I loved Fangirl, which is also by Rainbow Rowell, and when I heard we would be getting the chance to actually hang out with Simon and Baz all on their own, I have to admit I was too curious to pass that up.
This book was so much fun. As readers of Fangirl would expect, it takes a lot from Harry Potter, but it’s also a unique story. If you haven’t read Carry On yet, you might want to do that before you continue reading because here be spoilers.
Like Harry Potter, Simon Snow is an orphan growing up in London, England who has no idea he’s a magician until the headmaster of the school for magicians (Watford) pays him a visit and lets him know what’s going on. The headmaster (known as The Mage), is a bit like Dumbledore in that he’s the closest thing Simon has to a father figure, but he’s not nearly as cuddly as Dumbledore. He has his own agenda and, as it turns out, is more than a little crazy.
Simon has been prophesied as the most powerful mage of all time ever in the whole wide world, and he is, but he has trouble controlling all that power. He struggles to perform simple spells, but when he’s in danger (or thinks he’s in danger, like when he’s having a bad dream) he “goes off”, which means he basically becomes a magical explosion. It’s not very safe for those around him.
At the same time there’s someone who’s stealing the magic in the world. Every so often a magical hole will appear somewhere in England and mages won’t be able to access their magic in that spot. It drives some mages mad. These holes are being created by someone known as “the Insidious Humdrum”. So far all we know about him is he’s evil and looks just like Simon looked when Simon first came to Watford at age 11. Aside from the time he kidnapped Simon and Penny, no one has actually seen the Humdrum. He tends to send dark creatures to attack Simon, and when they leave, there’s a magical hole in the world where they attacked.
Simon is pretty sure his roommate, Tyrannus Basilton (Baz) Grimm-Pitch is an evil vampire who’s plotting to kill him. Baz admits may have tried to kill Simon a few times, but mostly he just delights in annoying Simon.
They call a truce when Simon gets a visit from the ghost of Baz’s mother, telling him something about someone named Nicodemus and how Baz needs to avenge her death. Of course, while they’ve called this truce, Simon kisses Baz on an impulse, which leads to them getting together, even though Simon isn’t sure he’s gay. Simon, like Harry, is sweet and brave, but not all that smart.
Fortunately, Simon has his Hermione in the form of Penelope (Penny) Bunce (my favorite character in this book). She’s a very powerful magician in her own right and smart and brave and is always there to support Simon when he needs her most (which, as it turns out, is kind of a lot).
Whereas the powerful magical families in Harry Potter focused on the “purity” of the race and discouraged breeding with Muggles, the world of Carry On has a larger focus on the power of individual mages. Magic in that world is less about learning spells and more about how much magic you have access to, which is different for everyone.
There’s also less of a dividing line between the magical world and the world of “Normals” in Carry On. For example, everyone has cell phones and laptops. Marrying Normals is still discouraged, but I got the feeling there was much more friendly interaction between Normals and mages in Rowell’s book, especially because the magicians in Simon Snow’s world rely on Normals and the power of the words and phrases they use to create their spells. I thought that was a pretty neat interpretation of magic and spells.
I also appreciated Rowell’s commitment to a book that is supposed to take place and be published in England. Not only did she include a fair amount of British slang (including some curses she made up for the magical culture), but the words that are spelled differently in Great Britain were given the British spelling and that was consistent throughout the book. A+
Overall, this was a very fun read that only takes a few days. My sole disappointment was that I only got to read one Simon Snow book.
What did you guys read this week? Anything that was from the world of another book you read? I want to hear all about it!