Recently, I’ve started playing a game with myself where I pick a book on my Goodreads “Want to Read” list that I don’t remember putting there, find the audiobook, and dive right in without reading any descriptions or summaries. This was how I stumbled upon the book Half Bad by Sally Green. Half Bad is the first book in a trilogy, and from the cover you can kind of get the idea that it’s a YA fantasy with a male protagonist, but that’s about all I knew going in. As it turned out, I think Half Bad may be one of the best books I’ve read so far this year!
The book begins with an escape attempt. Sixteen-year-old Nathan is kept in a cage, and though he is let out during the day for a strict routine of chores and exercise, his captor has clever tricks to keep him from getting too far. After this adrenaline-filled first section, the story shifts back in time to Nathan’s childhood, and we learn about Nathan’s unusual circumstances. He lives in a society of witches hidden among humans (referred to as “fains”). White witches are welcomed into the society; black witches are tracked down and killed by an elite force called the Hunters. Then there’s Nathan—half black and half white. The council keeps a close eye on him, not sure of what he will become. But though Nathan wants to be a good white witch like the rest of his family, he soon learns that not all white witches are good and that he, with his black witch blood, will never be good enough for the council. As his seventeenth birthday approaches, Nathan fears that he won’t be given the ritual and three gifts that will help him come into his powers as an adult witch. If the council won’t help him, he’ll have to seek out the one man who can: his father, Marcus, the most feared of all black witches.
First of all, I highly recommend listening to the audiobook. Nathan narrates the story in a Scottish accent, and it’s delightful to hear out loud. While I started reading this book without knowing anything about it, it definitely is the type of book I would have sought out. Half Bad is part of the increasingly popular genre of witch-centered paranormal fantasy. Though nothing will ever truly replace vampires in my heart, witches are certainly far more agreeable than zombies—especially if we’re talking “bad witches.”
Half Bad makes you question the nature of good and evil. In the story, white witches define themselves as “good” and they fear the black witches for being “evil.” But the white witches are the ones who torture, humiliate, and imprison teenage Nathan simply because of who his father is. Meanwhile, Nathan has no desire to hurt anyone, but once he is forced out of white witch society, he starts to find he has no choice. Nathan began by trying really hard to be a “good witch,” but now that his illusions have been shattered, will he embrace his dark side? I’ve just downloaded Half Wild, the second book in the trilogy, to find out!
Have you read Half Bad? What did you think? What other books should I add to my “Want to Read” list so that I can stumble upon them later? Give me your ideas in the comments!