Review: Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

Carry On Rainbow Rowell Simon Snow
Carry On Rainbow Rowell Simon Snow

Title: Carry On 
Author: Rainbow Rowell 
Series: Stand-alone 
Genre: Fantasy, YA 
Publication date: October 6, 2015 
Rating: ★★★★★½ 

Synopsis: Simon Snow just wants to relax and savour his last year at the Watford School of Magicks, but no one will let him. His girlfriend broke up with him, his best friend is a pest and his mentor keeps trying to hide him away in the mountains where maybe he'll be safe. Simon can't even enjoy the fact that his room-mate and longtime nemesis is missing, because he can't stop worrying about the evil git. Plus there are ghosts. And vampires. And actual evil things trying to shut Simon down. When you're the most powerful magician the world has ever known, you never get to relax and savour anything.

Rainbow Rowell put herself in a very difficult position when she decided to write this book. It’s a huge challenge for a lot of different reasons. Got to say, I admire her courage. It takes guts to pull this off.

  • She is used to writing fast paced contemporary love stories and not fantasy. Which means she hasn’t got much experience creating new worlds, this particular kind of plot building, slower pacing etc.
  • She is writing a book on a fictional-fictional character she introduced in another book.
  • She made said character a substitute Harry Potter in that book and now she has to makes sure he is anything but a substitute Harry Potter. None of us are waiting for the ‘new’ Harry after all.
  • She has to work with the information she provided in Fangirl even though she probably didn’t consider she’d eventually write an entire book about Simon Snow at the time and may regret some of her choices.
  • There’s only going to be one book when this kind of story usually benefits from multiple volumes.
  • It’s glbt romance, which in itself is obviously not a problem, but avoiding cliches and stereotypes is a challenge.
  • She has to live up to HUGE expectations.

In many ways I enjoyed Carry On so so SO much. I spent half the night reading because I was desperate to know how everything would play out. I’ve been Simon/Baz trash since long before I could even think to lay my hands on this book. And they were easily the best part.

I fell in love with Baz all over again. It took a while for him to appear in the book, but when he did I practically didn’t stop swooning. Yes, he’s a total cliche. I don’t care. Not one bit. He’s dark, he’s powerful, he’s incredibly handsome Yes, even through the pages of a book, he’s smart, he’s strong, he’s delightfully sarcastic… he’s everything. Oh, and there’s that tiny little problem where he’s also a vampire, but I guess that just makes him irresistibly troubled. Put him next to Simon and I almost completely lose my mind. He knows he’s in love with the guy and he realizes the inevitable tragedy of that.

All I do is lose. (this broke my heart, big time)

Simon Snow was a lot less cliché, which was a surprise to be honest. Turns out The Chosen One was not some kind of prodigy after all. He possessed an insane amount of power, sure, but apparently he couldn’t even get the smallest spell right. If I were to place him within the HP universe (look at me doing it anyway), I’d say he could have been a close relative to Neville Longbottom. Not too great at magic, especially loyal, brave, kind… Although a lot more daring than dear Neville and with an undeniable temper. I liked him a lot. Simon and Baz put together was sure to give sparks. Sworn enemies until circumstances put them on the same side. It may not be the most original recipe ever, but everyone knows it still tastes delicious.

“You’re the worst Chosen One who’s ever been chosen.”

Penelope was the surprise element of this book. I didn’t particularly care about her in Fangirl but here I liked her a lot. She was smart, sharp and witty. In fact, she resembled Baz a lot. Not that they’d ever admit it of course, but I cared a great deal about her. Which couldn’t be said for Agatha. I honestly couldn’t care less about her. She was annoying.

I quite enjoyed the setting in Watford. Rowell succeeded at not making it too much like Hogwarts. It’s a school for magicians and it has its similarities (some I minded, others I didn’t), but all in all I dare say she made up her own idea of what an institute like that should be like. Of course it also helps that I’m a sucker for stories set in boarding schools and anything that resembles them.

When I’m by myself, magic is something personal. My burden, my secret. But at Watford, magic is just the air that we breathe. It’s what makes me a part of something bigger, not the things that sets me apart.

I liked Watford, but I didn’t like the way the magic spells were made up. They weren’t mysterious words or phrases. No, they were just ‘common’ sentences, proverbs, lyrics etc. The idea is that the more a certain group of words is spoken by non-magical people, the more power it holds. But I tell you, when Simon is looking for Baz and he suddenly yells “Scooby-Dooby-Doo, were are you?” it is real hard not to throw your book through the window. Although I should admit that at least some were kind of funny.

And then there’s also the fact that I hated the epilogue, but I’m not going to elaborate on that. You’ll get it when you read it. (If you have: I could just not get over the f-ing tail and Simon’s whining)

The book is written in Rowell’s usual contemporary style. To the point, fast paced and in (multiple) first person POV – thoughts, dialogues and (short) descriptions all blending together. Switching between POV’s faster than I could turn the pages. I enjoy her style, particularly her sense of humor and the way she can make it feel like the characters are actually talking to you, telling you their story out loud. But I’ve got to say I’m not sure if this was the wisest option here. I think the world building suffered from it.

And that’s basically my main issue with this book. I missed detail, subtlety, exploring, carefully crafted scenes and characters. Everything felt awfully rushed. It’s a real shame. The book should have had twice as many pages. So there would be time to slowly build up relationships, to slowly introduce sub plots, to give us the kind of details and descriptions that define good fantasy. I really, really missed this. Literally everything could have benefited from more considerate developing. All characters. Especially the Mage, but even Baz and Simon. Their relationship could have been so much more complex. There wasn’t enough room to explore gray zones. There was too much ‘all or nothing’.

This book is full of decent to absolutely great ideas, but they’re underdeveloped and therefore lose a lot of their appeal. The big bad evil for instance was a total stereotype and I couldn’t really take it seriously. And the force behind that big bad evil was way too predictable. New information and plot twists were dropped like bombs instead of carefully slipped in. I know fantasy is not her field of expertise, but maybe if she’d just taken more time… I don’t know. There’s so much wasted potential here. And yet… I think she knows. I think she realizes she’s not the greatest fantasy author and that might be why she introduced the weird spells etc. I think she uses sarcasm to make up for lack of talent. And that is sort of admirable. She wanted to tell this story no matter what. I’m glad she did, despite everything.

So like I said, the romance was the best part. You should definitely still read this book. It’s a really fast read and despite its many flaws Simon and Baz make everything worthwhile. If there’s one thing Rainbow Rowell does well, it’s romance. I know I’m going to read it again. I’m in love with the characters and if the magic universe is not a masterpiece, it is at least enjoyable.

Pin ThisShare on TumblrShare on Google Plus

No comments:

Post a Comment

` `