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Half Bad (Trilogy)

(20 customer reviews)


500 in stock


Half Bad is a 2014 young adult fantasy novel by debut author Sally Green. It is notable for its use of second person narrative as part of a wider first person narrative. On March 3, 2014, it set the Guinness World Record as the ‘Most Translated Book by a Debut Author, Pre-publication’, having sold in 45 languages prior to its UK publication by Penguin books.

Half Bad is the first part of the fantasy in a planned trilogy, centering around the story of witches in modern England. It is the story of Nathan, his journey to discover his identity, and the unrelenting attitude to constantly strive for survival amidst overwhelming adversities. Nathan was captured and tortured by the white witches, in order to plot murder against his father – the most powerful and evil black witch ever. Before Nathan turns seventeen, he had to acquire the three magical gifts from his father, otherwise he will die.

Story is about :

“Wanted by no one. Hunted by everyone.”

Half Bad is an international sensation and the start of a brilliant trilogy: a gripping tale of alienation and the indomitable will to survive.

Half Bad is publishing in 48 languages across the globe!

HALF BAD is one of 10 YA books nominated for this year’s YA Book Prize

Reviews (20)

20 reviews for Half Bad (Trilogy)

  1. Time Magazine

    Highly entertaining and dangerously addictive.

  2. The New York Times

    Genuinely engaging.

  3. US Weekly


  4. The Wall Street Journal


  5. Los Angeles Times


  6. The Boston Globe

    A page-turner.

  7. D.J. MacHale, New York Times bestselling author of Pendragon and Sylo

    An epic journey.

  8. Michael Grant, New York Times bestselling author of Gone

    Edgy, arresting and brilliantly written.

  9. Publishers Weekly

    A thrilling tale . . . Unforgettable.

  10. Booklist


  11. Library Media Connection

    A unique take on witches.

  12. LibraryCanary -Posted On

    I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This has in no way changed my opinion of the book. The review below is my open and honest opinion.

    Wow. This book was amazing. I could not put it down. Literally. I was reading it on lunch at work one day and it took every ounce of self-control (and need to still have a job) to put it down when my hour was up. I couldn’t get enough. I couldn’t read fast enough. This book gripped me and didn’t let go until I finished the very last page.

    Half Bad is not for the faint of heart. It’s not for the squeamish. The majority of this book revolves around torture. It was heart breaking and extremely difficult to read at times. But I loved the main character so much and I had to see how his story was going to end. The main character, Nathan is a Half Code, meaning he is a half white and half black witch. He has grown up with the white witches though and they don’t exactly treat him as an equal. In fact they despise him. He is regularly beaten at school and nobody says anything. He’s forced to go through horrible evaluations to determine whether he’s a “white” or a “black”. And finally they just simply lock him up in a cage. My heart ached for Nathan. He has never done anything wrong and yet he is treated like an animal simply because of who his father is. Nathan was obviously conflicted, but I think to his core he is good, just extremely misunderstood. I loved him and felt such a connection to his story.

  13. Laurence R. Bachmann -Posted On

    Twenty pages into Half Bad one notices “similarities” and “resemblances” to fantasy classics such as Pullman’s These Dark Materials, Harry Potter books and even the Matrix. Another orphan outsider, more half bloods and lots of Good v Evil (White v. Black). Progress further for the deeply affecting first love or the standard issue “troublesome prophecy”. By 50 pages in one wonders “does the world really need another three book series of this?”. Happily, the answer is an emphatic yes.

    A very good English professor once told me “there is nothing thematically new in literature since the ancient Greeks. Literary greatness lies in the story telling.”. If that is so, then Sally Green’s Half Bad is damn near great. Themes you think you know are subverted, and you feel a bit disconcerted; fallen down a rabbithole. Think Harry and Lyra visit a Brave New World. Black is (not necessarily) bad and white is about as far from good, pure and virtuous as one can get. Green’s hero isn’t merely a misfit–he’s a juvenile delinquent, a thief and prone to violence. And oh yes, he is very, very appealing, with a story that is deeply moving for all its superficial familiarity.

    Young Nathan Byrne suffers from more than just adolescent raging hormones. The kid is practically feral, and becomes more so with each passing year. A functional illiterate (yes, you read that right) who would rather be beaten and tortured than attempt to learn his ABCs, this is an anti-hero who will make some squirm but many more care deeply about his journey through adolescence. A journey made possible, in part by muggings and petty thievery. Imagine Ron and Hermione rolling a banker to finance their search for the deathly hallows.

