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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 hereit's their last year at the Watford School of Magicks, and Simon's infuriating nemesis didn't even bother to show up.
Carry On is a ghost story, a love story and a mystery. It has just as much kissing and talking as you'd expect from a Rainbow Rowell story - but far, far more monsters.
About the Author
RAINBOW ROWELL lives in Omaha, Nebraska, with her husband and two sons. She's also the author of Landline, Fangirl, Eleanor & Park, and Attachments.
Read an Excerpt
The Rise and Fall of Simon Snow
By Rainbow Rowell
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2015 Rainbow Rowell
All rights reserved.
I walk to the bus station by myself.
There's always a fuss over my paperwork when I leave. All summer long, we're not even allowed to walk to Tescos without a chaperone and permission from the Queen — then, in the autumn, I just sign myself out of the children's home and go.
"He goes to a special school," one of the office ladies explains to the other when I leave. They're sitting in a Plexiglas box, and I slide my papers back to her through a slot in the wall. "It's a school for dire offenders," she whispers.
The other woman doesn't even look up.
It's like this every September, even though I'm never in the same care home twice.
The Mage fetched me for school himself the first time, when I was 11. But the next year, he told me I could make it to Watford on my own. "You've slain a dragon, Simon. Surely you can manage a long walk and a few buses."
I hadn't meant to slay that dragon. It wouldn't have hurt me, I don't think. (I still dream about it sometimes. The way the fire consumed it from the inside out, like a cigarette burn eating a piece of paper.)
I get to the bus station, then eat a mint Aero while I wait for my first bus. There's another bus after that. Then a train.
Once I'm settled on the train, I try to sleep with my bag in my lap and my feet propped up on the seat across from me — but a man a few rows back won't stop watching me. I feel his eyes crawling up my neck.
Could just be a pervert. Or police.
Or it could be a bonety hunter who knows about one of the prices on my head. ... ("It's bounty hunter," I said to Penelope the first time we fought one. "No — bonety hunter," she replied. "Short for 'bone-teeth'; that's what they get to keep if they catch you.")
I change carriages and don't bother trying to sleep again. The closer I get to Watford, the more restless I feel. Every year, I think about jumping from the train and spelling myself the rest of the way to school, even if it puts me in a coma.
I could cast a Hurry up on the train, but that's a chancy spell at the best of times, and my first few spells of the school year are always especially dicey. I'm supposed to practise during the summer — small, predictable spells when no one's looking. Like turning on night-lights. Or changing apples to oranges.
"Spell your buttons and laces closed," Miss Possibelf suggested. "That sort of thing."
"I only ever wear one button," I told her, then blushed when she looked down at my jeans.
"Then use your magic for household chores," she said. "Wash the dishes. Polish the silver."
I didn't bother telling Miss Possibelf that my summer meals are served on disposable plates and that I eat with plastic cutlery (forks and spoons, never knives).
I also didn't bother to practise my magic this summer.
It's boring. And pointless. And it's not like it helps. Practising doesn't make me a better magician; it just sets me off....
Nobody knows why my magic is the way it is. Why it goes off like a bomb instead of flowing through me like a fucking stream or however it works for everybody else.
"I don't know," Penelope said when I asked her how magic feels for her. "I suppose it feels like a well inside me. So deep that I can't see or even imagine the bottom. But instead of sending down buckets, I just think about drawing it up. And then it's there for me — as much as I need, as long as I stay focused."
Penelope always stays focused. Plus, she's powerful.
Agatha isn't. Not as, anyway. And Agatha doesn't like to talk about her magic.
But once, at Christmas, I kept Agatha up until she was tired and stupid, and she told me that casting a spell felt like flexing a muscle and keeping it flexed. "Like croisédevant," she said. "You know?"
I shook my head.
She was lying on a wolfskin rug in front of the fire, all curled up like a pretty kitten. "It's ballet," she said. "It's like I just hold position as long as I can."
Baz told me that for him, it's like lighting a match. Or pulling a trigger.
He hadn't meant to tell me that. It was when we were fighting the chimera in the woods during our fifth year. It had us cornered, and Baz wasn't powerful enough to fight it alone. (The Mage isn't powerful enough to fight a chimera alone.)
