Penguin presents the unabridged, downloadable audiobook edition of Half Bad by Sally Green, a breathtaking debut novel about one boy's struggle for survival in a hidden society of witches. Read by the actor Carl Prekopp.
You can't read, can't write, but you heal fast, even for a witch.
You get sick if you stay indoors after dark. You hate White Witches but love Annalise, who is one. You've been kept in a cage since you were fourteen. All you've got to do is escape and find Mercury, the Black Witch who eats boys. And do that before your seventeenth birthday. Easy.
Sally Green lives in north-west England. She has had jobs (paid and unpaid) and even a profession but at last has found the time to write down the stories she used to only be able to daydream about. She likes to read, walk in the country and would like to drink less coffee. Half Bad is her first novel.
©2013 Sally Green; 2014 Penguin Books Limited
I have to give kudos to Sally Green: Half Bad is extremely original in plot, characterization, and style. Told in a freeform stream of consciousness, the writing fits perfectly to a story of complete and utter hopelessness. But at the same time, the book is so unrepentantly mean, so completely lacking in any person with any redeeming qualities, that this becomes a form of torture porn. Bad guys are evil and the good guys are evil - we have non stop scenes of every nearly every form of abuse imaginable (save sexual, oddly). That pervasive purgatory of dread and meanness did make for a difficult read (or listen in this case, due to an Audible experience). Any time I stopped, it was very difficult to pick this back up again.
Story: Nathan is half white witch and half black witch. Trapped between the bitter war of the two, he is viewed with disdain, disgust, and suspicion. Will he turn out like his 'evil' black witch father or turn to his mother's 'good' white witch powers? As the day his powers will manifest nears, the council of white witches tighten the noose on Nathan, taking the torture and physical abuse to new levels in their certainty that he will turn to the black. By the time Nathan falls for a pretty young white witch, the council's final solution on keeping him controlled is to put him in a cage all night with beatings all day. Nathan knows he must escape and find his father - and learn who he really is, white or black.
Author Green resists making Nathan completely good or a martyr - he is mostly an anti-hero in which we sympathize with the horrors of his life. The book is about taking his bad situation and making it much, much worse with each page turn. Nathan's resentment, anger, bitterness, and resilience are the heart of the story; he can't read, is greatly restricted, and only through innate healing powers manages to survive to see the new day. As he nears his 16th birthday, and will commit fully to white or black witch, the white council of witches enact succeedingly more draconian measures to ensure they don't end up with another black witch on par with Nathan's father. It's about one evil deed on that kid after another.
Those expecting the white witches to be evil and the black to be actually the good guys will need to read another book. Pretty much everyone is selfish, vicious, and willing to kill or hurt to their own aims. For me, it was a bit too heavy and I needed a story with more redeeming characters. As well, nearly every situation in the book is set up so that Nathan is beaten, tortured, or betrayed. Even the love triangle near the end telegraphed far too clearly how Nathan's situation is going to take even worse turns as he learns to trust and love (both weapons). By the end, I was glad the book was finished and just wasn't interested in continuing. It was too depressing and dark for my tastes.
I listened to the Audible version of this book and the narrator did an excellent job - it's a story that could have been greatly ruined by a lesser talent.
"Not your average YA teen witch story!"
I haven't actually finished this yet, but am enjoying it so much that I felt the need to review it. This is partly due to the excellent narration by Carl Prekopp. It's an article of faith with me that I'd rather listen to a bad book with a great narrator than a good book with a poor one.
It starts right inside Nathan's mind in a shockingly brutal scene and takes up the story in flashback. The picture of the magical world is naturalistic and convincing. Things are only revealed gradually via the protagonist's experience so there's no long exposition about witch society.
It's traditional in these reviews of compare books to other books, isn't it? So let's go with Harry Potter crossed with Kes.
If you enjoy supernatural young adult fiction set in Britain and also like Carl Prekopp's narration, I highly recommend you check out the Mercian trilogy: Blood, Alchemy and Death.
"I need to read the sequel - NOW!!"
Excellent story told in an excellent way! Narration was excellent too. Would thoroughly recommend - there's a reason it won Best Book at the Waterstones awards..... cuz it's fab!!
"Uniquely written and an audible triumph"
Brilliantly crafted trilogy that draws you in to the characters: by the way it's uniquely written in the first person from a spoken diary. Add this to the amazing reader and audible sound effects that appear more in the following two books, which were not over done- makes these the best audible books I have read since joining three years ago. Had to buy additional credits because I couldn't wait as I became emotionally invested into the character. You must read all three books in order.
"Not Half Bad"
I really got into this story , now impatient for the 3rd book.
