Thursday, September 29, 2016

Cursed Child is a fun read, but lacks that Harry Potter magic

Title: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Parts One and Two (Harry Potter #8)
Authors: J. K. Rowling, John Tiffany, Jack Thorne
Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books
Publication Date: July 31st 2016 (Good planning on somebody's part)
Number of Pages: 327

What Goodreads has to say:

The Eighth Story. Nineteen Years Later.

Based on an original new story by J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne and John Tiffany, a new play by Jack Thorne, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is the eighth story in the Harry Potter series and the first official Harry Potter story to be presented on stage. The play will receive its world premiere in London’s West End on July 30, 2016 [why not July 31st?].

It was always difficult being Harry Potter and it isn’t much easier now that he is an overworked employee of the Ministry of Magic, a husband and father of three school-age children.

While Harry grapples with a past that refuses to stay where it belongs, his youngest son Albus must struggle with the weight of a family legacy he never wanted. As past and present fuse ominously, both father and son learn the uncomfortable truth: sometimes, darkness comes from unexpected places.

What I have to say:

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is a great read: fun, exciting, and very sweet in places. 

But it's not the Harry Potter I know.

One of the reasons for that may be that, although J. K. Rowling's name appears larger than anyone else's on the cover of the book, she didn't actually write it, as you'll discover on closer inspection. The book, or script if you prefer - since it is really a script in book form - is "based on an original new story by J. K. Rowling, John Tiffany & Jack Thorne" but the actual playwright is John Thorne, not Rowling. And while Thorne is clearly a talented writer, I don't think he knows either the characters or the world of Harry Potter as well as Rowling does.

I'll start with the bad, so we can end on a good note.

*********************WARNING: SPOILERS********************

(I don't think I give away anything major, certainly not "the big secret" (#KeepTheSecrets) but if you want to be completely surprised, maybe you should go read the book and come back to this review afterward.)


To cut to the chase, I was disappointed that this story once again revolved around Harry and Voldemort. We had seven books about that, and yes, they were awesome, but now I think it's time to move on. Harry works at the Ministry of Magic; there are endless story possibilities there. We don't have to go back over that old territory for the eighth time: we can be more creative than that, and honestly, there's so much to work with in the world of Harry Potter. Constructing a plot around Cedric Diggory, Harry Potter, and Voldemort, especially when you have the whole of the wizarding world to choose from, feels like a cop out. It's redundant.

But aside from just simple redundancy, here's the thing that probably bothered me the most about the whole rehashing of the Chosen One/Harry vs. Voldemort plot line: You all remember that last sentence from The Deathly Hallows? Who doesn't? In fact, when I Google "last sentence" the first result that comes up is "of Harry Potter":
The scar had not pained Harry for nineteen years. All was well.
So I have a great idea: let's totally disregard this wonderful last line of the book that made Harry Potter fans all over the world cry tears of joy, and let's change it so Harry has pain again and everything's definitely not well, 'cause I don't think he deserves to have a happy, carefree life after those 18 years of torture.

These are not my sentiments, but they are those, apparently, of Jack Thorne, or whoever was responsible for this plot point.

In one scene of The Cursed Child, Harry wakes up after a nightmare about Voldemort and finds that his scar is hurting. If this isn't the worst decision in the world on the part of the script-writers, I don't know what is. It only completely undermines the entire series and voids the closing moment of the very last book. I'll admit that it makes sense for Harry to still have occasional nightmares about Voldemort - I mean I still have nightmares about high school sometimes, and I'm pretty sure Voldemort's way more traumatic - but there's no excuse for making his scar hurt again.


Another thing that bugged me (I promise there were things in the book that I liked and will get to later) was character inconsistency. Now, I know people change when they get older, and sometimes you're a completely different person as a grown-up than you were as a teenager, but I honestly don't feel like some of the mainstay Harry Potter characters would have said and done the things that they said and did in this book. 

For one thing, it kind of makes Harry out to be a sucky father: even though (which is totally inconsistent) he tells his son that the bravest man he ever knew was in Slytherin and he'll be just as proud of his son no matter what house he's sorted into, he's clearly disappointed when his son is sorted into Slytherin. And he proceeds to have a lot of yelling matches with his son in which he insults him pretty profoundly. 

Now, I get that teenagers can be a pain in the rear, but even when he's driven to exasperation, this does not fit in with the kind, fearless, and unfailingly good Harry Potter that I thought I knew. I'm sure Harry wouldn't be the perfect father and I'm sure he'd make a lot of mistakes just like all parents do, but I don't feel like he'd make these kinds of mistakes or that he'd screw up this badly. Sure, he had an anger management problem when he was 15, but I'm pretty sure he got over it.

Also, I feel like Ron got short shrift. His character was basically reduced to a guy who tells bad jokes and eats constantly (and I mean constantly). I know Ron always liked food, and maybe that tendency increased as he got into middle-age, but there's a lot more to his character and I didn't feel like he ever got a chance to do anything important. There were a couple of moments with him and Hermione that were really sweet, and in those scenes his character came out a little more, but for the most part he came across as kind of lame, which is sad.

OK, let's move on to the good!


Scorpius is quite possibly the best part of the book. Despite being the son of Draco Malfoy, he's unfailingly loyal, downright hilarious, and at times very sweet. (Then again, maybe Draco had a sweet side that we never saw, I don't know.) What's more, Scorpius has integrity, and he's not afraid of anything. He's awesome.

Hermione is the Minister for Magic.

Yeah, it's pretty sweet.

At one point, Hermione is a rebel warrior.

Also pretty sweet. Obviously Jack Thorne likes Hermione. But then again, who doesn't?

Harry works out his differences with Draco Malfoy.

About time.

Harry has a long talk with Dumbledore.

A more accurate title for this book might have been: "Harry works out his differences with everyone, and people who never got any love are now appreciated." Speaking of which....

Severus Snape

Even though this part of the book was borderline sentimental/nostalgic/corny, I must admit that I enjoyed it.

Some great humor

I don't remember where in the book this was, but at one point I literally laughed out loud. There was a lot of fun humor in this story. I especially enjoyed the jokes about Voldemort's nose and Malfoy's hair, and how Jack Thorne kept playing around with J. K. Rowling's statement that she wished Ron and Hermione hadn't ended up together. She deserved that one.

Dumbledore wisdom

There was one paragraph in this book, spoken by Dumbledore (well, OK, his portrait) that was absolutely beautiful, so much so that I wonder if Thorne wrote it himself or if he asked Rowling for some Dumbledore wisdom, because I don't think anyone can write Dumbledore quite like J. K. Rowling.

Also, I LOVED it when Harry tells Ginny that he'd do anything for his son, Albus, and Ginny says, "Harry, you'd do anything for anybody. You were pretty happy to sacrifice yourself for the world." It's funny and sad and beautiful and true.

And now I have a question:

Who is the cursed child of the title?

Is it Albus? Scorpius? Delphi? Harry? Cedric?

Any of these characters could vie for that title, which is pretty interesting. So maybe there's not one cursed child, but several. Food for thought. Should be a book-club discussion prompt.

At the end of the day, I really did enjoy reading this book (which I did in a 48-hour period). I'm sure it would be cool to see on stage, and maybe if I did see it on stage, I'd find that I liked it more. But I'm not going to consider this story Harry Potter canon - I'd rather think of it as an imaginative supposal: a fun story about the Harry Potter characters, but not something that actually happened.

This is the 21st century, post death-of-the-author; readers can make their own meanings. And that's what I'm going to do.

Until tomorrow.

No comments:

Post a Comment