by Rainbow Rowell
Summary: Simon Snow is the worst chosen one who’s ever been chosen.
That’s what his roommate, Baz, says. And Baz might be evil and a vampire and a complete git, but he’s probably right.
Half the time, Simon can’t even make his wand work, and the other half, he sets something on fire. His mentor’s avoiding him, his girlfriend broke up with him, and there’s a magic-eating monster running around wearing Simon’s face. Baz would be having a field day with all this, if he were here—it’s their last year at the Watford School of Magicks, and Simon’s infuriating nemesis didn’t even bother to show up.
Carry On is a ghost story, a love story, a mystery and a melodrama. It has just as much kissing and talking as you’d expect from a Rainbow Rowell story—but far, far more monsters.
Source: I purchased a hardcover
Carry On is my first Rainbow Rowell book. It was the first one I saw that seemed more up my alley, as I’m not a fangirl (and I don’t care much for fanfiction), and I’m not much for quirky, misfit love stories unless I’m in the mood for them. Carry On was more of a magical story with creatures and conflict and that’s something I was better suited for.
I had no idea that the story was in any way connected to any of the author’s other books. I didn’t know that Simon Snow was the subject matter of Fangirl. Knowing that was kind of irritating and I wish I didn’t read reviews after I finished the book. There’s this whole level that other people were judging the book on and I was just not a part of that, so it was a different experience for me. To me, it’s a complete standalone novel.
Carry On had a blurb on the cover from Lev Grossman, author of The Magicians, so I was prepared for another kind of misfit magician story. Simon was a powerful magician, part of a prophecy, and a complete mess at magic. His roommate was missing, even though they were basically enemies and Simon suspected he was a vampire.
It seems like people feel like the book is kind of a rip off of the whole Harry Potter thing, but I don’t feel like that’s necessarily true. If you’ve read The Magicians, it’s kind of more similar to that. Almost every magical “chosen one” story deals with the exciting world of magic and it’s usually the same. I like that Carry On (and The Magicians) take that and make it more.. real. Magic sucks, sometimes you’re not good at it, and there’s a hell of a lot more politics involved than anything else. Besides, what are you supposed to do with all of that magic once your training is over? What if you’re still actually normal and magic is just this thing that you’re supposed to be good at and it’s just like math homework? I mean, it’s so refreshing, especially when you’ve grown up with multiple “chosen one” types of novels. I feel like sometimes people forget that Harry Potter isn’t the only book to do what it did… but that’s another conversation. A magical boarding school, even with some of the same elements, does NOT equal Harry Potter.
I liked Carry On way more than I expected to. I started feeling like Simon and Baz would be a great “thing” and had no idea that the story would even go that direction and it was so weird that I even wanted it to because I don’t really go out of my way to seek out gay couplings. I actually give the author props for not making it super obvious, but making it something that readers all wanted to happen, even if Simon didn’t even realize he was totally worried about Baz. (I totally missed the two boy silhouette on the cover, too, which seems SO OBVIOUS now.)I enjoyed the push and pull, the slow build of trust, and the way that an unlikely event can bring a band of kids together so that they can unravel a mystery that is built entirely on adults keeping secrets.
I really enjoyed Carry On and I think it works well as a standalone novel. It didn’t begin with Simon’s first year at the school, but I think there was enough background for me to figure out what his world was like and where he fit into it. I stayed up way too late trying to finish it because I was so intrigued and couldn’t wait to see what happened.
Carry On was like a contemporary meets fantasy, full of satire and quirkiness. It isn’t a serious fantasy novel and in some ways, it pokes fun at fantasy tropes a little bit, but all in good fun. It’s like a less pessimistic version of The Magicians, with less casual sex, but just as much cussing.
Fair warning: I highly recommend it, but judging by the other reviews, it isn’t necessarily something you’ll enjoy as much if you’re already familiar with Simon Snow because of Fangirl. And if Harry Potter is the only magical boarding school story you’ve ever read or you think it’s the first, the only one, or the most original, you might take unnecessary offense to the story and feel like it’s a rip off instead of enjoying the way that it takes overused elements and spins a sarcastic, but quirky tale that kind of pokes fun of those tropes.
Side note: the way magic worked in the story was basically just using phrases, which seemed cheesy, but was kind of entertaining. I don’t think it worked for some people, but when I started thinking how cheesy it sounded, I realized that if we all spoke Latin, most magic we’re accustomed to would literally be the same thing. Are phrases less cheesy if they aren’t in English?