A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Sally Green's Half Lost is the end of a fantasy trilogy about witches that the publisher is marketing to age 12 and up. However, the amount of violence here and the overall edginess of the content make it pretty consistent with books most publishers aim toward the more mature YA crowd -- high schoolers, not middle schoolers. This particular brand of witch culture is especially violent overall. Add in an all-out war between white and black witches, and the body count here is high. Gory moments are often caused by the main character, Nathan, whose head we're in for most of the book. He gets his finger sliced off on purpose; he slices off thumbs and an ear; he gets "hot, slippery guts" spilled on him when he slices open an enemy; and he slits many throats. Also, there's a near death from a magic bullet wound where poison eats away at insides. Bombs and grenades explode, magic lightning shoots out of fingers and stuns many, and some are shot and killed with bullets. Expect two sad deaths of characters close to Nathan. Sexual content is also mature, with kissing, nakedness, and lovemaking between two male characters, though nothing is described beyond that. Nathan throws "f--k" around quite a bit and often "s--t." He's 17 and smokes twice. The mature content isn't only meant to shock; the main character must come to grips with how the violence he's committed has changed him.
What's the story?
White witches are in an all-out war with the Alliance -- black witches, half-codes, and some white witch sympathizers -- and they need Nathan now more ever. But Nathan is in mourning after his father is killed and takes it out on the white witch Hunters looking for Alliance camps. He's killed dozens of Hunters looking for his old love, Annalise, the girl responsible for his father's death. And Nathan works alone, with the powers he gained by eating his dying father's heart -- invisibility, for one. But when the Alliance camp is breached, his friend Gabriel convinces him to do more than kill Hunters on his own -- the Alliance has a plan to take the white witch government down, and they can't do it without his help.
Is it any good?
This intense and violent trilogy actually ends poignantly -- get your tissues -- and it ends way too quickly. Most fantasy finales that teens are used to are gargantuan tomes that drag out every last battle scene and conflict and wrap everything up with another 100 pages -- Cassandra Clare's books immediately come to mind. But the whole Half Bad Trilogy could have always been more grandiose, with more of Annalise, more of Gabriel, and especially more time with the spiritual guide figure in HALF LOST, the witch Ledger. She or he -- they never say -- offers to train Nathan in his many gifts, and he refuses to do more than battle him or her once, then says goodbye. Ledger's consideration of whether Nathan could be the one to wield so much power also seems rushed. And the climactic battle cuts off abruptly with little bits of the aftermath filled in months later -- and after all that buildup.
Author Sally Green could have always given readers more. But the fact that many will be hungry for it means that she's created memorable and compelling characters in a unique, captivating witch world.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the violence in this series. Is it more jarring to see, say, a thumb cut off when it's done by the main character who's telling the story? If so, how?
How do the killings committed by the main character change him?
Were you surprised by the gay relationship in this book? How often are main characters in fantasy books bisexual or gay? What about in other types of books you read?
- Author: Sally Green
- Genre: Fantasy
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Brothers and Sisters, Misfits and Underdogs, Wild Animals
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Viking Books for Young Readers
- Publication date: March 29, 2016
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 12 - 18
- Number of pages: 352
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.