Half Bad (Half Bad Trilogy #1), Sally Green

Goodreads Synopsis

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 powersβ€”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?


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I feel like, despite (inaccurate) comparisons to both The Hunger Games and Harry Potter, this book hasn’t garnered half as much as attention or hype as it probably should have. Maybe I’m just late and have, as always, missed that buzzy first bit of the party where everyone has arrived and is super hyped for Caribbean Crush and dancing on tables to Justin Bieber?

Have I arrived during the hangover stage? Because that would be so typical of me.

Either way, I really enjoyed Half Bad, the first installment in a dark fantasy trilogy by Sally Green. In Green’s modern society, witches live among humans (Fains); their community bisected into White Witches and Black Witches. White Witches are the tyrannical ruling class, dedicated to protecting the magical community and hunting down Black Witches.

Enter our main character, Nathan Byrn. Reviled by White Witches, Nathan is a Half Code. Kind of like a Half Blood in Harry Potter (“Me Dad’s a muggle, Mam’s a witch!” Sorry, couldn’t help myself), he was born to a White Witch Mother and a Black Witch Father. Unfortunately for Nathan his father, Marcus, is not any old garden variety Black Witch, but the most evil Black Witch of all time.

The story unfolds over quite a long timeline, following Nathan as he grows from a young boy into a young man, encountering some of the usual problems that come with hormones, growing up and all of that awkward jazz, as well as some otherworldly issues. The transitions are well-managed by Green, who uses distinctly divided sections and short chapters to feed the reader vital information whilst keeping the story clear and moving at a steady pace.

Half Bad is not a happy book, but it is a page turner. The plot is unashamed of its violence, and Green’s melancholic prose creates an atmosphere that is both bleak and vicious. You don’t often see the use of a second person narrative in YA books, but the chapters that employed this technique were striking; allowing me to get a real insight into Nathan’s head.

The hidden-in-plain sight world of the witches will undoubtedly draw comparisons with Harry Potter, but the world building is much less complicated, with many of the events take place in real-life settings like central London. There are no weird, unnecessary plot devices which you often find in fantasy novels featuring magic, and the development of Nathan’s magical abilities and the world-building around him felt natural due to the steady pacing and slow drip of relevant information. The parts of the book set in the English/Welsh countryside really complimented the tone of the story, lending a kind of pagan feel to the proceedings which I really loved.

This book is full of multi-faceted characters. There are bad people who do good things, good people who do evil things and just plain irredeemable people like Nathan’s half-sister Jessica, who I absolutely hated (in a good way, of course). The supporting cast feel three-dimensional, with room still to grow throughout the series. If I have one criticism, it’s that I would have liked to have seen more of Marcus, but I have a hunch that this will be more than rectified in the installments that follow.

Although essentially a fantasy novel, the plot hangs on some key psychological topics like the nature versus nurture debate, the toxicity of parent/child relationships and the age-old question: can a person ever be wholly good, or wholly evil? At its core, Half Bad is a classic coming of age tale, which focuses on growing up in a difficult time in a difficult world, as well as finding out who you want to be, regardless of what others say you are.

In Summary…

  • Author: Sally Green
  • Publication Date: 4th March 2014
  • Publisher: Viking Books
  • Pages: 384
  • Rating: 4/5
  • In short: Nathan Byrn and his unbreakable will to survive, plus magic.



31 thoughts on “Half Bad (Half Bad Trilogy #1), Sally Green

  1. This book is a devastating read, and the next two are even more dark and terrible than the first. It was a hard trilogy to read but in the best way possible. I wouldn’t say this book was my favorite but I did like it very much and the next two installments improve on the story quite a bit. I’m glad that you appreciated this book just as much as I did. The next two will definitely give you something to talk about. Great review. Can’t wait to read the next one πŸ™‚

    Liked by 2 people

    • It really was! I loved the darkness, so I’m looking forward to seeing where it goes in the second and third books. I’m glad to hear there’s some improvements on the story – that makes me excited to get stuck into the rest of the series. I hope so! Thank you so much. 😊


  2. I’ve seen the sequels to this at the library on the New Releases shelf, and I’ve been tempted to pick them up. But I never heard much about them, so I kind of put them on the back burner. Finally, a review! Now I’ll probably start this series.
    I don’t know why it has fallen through the cracks…

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ve owned this one for a while. I’m planning to read it by the end of the year. I’m so glad you liked it. The use of second person is not something I’ve seen often in books, but I’m glad it works well here. I have to finish some of the series I already started, but this book is most definitely getting read in the next month or two. Nice review! πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I read this one last month, and last night I just finished the second one in this Trilogy, Half Wild. I loved the second one of this trilogy more than the first! It was incredible, I definitely recommend continuing on with this series! It’s so good!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you! πŸ™‚ I think the series as a whole is quite dark and Green’s writing is definitely quite bleak. I know what you mean! An Ember In The Ashes is a great read – can’t wait for the second one! I hope you like this one if you do end up reading it. πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  5. haha yeah, this book did have quite a bit of buzz around it. I read it way back when it first came out- I did enjoy it, but had my problems with it (cos of the peculiar choice of 2nd person that I didn’t like)- but you’re right about it being a page turner- I preferred the second book though, when she did away with that random 2nd person bits

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hahaha I just missed it, as always then! πŸ˜‰ Yeah I think the 2nd person narrative is definitely a love/hate kind of thing – I was really surprised when I first came across it! I’m glad to hear the second book is better – that’s the general view I seem to be hearing from most people so I’m looking forward to finding out what happens. πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

      • haha been there!!! πŸ˜‰ So was I- I was willing to give it a shot- I’ve seen it work okay before- but didn’t like it here at all because it wasn’t really clear who was talking. Yeah definitely πŸ™‚


  6. Am I weird for getting ridiculously excited when you mentioned that this book is unflinchingly violent? I feel YA books tend to downplay violence a lot, which makes otherwise dark worlds unrealistic and seem inauthentic. One of the reasons I enjoyed Angelfall by Susan Ee was how authentic it felt in its dreary, graphically violent dystopia. You’ve just gotten me all the more excited for this!

    ~ Aimal @ Bookshelves & Paperbacks

    Liked by 1 person

    • Not at all! Totally agree! I feel like some YA authors shy away from graphic violence in fantasy/dystopia books, which is weird when they’ve created such visceral worlds and nasty villains etc! Another series that handles violence really well is Chaos Walking by Patrick Ness – I’d defo recommend those if you haven’t already read them. I read Angelfall YEARS ago, but never continued with any of her other books. Maybe I’ll have to pick another one up soon! Yay – I hope you enjoy! πŸ™‚ x

      Liked by 1 person

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