Saturday, November 9, 2019

#CBR11 Review #36: Wayward Son by Rainbow Rowell

After my friend got me a copy of Carry On for my birthday, I read it immediately, and naturally I loved it. It had all my favourite tropes: magic, vampires, enemies-to-friends-to-lovers, and-they-were-roommates, spoofing on the concept of a chosen-one, etc etc. I loved the characters and how it didn’t take itself too seriously, while still having a strong heart and emotions within it. This follow-up novel took hold of me with my love for these characters once again, but story-wise it certainly takes a dip: it’s need for something to happen just didn’t quite work for me. But more on that later:

Wayward Son picks up with Simon, Baz, and Penny after fighting against the Mage. Simon is still without magic, yet now with some dragon wings and a tail, dealing with a depression that has come on after losing a sense of purpose: he is no longer the “chosen one”, so now what? Under the guide of checking up on Agatha now in America, Penny suggests the gang go on a road trip. Here, we see how things for magical people are different across the pond, and naturally, despite all their best efforts, trouble can’t help but find this ridiculous little trio.

What I liked with the gang’s trip to America is the expansion on the idea of how spells work through use of common phrases and knowledge of “normals” in this universe. It also starts to touch more on other magical beings and how they might interact with a different sort of landscape and culture.

This novel is strongest, however, when it starts to broach into the more human elements of it’s characters: how Simon understands himself now after having a part of his identity taken away, how Baz sees himself as not quite fitting in to the different worlds he overlaps with, even the new character of Sheppard and how he sees himself within the greater magical world. Yet, the plot somehow feels shoehorned in there, and ends up taking away from these character elements. In particular, right at the end of the novel it seems like there is a moment where a breakthrough is happening, but this is stilted by the need to throw a cliff-hanger in there, stopping the progress in favor of the promise of a new threat and adventure. In fact, the whole conclusion of the novel (the final “showdown”, the abrupt end) feel way too rushed as a way to have a conclusion-non-conclusion for this book on its own.

Did I still have fun reading Wayward Son despite the fact that it wasn’t quite as magical to me as Carry On? Of course! But it does feel like a bit of a sophomore slump to me. Still, I do love the characters and will absolutely keep going with this series when it inevitably gets another instalment.

[Be sure to visit the Cannonball Read main site!]