I first read Carry On before I even had a blog. Had I had one at the time, I would have written about it as once, but it was not to be. However, this book is so brilliant and fluffy and reassuring that I felt a strong urge to re-read it 0ver Christmas break (if you’re not reading about British wizards and/or detectives and speculating where they fall on the Kinsey scale, is it even really Christmas???) So I’ve re-read it, and here is my review. Contains Spoilers
Five stars. Brilliant book. Amazing. Such lovable characters. Give me more of the magnificent world of Mages, please. Carry On tells the story of Simon Snow’s final year at his wizarding school Watford. It addresses the difficulty of being the “Chosen One” and criticizes the Harry Potter universe in a way that is so respectful yet so accurate.
I’m going to oversimplify a little for the sake of making my point, but you’re going to have to deal with it.
One of the characters, The Mage, is roughly equivalent to Dumbledore. However, unlike Dumbledore, the Mage’s word is not always taken to be true. Simon Snow struggles with the commands the Mage gives him, sometimes going so far as to openly defy them. Unlike Harry Potter, Simon Snow refuses to be a lamb for slaughter.
Agatha, a character roughly equivalent to Ginny Weasley, faces up to the fact that her romantic relationship with Simon is highly romanticized and artificial. She has much more agency than Ginny; she is not content to be a prize at the finish line, she wan’t to live her life right now.
And don’t even get me started on Tyrannus Basilton Grimm-Pitch. Depending on who you ask, he’s roughly equivalent to Snape, Draco Malfoy or Sirius Black. For me, he is exactly like Young Sirius, and y’all know how I feel about Young Sirius.
Baz comes from an ancient family of Mages who value the traditions of the Magickal world over everything else and have always resisted the revolutionary ideas of the Mage. They believe that only the most powerful should be allowed at Watford, and they are widely considered to be “evil.” This turns out to be the result of the Mage’s elaborate smear campaign because not even Dumbledore-like political leaders or father figures are perfect!!!
And then there is the matter of The Humdrum, a dark force roughly equivalent to Voldemort, who seeks to destroy all magick. Everyone in the world of Mages is against him, yet they fail to form a united front over how to fight him.
And (SPOILER ALERT) the Humdrum has only come into existence because the Mage defied magickal law to create a child as powerful as Simon Snow. In other words, the creation of the force of Good is implicated in the creation of the force of Evil. As J.K Rowling put it: “one cannot live while the other survives.”
And there’s more legitimate criticism of Harry Potter’s world in Carry On: why the hell shouldn’t wizards use modern technology? Isn’t a cell phone or a car useful no matter what else you’re capable of? And shouldn’t a magical world be just as diverse as the real one, with characters that are openly gay and/or explicitly said to belong to racial minorities?
Because yes, Simon and Baz end up hopelessly in love with each other. I freakin’ love this book. Buy a hardcover copy. When you take off the dust jacket, the boys are snogging. Buy a paperback copy, and you will get this gorgeous cover art: