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 sets 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.
OMG it sounds just like Harry Potter!
THERE’S A WIZARD SCHOOL SO IT MUST BE JUST LIKE HARRY POTTER! Well, um, yes and no. At first when you start reading the book, it starts out a LOT like Harry Potter (the trio of friends: Simon, Agatha, Penelope), the Chosen One trope, the school of magic, being whisked off by the “headmaster” type figure at eleven years old… and then you get a little farther in and it’s kind of not.
It’s kind of like Harry Potter Lite.
There are a lot of elements of Harry Potter in Carry On, and for someone like me, who grew up on Harry Potter, it was kind of like getting to read about Hogwarts again, without all the politics and with more hilariousness (I’m sorry Rowling, but Rowell’s got you beat on that). I mean, I LIKE the politics in Harry Potter. I really do. I love that it’s a kid’s book that has so much depth to it that adults are still confounded. But it’s sometimes nice to put a little light twist on things, to have magic be legal, to have no Ministry, to have evil people left right and center that aren’t maybe gray-area-good-and-bad type.
It’s not exactly Hogwarts.
Some might say it’s Hogwarts Lite, and I think Watford is modeled on Hogwarts, to an extent, but (minor spoiler) most of the actual action doesn’t take place at
Hogwarts Watford. Sure, it takes place PHYSICALLY at Watford for the final scene, but it’s not actually Watford functioning as Watford; it’s just a place that happens to be there and it wouldn’t be any different if it were the Qudditch Football Pitch or Baz’s house. So it had enough similarities to Hogwarts to make me feel at home, but not enough for me to say, “SHE’S RIPPING OFF JK ROWLING, QUICK, CALL THE HARRY POTTER PATENT POLICE!”
But then it’s also a critique of all the Chosen One stories.
Sure, Simon’s the Chosen One of the novel, and sure, everyone (including Simon) accepts him as he is, for that. But then there’s also Baz, Simon’s
evil vampire good nice roommate who kind of makes fun of that. And at the end there’s this whole dissection of the Chosen One trope and AHHHH you’ll have to read the book because I don’t want to spoiler it for you.
Because BAZ. I liked the LGBTQ+ aspect to the book, which was something that wasn’t there in Harry Potter (I think the books maybe just didn’t have room for it), but my main thing with Baz was not the fact that he was the romantic interest or the villain or blah blah blah: Baz is FACETIOUS. AND I LOVE IT. Honestly, I felt that Simon’s chapters were a bit boring (it’s narrated from everyone’s perspective, basically), but Baz was sarcastic and hilarious and AUNT FIONA IS THE BEST.
The Mage and the Humdrum
Okay okay okay okay okay shhhhhhhh I’m not spoiler-ing it. Just tell me you’ll go read the book.
Penelope was mixed-race and half-Indian! But guess what: she’s not like “I’M INDIAN!” 24/7, which was verrryyyy nice. OMG SO NICE. And there was LGBTQ+ stuff all over the place! And basically acceptance of these people, as you know, REAL PEOPLE. ASTONISHING.
But in some ways, I think the book tried too hard to be diverse. Like, in one scene Penelope’s mom literally said, “It’s good to have a life that passes the Bechdel Test,” and that kind of killed the girl-girl friendship there. And it made me really sad. I don’t know, I like diversity and all, and I don’t know if that line was supposed to be funny or something(?), but I feel like the author shouldn’t have to POINT OUT where she’s putting diversity into her novels. I’m just sayin’.
Potter-esque at the beginning, nice deconstruction of tropes at the ending. Read it.