Modern Fantasy · Review · Young Adult

Half Bad by Sally Green

Half Bad by Sally Green

Since tomorrow is my birthday, I thought it would be a good idea to review a book where a birthday is very important to survival. So, here is Half Bad by Sally Green.

Synopsis from Goodreads:

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.


A sixteen year old boy lives in a cage. He, Nathan, is an abomination to witches, half-White (good) and half-Black (bad). His only hope is to find his father, one of the most infamous Black witches alive, Marcus. Nathan has to find his father and receive the three gifts that will unlock his powers before it’s too late. Can he find his father when there is no one safe to trust, not even family?

This was such a fast read that I had to digest it for a while before I could write a review for it. I really liked this book. Sally Green’s Half Bad isn’t a traditional YA fantasy. Firstly, it features torture and extreme prejudice to one person. Secondly, it actually discusses the good and bad within everyone. For being another story about witches set in the UK, I found it fantastic, from beginning to end.

Notably, the prologue is written in second person. The first part of the book relays how Nathan ended up where he is. The next part is about his current living situation. And the third is everything that happens next. To become a full-fledged witch, a teen witch has to go through a coming of age ceremony, where he is given three gifts and the blood of his family. If this is not done by the witch’s seventeenth birthday, the witch will die. Slowly, Nathan is losing his sources to become a full fledged witch. Can Nathan become a full witch, despite the Council’s wish to see him dead?

Two characters develop: Arryn and Nathan. Arryn didn’t develop much, but he came to realize the White witches were not the embodiment of good, and he defied them in his quiet support for his half-brother. Nathan, of course, is the character who most prominently develops. He realizes his true self and learns who to trust. He can’t trust the “good” White witches; he can’t trust most of his White family; he can’t trust Black witches either, but they are the only ones who can help him find his father. It would have been nice to see more of Nathan’s emotions, but he almost has to have the clinical, near-psychotic mindset to survive the hell he is put through.

Four themes I found were imprisonment, survival, prejudice, and the existence of both good and bad in the groups considered good and bad. Nathan was always imprisoned due to the constant prejudice he received from the White witches. Even exile is prison. He explains:

“I thought that exile meant you had to leave your country and you could go anywhere–somewhere in the sun, a tropical island, say, or America. But exile doesn’t mean that; it means you are banished to a specific place, and guess what, that place isn’t in the sun and is no paradise, it’s not even America. It’s some cold, miserable place like Siberia, where you don’t know anyone and you can barely survive. It’s another prison.”

Nathan has to survive all of the cruelty of the White witches. It started when he was little, when his grandmother coached him for questioning: if you’re asked about what type of witch you are and you can’t answer White, don’t say anything at all. After that it became surviving imprisonment in the cage. The White witches and the Black witches hate each other. Worse, the White witches see Nathan as a taint, an abomination. Some of his family, mainly his half-sister, Jessica, hold the same belief as well. The White witches and Black witches are a fine example of yin and yang. Like the yin yang symbol, there is both darkness in the light and light in the darkness. Neither is fully good nor evil.

The cover is beautiful. I love the abstract face with the title, in black and white, woven into the facial profile. It is a perfect representation of Nathan.

Half Bad is a fast, great novel full of adventure and defiance. I recommend this to fans of Harry Potter and fans of novels incorporating witchcraft who want a new dimension to the world of witches.

Genres: Fantasy YA

Rating: 4 of 5 Stars


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