In a society consisting of white witches and black witches, Nathan is half-white, half-black: a half code. He is despised and feared by the council of white witches who imprison him. Nathan doesn’t know if he’s going to become a white witch or a black witch; all he knows is that he must escape and receive his three gifts before his seventeenth birthday, or he will die.
I wasn’t sure what to expect with this, having not read any reviews beforehand. After the first few chapters, I thought I had it pegged as a book about prejudice and forbidden romance. I have to admit, I sort of assumed it would fall into the Romeo and Juliet territory a little. I was pleasantly surprised as I continued reading, however. The characters are memorable and well-formed, the romance takes a back-seat, and Nathan’s search for personal identity becomes the main focus of the novel.
One of my favourite things about the novel is the way Green blurs the boundaries between good and bad. Nathan’s guardian, Celia, for example, is a fantastic character as she keeps Nathan prisoner, but also seems to actually care for him on some level. This works really well with one of the overarching themes which is Nathan’s own struggle between the two sides of his personality. He has the potential for both good and evil within him and we get to watch him navigate his internal battle to figure out who he is.
I also feel that I must mention the cover of this book. I have the paperback version which is black/red on the front and white/red on the back (the hardback is silver on the front, I believe). I thought I was well and truly over the black/white/red colour scheme, especially for novels with a supernatural twist, but the concept behind this cover is really great. It took me a long time to see the image of the face on the front but I absolutely love it. The typography, the colours, the fact that it is reversible… great job!
In conclusion, this is an extremely readable, well-written novel with strong characters and an engaging storyline. I’m excited for the second instalment, Half Wild, which comes out in the UK in March.