Meta-slash fiction for jaded optimists.
Rowell pulls on a central thread of Fangirl (2013)—Cath’s fanfic epic of Simon Snow, the Chosen One and Mage's heir—and uses it to weave a tapestry of realigned affections and alliances. Deftly self-contained so that readers need not have read Fangirl to enjoy this tale, it will nonetheless appeal to Harry Potter fans sophisticated enough to recognize the fundamental tropes at work. Simon, an orphaned magician whose power is so immense that he is mostly inept at wielding it, returns to Watford School of Magicks for his final year of education in the magical arts. He has a talented, stalwart friend, a fascinatingly ambiguous foe, and a complicated, emotionally unavailable mentor. There is a great battle between good and evil. But there are also mobile phones, contemporary slang and pop-culture references, and gay romance. Rowell’s creation is less preoccupied with the trappings of wizard life than it is focused on the relationships of the characters. The narrative perspective, shifting among Simon and his supporters and opponents, gives voice to their deeper motivations and angst; the dialogue, both internal and external, is contemporary and occasionally profane, with an authentic level of teenage snark.
The novel playfully twists genre conventions—there are plenty of wink-wink, nudge-nudge moments to satisfy faithful fantasy readers—but it also stands alone as a modern bildungsroman. Carry on, Simon Snow. (author's note) (Fantasy. 14 & up)