This starts out as pure fan fiction – the author has Rowling’s orphaned hero, a wizarding school, the trio of comrades, the schoolboy arch nemesis with the widow’s peak, and a mysterious villain. She also takes on LeGuin’s power of words. The first many chapters led this reader to feel underwhelmed. But then! Rowell’s writing really comes into its own when she finally allows her twist on the theme to come to the fore – the brilliance and sarcasm of powerful spells made from pop songs and jingles, and the beauty of spells made from the most powerful sources: nursery rhymes. For me, the action never quite got up to speed; the wider story of the Mages’ War hardly seemed to matter. The heart of Carry On is its love story, and that was wonderful, beautiful, delirious.