People, a cover with our favorite SnowBaz on the cover, in their trademark wings and three piece suit!
I didn’t have the patience to re-read Carry On and Wayward Son before this came off hold–so I tried to find some “Previously on…” type reviews. One in particular scared me–it talked about how the books read “like fanfiction” in that there’s no recapping, on the assumption that every reader had devoured the prior works a hundred times over.
They were right, and also wrong. Yes, this book does read like fanfiction (it is, afterall, a very meta work of canon-of-in-universe-fanfiction). But only in the best of ways (and there’s enough small reminders of what happened previously). As I was saying to my friends:
– there’s copious attention paid to the emotional trauma that a character might plausibly have after going to magic school for 8 years where everything is trying to kill you, constantly
– all sexual activity is prefaced with lots of vocalized consent
– everyone is very emotional in their heads and then gets emotional with one another and entire (short) chapters pass without plot because we’re busy doing emotion
We pick up VERY quickly after the prior installment, a whirlwind adventure through America with our favorites. There’s so much that they haven’t dealt with between “leaving school, where they killed the leader of the magickal world” and “being in the Normal world, and everything is normal?” These two books take a common-ish idea (what does the Chosen One do after they, you know, aren’t the Chosen One?) and take it to the perfect, reasonable end. These characters are barely adults who were charged with unimaginable tasks and now…everything is done.
I know that Rowell gets to come on the back of She-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, but so did Lev Grossman of Magicians fame and he still didn’t do great with his character dynamics. Let’s talk about Penelope Bunce, though, a character I always forget about and then re-fall in love with. Penny is:
– a prodigiously smart mage!
– but not, like, always relegated to support status in comparison to the Chosen One!
– gets to be messy and make mistakes!
– and is actually, genuinely friends with the main characters, not a sort of “also Penny, the girl whom we always end up studying with”
There are no quick answers or solutions to the problems our characters are facing, and one of the most meaningful moments of character growth comes from their individual realizations that they can’t run away from that anymore. It’s just going to take time, and energy, and they have to take a stand somewhere to try and and see what works or doesn’t. Maybe we can’t promise forever, but we can promise that we’ll try.