"Do it, Snow!" Baz shouted at me. "Do it. Fucking unleash. Now."
"I can't," I tried to tell him. "It doesn't work like that."
"It bloody well does."
"I can't just turn it on," I said.
"I can't, damn it." I was waving my sword around — I was pretty good with a sword already at 15 — but the chimera wasn't corporeal. (Which is my rough luck, pretty much always. As soon as you start carrying a sword, all your enemies turn out mist and gossamer.)
"Close your eyes and light a match," Baz told me. We were both trying to hide behind a rock. Baz was casting spells one after another; he was practically singing them.
"That's what my mother used to say," he said. "Light a match inside your heart, then blow on the tinder."
It's always fire with Baz. I can't believe he hasn't incinerated me yet. Or burned me at the stake.
He used to like to threaten me with a Viking's funeral, back when we were third years. "Do you know what that is, Snow? A flaming pyre, set adrift on the sea. We could do yours in Blackpool, so all your chavvy Normal friends can come."
"Sod off," I'd say, and try to ignore him.
I've never even had any Normal friends, chavvy or otherwise.
Everyone in the Normal world steers clear of me if they can. Penelope says they sense my power and instinctively shy away. Like dogs who won't make eye contact with their masters. (Not that I'm anyone's master — that's not what I mean.)
Anyway, it works the opposite with magicians. They love the smell of magic; I have to try hard to make them hate me.
Unless they're Baz. He's immune. Maybe he's built up a tolerance to my magic, having shared a room with me every term for seven years.
That night that we were fighting the chimera, Baz kept yelling at me until I went off.
We both woke up a few hours later in a blackened pit. The boulder we'd been hiding behind was dust, and the chimera was vapour. Or maybe it was just gone.
Baz was sure I'd singed off his eyebrows, but he looked fine to me — not a hair out of place.
I don't let myself think about Watford over the summers.
After my first year there, when I was 11 — I spent the whole summer thinking about it. Thinking about everyone I'd met at school — Penelope, Agatha, the Mage. About the towers and the grounds. The teas. The puddings. The magic. The fact that I was magic.
I made myself sick thinking about the Watford School of Magicks — daydreaming about it — until it started to feel like nothing more than a daydream. Just another fantasy to make the time pass.
Like when I used to dream about becoming a footballer someday — or that my parents, my real parents, were going to come back for me....
My dad would be a footballer. And my mum would be some posh model type. And they'd explain how they'd had to give me up because they were too young for a baby, and because his career was on the line. "But we always missed you, Simon," they'd say. "We've been looking for you." And then they'd take me away to live in their mansion.
Footballer mansion ... Magickal boarding school ...
They both seem like crap in the light of day. (Especially when you wake up in a room with seven other discards.)
That first summer, I'd beaten the memory of Watford to a bloody pulp by the time my bus fare and papers showed up in the autumn, along with a note from the Mage himself....
Real. It was all real.
So, the next summer, after my second year at Watford, I didn't let myself think about magic at all. For months. I just shut myself off from it. I didn't miss it, I didn't wish for it.
I decided to let the World of Mages come back to me like a big surprise present come September, if it was going to. (And it did come back. It always has, so far.)
The Mage used to say that maybe someday he'd let me spend summers at Watford — or maybe even spend them with him, wherever he goes all summer.
But then he decided I was better off spending part of every year with the Normals. To stay close to the language and to keep my wits about me: "Let hardship sharpen your blade, Simon."
I thought he meant my actual blade, the Sword of Mages. Eventually I figured out that he meant me.
I'm the blade. The Mage's sword. And I'm not sure if these summers in children's homes make me any sharper. ... But they do make me hungrier. They make me crave Watford like, I don't know, like life itself.
Baz and his side — all the old, rich families — they don't believe that anyone can understand magic the way that they do. They think they're the only ones who can be trusted with it.
But no one loves magic like I do.
None of the other magicians — none of my classmates, none of their parents — know what it's like to live without magic.
Only I know.
And I'll do anything to make sure it's always here for me to come home to.
