Series: Simon Snow #1
Published by Wednesday Books on May 9, 2017
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult, LGBT, M/M Romance, Fantasy & Magic, Magic, Romance, Love & Romance, Gay, Vampires, Witches
Source: I Bought It
Reading Challenges: Beat the Backlist 2019
A #1 New York Times-bestseller
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.
Carry On - The Rise and Fall of Simon Snow is a ghost story, a love story and a mystery. It has just as much kissing and talking as you'd expect from a Rainbow Rowell story - but far, far more monsters.
I was mulling over my review for Wayward Son when it occurred to me that I had never actually reviewed Carry On (for shame!) and oh, how appropriate that I was just now listening to a playlist on Spotify and Bohemian Rhapsody came on (carry on, carry on…) most fortuitous! It’s definitely a sign.
Carry On by Rainbow Rowell is a book that completely grabbed me by the lapels and did not let go. Years later, and I still randomly think about Baz and Simon (in the middle of dinner, on the train, during a meeting at work… well, you get the drift!) Suffice it to say, this book is one of my utmost favourites and one I have been obsessing over ever since I first read it (I must have read it a good dozen times in the intervening years).
I recently re-read again in preparation for Wayward Son, the sequel I never expected but most dearly wished for. Re-reading the adventures of Simon, Baz, Penny, and the rest just brought back all of my happy memories of reading this book for the first time. It’s weird but every re-read it always feels like I discover something new, something I overlooked the previous times. It keeps it fresh.
Carry On has a strange history; starting off life as a story within a story, within a story… or something like that! I first read about these characters in Fangirl, one of Rainbow Rowell’s earlier books. Cath, the main character, writes fanfiction about her favourite book series. Specifically, fanfiction which pairs the series’ hero Simon with his primary antagonist Baz. It’s like Harry being shipped with Draco (a very popular ‘slash’ pairing).
When Carry On was announced, I was very curious about how Rowell would navigate a world that began life as fanfiction within her own fiction. It was different and intriguing but at the same time I wasn’t sure how well it would actually work, if it was a concept that would fall flat or soar to the highest heights.
I bought Carry On on its initial release but alas, did not read it until a couple of years later (I was in the middle of a reading/blogging slump, it was a whole thing…) When I did eventually get round to reading it, well, I was positively kicking myself for sitting so long on a book that ended up being one of my all-time favourites!
This book changed something for me. I would not go as far to say it was life-changing, but definitely something akin to that. I brought me out of a funk that I had been navigating, reading had become a chore more often than not. My enthusiasm was at an all-time low and I was considering giving up blogging altogether.
After reading Carry On, I felt a renewed sense of purpose. I ended up having a great reading year after that and discovered many other fantastic reads. The streak has continued since so I feel a great deal of gratitude to Rainbow Rowell for kinda giving me my mojo back. 😉
Simon is the ‘Chosen One’ a boy wizard destined to save the world of mages. Brought to Watford by The Mage, its headmaster and made his heir, Simon has been tasked with the responsibilities that his Chosen One status entails. He and his best friend Penny, along with his girlfriend Agatha, have saved the world several times over. He isn’t quite ready for his last year at Watford – a school for magickal learning (think Hogwarts).
The only thing that puts a damper on his excitement is the idea of putting up with his roommate and arch nemesis Baz. Or it would be if Baz had bothered to turn up…
Convinced that Baz is out there somewhere, plotting against him, Simon is obsessed with Baz’s disappearance. Even his girlfriend dumping him isn’t enough to distract him from trying to find Baz. Penny is used to Simon obsessing over his roommate but doesn’t share his suspicions and is content to focus on a more immediate problem – the Insidious Humdrum – a magickal being who wears Simon’s face and is a constant source of danger.
Another event happening is the Visitings, when the dead appear to their loved ones. When Baz’s dead mother Natasha appears to Simon looking for Baz, he knows something dreadful must be happening. The former headmistress of Watford, Baz’s mum was killed in a vampire attack at Watford, apparently engineered by the Insidious Humdrum. However, the message intended for Baz hints at something even more disturbing, there was another enemy and unable to rest at peace, Natasha was hoping her son could find her killer.
Simon cannot stop thinking about Baz and realizes that something awful must have befallen his supposed enemy and rival. When Baz does return to school though, a good number of weeks after the start of term, it seems to be business as usual. Navigating round each other, pushing each other’s buttons, par for the course with them.
What Simon doesn’t know is that Baz is deeply, hopelessly in love with him. Baz is tormented by his love, he feels doomed. He knows he and Simon are destined to attempt to kill each other. He knows there is no way he could contend with Simon’s mighty power. Yet, he cannot keep away from him, like a moth to a flame. Aggravating each other in turn, the two have developed a kind of synchronicity.
When Simon relays to Baz his mother’s message, he agrees for them to work together to track down her killer, also enlisting Penny’s capable help. The three of them will delve into a mystery that could shake the very foundations of their world. But can they refrain from destroying each other in the process?
Alrighty, now that the plot recap is out of the way, it’s time to talk about my feelings about this book and its amazing characters. I loved the story and found the plot and world-building phenomenal but the heart of this book is the characters. Simon and Baz. Penny. Even Agatha. They all brought something to the table.
Simon was such a relatable main character. Despite being the Chosen One, he has always felt lacking and not as skilled as his peers, despite his massive well of power. Baz, I think I loved Baz the most! He is just the biggest sweetheart, underneath his sneers and insults. His feelings for Simon were so pure and I just loved their dynamic.
Penny is a fierce magician (to quote Baz!) and I would love to her her as my best friend. She is loyal and brilliant and stupidly brave. Agatha was my least favourite but I still had a certain degree of sympathy for her.
The Mage… well, I hate that git! Seriously. F**k him. What he does to Simon (using him as a boy soldier being the least of it) is just downright horrible.
The other supporting characters, Baz’s aunt Fiona, Ebb, Nicodemus… etc. were all interesting. We didn’t spend a lot of time with them but what time we did get with them was enough to pique my interest.
The story is incredibly engaging and subverts all the usual ‘Chosen One’ narratives but its the characters I find myself coming back for, time and again. I will never, ever, be able to let these characters go. I live for Simon and Baz (Snowbaz 4eva!) Together. Apart. They are just amazing characters and I am so happy that their story isn’t over (at least, not quite yet).
This book is deserving of all the love! I wish I could award it a thousand stars, five seems totally insufficient for how much this book means to me. Seriously, if you haven’t read it yet, what the hell are you waiting for? An invitation from the Insidious Humdrum?? Get on that, stat!!!
Reading this book contributed to these challenges: