This might be my most subdued five star rating ever. I liked this, but it’s a whole different vibe from Carry On, and oh my dear lord did I ever love Carry On.
The Simon Snow gang goes on an American Road Trip (TM) so that Penny can meet up with her suddenly terse long distance boyfriend (no points awarded for adding two and two together), and Simon is having an existential crisis after the comedown from saving the world, which impacts his relationship with Baz.
It’s well written, it’s very much a Rowell book, but it’s a bit like if The Empire Strikes Back took place completely inside a courtroom. It’s a really good, logical progression from the first story that Simon would be depressed after losing his magic and status as The Chosen One (TM), but it’s hard to read the characters we’ve gotten to know not just being in pain, but dealing with actual anhedonia. Penny’s breakup makes just as much sense but her depression takes the form of more traditional sadness, and Baz is just kind of dealing with both while having his own identity issues. So we get the series of down notes all while out of the setting that made the first book so addictive – the characters’ disappointment with the trip and the sheer size of the US kind of makes its way to the reader, even if it’s all written in Rowell’s empathetic and engaging style.
I made the Star Wars comparison not just because of the Kevin Smith “that’s what life is, a series of down notes” parallel, but because (mild spoiler) it ends with the promise of a third book. So let’s hope it’s a bit more like book one, even if I really enjoyed book two.