* * *
I try not to think about Watford when I'm away — but it was almost impossible this summer.
After everything that happened last year, I couldn't believe the Mage would even pay attention to something like the end of term. Who interrupts a war to send the kids home for summer holidays?
Besides, I'm not a kid anymore. Legally, I could have left care at 16. I could've got my own flat somewhere. Maybe in London. (I could afford it. I have an entire bag of leprechaun's gold — a big, duffel-sized bag, and it only disappears if you try to give it to other magicians.)
But the Mage sent me off to a new children's home, just like he always does. Still moving me around like a pea under shells after all these years. Like I'd be safe there. Like the Humdrum couldn't just summon me, or whatever it was he did to me and Penelope at the end of last term.
"He can summon you?" Penny demanded as soon as we got away from him. "Across a body of water? That isn't possible, Simon. There's no precedent for that."
"Next time he summons me like a half-arsed squirrel demon," I said, "I'll tell him so!"
Penelope had been unlucky enough to be holding my arm when I was snatched, so she'd been snatched right along with me. Her quick thinking is the only reason either of us escaped.
"Simon," she said that day, when we were finally on a train back to Watford. "This is serious."
"Siegfried and fucking Roy, Penny, I know that it's serious. He's got my number. I don't even have my number, but the Humdrum's got it down."
"How can we still know so little about him," she fumed. "He's so ..."
"Insidious," I said. "'The Insidious Humdrum' and all that."
"Stop teasing, Simon. This is serious."
"I know, Penny."
When we got back to Watford, the Mage heard us out and made sure we weren't hurt, but then he sent us on our way. Just ... sent us home.
It didn't make any sense.
So, of course, I spent this whole summer thinking about Watford. About everything that happened and everything that could happen and everything that's at stake ... I stewed on it.
But I still didn't let myself dwell on any of the good things, you know? It's the good things that'll drive you mad with missing them.
I keep a list — of all the things I miss most — and I'm not allowed to touch it in my head until I'm about an hour from Watford. Then I run through the list one by one. It's sort of like easing yourself into cold water. But the opposite of that, I suppose — easing yourself into something really good, so the shock of it doesn't overwhelm you.
I started making my list, my good things list, when I was 11, and I should probably cross a few things off, but that's harder than you'd think.
Anyway, I'm about an hour from school now, so I mentally take out my list and press my forehead against the train window.
Things I miss most about Watford:
No. 1 — Sour cherry scones
I'd never had cherry scones before Watford. Just raisin ones — and more often plain, and always something that came from the shop, then got left in an oven too long.
At Watford, there are fresh-baked cherry scones for breakfast every day if you want them. And again in the afternoon with tea. We have tea in the dining hall after our lessons, before clubs and football and homework.
I always have tea with Penelope and Agatha, and I'm the only one of us who ever eats the scones. "Dinner is in two hours, Simon," Agatha will tsk at me, even after all these years. Once Penelope tried to calculate how many scones I've eaten since we started at Watford, but she got bored before she got to the answer.
I just can't pass the scones up if they're there. They're soft and light and a little bit salty. Sometimes I dream about them.
No. 2 — Penelope
This spot on the list used to belong to "roast beef." But a few years back, I decided to limit myself to one food item. Otherwise the list turns into the food song from Oliver!, and I get so hungry, my stomach cramps.
I should maybe rank Agatha higher than Penelope; Agatha is my girlfriend. But Penelope made the list first. She befriended me in my first week at school, during our Magic Words lesson.
I didn't know what to make of her when we met — a chubby little girl with light brown skin and bright red hair. She was wearing pointy spectacles, the kind you'd wear if you were going as a witch to a fancy dress party, and there was a giant purple ring weighing down her right hand. She was trying to help me with an assignment, and I think I was just staring at her.
"I know you're Simon Snow," she said. "My mum told me you'd be here. She says you're really powerful, probably more powerful than me. I'm Penelope Bunce."
"I didn't know someone like you could be named Penelope," I said. Stupidly. (Everything I said that year was stupid.)
She wrinkled her nose. "What should 'someone like me' be named?"
