Thursday, July 29, 2021

‘Any Way the Wind Blows’ Review: A Perfect Ending to the Simon Snow Trilogy

Back in 2013, two characters were born on the pages of author Rainbow Rowell’s contemporary young adult novel Fangirl — Simon Snow and Tyrannus Basilton “Baz” Grimm-Pitch. What began as a small story within a story eventually took on a life of its own, and thus the Simon Snow series came to life with Carry On in 2015.

Six years and many adventures later, we now bid a bittersweet farewell to this beloved trilogy with its final chapter: Any Way the Wind Blows. Fresh out of the oven from their dangerous and daring adventures in America, the book finds Simon, Baz, Penny, Agatha, and Shepherd back in the UK with a laundry list of problems to take care of.

Any Way the Wind Blows is a thick book in comparison to its middle predecessor, Wayward Son, and that’s for good reason. This is an ending that’s full of answers, loose threads tied off, and a platter of satisfying conclusions.

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Warning: Spoilers for Any Way the Wind Blows to follow.

My immediate thoughts upon turning the final page of Any Way the Wind Blows were that I felt completely and entirely emotionally flayed … but in the best way possible. Rowell has spent years building up to the events of this book, and finally seeing them all play out feels like a metaphorical dam of feelings is bursting open and spilling out inside of you.

In Carry On, we spent a lot of time getting to know everyone through Rowell’s use of ever-shifting character perspectives. It works so well for this series (I honestly can’t imagine reading this story only from Simon’s perspective. I need Baz’s lovesick pining and Penny’s snappy commentary like I need air.), but it also means that most of the first impressions of Baz and Simon were painted through the eyes of a pair of enemies-to-lovers who had yet to reach the lovers stage. Or even the friends stage, for that matter. And then a cavernous chasm opened up between them throughout Wayward Son after their brief honeymoon period. Any Way the Wind Blows finally delivers all of the beautiful, wonderful, soft, heartbreaking, tearful, incredible (and dare I say spicy) Simon and Baz moments that we’ve all been patiently waiting for.

Simon and Baz both feel so wonderfully fleshed out and characterized after all that we’ve seen them through. They still hold fast to the important roots of their relationship, but their combative and uncertain edges with one another have finally softened into something comfortable and beautiful. Snarky comments are punctuated with kisses and certainty, rather than raised wands and fists. Whereas Wayward Son was very much a cross-country adventure that feelings had to take a back seat to, emotions are entirely at the forefront of Any Way the Wind Blows.

“I know I’ll never love anyone like I love Baz. I know he’s the love of my life. Of all my lives. The Mage believed in reincarnation. Of a thousand lives stacked up on top of each other.” – Simon

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Rowell’s writing style and her distinct voice are what immediately drew me in to this series in the first place, but she really cracked into an entirely new narrative plane of wonder this time around. It goes without saying that anyone that’s read the previous two books has uttered aloud, “Please, talk about your feelings. I beg of you,” no less than 50 times in reference to Simon and Baz. Rowell heard us loud and clear, and boy did these two talk. (And they did a lot of other new things, too, actually.) Reading these two baring their souls to one another is like having all of the air sucked out of your lungs, and when it comes rushing back in, you’re left gasping for breath. But you can’t get enough of it.

“I can touch you less gently, but I won’t love you less kindly.” – Baz

There’s such a delicate, passionate, and raw rhythm to the way that Rowell writes moments between Simon and Baz, and in this book, more than ever. It was particularly satisfying to see the way that Simon’s struggles with intimacy with Baz were fleshed out and explained in such a delicate, sensitive, and patient manner. Further to that, it was also important and validating to see Baz and Simon return to the conversation about Simon’s sexuality to truly cement the fact that he doesn’t find the need to label himself period (and that’s perfectly okay.)

Simon and Baz may be the main players of these books, but Rowell has also established a beloved supporting cast of friends to their adventures. (Though is it more appropriate to call them near-death excursions?) Thankfully, Penny and Shepherd finally found their footing with one another after an immensely enjoyable journey to free the Normal of his impending demonic nupitals. And Agatha found the happiness she truly deserves — both with a woman (!) (a dozen roses to Rowell for this lovely storyline) and with the goats of Watford.

Rowell’s choice to save the reveal of Simon’s parentage until the very end packed a brilliantly emotional (I may or may not have burst into tears as soon as he grabbed the sword) punch to bring the series to a close. While there are devastating and painful truths that come with this new knowledge, it’s beyond comforting that Simon not only has the support of his found family, but he now has real, living blood family as well. One that’s welcomed him with lovingly open arms and endless sandwiches and cake. (He wouldn’t have it any other way.)

The months and days leading up to the release of Any Way the Wind Blows, and even the final moments before I finally cracked open the book, left me wrestling with an inner turmoil — both over saying goodbye to Simon, Baz, and their magical world, and fear of having concocted far too many expectations for the ending of a trilogy that’s so near and dear to my heart. But not only did this book meet all of them, it simply blew them all out of the water. It’s plain to see that Rowell poured her heart and soul into Any Way the Wind Blows, and the final product is better than I could have ever imagined.

So thank you, Rainbow, for letting all of us Normals take a peek into your witty, wonderful World of Mages and sharing some of the magic.

Any Way the Wind Blows is now available to purchase.

Make sure to check out our 2021 Pride Month Spotlight on Simon and Baz.

1 COMMENT

  1. Great review!! Carry On is probably one of my favorite series and I think you did a brilliant job of describing it. Ahhhh I totally agree with so many things you said – there were some scenes that were almost painful to read and whilst I really liked hearing the accumulation of penny and agatha’s stories they were definitely less interesting than baz and Simons? And I don’t know if I just read it too quickly haha but the ending felt very abrupt. But *apart from that* I think that it definitely lived up to my (pretty high) expectations. You can check out my review here ☺️ https://hundredsandthousandsofbooks.blog/2021/07/27/spoiler-free-review-any-way-the-wind-blows/

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Lindsey
Lindsey joined the Nerds and Beyond team in 2018. She has spent a large portion of her life dedicated to her first love, photography. When she's not behind the camera, she's likely reading books and comics or dabbling in creative writing. Otherwise, she's probably yelling about something Star Wars or Marvel related on Twitter @lindyysolo. Contact: lindsey@nerdsandbeyond.com

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