Defining “Evil” | Cyn’s Book Review of Half Bad (Half Life Trilogy, #1)

By: Cynthia A.

A review of Sally Green’s debut novel Half Bad that tells the story of one black witch hunted by the paranoid white witches. Sound familiar? Read on to see if it’s worth recognition.


Author: Sally Green

Published: March 4, 2014

Publisher: Viking Juvenile

Series: Half Life

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

In modern-day England, witches live alongside humans: White witch  es, who are good; Black witches, who are evil; and fifteen-year-old Nathan, who is both. Nathan’s father is the world’s most powerful and cruel Black witch, and his mother is dead. He is hunted from all sides. Trapped in a cage, beaten and handcuffed, Nathan must escape before his sixteenth birthday, where he find his father and receive three gifts to into his own as a witch or else death will befall him.  But with everyone hunting him, who can he trust and where can he hide?

A riveting breakthrough novel by Sally Green, published March 4 2014 by Viking Juvenile, Half Bad, the first book in the Half Life series, well captivate readers interested in the fantasy genre.  The novel follows the character Nathan, setting up the plot and who the character is and the situation he’s in.  After that, it goes through the motion to explain the world that this novel is set it.  Green does an amazing job of creating sympathy for the main character and delving into the psychology of paranoia.  All the white witches in this novel, or at least, those that are part of the council let their fear and paranoia control their actions and torment the life of this one boy who is half-white witch and half black.  Unfortunately, for him, no one cares that he is half-white witch, and the torture and punishment he suffers as a child is so captivating, the reader can’t help but root for his character and the demise of the white witches.

This novel is amazing how it tells the story, staring in the present then working back up to it and beyond it throughout the rest of the novel.  What also makes this novel so captivating is the fact that the novel sets up the characters physical and psychological journey.  The readers are not only given a reason to root for the protagonist but are also given a reason to care about Nathan.  He’s not written as the traditional good guy with the charisma and intellect, but he’s also not written as the overly good looking bad boy with his over the top good looks.  Instead, this character is somewhere in between and as the strength and charisma of some illiterate punk boy who takes every advantage he can in order to break away from the chains that bind him, both the psychical and the social.  Nathan is a character who breaks free from all the stereotypes in the young adult genre and that right there is what makes him so interesting.  Additionally, there are those moments when the character interacts with others, that readers are able to see a lighter side of him, a warming side of him that makes his suffering even more unjust in this world ruled by white witches who claim to want nothing but the best for their society. 

Stylistically as well, this is a well thought out and gives readers exactly what they need as they read the story.  The novel is not set up as a traditional novel with chapters but rather each “section”, while keeping the flow of the story, brings in a new aspect of the novel that highlights just who Nathan is and why his life is so incredibly unfair.  Those sections also bring to life this realm within a realm and the sociology that drives the network of the witching world.  It was both unique and brilliantly done.  A can’t put down novel that will make readers root for the bad guys and seek out the demise of the so called “good guys”.  ★★★★☆ (A)

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