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Carry On (Book review)

Fanception by Valeria Bogado Cravero

Every once in awhile comes a novel that stops my life. When you’re a Reader, all books are pretty exciting but there is a special subset of stories that drags you inside their world and releases you three days later into a paler reality. It happened to me after the seventh Harry Potter book (I walked, I talked, I went to work but I was dead on the inside). It happens every time I read a Patrick Ness book. And it happened recently when I read Rainbow Rowell’s Carry On.

 

Carry On is a tongue-in-cheek fantasy about Simon Snow, the ‘worse Chosen One that has ever been chosen.’ So says his evil, vampire roommate Baz who is constantly plotting his demise. Fortunately, Simon has on his side the competent Penelope Bunce, who does a lot of the magickal, heavy lifting when it comes to defeating his ultimate nemesis – the magick sucking villain, the Insidious Humdrum.

 

If these characters sound eerily familiar, then you’ve probably read (or at least heard of) the popular Harry Potter-Malfoy pairing in fanfiction. Carry On is a divisive novel. Some critics pan it as subpar Harry Potter fanfiction. Rowell stated that the idea for the Simon Snow/ Baz romance came from attending a Comic Con event about ‘Drarry’ fanfiction.

Personally I love Carry On, even more for its heavy Harry Potter references. There are some obvious parallels in characterisation – Simon Snow’s humility and goodness makes him one of the duller characters of the ensemble (much like Harry Potter compared to richer characters like Snape and Dumbledore). Penelope Bunce’s intelligence and loyalty sets her up as  the ‘Hermione’ of the group. But these similarities are necessary to set up the link between her book and the series, in order to subvert the fantasy tropes, something that Rowell does extremely well.

For instance, the magic system in Carry On relies on the power of words. ‘There’s nothing in our world more powerful than nursery rhymes- the poems that people learn as kids, then get stuck in their brains forever. A powerful mage can turn back an army with Humpty Dumpty.’

Now that is a magic system that makes sense, not faux-latin Expecto Patronum chants. Where is the power in a dead language that only few understand?

 

Surprisingly, I loved the romance between Simon and Baz. I don’t usually read romance genre. I was bored by Outlander (both book and TV series). But this is Rainbow Rowell , master craftswoman. She worked that sexy nemesis trope and I bought every word. I swooned, I sighed, I thought illogical thoughts (There’s nothing dreamier than a brooding, vampire wizard) (I seriously hate brooders).

If there is one fault with the story, it is that it doesn’t execute the hero’s quest  in the masterful way of other fantasy writers.The mystery of how to defeat the Insidious Humdrum is a little underwhelming. The Chosen One spends more time mooning about Baz than trying to save the world. The book struggles in places to balance the adventure and romance elements.

Regardless, Carry On gets five stars from me. After exhausting my loan at the public library, I promptly popped down to my local Dymocks to purchase my own copy. (Finding room for it on my bookshelf is a problem for another day).

I have now recovered sufficiently to endeavor to read a new novel. What shiny new books are you reading at the moment? Is it a hit, miss or bookmark for another day?

2017-09-21T12:20:51+00:00

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