Staff Picks: Wayward Son

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Thursday, March 18, 2021

Euan Morton’s narration is like being witness to the best one-man play ever

I loved this. I seem to be in the minority with this opinion, or at least among the people I know, and I understand (and agree with) their arguments: Wayward Son doesn’t have much of a plot. It’s slow-moving. Simon and Baz’s relationship has gone from hot and sweet to barely-there. Compared to Carry On, it feels almost unrecognizable. All of this is true, and I think my advantage is that I had been forewarned about it. My expectations had already been adjusted. I also knew, going in, that a third book would follow, which helps put Wayward Son firmly into “second novel” context.
Also, Euan Morton’s narration is like being witness to the best one-man play ever, so that definitely helped. I wouldn’t be half so charmed if I hadn’t listened to this as an audiobook, I think.
So, I get it. I really do. After they save the magical world from the Insidious Humdrum, Simon, (depressed) Baz, (hesitant) and Penny (desperate to do something, anything) take on a road trip across America. Ostensibly to visit Agatha, who now lives in California.
And that’s the plot. You’d think a TON would happen, but things sort of meander along at a slow pace. It’s all a bit...humdrum. (Sorry, couldn’t help myself.) Eventually, a band of vampires is revealed, and stuff really starts happening once the friends get to Las Vegas, but it’s little, and it's late in the game.
But...I was okay with that. I knew what to expect, so I wasn’t expecting anything. Instead, I loved the character exploration. Penny, in particular, has some growing to do, and with the arrival of Shepherd, a “normal” American, she’s forced to look at some prejudices she has. In turn, Shepherd is forced to examine the costs of his own relentless curiosity. (I totally shipped them, and I’m hoping for more of these two challenging each other in the third book.) I liked how Simon has to deal with the after-effects of being the hero. I liked how Baz has a lot to learn about himself, including his being a vampire. I thought the book was a thoughtful look at depression, and how relationships take both communication and introspection. I could have definitely used more moments between the two of them, but I think those will come fast and furious, and in all kinds of beautiful ways, in the third installment.
Wayward Son wasn’t a delightful trip to Watford School of Magic. It’s basically a long and careful set-up for the rest of the story, and it’s not exactly gripping. But I loved how deeply it went with each character questioning themselves.
Have I also mentioned how much I loved Euan Morton’s narration? Oh my god. It’s so good. His North American accent is pretty perfect, except for the occasional dropped “r.” Chapter Sixteen (Baz’ unamused list of Things He Hates About American Road Trips) alone is worth listening to the entire book for (Submitted by Veronica).

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