Simon Snow book review: What I read over the summer

“Carry on” by Rainbow Rowell is a book that gives the reader a different perspective on fantasy. Although from the very first page it seemed like a knockoff Harry Potter, there are some twists and turns that I never expected from a fantasy book of that type. I’ve also never read Harry Potter. Despite the similarities I perceived between the two, I really enjoyed “Carry On.” It’s the first book in a trilogy by Rainbow Rowell, who also wrote the bestseller “Fangirl,” that follows the magician and Chosen One: Simon Snow.
Simon is an orphan. He’s lived in orphanages since he was found outside of one when he was a newborn. Then one night, Simon just developed magic. This was unusual, as almost all magicians were born with magic from their parents, who are also magicians. After Simon’s sudden developments, The Mage met with him and invited him to Watford: the school for magicians. The Mage is the headmaster of the school and very much took Simon under his wing. Every year after that, Simon would attend Watford during the school year and spend summers in orphanages. This is when the book properly starts: when Simon is on his way to Watford for his 8th and final year.
Right away, Simon is the kind of main character about whom you’re not sure how to feel. As the book continued, I noticed I was starting to cheer for him like you’re supposed to for a main character, but in the first few pages he seemed like a childish 18-year-old and that was it. There wasn’t a lot of depth that presented itself in him until later in the book when you meet the supporting characters, which isn’t great when you need more characters just to flesh out the main one.
The same theme was much more noticeable in the plot. As the first chapters went on, I found it hard to pick up the book because I was just so confused. Rowell didn’t explain things until they happened, and at one point it was mentioned that Simon had slain a dragon before and my immediate thought was “did I miss something important?” There was no present conflict I was interested in reading about; just Simon making his way to Watford in a sequence which seemed stretched out. This was probably due to the excessive explaining of random unimportant events, although there were some crucial ones sprinkled throughout which made it so I couldn’t skip it.
During this time, you learn about Simon’s best friend Penelope, his girlfriend Agatha, and his roommate Baz. These are the other characters the story focuses on (supporting characters if you will) and they’re all extremely different. I really enjoyed this about the book; the difference between characters made it such an interesting read. Although, it definitely meant that Penelope was my favorite. I was even more interested in Baz than I was in Simon, and he was supposed to be his foil.
In the next few chapters, the main book-long conflict comes to light. There’s an evil magical being called The Humdrum and he’s making it a point to cause Simon as much trouble as he can. Not only that, but he looks like a younger version of Simon, too. This thread is soon dropped though, as Simon notices Baz didn’t show up for school this year. There’s a lot of jumps in the plot which makes it really hard to pinpoint certain things and make this a smooth review, but it thankfully didn’t make much of a difference reading it.
In the next quarter of the book or so, Simon is spending time wondering where Baz is. Yes, this takes up that much of the book. Like before, there were other things sprinkled in (you get to know Penelope and some drama happens with Agatha) but it just felt slow. Of course, Baz does end up coming back (which is something that was also milked for multiple chapters) and then the other main theme of the book is finally revealed: Baz’s enormous crush on Simon. Although I knew it was coming because a friend told me, it’s just one of the twists that I loved about this book and I certainly wasn’t expecting it to happen in the way that it did.
To avoid spoilers, I’ll be cutting the review here but my favorite part of “Carry On” was definitely the ending. I really enjoyed the twist it had in store and although it was a little bit hinted at earlier in the book, I think the way the characters reacted and such was the most surprising.
“Carry On” by Rainbow Rowell is a good book. I don’t think I would enjoy reading it a second time, but the first was certainly a thrill. The plot and pacing was choppy, although the next book was much smoother. I felt like the ending wasn’t long or detailed enough to combat the heavy detailing in the first half, but it was still a really fun summer read for me. If you liked Harry Potter, this might be a good book for you.