BOOK REVIEW: HALF WILD / AUTHOR: SALLY GREEN / PUBLISHER: PENGUIN BOOKS / RELEASE DATE: MARCH 24TH
Following Sally Green’s breakout tale of divided witches and deadly relations, Half Wild rejoins Nathan Byrne weeks after the events of Half Bad in a very dismal situation. He’s alone, hunted by witches and his sweetheart Annalise is trapped in a death-like sleep at the clutches of a terrifying witch called Mercury. To top it off, he’s now developed a problematic tendency or ‘gift’ to transform into a bloodthirsty animal who savagely kills anything on sight.
Half Wild throttles you into Green’s world just as effectively as her debut – bringing you up to speed with Nathan’s plight as he clambers for positivity to counter his fading hope and animalistic bloodlust. Whereas Half Bad mostly took place in Britain, here the action unwraps like a sprawling chase across Europe – expanding the world of witches, introducing a bunch of new characters and raising the stakes for potentially greater conflicts to come.
Even as the middle-child of the trilogy, it never suffers for it. Half Wild is more confident, assured and takes bold, interesting strides in standing itself apart from the YA crowd. Green’s excellently-sharp writing feels tighter and more playful this time around; experimenting with typography and clearly relishing in Nathan’s growing propensity for his sinister side. The gruesome bite of the original certainly isn’t lost, and it’s interesting to see this character you’re bound too erratically succumb to his wilder desires and fall between the blur of good and evil.
If the first book was held together by the relationship between Nathan and Annalise, the sequel is defined by Nathan’s complicated friendship with Gabriel. The loyal, French witch becomes a beloved emotional crutch in the sequel, and his committed allegiance and infatuation with Nathan delivers heartbreaking gut-punches every time they’re paired together. Other characters shine brighter this time around too; with an oddly likeable serial killer in Nathan’s father, Marcus, and new additions like the cocky, wind-up merchant Nesbitt who provides some welcome relief.
While the supposed ‘villains’ of the story feel a little sidelined, it’s the teasing darkness emerging within the protagonist that proves most captivating. As the final pages twist characters into place for a potentially chaotic final instalment, you realise there’s a reason you’re hopelessly scraping at the walls for more. Half Wild is a viciously addictive, emotionally superior delight and the moment Sally Green’s world really comes into its own.
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