Apparently the multi-narrator thing is now a trend in certain types of fiction. I heard this a while ago, but hadn’t thought on it much until I picked up Carry On. I’ve read Fangirl, so I had a basic idea but what I hadn’t realized was that Carry On uses one of my least favorite narrative styles, first person present, and the multi-narrator story. Together these things drag down what would otherwise be a great fan fic/twist on the “Chosen One” brand of hero story.
Beyond the many, many Harry Potter riffs (many of which are quite clever and entertaining) Simon and his friend Penelope and girlfriend (?) Agatha are back at school for their last year of studying magic at Watford. One of Simon’s many problems (in addition to being the Mage’s heir, and official Chosen One) is that his magic is unpredictable and tied to extreme emotion or stress, and another is that his roommate and nemesis Baz seems to be missing. Personal issues abound, and several big mysteries present themselves to be solved, after which most everything should be fine.
Simon is the main narrator, Penelope only gets to talk to explain her feelings which are pretty clear anyways or later to have something from the past explained. Agatha gets things even worse, in that she only gets to talk about her feelings of not fitting in anywhere and having little control over her destiny, which is pretty privileged. Once Baz returns, he joins Simon as a main story-teller. Baz, as it turns out, is much more self-aware than Simon about a lot of things. Lucy is mostly pointless, except to tell the reader things that the main characters don’t get to figure out until much later, or to add some details that appear designed to add complexity to characters or situations but don’t. The brief bits with Ebb and the Mage likewise don’t add as much as they could have. Most of their character comes from observations and interactions with mostly Simon, so having them speak so briefly as themselves seems a little pointless. If they had a stronger basis, maybe their moments would have been more poignant. I think the problem is that everyone is telling the same story, not their own, which means that most characters besides Baz and Simon, don’t get to contribute much other than attempts at further emotional depth and it just doesn’t work.
The premise and the basic story are a lot of fun, but the style just was not for me. Some of the issues do get cleared up in Wayward Son, but overall it feels kind of like this part of the Simon story was dealing with settling on a style and getting the hang of it.