"I don't know." I didn't know. Other girls I'd met who looked like her were named Saanvi or Aditi — and they definitely weren't ginger. "Saanvi?"
"Someone like me can be named anything," Penelope said.
"Oh," I said. "Right, sorry."
"And we can do whatever we want with our hair." She turned back to the assignment, flipping her red ponytail. "It's impolite to stare, you know, even at your friends."
"Are we friends?" I asked her. More surprised than anything else.
"I'm helping you with your lesson, aren't I?"
She was. She'd just helped me shrink a football to the size of a marble.
"I thought you were helping me because I'm thick," I said.
"Everyone's thick," she replied. "I'm helping you because I like you."
It turned out she'd accidentally turned her hair that colour, trying out a new spell — but she wore it red all of first year. The next year, she tried blue.
Penelope's mum is Indian, and her dad is English — actually, they're both English; the Indian side of her family has been in London for ages. She told me later that her parents had told her to steer clear of me at school. "My mum said that nobody really knew where you came from. And that you might be dangerous."
"Why didn't you listen to her?" I asked.
"Because nobody knew where you came from, Simon! And you might be dangerous!"
"You have the worst survival instincts."
"Also, I felt sorry for you," she said. "You were holding your wand backwards."
I miss Penny every summer, even when I tell myself not to. The Mage says no one can write to me or call me over the holidays, but Penny still finds ways to send messages: Once she possessed the old man down at the shop, the one who forgets to put in his teeth — she talked right through him. It was nice to hear from her and everything, but it was so disturbing that I asked her not to do it again, unless there was an emergency.
Excerpted from Carry On by Rainbow Rowell. Copyright © 2015 Rainbow Rowell. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Having read Rowell's 'Fangirl' I expect this to be an amazing read. Rowell never ceases to amaze me and I cannot wait to dive into her latest adventure. I highly recommend reading 'Fangirl' before 'Carry On' to kind of get a sense of who Simon and Baz are, if not to just enjoy the read. Another of Rowell's I recommend is 'Eleanor and Park'.
I read Fangirl, but I don't recommend reading it before Carry On. Just my personal opinion; maybe it's because I value spontaneity. You can sense a lot of intentional allusions to preexisting novels in this story, but weirdly, it's what makes it so good. I would have appreciated a little more context on the Magickal world in general...I thought, really, that it would all unfurl in the last few chapters at the very least. And although I do get the gist of the backstory behind the conflicts in this novel, I feel as if there could be more. A sequel, perhaps? I mean, there has to be a reason for Harry Potter being spaced out in seven novels. A story like this cannot be appreciated in its entirety in a single novel. And I just really, really want to see Simon and Baz again.
Im so glad she wrote this book. I loved hearing about Baz and simon in fan girl. I dreaded when It got to the end, I didn't want it to stop! I Felt like the ending came too quickly though and sometimes I got confused about the bit about the Humdrum. But overall I recommend this to everyone. I'm sure you will fall in love with Simon and Baz just like I did. (And ps there are a lot of point of views. Didn't really like that either.
Always remember chapter 61, AKA the chapter that killed all the SnowBaz shippers. Overall an awesome book, it's like a fanfiction in itself and I love the gay. Love. It.