A bit like Harry Potter in that a boy is growing up without parents. His father is the dark and his mother the light. Prophecy about what he will do when he grows but treated badly as people expect the dark side of his nature to win out. This eventually polarises the people around him.
it's a dark and mysterious adventure. you cling to the characters especially Nathan. you feel his life and world evolved in your mind. - great storyline.
Wow, do I feel lucky to have stumbled on this. Not only a great story, but a great story superbly narrated! When I was, appropriately enough, half way through this book, I decided I would write a review. Well, not so much a review (as this is one story that deserves to be approached as unspoiled as it is possible to be in this day and age) rather a maxxed out stars plus a few more stars for good luck - recommendation. I love reading tales where the author clearly has a complete understanding of the world the characters inhabit; and a complete understanding of all the characters, no matter how much or little is revealed to the reader. This is the epitome of that; and I enjoyed every moment of living with Nathan and his family, friends and enemies. Carl Prekopp does this story justice and then some. I haven't been this impressed by a narrator since listening to David Thorpe read Karen Maitland's Company of Liars. It's an amazing tour de force. Oh my, I am gushing, aren't I? Okay, okay. There is one thing that gets on my nerves and it's this. (Some might consider this a spoiler; I'd call it a caution...) The book has an abrupt "... and then..." climax, assuming you'll be back for the next. At time of writing, the Kindle edition of the sequel, Half Wild, isn't due until 5 March 2015 - aaargh! Hopefully the audiobook will be released simultaneously and some thoughtful person has already booked Carl Prekopp for a recording session. It's such a good story, though, that I'm going to forgive being left hanging just this once; but if such apparent complacency is the sort of thing that drives you up the wall then you might want to wait until just before the next book is published to start on this. It'll be worth the wait. But I wouldn't have the willpower to hold off after reading / listening to (I frequently found myself reading the text along with the audiobook - I didn't want to be racing through it by reading alone) the first few paragraphs. You'll love it. Seriously. It's that good.
"Absolutely amazing book"
loved it, we started reading it in my English class and just had to finish reading it, or well have someone read it to me xD
"Fantastic story and performance"
This is one of those books that I wish I had the time to sit and listen to in one sitting. I was very much going "Oh alright, one more chapter".
Not only was I engaged with the story and the characters, but I found the narration brilliant. Carl Prekopp didn't just read the book... he performed it.
I wasn't fond of the ending, but not because it was a bad ending. Just because I know I have to wait until next year to find out what happens next.
All in all - a great story, great narration, and I can't wait for book 2.
"Brilliant and original ."
I was captivated by the first two thirds of this book then it sadly became a bit more predictable and less memorable; I am recommending it to everyone however on the strength of it's creation of a brilliant new hero.
"Not bad, but there’s some pretty graphic violence"
Be aware - this a part one, ending at just a pause in the story, and with part two out March 2015. There’s no indication on the Audible site that this is the case - although, somewhat belatedly, I see on Amazon that it’s part 1 of a trilogy.
This is set in present day UK, but a present day UK that has witches. It’s told entirely in Nathan’s voice, so there are no explanations other than what he can glean, or other’s perspectives.
It’s fairly standard YA territory - child/teenager, different from everyone else, badly treated by his society, bullied at school and subjected to some graphically nasty abuse. He’s told his (wicked, bad, black witch) father murdered his (good, decent white witch) mother; his eldest sister subjects him to endless mental bullying; and once he’s away from his (nice but powerless) gran, achingly sweet brother and other (ok) sister, he’s totally alone in a very hostile world. The description on Audible might lead you to think this is suitable for younger YA’s, but I wouldn’t commend it. There are a couple of torture scenes that aren’t nice listening.
As a boy/young teen he’s hit, kicked, badly carved up with a knife and constantly belittled by his older sister; as a mid-teen he’s kept in a cage, beaten and kicked by people far bigger than him without a chance of fighting back. He’s tied down and tortured (graphically and horribly) by “the authorities. It's all a bit relentless!
After about 5 hours of listening I was beginning to wonder why I was still listening, given the never-ending awfulness of Nathan’s lot. If I’d had the book, I’d have skipped to the end. However, things do improve in the second half, and I stuck with it to find out what was going to happen. It was only about an hour from the end that I discovered there was a part 2, so realised I was possibly heading for one of those awful cliffhanger endings… It isn’t - the end is just the end of a chapter. -there's no break in the story to indicate the end.
I’m not sure if this is meant to be allegorical - he’s a half black witch, loathed and treated like a sub-species by the pure white witches. He has dark hair and black eyes, they have light haired and pale eyes - so is this actually about race? White witches are nice (!) black witches aren’t? If allegory it is, it’s a bit clumsy.
Really brilliantly read, for all its horrors, with every character clearly voiced and accented. The young hero is particularly well read as he ages from young boy to 17.
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