Title: Carry On
Author: Rainbow Rowell
Publisher: Pan Macmillan
Source: Ebook from NetGalley
Carry On is a book from within a book based on another book. Does that sound complicated? If so, that’s probably right. For fans of Rowell’s novel Fangirl, you will have heard of this book before – it is the fanfiction Cath was writing based on the Simon Snow series (loosely based on Harry Potter). For people for whom the previous sentence had no meaning, don’t worry. Even without having heard of it before, this book is a fun, magical twist on the tale that you will love. I know I did.
Simon Snow is the prophesized hero, holder of immense power and destined to save the world. In reality though, he is a gawky teenager, barely able to cast a basic spell who is forced to share a room with his arch enemy, Baz, who just happens to be a vampire (but won’t admit it). Unfortunately for him, the Insidious Humdrum is in the loose, sucking magic out of increasingly larger areas and wreaking havoc on the magical community.
For me, the plot was a little difficult to get my head around to start with. Being so ingrained with Harry Potter, it was easy to see the similarities, except there was enough of a twist on them that it was difficult to accept at first. Once I escaped my Potter chains however, I really got invested in the book and the characters. If anything, while the plot is a good adventure with a few laughs, the characters provided another dimension which gave the book a bit more depth than the plot could provide on its own.
Simon and Baz are what make this story. Going from arch-enemies to having to work together allowed for a lot of development and Rowell did this brilliantly, especially since Baz is missing from the first part of the book. The book is told in multiple perspectives so you do get insight into each of the main characters, however, as it is first person, there were moments where I got confused as to whose perspective it was and had to go back and check (not the easiest thing to do on a kindle). That being said, the other characters were all great. A lot were delightfully over the top with their certain characteristics. The Mage was a mystery throughout and Penelope was great as Simon’s best friend and brains of the team. The only character I did not really like was Agatha, but I have a feeling that was intentional.
The world, I found, was the most difficult part to get my head around. The wizards are completely integrated into the Normal people’s world, except for the few years where they are at Watford (the wizard school). There is another sub-plot of a potential civil war between The Mage and the Families, but this is not as delved into as much as I would have liked.
What I did really enjoy, however, was the magic system. While there are spells, these are constantly changing to reflect the language being spoken at the time. Each country has a different range of spells and the more common phrases have the most power. Nursery rhymes, for example, hold considerable power being ingrained in people from a very young age. This both made it easy for the reader to understand what the spells were trying to do and make it quite fun trying to come up with your own spells. It also makes a fair amount of sense.
This is a novel for younger readers, but I think anyone can read Carry On and enjoy it. The magic is fantastic, the relationships are so good that you’re routing for a few certain ones throughout the novel and the exposition is revealed as part of the story as it goes on. Not to mention, how it ends is a whirlwind of magic and, for the most part, is unexpected. It is a magical read that you will want to start again the minute you turn over the last page.