I love it so much. I wish it was an actual series
OH MY GOD. I am absolutely totally and completely in love with this book. I normally love everything that Rainbow writes but THIS ONE MIGHT HAVE TOPPED THEM ALL. I received this book on release day but wasn’t in the right head space to start it then because I had too much going on to give it my full attention. After coming home from YALLfest, I knew I would finally be able to dedicate some time to it. I started the book and within 4 hours I had read 350 pages. I absolutely FLEW through this book. The world that rainbow built was super cutesy for a magickal world. The way that spells derive from nursery rhymes or pop culture songs was so unique but so completely obvious that I was shocked that I had never thought this up myself! I would like to admit that I mostly skimmed over the SnowBaz parts of Fangirl because I mostly felt like they were distracting me from LEVI AND CATH. That means I went into this book pretty blind to the relationship between Simon and Basil. It is a different book than what was originally printed in Fangirl so I dont see that it hindered my enjoyment in anyway. This is by far the longest Rainbow Rowell book but that doesn’t mean that I was happy when it ended. I swear I would have read 2,000 pages of Simon and Baz and Penny living in a flat and adapting to life after Watford. Can someone start writing fic for this? PLEASE? I mean seriously, this is a standalone? RAINBOW, COME ON. WE NEED MORE
I don't read a lot of fantasy, other than Harry Potter. Maybe because I love Harry Potter so much. It's kind of hard to top J.K. Rowling. And other books that are too similar seem to be trying to hard. But the great thing about Carry On is that it's kind of supposed to be Harry Potter fan fiction in a way because of it's origins in Fangirl. And that made the similarities OK. And there are a lot of similarities. Simon Snow is prophesied as The Chosen One, he goes to a boarding school to learn magic, he has a brainiac best girl friend, he has a sworn enemy, there is an evil character he must fight in the end, and he even has an adult friend who loves animals. But there are also a lot of differences. The World of the Mages is not set apart from the Normal world as much as the Magical world of Harry Potter is separated from the Muggle world. The adults in this story all have real jobs, but also happen to do magic. Everyone has cell phones and talks about pop culture. And the spells are spoken in everyday English. British English. But still English. I loved how Rainbow Rowell was able to create this fantasy world within our real world. And as always in her books, the characters were amazing. The story is told in first person in chapters with alternating narrators: Simon, Baz, Penelope, Agatha, The Mage, etc. I loved getting inside their heads. It added so much more depth to the story of The Chosen One. Even the minor characters have complex motivations and back story. I'll be honest. I was a little worried about the gay romance. But I loved it! Reading Baz's thoughts about Simon. And about Simon questioning his sexuality and giving into his desires. It was all so good. I love a good unrequited love story, and Rainbow Rowell does love so well. There is so much more I could say, but I don't want to give anything away. I know this is a book I'll read over and over again. http://www.momsradius.com/2015/10/book-review-carry-on-ya.html
This book was a bit different than I expected. I felt like at the beginning it was very similar to Harry Potter but as the story went on it was quite different. The characters were more mature and they had some really different abilities. I liked Simon but I felt bad for the life her was forced to lead. He was a likable guy who was friendly and made friends easily, except for his roommate Baz, which was his enemy for years. I'm looking forward to reading the sequel to see where Simon, Baz and Penny go from here.
Hi, everyone!! This book is so awesome! I seriously love this book. By the way, I don't care if the Snow/Baz ship has a name. It is now officially Snaz. Pass it on. Smiles, Almondsquid.
Having read fangirl, I was extremely excited for this novel and I have been a fan of Rainbow Rowell for some time. I had Very high dictations and every single one was made met
I found myself constantly reading without any breaks! Although the chemistry between the characters seems uneasy at first, the development in their relationship is outstanding! Through the many ups and down, the laughs and frustrations, you find that they make a great duo, and great partners!
This was an exciting read that kept me on my toes throughout the entire story. Once I thought I knew some of the secrets the story would take an unexpected turn. I loved every minute of this read and this is definitely a story I would return to for years to come. The story of this books builds off of the fictional world Rainbow Rowell created in FanGirl. While this book can be a stand-alone, I highly recommend reading FanGirl first to build your love for these characters. This read was fast-paced from the get-go and I am not sure if it is because I was already in love with Simon and Baz and needed more of there world or because of the great world Rainbow has created. The love story… Oh, the love story clenched at my heartstrings every time I opened the book. Having read FanGirl, it was clear where the book was headed and I loved everything about it. Rainbow makes the reader work for this one though. There are several love interests for Simon that leaves the reader doubting themselves. Carry On proved that everyone deserves love and that you should stop before judging some as unloveable. There was just enough magic in the story to quench my fantasy thirst and using the power of words as spells is genius. I have seen many reviews state that this is a Harry Potter rip off. This is NOT TRUE. Yes, there is the whole chosen child, loss of parents, and learning about magic after living in the mundane world thing. However, Rainbow does her own take on this. Look, there have been orphans in stories since forever (Cinderella, Peter Pan, Mowgli, etc.) and Rainbow brings in a new style and gives us the story from several points of view. I promise once you get over your HP hangup this story is really worth reading. Rainbow Rowell is an amazing writer, with the ability to capture the essence of authentic characters in her writing. I highly recommend this book to anyone. Even if you not into romance or contemporary fiction, give this read a try!
