By Cynthia Ayala
There are two warring factions of witches living in modern-day England and seventeen-year-old Nathan is caught in the middle of it. Being of both factions, White Witches and Black Witches — considered an abomination — hunted for his blood and abilities. But now the balance is being warped and a mad man of self-righteousness is bringing all the factions together against him and his high code, and they need one thing: Nathan and his power.
The second novel in the series that takes place in real time with witches being a part of the world and the society. Society is separated into three factions: the White Witches, the Black Witches, and the fains, also known as the humans. With that in mind, Green explores what makes a person “good” by delving into who these characters are by their actions, by their loyalty and their love. Black Witches are deemed “evil” because they chose the Black code, but when reading this, it is hard to see them as evil. Instead, many of the characters exhibit loyalty, love, and kindness, and they are fighting for the survival of their kind. Nothing about that says evil unlike the White Witches who deem themselves as “good” who are killing innocent people just because they are Black, they are creating genocide and torture and other heinous acts, caring only about themselves. It is powerful to read because it puts into question what it means to be good or bad and the whole series has been like that thus far. Through the voice and the narration, the story takes on a very human element that makes it easy to read and easy to submerge inside. The text is shaky admittedly, and some sentences look half completed but they read smoothly, they still appear as though they fit into the context.
There is also the fact that the story is told in the first person perspective. There is a lot of exposition that can often tire the reader out, but with Nathan telling the story, it feels magical. Again, it is very human, very realistic because it is short and fragmented. There are half-thoughts and confusion and a whole other mess of emotions that leak onto the pages, thereby drawing the reader in. The realism is key in a fantastical story because it is giving the reader something to latch onto, a reason to care about these characters and a reason to sympathize and empathize with them. It allows the reader to see the gray area and understand why all the characters are acting the way they are acting and understand what they are saying. These are very real characters in very real situations. These characters fighting for equality, fighting for survival against a power that is so self-righteous; for these characters, this is a war.
One of the more interesting parts of the novel is not just the fight for equality but also the sexual fluidity in the novel. Green does not shy away from Nathan exploring his feelings, but she also does not just leave everything with a resolution. Instead, Green leaves the character confused because he loves in a deep and way that it is unbound, but also does not fit into the “norm,” he does not go one way or the other but also does not classify himself at all. Nathan is human, and all he does is explore those feelings when he can. He is a powerful character, powerfully written and has so much realism surrounding his core.
This is a fantasy novel, but that does not mean it cannot have facets of realism embedded within, and it’s those facets that make this a compelling and easy read. (★★★★☆ | A)