Half Wild: The Half Bad Trilogy, Book 2

Book review by
Carrie R. Wheadon, Common Sense Media
Half Wild: The Half Bad Trilogy, Book 2 Book Poster Image
Mature, gory, riveting story of warring witches.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Other book series talk of good and evil or black and white witches, with some similarity in witch lore (such as the bit about eating a witch's heart to gain her abilities). Readers can compare the lore here with that in other stories. In Half Wild, characters travel all over Europe. Readers can pull up Google Maps and follow along. A quote from Virgil's Aeneid is used near the end of the book: "I see wars, horrid wars, and the Tiber foaming with much blood." Readers can examine why the quote was chosen and its original context in the classic text.

Positive Messages

From the first book, themes of identity and nature vs. nurture remain for a main character who's half black witch, half white witch. Added to that: human vs. animal nature and what humans fear about our animal side. Through all the bloodshed, readers are reminded that killing is horrible, no matter how right a fighter thinks the cause is.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Nathan is still given to angry outbursts, and now he must grapple with a new ability that he has a hard time controlling for most of the book: He turns into a bloodthirsty animal. He does, however, find his calling in fighting for an Alliance against even more bloodthirsty witches. He's slowly accepting his differences from the other witches and shows great loyalty toward friends and mercy toward a prisoner when he recalls what it was like for him to be a prisoner.

Violence

Many bloody killings throughout the book, mostly from poison bullets and slit throats and guts. Some witches are gutted with throats torn out by an animal version of the main character, with some description of the aftermath. There's also some eating of human organs but mostly talk of it happening in the past. Some witches can heal themselves -- a good thing, because their ears are cut off and their hands are run through with stakes, and they're shot by poison bullets, hit with magic lightning, and given potions for death-like sleep. Talk of many mass executions of witches with hangings and some torture. Story of a girl's mother killed by hanging while she's blinded with a knife. A reminder that the main character's mother was forced to kill herself when he was young.

Sex

Talk of sex between a 17-year-old couple with little detail beyond kissing and entwined legs and a quick mention of what they should do for protection, with nothing resolved. Two teen boys kiss. 

Language

"S--t" is used many times, "f--k" rarely. Plus "badass" and "dips--t."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

A witch constantly smokes special cigarettes that smell like fruit instead of tobacco and have a calming quality. Nathan, 17 and British, tries his first champagne with his friend Gabriel. Some scenes take place in bars.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Half Wild is the second book in a fantasy trilogy about witches that the publisher is marketing to ages 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 young-adult crowd: high schoolers, not middle schoolers. The violence is consistent and gory when the main character, a witch, gets the gift of turning into an animal he can't always control. He guts enemies and tears out their throats, with descriptions of the aftermath. Many other witches die (from knives and poison bullets) in what is the start of an all-out war among them. There's plenty of talk of mass killings by hanging and torture. Sexual content also is mature: Two 17-year-olds have sex, although it's not described. Language follows suit with ample use of "s--t," though "f--k" is rare. Main character Nathan is given to angry outbursts and surrounded by violence, but he never enjoys killing and shows loyalty to his friends.

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What's the story?

Nathan is frustrated and in love. All he wants to do is save his sweetheart Annalise from a death-like sleep and hide away with her from all the warring witches that want him found and killed just for being the son of notorious black witch Marcus. Instead of immediately finding the black witch Mercury who has her, he's stuck in a cave awaiting the return of his friend Gabriel after they were both chased by Hunters. Finally, a witch who helped save Gabriel comes to find him, and the friends are reunited. Gabriel owes a powerful black witch named Van his life, and Van is ready to strike a bargain with Nathan and Gabriel: They join an Alliance of witches to help fight against British witches killing masses of black witches and any white witches that get in their way, and she helps them find Mercury and Annalise.

Is it any good?

As all sequels in a trilogy go, HALF WILD is a setup for the big finish -- and it's an exciting series buildup all around. The war drums are beating, and this is the book where everyone forms their grudges, chooses sides, and gets ready to fight. But the time doesn't pass twiddling thumbs. There's plenty of fighting -- bloody fighting -- with hunters and a particularly elusive and deadly black witch. And there's the main character's fight within himself to control his new gift. Nathan fears what others think about his being a half black and half white witch -- one who also becomes a dangerous animal when provoked. And he's in love with someone who's all wrong for him and not in love with someone who adores him.

Despite all the blood on display, it's still more about the characters, especially Nathan. Which is probably why readers may feel cheated when certain scenes are hurried through. Two parts feel particularly rushed: when Nathan explores his gift with his father, and when his relationship with Annalise starts to go sour. Overall, this is a great sequel that promises a thrilling finish.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the line between good and evil in the Half Bad trilogy. Why and how does the Alliance form? Do you think there can be a truce between white and black witches?

  • Nathan is angry and brooding and at first reluctant to join any Alliance and fight for a "cause." So, is he a hero in this story? Why, or why not?

  • If you could turn 17 and get a witchy gift, what would you like your gift to be?

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