Carry On review – Harry Potter fanfic or a satirical take on YA’s chosen ones

Carry On is a book with very mixed reviews, it’s daunting really. It’s Goodreads page is full of a lot of five stars reviews and a lot of DNFs – it took me almost a year to talk myself into reading this book and honestly I’m disappointed. This book feels like Harry Potter, but without the charm and class. There were parts of this book that I enjoyed but the ending was so unsatisfying (I don’t think there’s a strong enough word for how unsatisfying I found this book).

This is the ‘seventh’ and ‘final’ book in the fictional Simon Snow series (the one that Cath from Fangirl was writing her fanfiction about) in which we see the conclusion of Simon’s story. Having been plagued for the last six years at Watford (a school of witchcraft and wizardry) by the Insidious Humdrum (a magic stealing monster) Simon boldly returns to Watford to find that his roommate Baz Grimm-Pitch hasn’t turned up for that school year. On top of all this the ancient wizarding families are planning a coup against the Mage (the headmaster of Watford) and Simon thinks Baz is involved.

What I did like: 

At the beginning of the book I really hated the magic system, I thought it was tacky but I ended up loving it. Words are magic in Simon’s world (as  writer I can get on board with this), in the beginning I didn’t think the magic system was explained well enough – a side effect of Rowell starting with the seventh book – but towards the end of the book as Baz began to explain the mechanics of it all I have to admit I fell in love. What originally came across as kitch actually turned out to actually be quite charming.

Baz. Basil Grimm-Pitch. Baz, Baz, Baz. Did I mention I loved Baz and that he was the shining star in all of this?? I hated this book until Baz turned up and then his charming, snarkiness made me very confused. Imagine your dream posh, british, bad boy – there you go you have Baz! Charming, funny, smart, looks good in a suit – what more could you want. Baz made this book finishable for me.

Penelope, Baz and Simon as a dream team trio! I especially loved Penelope and Baz’s banter and learning based relationship. Baz and Simon made Penelope more likable; Simon and Penelope made it possible to have more Baz in the story (yay!); and Baz and Penelope mellowed Simon out. It was a really well balanced friendship group that I wish I could have had more of.   

Agatha??????? Yes she was a pretty wet and limp character most of the time, but I actually really liked the sarcastic take on ‘fated lover’ of the chosen who’s always used as bait and who has to put their life on hold for the ‘chosen one’. Rowells take on the character completely opened my mind to the horrible time these characters have.

What I didn’t like: 

  I can honestly hand on heart say that I never want to read the ‘seventh’ book of a fictional series again. This book is both full of shockingly bad info dumping whilst  simultaneously relying on peoples’ prior knowledge of Harry Potter and other “chosen one” books to do the rest of the world building for it. The first 152 pages of this book were basically just catching us up on the world and what happened in the other six books in the series, and it made me want to tear my hair out. Rowell gave herself way too much world building and context to do in one book, for me it just didn’t work. The story of this book really doesn’t start until Baz turns up on PAGE 153 (I almost gave up on this book 3 times before I got to Baz!!

Baz is definitely Malfoy / Penelope is definitely Hermione / Simon is definitely Harry. There’s no denying it, it’s so painfully obvious.

Even worse Simon is Harry (teenage, moody Harry from book 4/5) on steroids. The first 152 pages of the novel are full of angsty Simon stomping around Watford and complaining. It was too much for me! He calms down a little as the book goes on, but still it was all too much!

We’re never shown enough of the Mage to be able to understand Simon’s relationship with him – it’s like we missed six books worth of setting up relationships and character building or something… (Also Rowell clearly has beef with Dumbledore).

In some places the plot was fun (Baz showing up really changed that) but I guessed  4 out of 5 of the big plot twists, and the one I didn’t guess I was really disapointed with.

The book is set in England, but the book felt like it had a fake English accent. Rowel didn’t quite get the Britishness right and it made reading the fake British parts really jarring.

 What I can’t make my mind up about??????

I really don’t know where I stand on the romance element in this book. (Keeping this a spoiler free as possible) Having not read the books in this series leading up to this point it’s hard to entirely know whether the romance was shoehorned in – it definitely felt like it was, Simon’s side of it really didn’t feel comfortable or natural to me at all, but his other half’s story/feelings did work for me. I’d be interested to know what you think as I really can’t make my mind up about whether I thought it worked or not.

~

It took me a really long time to talk myself into reading this book. There were so many reviews writing this off as Harry Potter fanfiction and so many people saying that it’s their new favourite book. It was a little bit terrifying. I ended up giving this book quite a low rating and I found that on most points I agree with the fanfic camp.

4.5/10

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