Half Bad (Half Bad #1) by Sally Green (2014)
YA Fiction | Fantasy/Magical Realism
“Wanted by no one.
Hunted by everyone.
Sixteen-year-old Nathan lives in a cage: beaten, shackled, trained to kill. In a modern-day England where two warring factions of witches live amongst humans, Nathan is an abomination, the illegitimate son of the world’s most terrifying and violent witch, Marcus. Nathan’s only hope for survival is to escape his captors, track down Marcus, and receive the three gifts that will bring him into his own magical powers—before it’s too late. But how can Nathan find his father when there is no one safe to trust, not even family, not even the girl he loves?
Half Bad is an international sensation and the start of a brilliant trilogy: a gripping tale of alienation and the indomitable will to survive.”
pooled ink Review:
I kept hearing about this book over the years and I finally hunted down a copy at the library. To be honest I was really excited to read this and I’m not quite sure how I feel about it. I think it met my expectations? But it didn’t surpass them… I certainly enjoyed reading this but I have to admit I think it a bit overhyped.
It takes place in contemporary England blended with witches and magic living amongst the fain/humans. Living in a land ruled by the heavy might of the Council of White Witches of England, Scotland, and Wales, Nathan, who is half White and half Black, finds his freedom dwindling with every year he lives. In over simplistic terms the White witches are good witches and the Black witches are bad witches. But of course nothing is ever as simple as that and Nathan finds this out first hand.
The story really takes its time to delve into Nathan’s life as a mixed witch, beginning with the horror of his birth, to enduring life as a child both in home and in school, then as a teenager captured, tortured, and forced to run. Although he bears a striking resemblance to his father, a very powerful and infamous Black witch, his half-brother Arran insists that his soul is White and good like their mother. But his soul matters very little to his fate or to hunters.
Even as a child Nathan has always had to be careful, trust no one, be silent, be lonely, be despised and misunderstood, be attacked, be caged, be White, be Black…when all he wants is to be Nathan, free to be himself with the few people who understand and care for him, to not be ostracized or bloodied or controlled or manipulated for the fools on either side demanding he be one thing or another.
I have to say that this book was not quite what I had expected and not quite like anything else I’ve read. I found it genuinely interesting. The plot is edgy, dark, twisting, unique, chilling, and an overall standout in the YA genre. But I have to admit that it is perhaps a bit too slow to really call exciting and I wish the world-building could have been somehow…more. I felt that by the end of this book the series was finally starting. The story had me interested, but not addicted (as in I could easily put it down and walk away if something else caught my fancy).
It’s very British. The entire book would be vastly different if written by an American author or probably even if it took place in the U.S. If you’re familiar with both American and British shows/stories (I have major favorites of both) then you’ll know exactly what I mean. It’s not really something I can put my finger on, it’s just something in the telling. Americans and Brits take different approaches and value different aspects to storytelling. In general, the British tend to value characters over flash or adrenaline and I’d say that holds true for this book. The characters were an intriguing assortment full of depth, even those with the smallest roles felt fully dimensional.
Overall the book truly was unique, twisting, and entertaining, but there simply was no magic spark for me. Definitely check this series out though if you’re a fan of magical realism!
Moving at a pace that was informative, developed, and not in any rush for the sole purpose of dazzling its readers, Half Bad manages to spin together an alluring and dark tale of witches and what makes a witch good or bad. Gritty characters and a plot constantly on the move with no one to trust, you’ll find yourself lured in by the magic and shocked at the methods for control.
P.S. I love the cover of this book!
Purchase here: Half Bad
Similar Recommended Reads: Gilded Cage by Vic James, Trial by Fire by Josephine Angelini, Red Rising by Pierce Brown
Meet Sally Green!
Hi – I’m Sally Green. I’m the author of the real-world/ fantasy Half Bad Trilogy, which is made up of Half Bad, Half Wild and Half Lost. Most people read them in that order but there’s always a few who don’t. Many people who read them are teenagers but there’s a lot who aren’t.
I’m currently working on a new series called The Smoke Thieves, which is due to be published in spring 2018 and is definitely fantasy (there will be a map).
I said I’d never write another trilogy after Half Bad but it seems I lied.
I live in a village in north-west England.