular stories such as Hunger Games and The Maze do the same to adolescents.

Seems to me that there are two tests whether you will enjoy this series. First, if you enjoy the genre of book, go for it. Fans of witches and wizards should like the book.

My struggle is that I generally don’t (I could never get over “sparkly vampires” enough to enjoy Twilight, for instance), but I do like Tolkien and very much enjoyed the Harry Potter books. In this case, the council feels like a basic movie device of the powerful council that forces the character to become exactly what they claim they don’t want. It felt like the trailer above—a slick, formulaic marketing package aimed to be a loud summer movie.

But the second test is whether you can sympathize with a boy who, through no fault of his own, is forced into making choices he doesn’t want. I found Nathan to be an interesting character, particularly with some strong weaknesses (he is barely literate, for example). He is compelling enough that I will read the second book in the series. And hope the story world develops some complexity.

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