Yep, I’m trying something new this year. I don’t know if it’s going to be a regular thing (maybe I’ll pick a book a month), or just a now-and-then thing, but I’d like to give book reviewing a go. I never really fancied myself a good book reviewer, but some practice couldn’t hurt really :P
Carry On- Rainbow Rowell (2015)
Written as though it were the final book in a fantasy series, Carry On is the story of the ‘chosen one’ Simon Snow, along with his best friend Penelope, ex-girlfriend Agatha and his room mate and worst enemy, Basil Pitch.
Simon looks forward to returning to the magical academy -Wattford- all summer long, but when he finally arrives, Baz is nowhere to be found. Ghosts, numpties, dragons and vampires abound in this magical adventure about friendship, love, and prophecies.
Rainbow Rowell wrote Fangirl in 2013, and within that story, Simon and Baz were first created. However, these new characters weren’t done telling their story, and in 2015 Carry On was born.
What I liked:
- Writing style: I found that Carry On felt very much like one of Rowell’s usual contemporary novels, but with this great injection of fantasy in the mix. What many people appreciate about Rainbow Rowell’s writing style is that her characters feel so uniquely human, and the characters in Carry On really follow through.
Given that this world has been compared with Harry Potter quite frequently, I half expected the story to be very similar too. It was a welcome surprise when I found this wasn’t the case. Simon Snow is ‘the Chosen One’, but not the one we’ve come to expect. In fact, Rowell plays with this notion quite a bit, and even the main characters question the idea.
On top of this, I loved the author’s twist on the ‘magickal’ in this book, and the amount of world building she still manages to fit in. The catchphrase style spells made me laugh at times, and it was a unique way of refreshing the ‘magical school’ storyline.
- Pace: Though I’ll agree that things really kicked in once Baz actually enters into the story, I felt that the overall pacing of the book was really good. I could contentedly sit and read without finding any slow patches, and was definitely pretty hooked in the last 150-200 pages.
- Ideas & themes: Really appreciated how Rowell dealt with the LGBT elements in the book, as well as the gap in values between the younger and older generations. I also enjoyed the manner in which the line between good and bad was at times blurred, and I began to question my attitude toward characters who I assumed were trustworthy.I’ve already mentioned the notion of ‘the Chosen One’ which is explored from a few perspectives. Interestingly enough, none of the main characters seem to have the stereotypical supportive family that we often find in middle grade or YA fantasy stories, which only served to make the characters more human and sympathetic.
- Characters/relationships: The majority of the characters were well written- even those I didn’t necessarily find likeable (Agatha) were still very understandable in their motives. I didn’t feel at any time that the characters sounded older than they should be, and there was a good sense of rapport between the main cast. I really *got* why Penelope and Simon were friends, and *why* Simon had dated Agatha, and so forth.The relationships were well nurtured, and I felt that the Simon and Baz scenes were the best parts of the book. The chemistry was great, without the characters themselves having to be perfect, and overall it seemed effortless on Rowell’s part.My favourite character was, surprisingly, Baz. I thoroughly enjoyed all his scenes, purely for the sarcastic humour and the self-monologues he has going on. It was also interesting to see Simon from his point of view.Even all the side characters felt necessary, and most importantly, interesting. I could have read a whole story about Ebb or her brother.
- The loose end: This is my only major complaint, and I can’t talk too much about it without giving things away, but as the book progresses the reader is clued in to a few important things that the main characters are not, and I kept waiting for the moment that Simon or Baz discovered them. Buuuuut that did not happen. In retrospect, these things weren’t key to the direct plot or the relationship between the main characters, but as Simon definitely has more than a few questions about his past, I felt that he was supposed to find them out (especially given the ending).
- The Mage: My sub-complaint sort of follows the same track; The Mage himself presented a bit of a problem for me as he was pretty much reclusive until the end of the book, and that was a bit surprising as we’re told that he and Simon are meant to have worked on missions and the like together, especially with Simon being named his heir. Overall it wasn’t a huge bother, but I felt that of all the characters in the story, The Mage was probably the one who was most lacking in depth.
- More Baz: Pretty please.
Basically, a great fantasy/contemporary/LGBT reader’s book. If you enjoyed Harry Potter or Percy Jackson in middle grade, Simon Snow feels like a teen interpretation. Magic, relationships, pop culture and swearing. It was all very refreshing- nothing felt old or cliche. It’s an enjoyable, easy read. Definitely don’t need to have read Fangirl before, but it *would* give you some context on how this story came about.