My rating: 5 of 5
Throughout the magickal world, an Insidious Humdrum is sucking the magic away, leaving gaping holes of magickal vacuum scattered all over Great Britain. And the only thing standing between the magickal world and this great threat is a boy who spent the first eleven years of his life not even aware that magic exists. Simon Snow: the most powerful magician in the world–and also the most incompetent at controlling his own abilities. If not for his best friend Penny, it’s doubtful that he would have even made it through his first seven years at Watford. Of course, Simon would have more time to devote to his studies if he weren’t so obsessed with his vampire (unconfirmed) roommate, Baz. And as Simon and his friends enter their final year at Watford, Simon finds himself even more distracted when Baz doesn’t return to school–clearly he’s plotting something particularly nasty. Or maybe not?
From the first time I read Fangirl, I’ve always thought that I enjoyed the Simon Snow parts of the story perhaps the best of all, so I was thrilled when I discovered that Rowell had actually developed the idea into a complete (rather extensive) story, Carry On. I was even more pleased when I read it–it’s a very enjoyable story. Any initial tendencies to compare the story to Harry Potter (which seems a pretty obvious comparison when reading Fangirl) are quickly brushed away when reading the actual book; the similarities are superficial while the distinct originality absolutely shines. I particularly love the way Rowell developed the use of magic here, the way it relies so much on everyday language (it makes sense when you read it). The story is definitely Rowell’s, featuring plenty of geeky conversation and an adorable love story, but it’s a Rowell story set in a completely different genre. I’m pleasantly shocked at how utterly well it works. The number of geeky/pop-culture references is fun, but not placed in such a way that much would be lost if the reader doesn’t catch the reference. I found it particularly interesting that an American author writes a story here about British people–in first person. I was never led to believe that it was a British book–the flow is too American somehow–yet I was convinced that Simon himself and his friends were British, which is quite an accomplishment. The style, vocabulary, and references were just enough without being so overkill as to seem fake. Finally, the characters themselves were interesting (adorable) and were developed nicely through dialogue and the perspectives of other characters, as well as their own first-person thoughts, such that I felt like I knew them by the end of the book. Basically, if you like contemporary fantasy and also enjoy shounen ai stories, Carry On is just about perfect. You should check it out if you haven’t already.