Although she holds the title of my favorite author, the Simon Snow series has never resonated with me in any meaningful way and the first two books are firmly at the bottom when I rank her bibliography. My fiancee, who I’ve read all of Rowell’s books to (aside from this one), is firmly in agreement on that one. Whether it be the spells that are in fact just cliches that have amassed magical power from their frequent usage, the Harry Potter retreads that aren’t really subverted in any meaningful way, or the positively overwhelming amount of moodiness and angst, I don’t know if I would’ve powered through if it were any other author. I still like the first two books, albeit only to a small degree (whereas my fiancee is vociferous about how she most certainly does not), but I think that’s Rowell’s writing itself allowing them to transcend my issues.
Any Way the Wind Blows, on the other hand, somehow stands on its own as a breezy, fast read that finally wormed these characters into my heart in some sense. Rowell drops the fanfic-y trappings that were so omnipresent in Carry On, as well as most of the angst that dripped from Wayward Son’s every word, instead giving us a comparatively slight story that’s all about these characters’ friendships and relationships. After the dreary Wayward Son, this final book in the trilogy feels like an absolute pocket-full of sunshine. This isn’t to say there’s none of the angst from the prior two books, or that it doesn’t still feel fanfic-y at times (however, Rowell seems to be in on the joke, almost poking fun at herself in the process); rather, it is all sidelined to such a degree that it barely registers.
What does is the fun these characters finally are allowed to have minus the grand stakes and angst. Shepherd gets to blossom into more than a side character, becoming my favorite in the process. Simon and Baz have their ups and downs, yet are mostly just enjoying one another’s company (at the same time) for once. Their relations verge on smut at times, feeling a bit too indulgent, but that’s about my only noteworthy complaint about the book. That and that it doesn’t quite feel like a proper conclusion; the door is certainly open for more adventures with Snow and co., but I guess Rowell simply didn’t feel like tying everything up in a neat little bow, which is no surprise with her track record.
I don’t know that I necessarily need more Simon Snow stories, because 0.33 isn’t the best batting average, but I’m no longer at the point where I groan upon seeing another entry, simply wishing she’d move on and write something else entirely. I still would’ve preferred a new wholly original work, yet this wound up being a pleasant enough surprise that I’m willing to forgive her. Now bring on She-Hulk! If it’s anything like her stint with Runaways, I’m sure I’ll love it.