Queer Rep: Gay and… bi/pan?? Maybe. Not positive.
Warnings: … fantasy violence?
Simon Snow is The Chosen One, and he’s absolute crap at it.
He can’t control his magic, his vampire roommate, Baz, is constantly attempting to kill him, and there’s an evil magic-eater destroying the world and wearing his face while he does it.
To top it off, his roommate-turned-nemesis hasn’t even bothered to turn up for their final year at Watford School of Magicks. Simon is sure Baz is plotting against him in some dark alley somewhere, but Simon refuses to be taken by surprise.
A friend described this book as “a love letter to tropeyness and Chosen One stories”, and she couldn’t be more right. This book is fun incarnate, and I’ve honestly had a book hangover since finishing. If you like humor, magic, and losing yourself to a story, this is the book for you.
Everyone’s going to compare it to Harry Potter. You’re doing all parties a disservice here, including yourself. The magical school as the backdrop might invite this comparison—I’m sure some argue it does—but the world itself, the way magic is used, and the characters—God, the characters—insure that Carry On is very much its own piece of literature.
The beginning is slow. You’re hitting the last year of this Magical Academy with Simon Snow, and a lot happened in years previous. Luckily the author doesn’t make us relive them all, but she does give you glimpses and snippets of Simon’s life as she builds the world. I would have found this a lot more infuriating if everything wasn’t so littered with humor. Even the less interesting bits keep you interested enough.
And then you’re gonna get hooked.
I will admit that as I was reading through the slower bits, I thought to myself “I know my friend said it started slow but made up for it, but even so I don’t think I’ll be able to five-star this. You can’t just ignore the beginning.”
Look at my score. Now back to me. Now back at my score. Now back to me. I five-starred this baby. Because when Carry On picks up, it picks you up with it. It runs. The character interactions, the plots and subplots and tie-ins, the investment you’ve inevitably made in all these characters—they make the slow beginning feel like a distant dream.
It’s wonderful. It has that perfect edge of mystical intrigue and slight ridiculousness (“The driver said your house is haunted.” “It is.”) that creates a vibrant tapestry of world around you. I was comfortable and seeing lush colors and details wherever Rowell took me, but without heaps of exposition. It was delivered effortlessly and succinctly.
GOSH. I don’t know where to start. Yes I do.
Simon Snow is the perfect incompetent hero. He’s a stupid teenage boy at the most perfect times, but also relatable and pure. His tragic backstory is an obvious influence on his behavior, but he doesn’t let it hold him hostage. He and I share an equal fondness for carbs.
I don’t want to give too much away. Baz and Penelope are treats whenever they’re on page. Penelope is the friend I desperately want, and it was so so so nice to have a male and female best friend pair without any romo-vibes or strangeness. Even one of the characters I just knew I would hate wound up growing on me. She became someone unique and understandable with her own very personal goals and motivations. Rowell put care into every single one of her characters, not just a couple, and it makes the book shine.
I am still not over Carry On. I tried to start another book and put it down almost immediately. This one really struck me. It was hilarious at times, warm and heart-rending at others, and absolutely fulfilling. Please give Carry On a chance, because my blissful misery craves your company.
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