Half Bad

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Half Bad
Front cover of the first edition of Half Bad
AuthorSally Green
SeriesThe Half Bad trilogy
GenreYoung adult (Fantasy)
PublisherPuffin Books (UK)
Viking Press (US)
Publication date
4 March 2014 (US)
3 March 2014 (UK)
Publication placeUnited Kingdom
Media typePrint (Hardback & Paperback)
Pages400pp (hardback, first edition)
Followed byHalf Wild 

Half Bad is a 2014 young adult fantasy novel written by English author Sally Green that won the 2015 Waterstones Teen Book Prize and was shortlisted for the 2015 Branford Boase Award.

On 3 March 2014, the book 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.[1]


Half Bad is set in modern-day Europe, mainly in Britain, where witches and humans (Fains) live together. There are two primary types of witches: Black witches (generally oppressed and written off as evil) and White witches (the main population). The 17-year-old protagonist, Nathan, is half White and half Black, or Half Code. His mother is dead, and his father, Marcus, is the most powerful and violent Black witch in history. Because of his parentage, Nathan's every move is monitored by the Council of White Witches. He is forced to follow a strict set of rules, but when he breaks one too many, he is taken away from his grandmother and entrusted into the care of a White witch, Celia. Trapped in a cage and abused by Celia, Nathan must escape before his seventeenth birthday, to find his father, and receive three gifts from him and his Gift. Otherwise, he will die.

Story terms[edit]

  • Hunters: An army of White witches who capture and kill Black witches
  • Whet: A young witch who has not yet received their Gift.


  • Nathan Byrn: The 17-year-old protagonist. He has straight black hair, olive skin and black eyes. He looks like his father. Raised in a family of White witches, but with a Black witch father, he is a Half Code. He can self-heal extraordinarily fast.
  • Jessica Byrn: Nathan's oldest half-sister who hates him. She later becomes a Hunter.
  • Arran Byrn: Nathan's half-brother, with whom Nathan has a loving relationship.
  • Deborah Byrn: Nathan's half-sister. She (like Arran) loves Nathan.
  • Marcus Edge: Nathan's father, the most feared Black witch of all time. He killed Nathan's siblings' father, among numerous others. His Gift is transforming into animals but he has also stolen Gifts from many other witches by killing them and eating their hearts.
  • Cora Byrn: Nathan's mother, a White witch who died by suicide. Her gift was healing.
  • Gabriel Boutin: A Black witch stuck in the body of a Fain. He helps Mercury to get Nathan to her in order to get his witch body back and later falls in love with Nathan.
  • Annalise O'Brien: A White witch, some months older than Nathan. She runs away from her cruel family. She and Nathan were in love as young teens.
  • Soul O'Brien: The uncle of Annalise and a White witch.
  • Mercury: A powerful Black witch who has stolen the blood of every witch family.
  • Rose: A White witch and Mercury's assistant, who always blushes and giggles.
  • Celia: A White witch, Nathan's mentor with whom he was sent to live. She appears to treat Nathan cruelly and even would lock him in a cage. However, near the end of her time with Nathan, it is shown that she does care about him and her cruel actions were to prepare him mentally and physically for the hard world ahead.


Sally Green submitted Half Bad to an agent in January 2013; in March, editorial director Ben Horslen acquired the manuscript for Penguin Books children's imprint Puffin Books, billing it "the book of the Bologna Children's Book Fair" after a 6-figure bidding war.[2] In the run up to its publication in the UK on March 3, 2014, international rights to Half Bad sold rapidly; within 13 weeks of acquisition, it had sold in 25 territories;[3] by November 2013, 36.[4] Upon publication day, it broke the Guinness World Record for 'Most Translated Book by a Debut Author, Pre-publication' with 45 different translations.[1]


Even prior to its publication people drew comparisons to The Hunger Games,[5] Harry Potter or the Twilight series. Half Bad has also been compared to Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell.[6] Additionally, Half Bad has already broken two Guinness World Records as the most translated book – and the most translated children's book – by a debut author before publication.[7]

A Publishers Weekly starred review states, "This grim and thrilling tale, first in a planned trilogy, features understated prose that lets readers' imaginations fill in the blanks, as well as a well-developed sense of Witch culture. Nathan, the damaged survivor of horrific abuse, is an unforgettable protagonist, and Green expertly captures his torment at being caught between the mutually hostile sides of his heritage."[8] Kirkus Reviews states, "Green propels Nathan forward with the help of often underdeveloped secondary characters, who are overshadowed by the imaginary relationship Nathan builds with his father; it is this that keeps both Nathan and readers going."[9] In a review for Tor.com, Kat Kennedy writes, "Sally Green's Half Bad is the perfect novel for inspiring one to despise all of humanity or fall onto the ground and weep pathetically. Needless to say, it is an excellent book."[10]

