Book Reviews

Carry On by Rainbow Rowell – Book Review

“What you are is a fucking tragedy, Simon Snow. You literally couldn’t be a bigger mess.”

I’ve done it. I’ve read my most anticipated book of 2015, a few days before the year is over. I have a few things to say about Rowell’s newest release.

Carry On was born from Fangirl. It is essentially Harry Potter fanfiction, a la Rowell. The gist of it is that there’s a powerful magician by the name of Simon Snow, and he is the Chosen One, born to defeat the threat to the magic world, the Insidious Humdrum. Simon has a trusty, brilliant friend, Penny, a girlfriend he doesn’t really love, Agatha, and an enemy with a dark secret, Baz.

One of my favorite things about this book is the magic system. Words–commonly used phrases, lyrics, poetry, plays–make up the spells used by the magicians. There are so many fun spells. However, many things regarding this magic system were never explained.

The story is filled with many subplots, stacked one on top of the other, and I also didn’t feel like many of them were explained. The story itself was entertaining enough that I still wanted to keep reading to find out as much as possible. Some things were fully revealed and brought to a satisfying close. Others, not so much.

The characters were another thing entirely. We have Simon Snow, who is, well, he’s Simon Snow. He’s always eating, and he’s a terrible magician, and he’s a little bit obsessed with Baz. And with all of that, I found Simon to be quite endearing.

Then we have Penny, the quirky one that always has Simon’s back and is excellent at keeping him out of trouble. She is much better at using her magic than Simon. And she is incredibly intelligent. Sound familiar?

Agatha is Simon’s girlfriend. She is beautiful and rich, but her parents want to marry her off to a stronger magician so her children can be powerful. Although she was painted as an average, sort of annoying character, I had a soft spot for Agatha. I liked her honesty a lot.

And finally, we have Baz. His full name is incredibly long and ridiculous, so I’ll just keep it short and simple. He’s dark, mysterious, snarky, and secretly a vampire. I get the sense everyone is obsessed with Baz, but he wasn’t my cup of tea. I couldn’t really find anything to cling to when it came to his character. I pictured a beautiful boy, but not more than that.  I’m in the minority here, oh well.

There was a lot to love about Carry On, really. I devoured it in three days, lost sleep over it, laughed out loud, but I never felt completely satisfied with the resolution. I was left with more questions than answers, and a love story I was never completely sold on. Again, I’m sure I’m in the minority here, but that’s just my opinion.

I have to admit, I much prefer Rowell’s contemporary novels over her first attempt into fantasy. I think she always has a perfect balance of romance and real life issues in her other novels. But in this one, the magical issues were overwhelming sometimes, and there wasn’t quite as much romance–not enough to sell me on it anyway–to balance it out.


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