Half World is a young adult fantasy that in many respects can be considered a horror novel. In one of the novel’s first scenes, a woman bites off the finger of her lover as a toll to pass out of Half World, a middle-realm between the world of flesh and the world of spirit. The scene is as gruesome and chilling as anything in Stephen King, and why shouldn’t it be? So-called “young adult” novels are more of a marketing term today than a category of any significance, and there’s no reason for a writer to shy away from horror in the production of a YA fantasy.
The cosmos of Half World is fun and original and vivid. The antagonist, Mr. Glueskin, is absurd yet terrifying and if I have any complaint about this book it’s just that it makes use of the well-worn trope of the “chosen one,” which I’m sick to death of seeing. However, Half World‘s “chosen one,” Melanie, is made aware from the start that her status as “chosen” is mutable and her future unwritten, so that she might easily fail, “chosen” or not, and this mitigates the cliche. I loved this book, it’s as exciting and mythic and odd as anything Neil Gaiman might come up with (fittingly, Gaiman himself offers up the cover blurb).