In a review for The Guardian, Philip Womack writes, "While there is nothing new here, Half Bad's combination of themes will no doubt be entirely attractive to a large section of readers. Whether it will retain a hold on their imaginations is another matter."[11] In a review for The Telegraph, Martin Chilton writes, "Half Bad doesn't always feel particularly original (scenes are set in mysterious alleys) but it is full of suspense."[12]

Half Bad won the 2015 Waterstones Teen Book Prize.[13][14] It was also shortlisted for the 2015 Branford Boase Award, which seeks to acknowledge outstanding debut novels for children and teenagers; it is an award presented both to the author and editor.[15][16]


Half Wild was released on 24 March 2015.[17] The third and final book in the series, Half Lost, was released in March 2016.[18]

In November 2014 a companion story, Half Lies was released.[19]


A feature film adaptation was announced by Fox 2000 in 2013 with Karen Rosenfelt attached,[20] but went unproduced. Netflix announced a TV adaptation in 2020, to be helmed by Joe Barton,[21] which was released 28 October 2022 as The Bastard Son & The Devil Himself.[22]


  1. ^ a b "Most translated book by a debut author, pre-publication". Guinness World Records. Retrieved 11 February 2015.
  2. ^ Charlotte Williams. "Puffin swoops on Half Bad ahead of Bologna". The Bookseller. Retrieved 11 February 2015.
  3. ^ Page, Benedicte. "'Unprecedented' deals for Penguin's Sally Green". The Bookseller. Retrieved 11 February 2015.
  4. ^ "Penguin racks up Half Bad deals". The Bookseller. Retrieved 11 February 2015.
  5. ^ "2013 Best Books of the Year: Kate Atkinson Lists Her Favorite Reads of 2013". Archived from the original on 10 November 2013.
  6. ^ Alberge, Dalya (19 November 2013). "Bewitching first novel by ex-accountant casts £1m spell on world of books". The Guardian.
  7. ^ "A literary smash: Half Bad, the new Twilight by British author Sally Green". 22 March 2014.
  8. ^ "Publishers Weekly review of Half Bad by Sally Green".
  9. ^ "Half Bad". Kirkus Reviews. 15 February 2014. Retrieved 14 January 2023.
  10. ^ Kennedy, Kat (12 March 2014). "Try Not to Cry: Half Bad by Sally Green". Tor.com. Retrieved 14 January 2023.
  11. ^ Womack, Philip (29 March 2014). "Half Bad by Sally Green review – witchy tale fails to cast a spell". The Guardian. Retrieved 14 January 2023.
  12. ^ Chilton, Martin (28 March 2014). "Half Bad by Sally Green: review". The Telegraph. Retrieved 14 January 2023.
  13. ^ "Waterstones children's book prize 2015 – shortlist announced!". The Guardian. 12 February 2015. Retrieved 13 February 2015.
  14. ^ "Half Bad by Sally Green". Waterstones. Retrieved 27 June 2022.
  15. ^ "Branford Boase Award 2015 longlist". The Telegraph. 27 January 2015. Retrieved 13 February 2015.
  16. ^ Drabble, Emily (6 May 2015). "Which books made the Branford Boase shortlist 2015?". The Guardian. Retrieved 27 June 2022.
  17. ^ Green, Sally [@Sa11eGreen] (15 September 2013). "Set out to write lots of Half Wild today -wrote approximately three sentences. But read all of Silver Linings Playbook" (Tweet). Retrieved 2 October 2021 – via Twitter.
  18. ^ "Half Lost (Half Life #3)". Goodreads. Penguin Books. Retrieved 20 June 2015.
  19. ^ Half Lies, A Half Bad story by Sally Green. 13 November 2014. Retrieved 8 April 2018. {{cite book}}: |website= ignored (help)
  20. ^ "Brewing A Franchise, Fox 2000 Nabs Rights To Sally Green Witch Novel 'Half Bad' by Mike Fleming Jr". 5 April 2013.
  21. ^ "Netflix Unveils New U.K. Projects with Sam Mendes, Rowan Atkinson, Andy Serkis". 13 December 2020.
  22. ^ "The Bastard Son & The Devil Himself shares new look and release date". radiotimes.com. Immediate Media Company Limited. 21 September 2022. Archived from the original on 21 September 2022. Retrieved 21 September 2022.

External links[edit]