Words cannot express how much I love these characters. But I will try.
Name: Any Way The Wind Blows
Author: Rainbow Rowell
Published: 6th July 2021
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.
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 a cursed American Normal into London, and now she isn’t sure what to do with him. And Agatha? Well, Agatha Wellbelove has had enough.
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.
If you’ve missed my other rants, Carry On is one of my favourite books. I’ve poured my heart into these characters since I first lost myself in the series (Carry On, then Wayward Son, then this one) and I could hardly believe that my most anticipated read of the last two years was finally in my hands.
In other words, expectations were high.
Any Way The Wind Blows was promising us a lot, and when reviewing a book I like to hold blurbs accountable. To start, the book certainly ‘takes the gang back to England’. Whilst Wayward Son had expanded the World Of Mages internationally, this delved into the engineering of the world, answering loopholes I could otherwise see being debated on Reddit forums in years to come. There’s a circular structure about the whole series, and even the settings of this final book, which I thought fitted in with the idea of ‘catharsis and closure’. It weaves references from previous books and chapters that make you smile in recognition.
Next: ‘It lays ghosts to rest’. Tick! Lady Salisbury gives me LIFE. Then, it certainly gave Simon and Baz time to sort out their relationship. My biggest irritation the first time I read Carry On was the point of view switches during what feels like the best scenes. I was worried that would happen again, but we had 60 pages purely of Simon and Baz’s povs and I loved it.
“I thought we had the sort of love that you can’t set down or walk away from. An undying fire. The love you hear about in the old stories.
No one told Simon Snow the old stories.”– ANY WAY THE WIND BLOWS
When you’ve got so much expectation riding on a book, and you really don’t want it to be bad, it can be easier to gloss over anything that doesn’t satisfy you. Especially when you spent lots of money on the fancy Waterstones version. I think Any Way The Wind Blows will be criticised for will be a) not being necessary and b) having a weak plot – both things that I’ve considered.
But, a) I think it was necessary. If not just so Wayward Son’s cliffhanger ending could be resolved (Rowell did not need to do us that dirty!). We also got Shepard’s last name! I’ve always had a soft spot for Agatha and I liked seeing her get her own ending, even if it felt a bit like a convenience . This book was necessary because it tied up a lot of loose ends, loopholes (have to save those Reddit communities the pain) and gave the characters time to sort themselves out.
But did it tie all the loose ends? From the blurb, I got the impression that there would be much more explanation into vampires; into everything we learned from Wayward Son. Any Way The Wind Blows is certainly the ‘longest adventure yet’ but in reference to b) having a weak plot… it can seem like a little happens in nearly 600 pages. Some of the scenes feel repetitive. Carry On is 500 pages and AWTWB seems pale in plot comparison.
However, I actually prefer Wayward Son over Carry On. It’s close. Carry On is better the first time around, but Wayward Son is the type of book you can read over and over and find new details each time. Sometimes that means they aren’t as well received because people don’t want to read them again.s I think this finale is similar, more quietly groundbreaking.
I guess you shouldn’t have reread a book to get the best experience – but I think that’s how this series works. I’ll always love it for such a different take on the Chosen One story; showing how every Harry Potter character should be crippled with PTSD (and ridiculously queer); and how the apex of a story isn’t always this massive moment. What comes after that apex too. Every book is devastating, funny, romantic break down of sexual, class and cultural identity. But if you were looking for a plot-twisty, swashbuckling adventure in AWTWB, you might be disappointed. It’s quieter than that.
Before reading, make sure you check the Trigger Warnings because it unpacks a range. Another thing to keep in mind: the characters are getting older so AWTWB veers away slightly from Young Adult. If you want more of my ramblings about this gorgeous series, check out my review of Fangirl here, my soundtrack for if Carry On was a movie here and my initial thoughts on the AWTWB cover here.
Have you read this? Read any others in the series? Got any other thoughts on it? Let me know in the comments!