Carry On

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Synopsis: It’s Simon Snow’s eighth and final year at Watford and he still hasn’t beaten the Insidious Humdrum or proven that his roommate Baz is evil and a vampire. To pile on, Simon’s girlfriend Agatha just broke up with him and his mentor keeps ignoring him unless he needs something.

What a dragon thinks: Everybody loves this book and praises it to the skies. I should warn you that I won’t do that. ‘Carry On’ was okay but it wasn’t the best book I have ever read. Could be that I have been too hyped, too excited and expecting too much after reading ‘Fangirl’. ‘Carry On, Simon’ is a fanfiction, written by Cath, the main character of ‘Fangirl’. Rowell decided to give her fans more about Simon Snow and his ongoing battle against the Insidious Humdrum and actually wrote the fanfiction, publishing it.

‘Carry On’ is set after book seven of the ‘Simon Snow Series’. I had trouble finding my way into the story, I was missing the first novels. What happened? Rowell mentions events that occured in previous years but I had no idea how the characters had met, how they became friends, how they became enemies, who has been doing what and why. For me, there wasn’t enough background. Rowell tried to give each character equal time on the page by shifting the point of view from character to character. A lovely concept, only I didn’t care for some characters. Agatha for example was portrayed as the girlfriend of the Chosen One. I had gotten fairly far in the book before I was shown another, deeper layer of the astronomically beautiful Agatha in her flowing white dress upon the battlements. In the end I understood and liked her better. I get it, she is written how plenty of female characters are portrayed in fantasy novels. I knew ‘Carry On’ would be knocking on classic fantasy, and ‘Harry Potter’ in particular, but I actually expected Rowell to acknowledge and address stereotypes and show us how it should be done.

The Mage, headmaster of Watford, comes to mind, an obvious hint to Dumbledore. Both of them only speak to their protégés when they need them/have to save them from a dumb mistake they are about to make or use them as bait. The Mage takes it a step further. Simon Snow grows up in a toxic environment, wishing for a family and a proper home. He hasn’t had a good, protected childhood and The Mage is amazed to find Simon is kind of broken.

‘I told him I didn’t want to! I don’t want to hide and wait for the Humdrum to find me. That doesn’t feel like a plan.’

Simon Snow has spent seven years trying to prove to the world that his rommate Basilton Pitch is a vampire. When Baz doesn’t show up at the first day of school, Simon is constantly on edge – keep your friends close, but your enemies closer – but at the same time worried that something might have happened to Baz. The two are like an old married couple, bickering, fighting but secretly, they would miss one another. Now, I love enemies to friends to lovers as much as the next crazed fic-reader/writer but it was too fast. Again, I would have loved to read more about those two. More about their background, what else do they do except trying to kill one another? Those little moments when either of them does something that brings a smile to the other one’s face. Baz only returns to Watford in the second of the four parts of the book, drawing attention like a true Malfoy, I mean Pitch.

It’s unnecessarily grandiose to use an Open Sesame on the doors, but I do it anyway because I know everyone will be in the dining hall, and I may as well make an entrance.

Simon and Baz are in love with each other but would sooner die than admit it. The Chosen One and a vampire? The situation doesn’t become any easier when Baz asks Simon for help to find the murderer of his mother. Reluctantly, with hearts pounding like mad, they agree on a truce and look into it. I enjoyed reading about them investigating together because I found out more about them and I really liked their conversations. It’s more or less banter but the unspoken thoughts painted a nice picture of their relationship. However, the way the became a couple was too fast because I knew so little about either of them.

I couldn’t get warm with any of the characters. Simon is as advertised on the blurb the worst Chosen One ever and I have a history for disliking main characters. Don’t ask me why, I just do. If I had to pick a favourite I would choose Baz; he had the cunning charm of a non-sparkling vampire and his character was more in-depth than others, Simon excluded. His problems, feelings and motives are addressed and he tries to balance them. Penelope on the other hand is written in a more shallow fashion. She is clever. That’s about it. What are her motives other than help Simon defeat the Humdrum?

What I really liked was the ending. The final showdown and the aftermath. We get to find out what or who the Insidious Humdrum is and some truths I have guessed earlier in the book are revealed. Each piece in the puzzle found its place and the reader was able to see the whole image. No questions or confusion remained; the ending was simple yet well-written.

Favourite characters: Baz

Conclusion: It’s either me not understanding the book or it just wasn’t the right read for me. Magic and adventure galore but I was missing an overall depth. I needed more background for both characters and plot. For what it’s worth, it is difficult writing the eighth book of a non-existent fantasy series and Rowell did a good enough job providing us with some background information. To me, the characters were too shallow and I didn’t really enjoy the love story. There were too many stereotypes and I honestly can’t say if they are there on purpose to mock classic fantasy or …? All in all, it was an okay read but I wasn’t absolutely amazed.

Details about the book:

  • Author: Rainbow Rowell
  • Age: 12+
  • Pages: 522
  • Publishing House: Macmillan
  • Binding: Paperback
  • ISBN: 978-1-4472-6694-5
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