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Carry On and Wayward Son

Rainbow Rowell’s Simon Snow series is magical, charming, hilarious, heart-warming, and just tremendous fun. Now, I’m wary of spoilering so I won’t summarise the story, but instead present the blurb from Carry On – it sets the scene and the tone so well:

Simon Snow is the worst Chosen One who’s ever been chosen.

That’s what his roommate, Baz, says. And Baz might be evil and a vampire and a complete git, but he’s probably right.

Half the time, Simon can’t even make his wand work, and the other half, he starts something on fire. His mentor’s avoiding him, his girlfriend broke up with him, and there’s a magic-eating monster running around, wearing Simon’s face. Baz would be having a field day with all this, if he were here — it’s their last year at the Watford School of Magicks, and Simon’s infuriating nemesis didn’t even bother to show up.

The books have magicians, vampires, numpties, gays, romance, villainy, mystery, class tensions, things that don’t always turn out how you’d expect, and characters who don’t always get what they want. And the way these books explore the power of words was an unexpected delight.

I think it was the hype around the release of Wayward Son that brought Carry On to my attention. I picked it up late last year and devoured it at every opportunity – on the train to work, late at night when I should’ve been sleeping, waiting for the kettle to boil. As soon as I finished I thrust it on my fiance, insisting he read it immediately so I had someone else to talk to about Simon and Baz and everyone else at the Watford School of Magicks. My partner’s not usually one for fiction, but I knew the combo of magic school, wizards, vampires and gays would win him over.

And so it was. He smashed it in a few days then demanded the sequel. I was reluctant, always preferring to leave a gap between books in a series I’m enjoying for fear of not enjoying the follow-up as much. My worry was for nothing because I loved Wayward Son just as much, maybe even more.

Then while fanboying over the first and second books, I read that a third novel was already in the works – I was well chuffed. No release date yet on Any Way the Wind Blows, but let’s hope ‘coming soon’ means 2020.

For Christmas my partner bought me signed hardbacks of Carry On and Wayward Son (I had first read the books on my Kindle). They’re so bright and yellow – months later it still makes me happy whenever I see them on my shelf. The Watford map on Carry On’s endsheets and the shiny blue clouds on Wayward Son’s cover are particularly nice touches. The package came with a packet of gorgeous illustrated cards too.

Some of my favourite quotes (spoiler warning), in no particular order:

  • They both look at me like I’ve just stuck my hand in the soup bowl.
  • He swallows. Snow has the longest neck and the showiest swallow I’ve ever seen. His chin juts out and his Adam’s apple catches—it’s a whole scene.
  • I look at his suit again and his shiny black shoes. “Basil. Have you met a bloke?” He smiles, and he’s made of trouble. We should have dropped him in the Thames in a bag of stones. We should have left him out for the fairies. “Something like that.”
  • “It’s good to see you girls spending time together,” she says. “It’s good to have a life that passes the Bechdel test.”
  • My father still isn’t ready to admit I have a boyfriend, and it would be too exhausting, living in a place where I have to pretend I’m not a vampire or hopelessly queer.
  • “Know what?” Snow asked softly. “That I’m obsessed with you? That horse left the barn a long time ago.”
  • “Surprise!” Baz sing-songs. “It’s your ex-boyfriend and his boyfriend and that girl you never liked very much!”
  • And the lady with the cross can’t get mad at us because we have to sit this close. It’s sitting in economy that’s making us gay.
  • If you can’t trust people with nose rings to be open-minded, who’s left?
  • Baz has never learned to fight with his body, even though he’s made of steel. But the vampire he’s fighting is the same—all power, no skill. They’re trading hits like clumsy steam engines.
  • I’ll be damned and drawn and fucking quartered before I watch some devil-eyed goat feel up my boyfriend right in front of me.
  • We literally have three “pickup trucks” in all of England, but here they’re everywhere. What is it that Americans have to pick up that the rest of the world doesn’t?
  • “Neither! I’m a scientist, like… an explorer.” “Oh, good, that always turns out well for the explored.”

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