Half by Eli Lang
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Genre: Gay Romance
Tags: Fantasy/Paranormal – Fey, Yokai – Illness, Contemporary Setting, Melancholy Undertones, Hope, Love Story, Acceptance
Length: 287 Pages
Reviewer: Kazza K
I’ve spent the last six years looking for a cure for the nameless sickness eating me up. If I believed there was one out there, I would keep searching. But there isn’t, so I’ve come back home, where my past and present tangle. Come home to live . . . and to die.
But my father insists I meet Kin. He’s a healer, and determined to help, even though I’m not so hopeful anymore. But Kin isn’t what I expected, in any way. He sees me, not my illness. He reminds me of what it’s like to be alive. And I can’t help falling for him, even though I know it isn’t fair to either of us.
Kin thinks he has the cure I’ve been looking for, but it’s a cure that will change everything: me, my life, my heart. If I refuse, I could lose Kin. But if I take it, I might lose myself.
For my reviewing style, the way I think, this is a hard book to review without spoilers but that’s what I’ll endeavour to do. If you are concerned at all, treat this review as a spoiler.
Luca is the sole narrator of Half, he’s ill and he’s finally come home after six years of travel to die, or to live his life, it depends on how you look at it. Apart from just seeing the world, as nineteen year olds are known to head off and do, Luca spent his time away trying to find a cure for what ails him but with no success. He also spent time away because he needed to extricate himself from the fey and their peculiar ways. He is half – the son of a human mother, who died before he left travelling, and a sidhe father, who is alive but the reader doesn’t get to meet. Luca grew up with his mother but spent some holidays with his father and his sister, Saben – same father but Saben’s mother is also fey. His father is the leader of the sidhe and to have a half child is not considered good form. As a result, Luca has never felt at peace in one world or the other. That his father does care in his way, that Luca did spend time with him, is big in the fey world because a half is usually a ‘secret’ or unaware they are half fey, living with their human parent, not being claimed by the fey parent and oblivious to the little quirks they may (or may not) have.
There’s some interesting concepts and world building in this book. Like a lot of books, the fey live longer than humans, but in this world the fey are allergic to/affected by iron. Iron is in a lot of different things in everyday life, so when the fey are trying to live among humans iron is unavoidable. Driving a car is impossible, travelling in one is too, or trying to make a cup of tea with a kettle – common activities for a lot of humans, all difficult and trying experiences for the fey. Because Luca is half human he can handle iron. He can drive. He can mix with humans without them knowing a thing, whereas full fey have an otherworldly feel and vibe about them and are somewhat neuro-atypical in communication style, even Luca is a little quirky in that regard at times.
The fey use Luca as a conduit to the human world, he runs errands for them – some metal may need removing from a stream, an older farmer may need his fields glamoured and some apples or fruit picked, some travel into town may be required to pick up goods, tools may need to be bought or used that only Luca can manage, an apartment may need to be gutted of iron. In return the fey pay Luca in food, coin and other goods. Oh, and the brownies bake the best pies and don’t expect much, if anything, they just like Luca. He lives in a house his mother left to him, so he doesn’t need a great deal and it’s better he live without the stress of a regular job, one that could be high pressure or complex in nature. The errands help him feel like he contributes, and while he may have tried to escape the fey for a while, even warded his house against them, there is a realisation that they are who he loves and feels the most at home and comfortable with.
This book is also very much about the relationship between Luca and his sister, Saben. It appears to Luca that their familial connection has been damaged by the time he spent away. How Luca feels about this, about Saben, who he now sees as regal, cool and aloof, truly a leader’s daughter, is unsettled and unsure. Furthermore, he can’t reconcile why Saben has moved into an apartment in town. Why she isn’t living in nature – away from fumes and iron and progress – where it’s easier for her to live. Their relationship is important and like the rest of the book, well developed and written. Okay, sometimes I wanted to tell Luca to get a clue about all his relationships but he is who he is, they are who they are, and understanding the dynamic of the people in this book is integral to being able to immerse yourself in this particular world.
