Carry On + Wayward Son by Rainbow Rowell (Review)

Carry On

“He also says I tried to throw him down a flight of stairs that year. Really, we were fighting at the top of the staircase, and I got in a lucky punch that sent him flying. Then, when my aunt Fiona asked me if I’d pushed Simon Snow down a flight of stairs, I said, “Fuck yes I did.”

A bookseller recc’d Carry On by Rainbow Rowell to me as ‘it’s Half Blood Prince, but gay’. I’ve been a shameless drarry shipper for years, and it was my gateway ship into fanfiction, so I was so excited to read this one. Since then, I’ve given my paperback copy to two different people to get them to read it too, which has kind of been annoying because I want to read it again.

Rating: 5 stars!

Read it for the:

  • Big Drarry Energy
  • Enemies-to-lovers
  • Interesting and unique magic system
  • Gripping, twisty plot

Synopsis:

Simon Snow is the Chosen One, but he’s terrible at it. Baz Pitch, Tyrannus Basilton Grimm-Pitch III, is definitely not a vampire and though they’ve been forced to be roommates, they’re arch-nemeses. Well, apart from the Insidious Humdrum, Simon’s other arch-nemesis who is sapping magic from the World of Mages. But at least the Insidious Humdrum shows up, Baz is mysteriously, irritatingly missing from their last year at Watford School of Magicks and it’s driving Simon Snow crazy.

What did I love:

The World Building: Carry On starts like a wild fanfiction adventure, but part way through it suddenly has a gripping plot and a magic system that is unlike any I’ve seen before. The magic system in this book is based off of words in a way that I’d bet appeals to most book lovers as much as it does to me. A lot of books, like Harry Potter, use the genre staple of dense latin and wand waving to cast spells. Carry On, on the other hand, uses the inherent magic of words. If a saying or phrase has popular, long-lasting meaning then it can be used to cast spells that are appropriate for its wording. For example, Romeo and Juliet’s classic ‘love’s light wings’ can be used as a spell, but only if the caster truly understands the meaning behind the phrase and if they themselves feel a strong love. It’s a concept that’s explored more in Wayward Son (and I’ll talk about it below the spoiler cut) but it was so fascinating to me from the first.

The Characters: Rainbow Rowell’s talent really lies in her characterisation. All of the characters in this book are beautifully crafted but Simon Snow and Baz Pitch especially. Rowell has created two boys who feel like real teenagers on the cusp of adulthood. They’re torn between what they want, and the heavy expectations that their parents/parental figures have put on them, prophecies have claimed and what the world expects to see from them. When they start to break through those boundaries it’s with the kind of shameless whole-heartedness that teenagers have, and they throw themselves body and soul into it. It’s left me thinking about Simon and Baz at random moments ever since I’ve read the books, and any book that can make me see the characters as real people wins a lot of kudos from me.

The Tone: I love the tone of this book. It doesn’t take itself too seriously, even after it shakes the Harry Potter comparisons and gathers a serious (and quite dark) plot of its own. The writing is funny and upfront and keeps things moving along pretty quickly, especially after Baz is introduced. Carry On is set at the end of 8 years of plot and tension, and manages to make the reader feel like they’ve been there the whole time – fairly impressive without bogging the whole story down with exposition- so reading this I felt like I’d been a fan of the World of Mages for years and was finally getting my finale, not like a new reader who only just met this world.

Where can I buy?

Waterstones / Amazon (not affiliated)

If you can, please support your local booksellers!

Add it on Goodreads here!

Wayward Son

“Ha! Does Agatha know we’re coming?”

“It’ll be a surprise!” Penny says.

“Surprise!” Baz singsongs. “It’s your ex-boyfriend and his boyfriend and that girl you never liked very much!”

I didn’t like the sequel to Carry On as much as I loved the first one, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a good entry to the series, it just wasn’t as fluffy and Soft as I’d expected. Spoilers below if you haven’t read Carry On!

Rating: 3 stars!

FINAL SPOILER WARNING!

Synopsis

After winning the war, beating the villain and finding true love, Simon is waiting for his happily ever after. But instead he has too much ‘ever after’ and not enough ‘happy’. He’s stuck on the sofa, and Penny thinks he needs a change of scenery and a new outlook. Simon, Penny and Baz end up on a cross-America road-trip and while they’re looking for themselves, they find nothing but trouble and danger and realise that Simon isn’t the only one who’s lost.

What did I love?

The Expanded World: In Wayward Son, we see more of the World of Mages, particularly America. Given that their magic is based off of words and intention, and the understanding of the meaning behind common phrases, being in America throws them off big time. Because the slang and vernacular is different across the pond, the spells that they are used to are underpowered, and Americanisms have much more strength. It’s a really cool play on this magic type, and it makes perfect sense. It also means that mages need normals because they create the words that bring power, as compared to the Harry Potter world where wizards don’t need muggles.

The Depression Rep: After fulfilling his prophecy and going through some series end-of-Carry-On trauma, Simon is struggling to find his place. He doesn’t know who he is, or who he’s ‘meant to be’, and that’s played really well. He’s young and uncertain, and he’s scared of his future. It felt real. I’ve had problems with my own mental health, and personally I really liked the representation in Wayward Son. Obviously, it’s not necessarily reflective of everyone’s experience, but I liked it. I could relate to the isolation he felt, and the anxiety about his future and the expectations that he perceived people to have about him.

What didn’t I love?

The Tone: The main place that Wayward Son lost me was the tone. Carry On was light-hearted and fun, and even in its darker moments maintained that hopeful and positive energy. On the other hand, I found Wayward Son to be missing that hopeful spin. I know that there was supposed to be a focus on the impact of depression and the aftermath of the first book, but I would have liked it to be a little less miserable throughout, personally. There were a very few moments of lightness, but not enough for me to leave the book feeling positive, instead I ended up feeling a little unsatisfied. That feeling was made worse by the cliff-hanger ending. After everything that happened in the course of the book, and then the particulars of the ending, I felt more like this was part one of a book than a complete experience. Still, I’m looking forward to the third book and I hope it comes quickly, and I’ll be rereading Carry On as soon as it’s returned to me.

Where to buy?

Waterstones / Amazon (not affiliated)

If you can, please support your local booksellers!

Add on Goodreads here!

One thought on “Carry On + Wayward Son by Rainbow Rowell (Review)

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