A fun read with unexpected depth. Read it in a day because I couldn't put it down. Buy it.
First, let us just pause and take a moment to appreciate how great of a character Baz was! Throughout the entire book, I was always fangirling over Baz. I mean I couldn't wait to read what he was going to do next. He kind of put you in mind of Malfoy. Many would disagree, but in my opinion, Baz was the most perfectly flawed badass character one could only hope to read about. This book caused various emotions. When I first picked up this book to start reading I realized how similar it was to Harry Potter. Almost as if Rainbow Rowell had this obsession with Harry Potter and decided to write fanfiction. I love fanfiction, but when I pick up a book I don't want to be thinking about another book all the time no matter how great said book was. However, even though this book was basically legal fanfiction, it was still a nice read. I must warn you that there are some very unexpected things that happen in this book. I, however, loved them or at least some of them. She took us on an adventure that may not have been entirely her own, but she started to own it and she made it hers in the end. Even though this book reminded me a lot of Harry Potter there were moments where you could see Rainbow Rowell's originality peeking out and how she led the audience one way only to suddenly push them into another direction. Overall this book was a nice read. It was nice to take a break and just read something that was fun and full of quirky and sarcastic characters. The characters were overall my favorite part of the storyline. She developed them well. Even though they might remind you of a few Harry Potter characters, you can tell that the author tried to make them her own and add a bit more modern flavor to them. Unfortunately, how similar the book was to the Harry Potter series was a bit offputting.
I have all the love in the world for not only Rainbow Rowell, but for Baz and Simin as well. This book has everything i've ever wanted in a fictional pairing. I think the most genuis touch was the fact that Baz is a vampire. It gives the whole thing a sense of both spooky urgency and wonder. Imagine watching yoyr significant other eat and being able to have an earnest conversation about the person you love's fangs and where they come from. Wouldn't that be intriguing? I've also seen people hate on the present tense/first person/changing point of view, but it works so masterfully for the story! Also, i think present tense makes everything very real; it just sort of puts you there, you know? All in all, I could rant about this book forever, but i'm really just here to say that it's an 11 out of 10 for me, and I look forward to reading anything Rainbow Rowell writes in the future. She's at the top of my list of authors I reccomend!
Actually a 4.5 rating. I really enjoyed/loved this cute book!
THIS BOOK IS ABSOLUTELY AMAZING! The different POVs of the characters give so much variety to the story. The book is very entertaining, and it gives you so many laughs along the way.
READ THIS NOW.
This was my first Rainbow Rowell book, and I must say, it was very entertaining. Since I haven't read Fangirl (which I understand is the book in which Simon the character was introduced), Carry On was quite confusing in the first few chapters. Sadly, the first section (labeled as "Book 1") was also not very interesting. I kept waiting for the well-known Baz to show up, but he never did until "Book 2". But I still appreciate the world building at the beginning; I probably wouldn't have understood much if it went too fast. Something else that I really admired is the spells. At first it may have seemed rather silly and "unbelievable": what kind of magician uses nursery rhymes and idioms to convey magic? But later on, I realized the significance. The mages used these clever sayings and conveyed magic through the power of words. I've always been a firm believer in the power of words, so I greatly applaud this quirk. I loved the ending too--it was deep and emotional, balanced out with reality and fluff. Something about Rowell's writing style portrayed this mixture really well. It wasn't all about everyone living happily ever after while Simon and Baz run off into the sunset together. No, there was Agatha's internal crisis that was kind of solved (but not ideally), and Simon didn't forget Penelope. But, most importantly, there was hope for a happy future, and that was what essentially made the ending so admirable. There's so much more I could say about this book (Simon + Baz, the Humdrum, the Mage), but they all lead to the fact that I highly recommend this book. Even if you haven't read Fangirl like me, give it a try! You might be surprised...I was. It's certainly not as light and childish as it may seem at first.
Best book I've ever read.