    That is this author’s particular gift–subverting traditional story lines about morality or correct behavior, respect for power or authority, and what constitutes goodness. Her ability to create a character of apparent contradiction–violent and gentle; moral but lawbreaking–is a terrific accomplishment, and just one of the reasons to read this book. It is a brilliant reminder to young and old alike that appearances are the most superficial clues to anyone’s character. Green should be commended. And while the author may have borrowed liberally from story lines in some very famous fantasy series, in the end her Nathan Bryn reminded me of a great American illiterate, n’er-do-well and outcast– Huckleberry Finn. And like Twain’s legend, I am comfortable predicting Nathan will be discomfiting school boards and small town libraries for years to come.

    The one reservation I have about the book is a host of very adult themes in a young adult book. Child abuse, child torture, murder, a mother’s suicide, race hate/violence and sociopathy are all featured and prominently. I am familiar with all the arguments that video games are even more violent. The trouble with that is there is no video game I am aware of that depicts parental suicide. Or causes a 12 year old to imagine his mother taking her life. Or families killing other family members. Also, the author’s abilities I have extolled above would, I imagine, make the realities of abuse and parental suicide all the more possible and imaginable. Is that where every 11, 12, and 13 year old should be going in their personal reading? I don’t pretend to have the answers but think it important to pose the question in a public forum like this.

    These horrors do happen in the real world and I don’t think children should be sheltered from it. Nor should they engage it before they are mature enough to do so. This is one book where thoughtful discussion, parental awareness and guidance are all extremely important when judging the book’s suitability. I worry all that will get lost in the bestseller hype and hoopla should it take off as its publisher hopes (a Viking editor in my reader’s copy is already crowing about the pre-sale of movie rights –the new standard of excellence, apparently). One can imagine the publisher and agent losing sleep over merchandising rights, tie-ins, Nathan action figures and torture cage accessories (sold separately). But not so much, if at all, about age appropriate readership.

    It isn’t however, the job of writers to self censor. It is their job to create. In that, Sally Green has done marvelously well making the familiar seem fresh. giving new energy to tired archetypes. The result is original, gripping and I thought more than a bit surprising, and more than a bit disturbing.

  14. Melissa A. Palmer -Posted On

    Nathan is half white witch (good) and half black witch (bad). His white witch mother is dead and his black witch father has never been around and is feared by most of the witch community. Which parent will Nathan take after? The Council is keeping close tabs on him to see. This book, while almost 400 pages, is a quick read and has a plot full of action and twists and turns to keep readers engaged. I think both high school girls and boys would enjoy this book. I have the sequel, Half Wild, in my TBR pile.

  15. Shelumiel -Posted On

    I approached Half Bad with no more than the knowledge of its premise and that turned out to be a good call.

    The writing style is blunt, and I can see how this may be a drag for others, but I think it’s very fitting to our narrator. Nathan is almost-illiterate. He’s never done well at school and ensuing events will only worsen this. But with her choice of tone, Green reinforces the mournful tragedy of Nathan’s situation. I mean, I can mention child abuse but I feel like that’ll be the understatement of the year. Having said that, however, it bears pointing out that this isn’t a pity show. Our anti-hero doesn’t just mope around. And it’s divided in five parts; the first part, which is done in 2nd-person, is intriguing and pulls you right in.

    I also thought the pacing had a steady rhythm at the earlier parts but fell short of problematic in places. And later I’ll get to the line where I’ll dub Half Bad as ‘quietly compelling’ and you’ll wonder—as I have—how is it possible for problematic pacing and compelling to mesh up but I’ll try to make sense. It’s not that Half Bad doesn’t know where it’s heading, it just really took its time to get there. Albeit, where Green lacks the action, she compensates with terrific character connections. I will go overboard here and tell you: Nathan and Arran’s relationship is probably one of my most favorite portrayals of familial love ever. It’s quietly compelling that way, because you are invested in the characters, you’re anxious to know what happens to them.

    The plot is basically good versus evil and owning yourself. But, like I’ve said, its strongest suit lies in the characterization. The characters get under your skin and grow in you. Nathan is indomitable at best and stubborn at worst. Arran is gentle and thoughtful and cares a great deal after Nathan. Then we have Annalise and Gabriel which I wish had more airtime, but I’m guessing the sequel has that covered.

    Half Bad would’ve been a solid five-star. It has the making of one: it’s a muted page-turner, has fully realized characters, an MC to root for and a solid plot. Sadly, the pacing is an unmistakable stumbling block for me. But will I read Half Wild? Yes! Definitely. I’m too attached to the characters not to.

