“The Greatest Mage. The Chosen One. The Power of Powers. It still feels strange believing that that bloke’s supposed to be me. But I can’t deny it either.”
Simon Snow is the Chosen One. Orphaned and forced to spend summer with the ‘normals’, he relishes in the time he gets to return to the magical Watford School of Magicks. In addition to his studies towards his final year, Simon also has the burdens resulted from prophecies; declaring he is the one to end wars and defeat the malevolent Insidious Humdrum. A perfectly typical Rainbow Rowell-esque story of love, friendships, wizardry and discovering yourself.
So Simon Snow first emerged into our lives through Cath’s fan fiction. This of course refers to the loveable nerdy character found in Rainbow Rowell’s previous novel ‘Fangirl’. When reading ‘Fangirl’, I didn’t pay much consideration over the characters Cath was writing about, although, when you think about it, it is an integral factor to the narrative of Cath’s storyline. Although I did sometimes perceive Cath’s fascination in the fictional character rather childish or monotonous. As a result of this, along with the recognition that Simon’s tales were essentially a parody of Harry Potter, I was slightly hesitant towards the news that Simon was going to have his own book based around him. BUT, this is Rainbow Rowell writing this. So, thus, it must be read.
The comparisons to Harry Potter are obvious from the start – it may have taken me a little while to realise, but the concepts were all there. A orphaned boy, forced to live with family that have an undeniable aversion towards him, later discovers he’s a magical wizard with a arch-nemisis only he can defeat along with his genius best friend. Sound familiar? But Simon is different. This is not just a Harry Potter story. This is a Simon Snow story. He’s a brilliantly witty, hopelessly incompetent adolescent, eternally supported by his equally as brilliant companions. I enjoy picking up Simon’s story from his final year at the school, dissimilar to other novels that would customarily start from the origination of his magical encounters. This allows the reader to be thrown straight into the his life, and we learn more about his past through the first few chapters, which I enjoyed as an effective prelude into the world and Simon’s life.
Of course, the characters were brilliant. Simon was a surprisingly satisfying protagonist, although – as Agatha rightly denotes – he is very self-centered as the main focus of everything (which imatates every ‘chosen one’ story ever written – which I found to be brilliantly accurate).
“Just when you think you’re having a scene without Simon, he drops in to remind you that everyone else is a supporting character in his catastrophe”
Baz, initially introduced as as the antagonist arch-nemesis to our hero, is a character I didn’t expect to grow on me like he did. We see a different side to this curious individual when he tells the story from his perspective, contrasting Simon’s negative light on him which previously influences our own view on him. A comedic, straight-foward persona is uncovered
And I admit, it was enjoyable. I wouldn’t say I enjoyed it any more than Rainbow Rowell’s other books, but she still never fails to deliver a brilliant collection of loveable characters, coupled with dynamic narratives and relationships. I consistently find her writing engaging and easy to follow, cleverly threading in contemporary essences and themes in the best of ways. In this instance, she fluently embraced modern mannerisms and technology into a fantasy setting. So aptly, in fact, that I sometimes neglect to imagine it as a fantasy book. The spells and magic alone are delivered in a modernistic manner. With conjurations such as ‘Make a wish’ and ‘A little bird told me’ making the wizardry whimsical and unique to the characters and setting.
As any fantasy novel, I do find it tough to try and make sense of all the new information about the surroundings and I think the rotation of POV’s made this exploration a lot more mysterious because each character would reveal little bits of information at a time. I believe that a second reading would be beneficial because I could then piece it all together a lot quicker and generate a stronger understanding of the material provided.
Overall, it wasn’t what I was expecting at all. But I was never quite sure what to expect in the first place. I could probably even re-read Fangirl now I feel differently towards Simon – he’s more than just a small fragment of another character’s story now. And of course, Rainbow Rowell still never fails to deliver a delightfully entertaining read.
Carry On by Rainbow Rowell
Published: 2015 by Macmillan Children’s Books