I didn’t find Wayward Son quite as engaging as Carry On, possibly because I was already familiar with the world of Simon Snow, or maybe I’m just not a fan of road trip stories. I still enjoyed reading it, and I did eventually feel fully engaged in the novel. It just took a little while for me to get there.
The novel is set about a year or so after the events of Carry On. Penny and Baz are finishing up their first year of university, while Simon has become depressed and stopped attending classes. His relationship with Baz is also in a fragile state. Meanwhile, Agatha is in California, doing her best to escape magic altogether. Penny decides that she, Simon, and Baz need to visit Agatha, after first visiting her boyfriend Micah in Chicago, so they travel to America. During their adventure they meet Shepard, a Normal who is very interested in magic; a variety of magickal creatures; and some new and problematic vampires.
One of the most interesting elements of the book is how different the U.S. and the UK are, magickally speaking. Some of the magickal phrases the characters are used to don’t work as well, or at all, because Americans have different sayings and slang. There are also Quiet Zones – places where magic doesn’t work because there aren’t enough people around to make it work. And the magicians in the U.S. aren’t organized the way they are in the World of Mages back home. Interestingly, the novel starts with an epilogue and ends with a prologue that’s a bit of a cliffhanger.
[Mild (I think) spoilers ahead]
Any Way the Wind Blows picks up with their return to England. I definitely found this one much harder to put down than Wayward Son, though it’s not without flaws. The gang is kind of split off into pairs who are doing their own thing for much of the book. Penny has brought Shepard home because he sold his soul to a demon and she’s hoping to fix his situation, Baz and Simon are working on their relationship while investigating a new self-proclaimed Chosen One, and Agatha is helping out in her dad’s medical practice and ends up working with her dad’s assistant Niamh.
There were parts of this novel, primarily with Baz and Simon, that read to me a bit like fanfiction. This is not a complaint. I enjoyed the intensity of some of those scenes and the overall familiar feeling they evoked.
I had a few issues with the novel. The main one is that for all of Penny’s worry about fallout from their trip to America, nothing happens. They don’t get in trouble for it or even share what happened, even though the NowNext vampires could end up eventually posing a big threat. It’s not that I wanted anyone to get in trouble, but it does feel like a thread left hanging. The epilogue also wasn’t as informative as I’d have liked. Lastly, some of Penny’s character growth seems to regress a bit, and there’s one part where she compares Normals to ants. The idea that she would view a group of humans as inferior because they don’t have magic is off-putting.
That said, I still enjoyed the book, and I’m sad that the Simon Snow series is over. It was a good journey.