  16. Emily May -Posted On

    Do you know a story that goes something like this >>>> There’s a poor family consisting of a mother and her bunch of kids, each one from a different father. Then there’s that one kid (or more) who had a dad who was known for causing trouble… maybe he drank a lot, got into fights, ended up in prison… you know the kid I’m talking about? The one who has that dad? Well, everyone expects he’ll turn out just the same. Everyone has their eye on that kid his whole life, expecting him to become just like his father, watching for his first mistake. And it makes him angry that people constantly expect the worst of him. It makes him lash out and get into fights and become something of a delinquent. It makes him exactly what everyone expected him to be. And people nod their heads and say “See! I told you so”. And no one will ever know if that kid was always his father’s son or if the other people in his life made him that way.

    Half Bad is, in many ways, that story. The story of a boy who was never given a chance. A story of nature vs nurture, outsiders, family and prophecy. But… with witches!

    So, apparently there is some juice left in British YA after all, I’d begun to assume JKR had drained that one dry. I only hope that the US publishers don’t Americanize it for you readers across the pond because I think there’s an eerie English/Scottish/Welsh countryside atmosphere that permeates this novel and adds to the overall experience.Which I thought was wonderful, by the way. This is a book set in an alternate universe version of England where witches live alongside humans (or Fains): the “good” white witches, and the “evil” black witches. Then there’s half bloods (or half codes) like Nathan who are the product of both. Unsurprisingly – and as every decent novel should remember, in my opinion – there is never really anything as simple as “good” or “evil”, despite what Nathan has been told his whole life. As he grows up in a world that distrusts him, he realises that the good guys often do bad things and those who are evil might not be all they first seem.

    Half Bad is two main things and both of them are good. For the first, it is a coming-of-age story about a boy who must grow up in a difficult world and learn to survive the best way he can. It’s strange how very… real this story felt, despite the strong fantasy element throughout. I suppose that’s because of the parallels that can easily be drawn between Nathan’s story and that of anyone who has ever been given a label before they’ve even had a chance to work out who they are. I really liked all of the characters in this novel (and there were quite a few). The author seems to have that special knack for delivering characters who do bad things and make the wrong decisions but still manage to get you on their side. Characters you initially think are going to be merely “evil” (like Celia) are developed into something far more three dimensional and complex.

    But I said this book was two things and it is. As well as a very realistic story about a boy growing up, it’s also a fast-paced, vicious, gruesome page-turner. It’s not a small book but once I found time to sit down and read it, I was mesmerised until I finished it late last night. My friend practically had to drag me away to go see 12 Years a Slave, even though I’d been looking forward to it for ages.

    Now… where is the next book? WANT. NEED. MUST HAVE.

  17. Steph Sinclair -Posted On

    When I first picked this book up from BEA, I wasn’t very interested because I saw the word “witches” and thought, “NOPE, NOPE, NOPE.” Even in my review policy it states that I don’t review books about witches. Why? Well, because of Harry Potter. I didn’t want to sit and compare the two and I had a feeling that I would. What made matters worse was the fact that ended up being toted as The Next Big Thing from The Hunger Games to, you guessed it, Harry Potter. So it’s a good thing this book was nothing likeHarry Potter.

    Upon finishing Half Bad my first thought was, “HOLY SHIT!”, so I went to Goodreads to see what everyone else thought. It’s interesting to see how split most people are on this book, and it’s not hard to understand why. The enjoyment of Half Bad is going to largely depend on your ability to adapt to the writing style. How do you feel about second person? How do you feel about first person? How do you feel about flipping back and forth from those two different point-of-views? If you answer is, “I can dig it!” then let’s roll through the meadows together as I wax poetic about how awesome this book was. But if you answer is, “I hate it, I hate it, I hate it,” then Half Bad might not be your cup of tea and I’ve got only one thing to say to you:

    Half Bad is brutal and spares no punches as we are introduced to the main character, who lives in a cage. A cage. Immediately my interest was piqued. I knew this was a good sign for me because I’m the kind of reader that struggles with most book beginnings. However, the perils that Nathan endures really horrified me, and as terrible as it sounds, I couldn’t stop reading about it. There’s nothing bright and sunny about Half Bad and the majority of it involves Nathan being ridiculed or tortured from a very young age because his father is the most hunted black witch. And so Nathan grows up alone in the community of white witches who despise him.

  18. Giselle -Posted On

    Half Blood started as a 5-star read for me. This lasted ’til about three quarters which is when I realized we really hadn’t gotten anywhere in the story. Boredom quickly followed, until I was unfortunately underwhelmed by the anticlimactic ending. Nevertheless, it’s an incredibly well written book that has a lot to offer if you have a bit of patience, although it’s unique in a way that may not adhere to all tastes.

