Book Review: Any Way the Wind Blows by Rainbow Rowell

“An ending about endings.” That is the way that the dust jacket synopsis describes Any Way the Wind Blows, the finale to the Simon Snow trilogy. Endings are typically bitter sweet for me, but in Any Way the Wind Blows, Rainbow Rowell managed a conclusion that was satisfying in all the right ways. Note: Spoilers ahead for the entire Simon Snow Trilogy. You can read my spoiler-free review of book one, Carry On, here.

About the Book

In Carry On, Simon Snow and his friends realized that everything they thought they understood about the world might be wrong. And in Wayward Son, they wondered whether everything they understood about themselves might be wrong.

In Any Way the Wind Blows, Simon and Baz and Penelope and Agatha have to decide how to move forward.

For Simon, that means deciding whether he still wants to be part of the World of Mages — and if he doesn’t, what does that mean for his relationship with Baz? Meanwhile Baz is bouncing between two family crises and not finding any time to talk to anyone about his newfound vampire knowledge. Penelope would love to help, but she’s smuggled an American Normal into London, and now she isn’t sure what to do with him. And Agatha? Well, Agatha Wellbelove has had enough.

Any Way the Wind Blows takes the gang back to England, back to Watford, and back to their families for their longest and most emotionally wrenching adventure yet.

This book is a finale. It tells secrets and answers questions and lays ghosts to rest.

Carry On was conceived as a book about Chosen One stories; Any Way the Wind Blows is an ending about endings. About catharsis and closure, and how we choose to move on from the traumas and triumphs that try to define us. (via Goodreads)

Review

In Any Way the Wind Blows, Rainbow Rowell is grappling with an aftermath that is often left in the dark and unexplored in young adult fantasy novels. She examines what happens when the supposed Chosen One is not the actually the one and done hero, and how that Chosen One struggles with the fallout and feelings of insecurity that he’s left with. While Wayward Son was the upbeat detour of the series, Any Way the Wind Blows is a more grounded yet capricious sequel that had me feening for more after each chapter.

In this book, Rowell continues to showcase her skill of diving straight into the particulars of the characters. This finale wasn’t flailing to piece together an overarching plot across the three installments that was beyond Simon’s character growth and his changing dispositions–and how it affected those closest to him. This series is so invested in answering its own posed questions about trauma and how complex magical societies should be that there isn’t really room for much else, and I loved that. The Simon Snow trilogy is a series that knows what it wants to be; it’s slick and humorous, but also extremely heartfelt, characteristics of what I can only assume are those of the most beloved fan fictions out there.

Though I know that this series isn’t a direct fanfic of Harry Potter, I couldn’t help but feel the parallels and commentary in this final book. Simon is truly struggling without his central purpose in this installment as new “chosen ones” begin to pop up and seemingly play the part better than he ever did. I loved that Rainbow Rowell didn’t shy away from allowing Simon to believe in this new chosen one, and didn’t frame his faith as a misstep, but a necessary part of his healing journey. Simon is left searching for answers in a world that can provide him none (or even more so, in a world that thought he was the answer), so his belief served to humanize him on a new level. Simon is confused and it affects both his relationship with Baz as well as his friendship with Penelope, so I was fully tuned in as a reader to see how these connections would get worked out.

And while the relationships do get patched up, and Simon learns that there’s nothing wrong with there not being a Chosen One, the novel’s ending is still subtle and open-ended. Rowell isn’t invested tying up the three books with a bow. Instead, she leaves the characters in a “happy for now” state of being that undermines the notion of the “happily ever after” being the ultimate conclusion. Simon and the gang are healing each at their own pace and on their respective timelines. It’s the perfect ending to a series that handled its characters with such care and sincerity.

Overall, this was a rock-solid finale. The Simon Snow trilogy is such a well-crafted meditation on the Chosen One trope as well the limitations that the fantasy genre often sets for itself. With this series, Rainbow Rowell shattered the glass ceiling and made a fantasy trilogy that was self-reflective, fast-paced, and extremely earnest. It’s truly one of a kind.

My Ratings

Grade Scale

Star Scale

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