Carry On
November 2, 2021 10:09 PM - Subscribe

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 starts 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.
posted by Literaryhero (10 comments total)
The beginning is a little too Harry Potter for me, and then the middle-end is a bit too much romance, but overall it is a good story. The romance was really telegraphed from the beginning, and I am usually not interested in books that are overly romantic relationship based, but I kept reading and I think the story really comes together at the end. However, the ending is also fairly strongly hinted at from early on so don't expect any real jaw dropping surprises. Still, if you are looking to read a book about magic schools, this one fits the bill.
posted by Literaryhero at 10:12 PM on November 2, 2021 [1 favorite]

Both the Harry Potter-ness and the swing to romance are very intentional; this book is very much one that's in conversation both with magic school narratives and with fan fiction of magic school narratives (especially considering its origins -- Carry On began in another book by the same author, as fictional fan fiction written by a fictional character of the as-yet-unwritten final book of a fictional Harry Potter-esque series).

That doesn't, of course, mean you have to like those aspects -- although I did -- but I would argue that they are part of the point of the book.
posted by kyrademon at 2:40 AM on November 3, 2021 [4 favorites]

I read this a couple months ago! Yeah, the romance is pretty telegraphed, as are most of the eventual plot points, but they're awfully cute getting there all the same. Not much suspense, but a fun romp.

I'm only just learning about the meta- nature of the book; its conversation with HP was obvious without that context, but with fanfic a bit less so. Either way, I enjoyed the heck out of it.
posted by solotoro at 2:44 AM on November 3, 2021

I just finished this! It was very fun. I’m torn about whether to read the sequel next or ‘Fangirl’.
posted by bq at 9:58 AM on November 3, 2021

That doesn't, of course, mean you have to like those aspects -- although I did -- but I would argue that they are part of the point of the book.

I'm desperate for reading material here. It seems like no one is posting books on Fanfare these days and I don't know where else to find stuff I like. :)

Also, I think the context helps a lot. I thought it was just weird. Also also, I think the problem I have with the romance, really, is that Baz seems like such a turd. I know he has a big shift, and his motivations for being a jerk make sense, but I couldn't make myself like him.

All that being said, I just picked up the second book, so my original comment was maybe more critical than it should have been.
posted by Literaryhero at 7:39 PM on November 3, 2021 [1 favorite]

Fangirl is one of my favorite books.
posted by all about eevee at 5:23 AM on November 4, 2021 [1 favorite]

I read this after Fangirl, so I knew what to expect. I enjoyed it a lot, though I have more mixed feelings about the next books in the series.
posted by jeather at 6:26 AM on November 5, 2021

Fangirl is fun, and I really enjoyed Rainbow Rowell's Eleanor & Park when it came out. I didn't love this book, or its sequels, but I do like certain things about it. I liked that there is a character who just walks away from all the wizarding-world Chosen One crap, and I liked the magic system, where words and expressions have power based on how much they're spoken or sung in the muggle world. The Harry Potter universe doesn't really have a developed magic economy, and I always felt the lack of it, and I thought this one was quite clever.
posted by Orlop at 4:57 PM on November 5, 2021 [1 favorite]

I've just finished Any Way the Wind Blows, the 4th book in this series, if you count Fangirl as the first. I absolutely loved all of the books.
Fantasy can be a little po-faced at times, but Rainbow Rowell manages to combine humor and sadness in a way that I find very touching.
It's totally romance, and more about the characters than the "will they save the world yet again" story. Which is a feature, not a bug :)
posted by Zumbador at 9:44 PM on December 2, 2021