    When we meet our protagonist, Nathan, he’s naught but a young lad. Young and unfortunate to have been born the son of a notorious Black Witch; a fact that makes him a leper, someone to be hunted down and caged. We learn that, even though he’s highly intelligent in many ways, he’s not exactly book smart. He can hardly read and write. To reflect his age and intellect, the writing is very simple, even childlike at times, which I found brilliant. In addition, Green adopts an informal narration lightly peppered with slang that really brings him to life. Then as he ages, so does the writing. To make the story itself just as genuine, it begins with second person tense. It’s unusual, but highly gripping and surprisingly perfect. This is a child who has been controlled, tortured, and beaten both by his peers and by the system his whole life. Introducing the story with that choice of narration not only brings the horror of his situation to the limelight, but it makes you a part of it; it’s haunting and unsettling. While it’s definitely not for the younger crowd, the scenes of torture and suffering manage to be vivid without being overly graphic. The power of imagination is used well!

    For the most part, however, the book is told through first person present, where Nathan narrates his own gruesome story. We follow him from childhood to his 17th birthday, from his hateful step sister, to his first love. We see how he learns to cope, to separate himself from the pain, to harbor strength not many would have. And, in spite of everything, he still manages to have a sarcastic sense of humor that had me chuckling.

    The world building comes with no complaints. The witch lore is original, highly interesting, and doused with an old-school feel. There’s a complex system in place involving White witches, Black witches, Hunters, Gifts, traditions and myths, with details delivered in a way that wonderfully balances our curiosity and fascination. I was engrossed for a good while, but sadly, my interest did start to dwindle close to 3/4 through, when I started to get restless from all the waiting around. His long days of torture turn to long days of nothing: detour after detour, jumping through loops to find this witch who’s supposedly the answer to everything. I found myself getting increasingly bored. The plot was just not progressing at all. Then after all the waiting, the ending ended up being frustratingly anticlimactic. All this time, and it’s like a balloon that pops and quickly fizzles. It’s as if this was more or less an introduction for the real deal yet to come.

    I would still very much recommend this one for all I liked about it. It’s as much a book about witches, as it is a moving story about a young boy learning to survive in a cruel world.

  19. Daniel Cohen -Posted On

    For me, something like “Half Bad” is very, very rare. I read a lot of fantasy, much of that lot from the contemporary masters of the field (Sanderson, Rothfuss, Williams, Rowling etc.) I have been well immersed in the fantasy genre, and as spoiled as it may sound, have come to expect greatness in the fantasy that I choose to read. I chanced across a copy of the “Half Bad” unedited manuscript at the 2013 BEA, and decided to take a chance.

    I was sufficiently and unexpectedly blown away. “Half Bad” delivered more than greatness. It delivered a feeling to me that I haven’t come across since reading Rothfuss’s “The Name of the Wind.” I literally could NOT put “Half Bad” down. I’m not sure if it was the unique POV that Green chose to use, the excellent storytelling, the believable dialogue, or a combination of all three, but I fell in with Nathan. Spiritually, emotionally, even physically (I was genuinely squirming in my seat at some points). His journey was my journey.

    And the fact that this is Green’s debut novel makes it all the more impressive. This isn’t your average YA urban fantasy centered around witches. I hated even putting that last sentence in here just because this book feel so unique. This is a masterful work of fiction that will grab you, hook, line, and shackles. “Half Bad” has a lot to say about suffering, love, and hope. I’m sure I’ll be turning this story and its messages over and over in my mind until the next book in the trilogy comes out.

    I will most definitely be championing “Half Bad.” As soon as it’s available, go buy two copies. Because if you’re like me, you’re going to want one copy to treasure and one copy to give to a discerning friend.

  20. Regan -Posted On

    Half Bad follows a boy named Nathan, and Nathan lives in a world where good witches (white) and bad witches (black) exist. Nathan, however, is unique because he is half good and half bad, his father is the most notorious black witch alive and his mother is dead. Nathan lives a life facing constant prejudice from all sides, and he is just trying to survive until his 17th birthday so he can receive his 3 gifts and become a full fledged witch.

    I enjoyed this book overall, especially the first half. In the first half of the novel Green focuses on giving a very detailed back story of Nathan, some would say this part was too slow, but personally I enjoyed the pacing. However, the pacing shifted in the second half of the book when it jumped back to the present, and then I found everything was moving to quickly. I especially felt this with the climax, it seemed to came out of no where, and was only about 40 pages. I also had a small problem with the romance in the novel, my problem being I didn’t believe it.

    Overall this book was a very interesting, and fast read. I was hooked from page one, and I will be reading the next book.

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