Rainbow Rowell’s latest novel, Carry On, is a deep dive into the magical world first outlined in Fangirl. Here are some things to keep in mind before reading!
Plenty of authors have thrown their hats into the fantasy novel realm where witches, goblins, pixies, and not-so-out-of-the-closet vampires live among regular Joes. Rainbow Rowell’s latest novel, Carry On, is the latest addition to the genre of magical schools and the chosen ones who must defend the magical world they inhabit.
It is no secret that Rainbow Rowell is a fan of Harry Potter and the subsequent fanfiction it inspired. If you read Fangirl, you probably tuned into the not-so-subtle hints of Potter magic strewn throughout Cather’s favorite fantasy series focusing on another Chosen One, Simon Snow. Excerpts from the made-up series inside a fiction novel gave just enough detail to bring the fanfiction excerpts to life. The Simon Snow tales that Cath wrote for her online fanbase captured some IRL fans of its own, including Rainbow Rowell.
Not ready to leave behind the world she teased in Fangirl, Rowell took a closer look at Watford School of Magicks and invited readers along for the ride. This fanfiction of a novel created within a novel for a character to write fanfiction about is an unconventional way to tell the story of a conventional character — a character who is thrust into a world with little warning and suddenly feels the weight of the world on his shoulders. Though familiar at first, Carry On quickly goes off the beaten path and delivers an entertaining group of magical characters in a vivid new world.
The ‘Fangirl’s’ Guide to ‘Carry On’
- You know more about Watford than you think. Picking up in Simon’s eighth year, Rowell does not waste time recounting seven years worth of magical adventures and mishaps. Instead, important details are parsed throughout the narrative, giving readers a tour of the landmark events almost as if you took a ride on a Disneyland tram on your way in — “On your left you will see that Simon Snow is currently being hunted by goblins who hope to become king after slaying him!”
- Hold tight for the first 50 or so pages. One of the deterrents of Carry On may be that it feels too much like reading Harry Potter fanfiction and not an original fantasy novel. Aside from a few f-bombs in the opening pages of the book, the similarities are rather striking. However, once the groundwork of the world begins to take shape, Simon Snow transforms into the darker, snarkier Chosen One who was missing from the former tales.
- Once the ball gets rolling, however, there is no stopping this page-turner. The mysterious final year at Watford kicks off with the absence of Simon’s roommate, and the antagonist to his personal story, Baz. If you read Fangirl, you are aware that Baz and Simon’s relationship is the main focus of Cather’s fanfiction. Rowell has a few tricks up her sleeve in the newest take on their story that will both delight and keep old and new readers guessing until the end.
- Each chapter is told from a specific character’s point of view. Spend some time with Penelope, Agatha, Simon, and the Mage throughout the course of the book. We can promise when you turn the page and see Baz’s name atop the chapter, it will be worth the wait!
- You’ll fall in love with these characters as quickly as you wanted to touch Levi’s hair in Fangirl. Simon, “the worst Chosen One to ever be chosen,” is witty, snarky, and the perfect anti-hero you can’t help but wish to have more time with. The story benefits from developing Penelope and Agatha into complex characters and not just the friends who keep Simon grounded in reality.