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NPR Review: CARRY ON by Rainbow Rowell

My review of Rainbow Rowell’s first fantasy novel, Carry On, is up at NPR Books!

I’ve been looking forward to this for months, and it more than lived up to my expectations. Also it gave me the opportunity to link — FROM NPR! — to my favourite Harry Potter fanfic of all time: Blood Magic by GatewayGirl, which, if you’ve not read, do read. It’s wonderful enough that when Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince came out I was super confused because it was contradicting things I’d absorbed as canon from Blood Magic, because it was just. That. Good.

But, right, Carry On!

As a stand-alone book separated from its context, Carry On is wildly fun, deliciously readable, immersive and compulsive as good fan fiction is. It has a magic system that’s all elegant simplicity and that forms a smooth, easy background for the main event of character dialogue and interaction. As she did in Eleanor & Park, Rowell will frequently shift points of view within a scene to show how two people are experiencing either side of a conversation — which is especially effective and engaging in Simon and Basilton (Baz)’s scenes, as their rivalry grows into a complicated romance.

I really, really enjoyed this book. I devoured it. It sucked me in and delighted me even as its politics increasingly made me really uncomfortable. In fact I’m not even sure I can say “its politics” — I suspect what made me uncomfortable was more a lack of consideration for the implications of what was going on than any kind of outright message. But them’s spoilers, so I’ll just sit over here and wait until some other people have read it before I talk about those bits.