I love so much about this book. (Or should I call it books? It's called a novel but also separated into 4 books....) I love how there are so many viewpoints and it feels like you're getting this really complete view of this world and there's a really consistent idea of who Baz is that everyone agrees on. And then he shows up in book 2 and people barely know him at all, he's basically an iceberg, if he even shows that much. (And we actually see, at one point, that he practices underreacting from his dad. Which, wow. There's some worrisome family dynamics.) I love when we get Baz's side of the story because it's always such a revelation, he keeps it so well hidden, everything he thinks and feels. The first cracks in his facade come when Simon holds his hands and feeds him too much power. He giggles, won't let go of Simon's hands, and admits he feels drunk. I'm not sure he could have done that without the truce and Simon's promise to help him, but I think each of these bits were necessary steps to work from their mutual obsession/antagonism towards actually dating. I like at the end when Baz actually works to say what he's been feeling all along, "You were the centre of my universe. Everything else spun around you. Looking at you was like looking directly at the sun.... Simon Snow, there wasn't a day when I believed we'd both live through it." "Through what?" "Life. You were the sun, and I was crashing into you. I'd wake up every morning and think, 'This will end in flames.'" p.506-7

I have a harder time reading the tragedy of Lucy, but I like her. It's difficult because she didn't stop loving Davy or wanting to be with him. She was probably right that he was more restrained with her there even if I didn't think she should bear the cost of that. I'm not sure she was right about him asking for a baby rather than a great mage though. I think if she'd lived she would've raised Simon mostly alone while still trying to restrain Davy and Davy would've still been trying for power most of the time. My favorite quote of hers is, "He's still more good than bad, I think. It just goes to show how much of both a person can hold." p.400 I like that it acknowledges the amount of wrong he's done while also remembering the hundreds more children who have been educated now because of him.

I enjoy the perspectives on Penelope's family ("frightfully independent" - Agatha) and how Baz, Simon, and Agatha each fit in to the chaos somewhat. And the view it gave of Watford, what each of Penelope's siblings were making up for, now that they were home for a stretch. Though speaking of home life, I deeply enjoyed Baz as a bickering older brother. Someone who had been the ultimate evil nemesis is suddenly reduced to telling his younger sister to knock and he'll ignore her until she does? It's just beautiful. And Agatha at home alone, no siblings, with parents who don't seem to care how she feels and just want to party, well, that seems to sum her up too. No wonder she doesn't know herself or what she wants. It makes me so happy that she gets to take some actual space at the end to hopefully find that.

I love how we start the book off with what Simon loves about Watford, starting with Sour Cherry Scones and near the end find out that Baz's mum loved them too, in the same sort of list. And with Baz, never one to let up on revelations, that he was able to go back to Watford, where Simon and Penny weren't, because it was never a safe and easy place for him. His room may have felt like home (possibly because Simon was there), but Watford was "like going to school in occupied territory" p. 499. Simon often saw Baz in the Catacombs as creepy, but Baz thought of it as visiting his mother. And I think much more easily thought of the rest of the people buried there as people because of that.

I do have some questions about how good the food at Watford is, because Simon is the only one who talks about it. And then he talks with amazement about how the food at Baz's house is even better. He mentions offhandedly that in the summer he eats off of paper plates and with plastic forks and spoons, so I don't think they're trying to feed him very well then either. But his standards are rather lower than the rest of them -- it's not necessarily that this food is done to perfection, but that it's done at all.

And there's so many stories on the edge that were barely told, like about Trixie and her girlfriend or Ebb and the dryad in the woods who she loved. (I love that Trixie and her girlfriend did try to approach Baz and Simon at the Leaver's Ball, because queer couples do often need some extra welcoming. I wish they wanted to get to know them, I bet they'd be interesting.)

I really like books about how magic works, which means I often read books about magic schools, which I may or may not like. I love the way magic works here, based basically on cliches and catch phrases, it's so interesting and makes the spells potentially predictable, though I never did actually predict them.

I've read this book a number of times, it's one of my favorites. This time I was pretty tired, so I actually got the audiobook out from the library. It takes a fair bit of time, but it is a treat to listen to. I loved hearing all the different accents for the characters, I don't hear them nearly that well in my head.
posted by blueberry monster at 2:06 PM on December 23, 2021 [1 favorite]

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