Honestly, I just want to gush about how adorable Simon and Baz are together and talk about how much I love all the little character details that make them all flawed and imperfect and realistic and all the more lovable for it.
The beginning of this book was heartbreaking. Simon was struggling even more with his depression, and then it affected Penny and Baz even more, and I felt for all of them. This book—this whole series, really—explores the heavy topics of depression and trauma and the affect that being abused/used/mistreated as a child can have on a person. Simon didn’t think he’d live past his purpose of saving the world of mages. He didn’t know what to do with himself anymore. After all that happened, he didn’t think Baz or Penny or anyone in the mage world would want him anymore, now that he wasn’t useful. He lost a part of himself. He pushed people away. He struggled to accept support and love. He struggled with intimacy. He struggled to get through each day. And I want to acknowledge all of that because the rest of my review is mostly about sweet and adorable things, but this is such an important element of the story too.
But oh, Simon and Baz. *melts* They were still having their relationship struggles, and in my head I just kept saying, “Oh, Simon,” and telling him that he was wrong about himself not being good enough, and telling Baz to fight for him. And then finally, finally Simon started using his words, and the two started opening up more and discussing things more and ahhh I could enjoy how adorable they were again! Because they really were. (I’m not complaining that it took them long though, I think Simon’s difficulty communicating was realistic.) All their problems weren’t solved overnight, but they were finally working on them together. Honestly, I would’ve read a whole book just about them being together. No plot necessary. Also, they were such a perfect match. I don’t think anyone else could’ve handled them the way they handled each other. I mean, hell, Simon wanted to go hunting for rats with Baz every night and even caught one himself the first time to help out.
There were other relationships explored as well, including other romances, as well as some familial ones, and those were also sweet. It’s just that everything kind of pales in comparison to the cuteness that is Simon & Baz.
As I said, I also love how the characters in this series are good and lovable but have imperfections and flaws and things that aren’t necessarily flaws but aren’t stereotypically attractive either because it makes them feel so much more real and all the more lovable. Simon was kind of a disaster who barreled headfirst into everything and never knew what he was doing, and he was stubborn to the point that he was constantly ruining clothing with his wings or cutting himself out of shirts because he refused to ask for help. Penelope was pushy, and she always thought she was right until she finally realized she wasn’t. Shepard was so interested in learning about magical beings that he made bad decisions and bit off more than he could chew. Baz, well, he was kind of perfect, if a bit broody and still struggling with being a vampire.
But it wasn’t just their big character flaws/traits that made them unique and real, it was little details too. Like the way Simon would wear literally any clothes he found lying around that fit him, regardless of who they belonged to. And Penny’s messy hair. And Baz’s love of floral prints. And Simon sometimes being self-conscious about the fact that he’d gained weight (and Baz, of course, just being happy that he looked healthy and loving him exactly the way he was). And the way Simon never quite did figure out his sexuality, and that was ok. And how Simon liked firm touches whereas Baz liked gentle ones.
I also loved how immediately and adorably Simon and Lady Ruth took to each other, before they even realized the truth.
My only complaints are how everyone was separated for so much of the book (Simon and Baz doing their thing, Penny and Shepard doing their thing, Agatha doing her thing), and how there are still a few unanswered things *SPOILER (for previous books)* (whether Simon will keep his wings and tail (though I feel like it’s kind of implied he will, and here’s a really interesting, in-depth analysis I found), what he’s going to do for a job, how he’s handling the knowledge that the Mage was his father) *END SPOILER*. But it was wrapped up enough, and I kind of don’t like when things are too perfectly wrapped up anyway. The most important things were resolved, and the happy endings were implied.
*SPOILER (for this book, just in case anyone wants to know the endings)* Simon and Baz are happy together, and despite still struggling with depression, Simon now believes Baz actually wants to be with him and has learned to turn to him for comfort instead of pushing him away. Baz found out vampires only live forever if they drink from humans, which means he won’t have to worry about being immortal while Simon grows old. Penny and Shepard are together. Shepard is no longer cursed. Agatha found someone (a few years older girl from school she started working with). Agatha is also going to be the new goatherd at Watford. Even Fiona found someone (Nicodemus) and is getting married. The one actual bad thing Baz did, stealing that girl’s voice, was resolved. And Simon found his family and now has a grandmother and an uncle. *END SPOILER*
The audiobook narration by Euan Morton was good. To be honest, there were moments when accents seemed to waver, but for the most part, his narration was natural and brought the characters to life well. I like the vibes he brought to them, especially Simon. Voices weren’t super different, and occasionally I’d forget who was talking or narrating, but I could usually keep track.
This is one of those series I enjoyed so much that I actually got sad and a bit emotional when it ended. I don’t want it to be over. There’s so much in this series, I feel like I’m still processing, and reading other people’s thoughts and analyses of different things is wonderful because it makes me realize there’s so much I didn’t even notice or understand the possible significance of. But this review is long enough, so… Overall, this was a series with an interesting magic system, emotional ups and downs, realistic struggles and imperfections, lovable characters, an adorable romance, and ultimately a happy ending.
*I’ve marked this as “explicit sex” but it’s kind of semi-explicit, somewhere between on-page and fade-to-black, mostly focused on kissing and whatever happened with clothes on and the emotions between them rather than their bodies, nothing too detailed.*
*Rating: 4.5 Stars // Read Date: 2021 // Format: Audiobook*
Fans of Books 1 and 2 in Rainbow Rowell's Simon Snow series. Anyone who likes YA, magic, lovable characters, adorable enemies-to-lovers romance, a look at the darker side of common fantasy elements without *too much* darkness, and happy endings (if you read the whole series).