Monday, August 1, 2016

Book Review: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany, & Jack Thorne


Title: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (Harry Potter #8)
Author: J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany, & Jack Thorne
Publication Date: July 31, 2016
Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books
Pages: 320
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Based on an original new story by J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne and John Tiffany, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, a new play by Jack Thorne, is the first official Harry Potter story to be presented on stage. It will receive its world premiere in London’s West End on 30th July 2016

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.

When it was first announced that the script for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child would be published as a book, I was really skeptical. Not only because I don't usually read scripts, but also because the script was not written by Rowling herself. (Rather, it was "based on an original story" by J.K. Rowling.) When it came right down to it, though, I knew I had to have a copy of the eight installment of Harry's story. So I grabbed my Ravenclaw robe and my wand and headed to the midnight release party. Over the next few hours I binge read all 320 pages and... well, now I have feelings.

This story picks up 19 years after Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, right at the same place as the original series' epilogue. Harry and Ginny are married with three children: James, Albus, and Lily. The Cursed Child is entirely about Albus, though. The other two are barely mentioned. Of course, Ron and Hermione are also married with children of their own. When this story begins, Albus and Rose, Ron and Hermione's daughter, are beginning their first year at Hogwarts. The nostalgia is back immediately upon reading this very familiar scene, but from there things advance at a breakneck speed.

There are several new characters in The Cursed Child, but the most important ones are Albus and Scorpius, Draco Malfoy's son, who become fast friends in much the same way as Harry, Ron, and Hermione did in The Sorcerer's Stone. I really enjoyed both these new characters and loved the relationship between the two of them! While Albus struggles with living up to the Potter name throughout this book, Scorpius has terrible rumors to contend with, and their similar trials bring the two unlikely friends closer together. One character I didn't much care for was Rose. I wonder if the writers were trying to throw back to how unlikable Hermione was in the first book when they wrote Rose's character, but she didn't work for me at all.

Old characters obviously have a huge part as well, but it seems as if all of them have become extreme versions of their original characters. For example, Ron is basically the comic relief of the play. There is actually a scene in which Ron, attempting to be threatening, holds his wand facing the wrong way toward a perceived enemy. Hermione is extremely logical, sometimes to the point of being rude. Then there's Harry, the overworked Ministry employee. I'll come right out and say it: I didn't like Harry in this play at all. He was uncharacteristically mean to pretty much everyone. I did love seeing Draco again, though!

I mentioned before that the plot itself moves extremely fast and that was another of my problems with this. I suspect it would work better as a play with more time between scenes, more time for characters to speak lines, etc. Unfortunately, this script is all a lot of us have and I feel that it should work just as well on paper since it's being sold for $30. Instead it felt like a lot of fan service and throwbacks to the original series crammed into a two part play.

Don't get me wrong, the nostalgia was there and it was a fun read at times! I liked getting to see the old gang back together and there were some fun surprises, but there were times I had a hard time accepting that this is canon. There were plot holes and inconsistencies and downright weird bits that seemed totally random. I can't say much about the plot without spoiling it and I definitely think that everyone should go in as spoiler free as I did. Click below if you want to see some of my spoilery complaints:

Trolley Witch - What even is this? Never has there been any mention of the Trolley Witch being some kind of 200 year old mystical being with weaponized hands who makes sure kids stay on the train! Whose idea was this because I cannot believe J.K. Rowling did this.

Time turner inconsistencies - This is one I've seen a lot of discussion about around the interwebs and I still don't know what to think. Time turners were a huge part of The Prisoner of Azkaban and I'm having a hard time accepting the way this device is used in the plot of The Cursed Child.

Harry is an asshole - Excuse my French, but who is this Harry? He certainly isn't the character we all came to know and love over the course of seven books and eight films. Harry would not tell his child he wished he wasn't his dad and Harry wouldn't be a jerk to Professor McGonagall.

Voldemort/Bellatrix love child - Um... why? How? WHEN? This is honestly one of the worst plot devices ever. It reads like bad fan fiction and that makes me sad.

No Luna/Neville - Seriously though! Where are they?? There are appearances by almost every other major character in the original series and there's barely a mention of Neville and Luna may as well not exist.

One other thing I need to mention is the setting and there isn't much of it that's new. All the familiar places from the original series are revisited from Hogwarts to the Ministry of Magic to the Forbidden Forest. Obviously, there isn't much room for description in a script, but I had hoped for some new Wizarding World magic to be introduced instead of rehashing every location of the trio's old stomping grounds.

It's not that I hated The Cursed Child. In fact, I actually did enjoy most of my time reading it! But at the end of the day, I expected this to be so much more and, actually, so much less. There was too much crammed into such a short book and much of what was there just seemed like fan service. I am glad that I read it and do think that any Harry Potter fan should read it too, simply because J.K. Rowling signed off on it, but it is definitely not up to par with the previous seven books.