Initial reaction: Overall rating: 3.5 stars. More entertaining than I thought it would be, but part of that might be because I took my time listening to the audio book, which was well narrated. Definitely takes cues from Harry Potter, but manages to be its own story. Might have been a little more slimmed down for prose, though, because the read felt long, though engaging.
This book is the creative equivalent of “Inception” – a story based on a story within a story. Or a fanfic of a fic within another fic. Try wrapping your head around that, because I consider it a challenge myself.
In all seriousness, “Carry On” is the story of Simon and Baz, mortal enemies who attend the same school. It’s unabashedly based on the world of Harry Potter (and namely fanfic ships of Harry and Draco), but it’s the popular series that Cath gushes over in Rowell’s book “Fangirl.” I liked getting to know Simon and Baz, mostly because while there’s reference to them in “Fangirl” – there aren’t many points to actually connect with them as characters in and of themselves. There is a little bit of worldbuilding, but for the most part, it focuses on the interactions between the characters themselves. There are moments when the book has some on-point humor and tongue in cheek references. Simon is purported to be the school’s greatest wizard according to prophecy, so he feels tremendous pressure to rise up to that alongside fending off Baz and wondering if the guy’s going to kill him. So there are many try-fail moments that Simon ends up going through, with dangerous creatures and political questionings within the school that directly mark Simon in the crosshairs. The action sequences and moments of peril are engaging when they arise, and while there were some moments I found it a little difficult to get into the narrative’s main romantic ship, I ended up following it to the end.
Yet, “Carry On” feels like a very hefty read. Not so much in length (because I can read long books without batting an eye) as it is in the narrative pacing of the book. I felt like some moments were quick and progressed well, while others felt like it severely dragged its heels. I rank this a bit higher than I normally would because of the audiobook version (narrated by Euan Morton). Overall, it was about how I expected it to be. Entertained, but it took a bit of a push to get through in places.
Overall score: 3.5/5 stars.