Oh my gosh, these two were adorable. Always working themselves up into snits and strops and blusters. I loved Simon with his quirky awkwardness and his weird love of butter. I loved Baz with his dark mysteriousness and his fatalistic loneliness. I loved the roommates/enemies-with-secret-feelings dynamic between them. Well, Simon didn’t technically have secret feelings… that he knew of… but he was oddly obsessed with Baz, and the author did a great job of making you feel that there was something there, something more than just Simon worrying that Baz was plotting against him, so that when the romance did happen, it wasn’t completely out of nowhere. And ahhhh, they were so cute. I loved them. This is going to sound weird, but I even liked the lack of romanticism in their relationship and the way that they saw and described each other because it made everything more grounded and realistic which somehow made it even cuter.
I also thought The magic system was really cool. It used words for spells—nursery rhymes, song lyrics, and other well-known phrases—because words have power. It was a neat concept.
This did have a lot of similarities to Harry Potter (a magic school, an orphaned chosen one, a Drarry-esque relationship), but this was definitely its own story with its own unique characters, and aside from those basic ideas, it was very different.
My understanding of the pacing was a bit off because I had to kind of read this book in pieces over the course of a few weeks due to health problems, but I didn’t mind the slowness of the beginning has everything was being set up. I was into the story. I did feel like the ending seemed maybe a bit rushed and unexpected, but again, that could just be me because of how I read this book.
I also thought there were maybe a few too many POVs, some of which we’re very brief and didn’t quite seem necessary, but that was a very minor problem. I actually found that I liked the way the POVs were used, how the author sometimes jumped back and forth between them in short bursts (but always kept them clearly separated), because it had a unique kind of effect and added a feel of immediacy the book.
Also, I can’t say I’m a fan of the cover design on the original hardcover, but the little silhouette etching on the actual hardcover is so simple yet so beautiful and is my favorite of all the hardcover books I own. I also love the map endpages, and there are even a few nice illustrations within the book.
Overall, I really liked this book! The characters were lovable, the romance was adorable, the magic was unique, and it was a great story. I’m definitely looking forward to reading more in this series!
*I’ve read this book multiple times. This review was written after my 1st read.*
2nd Read Update:
Even better the second time! I liked all the same things, plus a few more.
I don’t know if it’s because I listened to the audio and the narrator just did a great job of portraying this or if it’s because this was a reread, but I realized this time just how disillusioned and kind of downtrodden Simon already was at the start. The author really did a great job showing how messed up his life was, the poverty he lived in, how Watford brought him the only stability he had, and the lack of any real parental or guardian figures in his life. The way he thought and talked, his character voice, as well as the great way the audio narrator brought it to life, was so natural and further portrayed his struggles and emotional state.
All the characters were well-written and distinct though. Each had their own struggles. It was just that the portrayal of Simon really shone, and I felt the worst for him.
I also realized how much this book explores the potential darker side of the “chosen one” trope and how being the chosen one impacted the life and emotions of not only Simon but also everyone around him. All the pressure that was put on children/teens and all the roles they were assigned before they were old enough to even fully grasp the ramifications—to save the world, or to be there for the person saving the world, or to kill him. Simon felt isolated and like a failure and like he had no future or purpose beyond this one thing. Baz felt torn between love and family. Agatha felt trapped in a relationship. Penelope was constantly being swept up into trouble.
I wasn’t at all bothered by the multiple POVs or the pacing this time.
I enjoyed the audiobook narration by Euan Morton. He sounded natural and brought the characters to life well. Character voices weren’t super different, but they were just different enough that I could usually tell who was speaking, and female voices were pretty good.
Overall, a wonderful book.
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).