After reading Fangirl, I knew that I had found one of my new favorite contemporary writers in Rainbow Rowell. As someone who grew up reading Harry Potter and other magical series, this novel brought back the magic and wonder of my childhood as well as the wry wit and dirty vocabulary of my adolescence. Not to mention that Baz Pitch is the most badass character to ever exist. The story of Simon Snow and his war against The Insidious Humdrum has a little bit of everything, comedy, romance, drama, action, and adventure. Borne of the Carry On fanfiction saga that was excerpted in Fangirl, this is the epic story of the young magician, who is faced with a daunting fate and an insufferable roommate.
Spoiler-free summary: Simon Snow is the prophesied mage, who is tasked with defeating the greatest threat to the magical world, The Insidious Humdrum. In his struggle to destroy this great evil, he finds himself forced to work hand-in-hand with his worst enemy, who also happens to be his roommate. Through many trials, tribulations, and unexpected twists, Simon Snow fights for his friends, his destiny, and his world.
What I liked:
- Rowell’s storytelling: The way this story was divided into chapters and sections was quite fascinating, because rather than having one narrator, it had many. This style of storytelling made it much easier to become interested in the various characters and their own personal stories and thoughts. Additionally, every character had a different way of thinking or speaking that was portrayed perfectly, highlighting the different backgrounds and histories of characters.
- The plot (& twists): Stories about young mages or wizards usually follow the same formula: young prodigious wizard is faced with some perilous threat and with the power of friendship, he defeats it, and everyone lives happily ever after. This story did not follow that formula, at least not in the sense where the outcomes were predictable. It wasn’t a simple story of the triumph of good over evil, but a story of secrets and surprises that made it all the more enjoyable to read.
- The characters: Every good story needs good characters, and Rowell delivers us a platter of endearing, complex, and captivating characters in Carry On. Every character, no matter how peripheral, is developed and portrayed in a way that makes the reader understand a little more about them every time they appear. It keeps the secondary and tertiary characters from being two-dimensional and stereotypical, while giving them a personality through their words and actions.
What I disliked:
- Simon Snow’s weirdness (sometimes): Don’t get me wrong. I like Simon Snow. I think he’s a wonderfully rendered hero, and his unpretentious and humble demeanor are absolutely endearing. However, he does come off as a bit of an anti-social simpleton sometimes, who doesn’t understand human nature. In truth, it does make sense to the story, since he has no frame of reference for normalcy. It just annoyed me at some points in the story, because he was being so pigheaded that I wanted to throttle him through the pages.
- The Mage: Someone just punch him in the face. I realize the Mage is the headmaster figure, but he was a very puzzling character. I was shocked when the story shifted from referring to him as the stern but principled headmaster to the despotic weirdo he turned into at some point in the story. The change was too sudden and there was no development of his character beyond that abrupt switch in modus operandi, as if he just decided to drop the mask of normality and unleash his Looney Tunes side.
I debated giving this book 5 stars, because while I did love the story and the characters, I ended loving Baz more than Simon. I felt really weird about not liking the main character as much I should have. However, the romantic aspect was adorable and I found a new favorite couple to gush over. I’ll definitely be rereading this novel in the future, because, honestly, Baz’s one liners are pure gold and the relationship between him, Simon, and Penny is delightful.