Luca’s father sends Saben to let Luca know he has an errand for him this time. The errand is Luca himself. His father wants him to see a healer to help him with whatever is making him sick – think fey naturopath. Kin is also other, not fey but yokai/ningyo. Luca has seen the healer once before very briefly in a club, dancing with his scales visible and so beautiful – humans would see them as make-up or sequins but Luca knew better. From the very beginning Luca is interested but when he knows Kin is the healer he is inclined to be wary. But Kin is gentle, kind, he listens and is practical. He’s holistic in his healing approach, and he never promises anything. The rather cure-weary Luca likes Kin because he sees and hears Luca as a person first, not just an illness or a patient. It’s like Kin’s eyes can see into Luca’s soul. Things change, though, as Kin and Luca fall for one another – Luca not wanting to have someone in his life when it could be shortened. Kin wanting to give something to Luca, something that may be a cure and may well have significant… side effects.
Half is not heavily dialogue or epic fantasy driven – it’s more thoughts, interpersonal tactile actions, philosophical concepts, quiet little character nuances and development, ill health, love in numerous ways, and family. The writing is effortless and pretty, thought provoking and definitely loving. The tone is melancholy but hopeful, the ‘hopeful’ will largely be dependent on the individual reader’s thoughts and feelings. I have to bite down on more I’d like to say because I don’t want to taint the story for others.
There is very little on-page sex, twice I can remember a coming together of mind and body between Luca and Kin, and I wouldn’t have changed a thing. It was perfect, but if you prefer rampaging hormones and you need regular sexual activities you may well be disappointed.
This is a unique read, refreshing, just what I was looking for, with a different take on fey and the world. Thank goodness for new ideas and new writers who come armed with them.
I really like both of the MCs – Luca has a resilience and strength, a degree of understandable stubbornness within him. When Luca is ill, it is heartbreaking, but he doesn’t wallow. And Kin, Kin is someone special. Anyone who doesn’t allow illness to define someone, to get in the way of love even when it can hurt, is wonderful in my mind. Kin is very calm and laconic for the most part, he allows his actions and support to speak volumes. He is the perfect healer. I can understand both aspects of what Luca and Kin face. Like Luca, Kin is half human however, he had two mothers. When Kin takes Luca to visit his remaining mother, it was pivotal and poignant.
Initially I didn’t know how I felt about Saben, but I liked her, she is strong and does what she does to show she cares for her brother in ways I won’t discuss.
There are a few areas in this book that could have been tightened up, I’ve deducted half a star. Yes, I would have liked something more concrete on Luca and Saben’s father, I could have done without some repetition – yes, Kin is beautiful and lean and lithe, I understand Luca is sorry – but at the end of the day I don’t really care because I loved this story. I think this is the author’s first book, I could be wrong, but it’s a great way to start and I feel lucky to have read another fresh, new author. Welcome to the genre, Eli Lang.
You have to know what you’re wanting when you decide to read Half. It isn’t flashy or grand, except in respect to life, because life’s pretty amazing and there’s some beauty to be found if you look. This book is not fast and snappy, it is deliberately paced, thoughtful, lovingly written with an eye for detail about chronic illness and those it affects, about acceptance of self and others. The narrative is gentle, lush, melancholy, offbeat, philosophical and gloriously poignant. It ripped a hole in my heart and broke me down on more than one occasion, I had to stop and compose myself because it hits very close to home. I cried. I felt a great deal of emotion and it made me think about some scenarios I prefer not to, but it also authenticated things I know to be true – that living for the moment, seizing the day and making little but personal memories are all unbelievably important. If you are up for it, love is a beautiful thing with the right person by your side, and they’re worth fighting for. Like all personal situations, how you feel when you are ill trumps what others feel, although they deserve to be considered as well because it impacts everyone who loves you, not just the one.
It’s not easy for me to say who I’d recommend Half to. I guess I would recommend it to people who want a love story, as opposed to a romance – because there is a difference. One that uses unique and refreshing paranormal/fantasy themes to explore humanity, acceptance of who we are and what we have, and asks questions of us, making us listen and think. If you are unwell, have ever been unwell, or loved someone who is/was, Half should resonate with you. If you’ve ever said, “I’m sorry” your fair share of times for being sick or feeling bothersome to those you love, and you feel the need for acceptance and to belong but not at the cost of your independence, you’ll probably identify with Luca. If you’ve ever loved someone who is ill and at times felt useless, you’ll possibly identify with Kin, Saben and Riyad. Riyad, Luca’s friend and father figure… what a beautiful soul. I could read a story about his life.
Because I know romance readers need to know, the ending is not an unhappy one, but it’s not typical either – I can’t say any more. Just know that it fits within the framework of the story. Half is a fantasy book but at its heart beats a beautiful love story, one that transcends illness and worlds, and I loved it. That cover? Perfection. 4.5 Stars!
ARC provided by the publisher in return for an honest review.