PURCHASE:Amazon | Book Depository
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.
Last week, I reviewed Fangirl and revealed my love for it! This week, I once again applaud Rainbow Rowell for Carry On! Now, Carry On is a book I would only recommend to either ardent fans of Fangirl and/or Harry Potter. A lot of the jokes would lost some of its meaning otherwise. Thankfully, I am madly in love with BOTH Fangirl AND Harry Potter. In a word, I am the perfect target for this book, so I similarly adored it. It’s basically Harry Potter, or any Chosen One story, with many awesome ‘What If’s’. Here’s just a few of the important ones!
Yes, I know there were a couple of non-white people in Harry Potter – drifting around in the background. Oh, and we had one gay character, a fact that was only added as a note after the series concluded. Have you wondered what it would be like if there were MORE diversity? Because it get served with it in Carry On!
– We have diverse sexuality! I don’t think it’s a shock to ANYONE that Carry On features an M/M relationship, it’s in the cover – it’s also a HUGE part of its selling point. I also loved the way the relationship was handled here. In classic Rainbow Rowell fashion, we saw the awkwardness of teenage relationship, dealt with both earnest emotions and a healthy dose of hilarity.
– We have a racial diversity! Carry On’s Penelope (basically a reincarnation of Hermione with a penchance for bending rules) is part Indian! Her mother is a respected and fearsome witch, who sometimes chants spells in Hindi. Majority of the characters are not lily-white.
– We have size diversity, again, Penelope is round and gives no fucks. She is basically the best!
While I will always love Harry Potter – it has the best nostalgia value and incredible worldbuilding – I did think that the series was ultimately quite black/white. Slytherins were always marginalised: from the imagery to the serpent, to the fact that they didn’t help out in the final battle against Voldemort. Although a million fanfics beg otherwise, Draco Malfoy remains relatively cowardly until the very end.
In Carry On, we have Baz: a vampire, a rival, a Slytherin to the core – complete with gothic styled home and pedigreed bloodline. Yet, he gets a more layered treatment. Through his point of view, we see that even *he* thinks his manor is a bit ridiculous, and that he views his ‘henchmen’ as friends. He also pokes fun at the constant posturing and schemes he’s hatched against Simon ever since they were 11. His family, while all have a dark streak, are also endearing in their own way. The world in Carry On is a lot more gray, and for that, I appreciate it.
This universe’s answer to Dumbledore is also similar layered, he feels almost sinister in the way he monitors and coddles Simon Snow. While the book similarly deals with the segregation of classes: with The Mage championing magical education for all – while the aristocratic Families fight back, it does so in a more interesting manner. It introduces the moral ambiguity of a man almost lost in his cause, and the negative backlash to reforms.
Despite his occasional lapse in confidence and teen angst at being ‘The Chosen One’ – Harry always handled the job admirably. He thwarted Voldermort time and again, not to mention he regularly leads Gryffindor to victory both on the Quidditch field and off. Magic was an absolute blessing for Harry, in a way that it heartbreaking ISN’T for Simon Snow. His magic is volatile, and untrustworthy at the best of times. While he is the most powerful magician in the world, he has great difficulties controlling it – even simple cleaning spells are hard for him. The book deals a lot with how magic is at once his escape from his mundane life – yet at the same time a burden: from destiny, from the feeling of inadequacy, from never quite belonging. In a sense, I feel that Simon Snow is a more effective teen protagonist for all these qualities. I also really liked how the ending approached his magic!
I loved the protagonists in Harry Potter, with their bravery and absolute ability to stand by their values and beliefs. They also adored magic in every sense, we never saw a magical child who wanted to be a Muggle or a Squib instead (WHY WOULD THEY?) Yet, in Agatha, we saw another side to the coin. Magic meant that she was burdened for something great, when she just wanted to chill at home with her friends doing manicures and watching movies. Magic meant that she was embroiled in all of Simon’s life threatening adventures, and played second fiddle to her own life. While I can’t say I liked Agatha (I just can’t understand anyone that doesn’t WANT magic) – I appreciated her POV in the same way I appreciated The Rest of Us Just Lives Here.
I will also say that the magic system in this world is AWESOME. It’s based on the power of words, where common phrases such as “Stand Your Ground!”, or significant quotes like “Out, Out, damned Spots!” have magical powers – and serve as incantations instead of Latin gibberish. To see the magicians in this world clearly wield their words had me in GLEE.
Overall, I think Rainbow Rowell did a fantastic job in creating characters and relationships I quickly cared about. I had the benefit of knowing some of these characters from Fangirl, so by the time I read this, they felt like old friends. The book is a bit of wish fulfilment on what COULD have been in Harry Potter or other similar tales. One that focused on both the Chosen One and the friends or enemies that surrounds him. I wouldn’t necessarily say that it’s BETTER than Harry Potter, but I will say that it’s a nice way to relive the experience from a slightly different perspective. Obviously, if you’re a fan of Fangirl or HP, you should be ALL OVER THIS.
Latest posts by Aentee (see all)
- ARC Review: The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories by Ken Liu - June 23, 2016
- ARC Review: The Crown’s Game by Evelyn Skye - May 25, 2016
- Book Review: Summer Skin by Kirsty Eagar - May 12, 2016