Saturday, January 6, 2018

January 2018 Book Review: The Cursed Child


By J. K. Rowling, Jack Thorne, and John Tiffany

~Book Review~ 

*Warning! Major Spoilers Ahead!*

MULTITUDES SWARMED OVER THIS SCRIPT, eager to relive the magic and wonder of J.K. Rowling’s much beloved Harry Potter series. I still remember the day Book One hit the shelves of our classroom, and our 6th grade teacher read Chapter 1 to us. By that afternoon I had already checked out a copy from the library and devoured it page to page.

It had everything I enjoyed in a fantasy book back then. Sympathetic protagonist with tragic back story who may not be so ordinary? Check. A magic school with a hat that sorts you into houses? Awesome. A secret wizarding world hidden amongst the alleys of London where you can buy things like wands and owls? Double check. A nasty but oddly endearing school rival? Sign me up. Two loyal best mates to stick it to school rival and go on crazy adventures with you? I’m liking this. A Hagrid? Triple check. Don’t even get me started on the unpleasant but riveting antics of Snape!

Years later in England I may have been one of those ultra fans who dressed up like a witch to attend a Harry Potter release party for The Goblet of Fire. I let that slip to my spouse recently and he said with a look of terror: “You never told me this before we got married.”

Yeah, you’re stuck with me now, buddy.

So in today’s gritty surreal day and age where the times I could get lost in a Rowling book are a distant golden memory, I was guardedly cautious to read The Cursed Child. I finished it, too, in a day like I had The Sorcerer’s Stone.

Unfortunately it was for all the wrong reasons.

This is a play, so it is all dialogue based. I thought for Harry Potter I could handle that, but I realized the reason I fell in love with this wizarding world is because of the world-building. Each book would introduce something new, like the chocolate frogs, to gillyweed, to the Marauder’s Map, to the Whomping Willow, to time-turners for Hermoine to make it all of her classes, and it all left me thinking “Clever. That is so clever! Love it!”

This play is more of a homage to all of the past magical objects and plot devices of Rowling’s world but doesn’t introduce anything new (unless you count the Trolley Witch *shudders*). It focuses on family relationships for the Potters’ child Albus and Draco’s child Scorpius to learn that they are fine just the way they are.

Albus is having a woe-is-me crisis because he is the son of the legendary Harry Potter who ends up in Slytherin. (First world problems.) Scorpius is suffering as well under rumors that he is the son of Voldemort. In a well-intentioned attempt to change things for the better, they steal a time turner from the Ministry of Magic and go back in time to stop Voldemort from killing Cedric Diggory. Naturally, neither of this pair is Hermoine Granger, so they end up dooming the future to a number of frightful Voldemort eras until Albus and his father Harry can reconcile.

*Too* much is crammed in. Every character, even Ludo Bago, gets some dialogue time, and the result is that no character outside of Albus, Scorpius, and Harry feels developed. There is particularly a lack of Rose Granger-Weasley (hey, if they’re going to pay homage to everything from Polyjuice potion to dementors then might as well have a heroic trio). It felt like doing fan service to the events of the old series as a whole and every character gets their cameo—but the result is an oversimplified jumble of events rather than a cohesive story.

The villain (and I liked the idea of Voldemort having a daughter!) dampens the whole message of the play: that you have the freewill to choose who you want to be. Because of course, any child of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named must choose to be unequivocally evil. After we’ve seen that being in Slytherin doesn’t mean you’re destined to be a dark wizard and being the son of Draco Malfoy doesn’t mean you are a douche (love Draco’s growth, by the way! He felt more mature than Harry – fatherhood has been good for him!), then along comes Voldemort’s daughter and she is bad to the bone. (At one point, Albus tells Scorpius he can’t be the son of Voldemort because he can’t believe Voldemort would ever have a kind child, which is downer news for the all the Voldemort spawn wandering around out there). It would have more hit the message home and been entertaining if it was a villainous Hufflepuff on the loose. Or, for this story’s sake, an evil Gryffindor.

(Love that my computer spell check has all of the House names in its dictionary, by the way.)

Anyway, if you are going to read this play, which, if you grew up with Harry Potter and the gang, then you probably are, those are my fair warnings. Don’t expect too much. Don’t get too hung up on all the time travel inconsistencies. Don’t pout too much when your favorite character doesn’t get much stage time. Just absorb, smile at the witty lines, and take a moment to fondly remember the Triwizard Tournament, Diagon Alley, Hogwarts, Platform Nine and Three Quarters…then move on.   

Recommended for fans of: reminiscing about the good old Harry Potter days

Upcoming Book Review: For 2018, stay tuned for reads on new genres in addition to fantasy/paranormal including non-fiction!  

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