Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Pub. Date: 2015
Genre: Modern Fantasy, YA, Romance
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Carry On by Rainbow Rowell starts with Simon Snow heading to Watford for his last year of mage school. He alone can defeat the Insidious Humdrum, who is draining the world of magic. Baz Pitch, Simon’s evil roommate and resident vampire, is missing from school, which drives Simon crazy. When Baz comes back, he and Simon try to find the mage who killed the former headmistress of the school, Baz’s mother. Baz is in love with Simon, which is forbidden on several fronts. Agatha wants freedom. Penelope wants everyone she loves to be safe and happy. Carry On is a thrilling book about love, saving the world, and learning who you are.
Fangirl made me a fan of the Simon Snow series, so I had to read Carry On. I wondered if Rowell was writing through Cath’s hands since there is a fanfiction titled Carry On in Fangirl. Rowell states on her website that this book is written by her, not through the hands of Gemma T. Leslie or Cath, making it canon. What surprises me is that Rowell writes well in both contemporary realistic fiction and modern fantasy.
There is a full cast of characters who follow their own paths, and I did not expect to read from at least one character’s perspective per chapter. Simon gets into trouble in the first chapter as I would expect of a hero in a later book. He knows he has to save the world, but he has to learn to stand separate from his guardian as he enters adulthood. Baz is prepared to die at the hands of Snow, but he wishes that he didn’t have to fight that wizard he loves. It was fun to see what happens to characters who are not the primary two, Baz and Simon. They have their own worries and try to figure out their places in the world, and they did not have to be in love, either. Agatha would rather forge her own path in life. It was bad enough when her family foisted their hopes and dreams on her, but now she needs to escape the shadow of Simon Snow. Penelope wants to help her friends, and she worries about the Insidious Humdrum since it kidnapped her and Simon. Rowell succeeded at writing from multiple perspectives to tell the story.
I loved the chemistry between Simon and Baz. They obsess over and antagonize each other. I love that one of them realized his feelings for the other years ago. It warmed my little fangirl heart to watch them fall for each other.
I already knew something about the World of Mages before reading this because I read Fangirl. I appreciate Rowell building the world as she wrote it so that reading Fangirl is not a requirement. She explains how it all works and what is happening. It feels like a book from later in a series as Fangirl led me to believe, but Rowell wrote it well enough to feel like I did not have to read the previous books that do not exist.
The World of Mages reminds me of the Harry Potter series, but it is one-of-a-kind. Spells are turns of phrase that still hold power, like “up and away,” and they are indicated by bold font. I liked that the spells were not created from Latin or some ritual. The spells evolve, like people and language. There is a variety of magical creatures and ways to apply magic.
The themes include freedom, class tensions, and maintaining the balance. Several of the teens wish for freedom to choose their own paths, freedom from the expectations of the World of Mages. Simon is rejected and feared because he is the most powerful wizard alive, but he has no magical family. He helped break the restrictions on exactly how much magic a wizard has to possess to attend Watford, which is still a touchy subject with the old families. Speaking of the families, the balance is shifting again between the families and the Mage.
The book is beautifully designed. I like the simplicity of the cover. The endpapers are gorgeous for this edition. I love having maps of magical worlds, and I was stunned that the map is on the endpapers. If later editions (especially ebooks) of this book do not have end papers, you need to check them out. Here are the photos of the map that I could get out of my library book:
It is a given that you will love Carry On if you liked Fangirl since it made you understand the fandom for the book and hopefully fall in love with it. If you like fantasy books, especially magical boarding schools, this is the book for you. Carry On is so marvelous that I wanted to read it again as soon as I finished.