Book Review: Carry On (Rainbow Rowell)

carry onI’m a big Rainbow Rowell fan and it’s lovely to see her writing in the fantasy genre so she can join the ranks of the speculative fiction aficionados among us. Her latest book, Carry On, is particularly interesting because it’s based on the novel-within-a-novel from her highly successful Fangirl. For anyone who has been living under a rock for the last few years, Fangirl revolves around a protagonist who writes fan-fiction based on an imaginary, but incredibly Harry-Potter like fantasy series. Carry On brings the characters from that series to life and gives them their own story.

This new book is light and entertaining and pokes good-natured fun at our obsession with stories about kids going to magic school. The only downside is that Rowell has only written the one Carry On book and it’s apparently the “last” in an entire imaginary series that has followed protagonist Simon Snow (a mage) and his roommate Baz (a vampire) through their time at magic school. So it takes a while for the reader to get up to speed. It’s a lengthy book – the print version is around 500 pages – and the first 100 pages or so fill the reader in on the story up until this point.

The characters, settings and situations are fun, and the names of the various spells and chants are hilarious. The story is told from multiple points of view (including Simon, Baz and several other characters including some ghosts from the past). I’m not sure if the multiple perspectives are necessary because they do kind of give away some information I would have been happy discovering organically as Simon learned about it. The other side of the coin is that I liked hearing the other characters’ voices. So it’s really six of one, half a dozen of the other.

I read the book quickly. It did take me more than one sitting because it’s long, but it wasn’t difficult to read. It was accessible, fun and a great idea to make a spin-off from Fangirl so readers who enjoyed that book could see what protagonist Cath was so obsessed with all that time.