Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling
Published July 31, 2016 by Scholastic
Other Books: Harry Potter, Casual Vacancy
Do we really need a synopsis here? Harry Potter. Nineteen years later. Aaahhhh...
SO JUDGING YOU
ALL OF MY THOUGHTS
The conflict I'm feeling right now is massive. This is the eighth Harry Potter book. The first Harry Potter book we've gotten in many, many years. So on one level, I loved it. But as a story - a coherent, interesting, well-crafted story - well, not so much. And it's killing me. That I could think less than stellar thoughts about a book with Harry Potter in it's title. But alas, I do. I'll note before I begin that none of my feelings are based on the format of the story. We knew it was going to be a play and I quite like plays, so despite the fact that the script format hinders what could have been a brilliant story, that's not my gripe. It's with the storytelling elements that The Cursed Child seems to fall apart at the seams.
The characters. THE CHARACTERS. In general, I am not happy. In fact, in some instances, I'm downright mad. Let's begin with the character I disliked the most: Harry. Of everything, this is the single most disappointing point of the book. My notes on his character legitimately read: "who are you even? this is NOT Harry Potter." There are some that may claim that time and experiences have changed him, but I'm not buying it. Nope. This is an entirely different person. About 25% in to the book, Harry and his son Albus are arguing, when Albus says one of those terrible things teenagers say and Harry responds in a way that is so utterly "not him" that it brought me to tears. Actual tears people. There is no way that the Harry Potter, orphan boy who spent a decade locked in a closet beneath the stairs in an abusive household as well multiple summers thereafter, would ever EVER in his life say something like this. Harry is sassy and flawed and moody and troubled, but just... no. NO.
To add insult to injury, the book then goes on to fudge multiple other characters in a way that would convince me they hadn't ever read the books. The Golden Trio? Ron? Look, I understand that this book is not about Ron, Harry and Hermione. Fine. But the dynamic between our favorites is completely just, off. Part of what made me love Harry Potter was how much these three genuinely love each other. They are each the most important people in each other's lives. And sure, marriage and family changes that, but I felt so little of the magic of their relationship in their moments together. And Ron? Goodness. In The Cursed Child, Ron is essentially reduced to the role of a side character, the comedic relief with zero ambition. What happened to my scared but brave little ginger who can play a mean game of wizard's chess and sacrifices himself for his friends? There are a few moments within the story where I thought "Won Won, is that you?" as glimpses of him popped up but those moments were few and far between.
While the Golden Trio fails to gleam and other characters are okay (like Hermione, Ginny, and Draco), it's with the "next generation" that The Cursed Child shines. Albus is Harry and Ginny's second son and despite his silly name (for the record, I still firmly believe he should be called "Rubeus Hagrid") and I liked his character. I mean, I didn't like him, like him. Albus was sort of a prat. But I understood him, he was authentic and I liked the idea of Harry Potter having a son who was so unlike him and none to happy about it. But it's Scorpius Malfoy that took this poor little story on his wings and soared. Words fail me when it comes to him. He's brilliant and so sweet and awkward and shy but still brave. And adorable and loving and desires to be accepted and only wants one friend in the world who understands him and doesn't judge him because he's a Malfoy, and when he gets that he's the cutest damn nugget in the entire world. I want to squish him and tell him that everything is going to be okay.
Aside from Scorpius, the plot saved this play, and not necessarily because it was brilliant, but rather because the nostalgia was reaaaaall and I loved it for that. It was not without it's faults, faults that had nothing to do with the format of the story and everything to do with a lack of understanding of the world and dare I say it, a lack of creativity in certain spots. There are two plot holes that are pretty gigantic and quite unbelievable and while it didn't break the story for me, they, along with the character issues, doc the book in my rating.
---- NOTE: THE NEXT TWO PARAGRAPHS ARE FULL OF SPOILERS! SKIP DOWN TO THE NOTECARD IF YOU HAVEN'T READ THIS BOOK ----
The plot of the play hinges on the presence of a secret Time Turner confiscated from a dark wizard, which our boys Scorpius and Albus then steal and go on a mission to save Cedric Diggory. Yes, that Cedric Diggory that died in the TriWizard Tournament. Yes, that same Cedric Diggory that died over 20 years ago. Now, those of us who are Potterheads can recognize two problems with this -- (1) altering the past can (and usually does) have dire consequences on the present, and (2) since when can we travel that far back? The answer to that second part? Never. If I'm not mistaken, Prisoner of Azkaban establishes that the Time Turner can only take you back a few hours. The inaccuracy in this major plot point threw the entire story into speculation for me. My other issue with the plot was the reveal that Delphi was Voldermort's child. *Screeching halt* Hold up. How? And I don't mean how as in where did Bellatrix and Voldemort find time to make and birth their evil spawn between her release from Azkaban and the Battle of Hogwarts (as is advanced by the plot). Valid, but I'm not even there. I mean how like there is no way ol' egg head Voldemort is even a remotely sexual human being. He shuts Bella down far too many times to insinuate that sort of relationship and regardless, he's too consumed with power to be anything but asexual. And let's not ignore the fact that homeboy didn't have a body until book five :\
These plot issues aside, I really loved traveling back to the TriWizard Tournament and watching how they effected the future by screwing with the past. Like I don't care how you get there, just get there if you can. The nostalgia was so strong, pulling us back into the world of the fourth book, a book that was both fun and (in retrospect) a pivotal turning point in the story. I constantly wondered where they'd go back to next, who we'd see again. I loved watching old favorites and enemies pop up, although I missed a few like Luna and Neville and Hagrid. When I got passed the weird use of the Time Turners, I let myself enjoy the interesting alternate universes their meddling creating, specifically the "what if the Dark Lord won?" scenario. These universes, despite having stark differences from their reality, were littered with enough similarities to make them enjoyable, like Snape still being Dumbledore's man, Hermione and Ron still being in love and Draco still going at it with Harry (loved that dueling scene!). And there's a portion I read through tear-filled eyes as Harry is forced to watch the death of his parents back in 1980 and my heart broke it half. Throughout the play, there were moments that are probably magical and heart-warming on stage like Hermione's enchanted bookshelf, Albus and Scorpius first meeting and the special moments of their friendship, the moment Draco admits that he's envious of the Trio's bond. I might have rated this story a 2.5 or 3 on its own, but moments like these absolutely save this book for me and combined with the nostalgia, I rated it at 4 stars.