As you can see below, I was REALLY excited when I heard about this book. Because getting to read about Simone and Baz and the World of Mages that Cath from Fangirl loved so much? That had to be amazing. After a while, though, I got a little worried. I mean, I love Rainbow Rowell and I’ve rated all of her books 5 stars so far, so I trust her to write a good book. But then again, she’d never written (or at least published) fantasy before. What if it felt like a weak version of Harry Potter? I was afraid I’d gotten myself so excited over this that I’d be disappointed…
I didn’t need to worry, because this book was absolutely wonderful. First off, I feel like I need to emphasize that it’s completely apart from Harry Potter. Don’t worry about that. It’s a completely different story with different characters and a different world. It’s also very much apart from Fangirl. It doesn’t read like the snippets in that book, and you don’t in any way need to read it to understand this book. Although, there were a few plot points I figured out faster because of what I remembered from Fangirl. But that’s fine, I didn’t enjoy it any less because of that. There were some small but fun references both to Harry Potter (like Penelope having met her boyfriend when he was an exchange student at their school in their fourth year) and to Fangirl (“Pumpkin mocha breve. I created it myself.”), but they were never too much and I enjoyed them all.
To me, the book boils down to two stories. The story of what’s going on in the World of Mages, and the personal journeys of the character. Both were great, but I’m going to start with the characters, because I can’t get them out of my mind. I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that this is a love story between Simon and Baz. Rainbow has always been clear about that and they’re almost kissing on the cover. So yeah, they fell in love and it was awesome. I won’t spoil their ending, but I will say that I loved how their relationship was done. I loved their animosity turned attraction and their insecurities. Also, I’m really happy with how the LGBT aspect was handled. It was realistic and positive. (Also, slightly related, diversity! This book has it!) Outside of the relationship, Simon and Baz were both interesting characters of their own with proper character development throughout the book. They’re just great. Messed up, with troubled pasts and not exactly care-free presents. They’re awesome and they match.
Despite the awesomeness of these boys, my favourite character was probably Penelope. She was such a kick-ass character and her friendship with Simon was so great. She was brave and clever and persistent and I know I’m making her sound like Hermione, but that’s because I’m bad at this. She’s entirely her own person. I adore her and I wish she could be MY best friend. When it comes to Agatha, I think Rainbow did a brave thing with her character and her ending. I can’t say I particularly liked her as a person, but I think she was a good character. One that I’m happy was represented without telling the reader to dislike her.
On the side of everything going on in the World of Mages, we have a solid and entertaining fantasy story. First of all, everything is set in a world where mages can use magic through linguistic phrases (like Come out, come out, wherever you are! orU can’t touch this! or Some like it hot!) that are used often enough to gain magickal meaning. That magic system may be a bit silly, but you get used to it and it’s really quite cool. Now, there are some wars brewing between a couple of different parties. We’ve got the Mage, who’s in charge of the World of Mages and Watford School of Magicks. We’ve also got the old families, who hate the Mage. And let’s not forget the dark creatures (like the goblins), who’ve been attacking the school recently. And then, of course, there’s the Insidious Humdrum, who seems to be trying to rid the world of magic. There’s also Simon Snow, the Chosen One, the Mage’s heir. He’s supposed to fix everything. But that’s not exactly easy.
I guess it does start in a kind of similar place as HP, but I promise, it go in very different directions. Maybe I shouldn’t hype this part up too far, though, because it’s not like this is the best fantasy story I’ve ever read. It’s absolutely a good one, though. The plot is exciting. The twists are good. The mystery is compelling. I don’t really know how else to describe it other than “it’s cool”. It is, though, it’s cool. And along with the love story and other character arcs, it make for a stunning book.
So all in all, this book entertained my fantasy lover’s brain, while also lighting up my love lover’s heart. So… do I even need to say that I recommend this book to everyone