Book Review: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

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Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by Jack Thorne

2/5 stars

I did not plan on reading this any time soon. As you may know, it was not on my scheduled Summer Reading List and all the negative and positive hype around the play had me worried and ready to wait until the noise had died down. But. It is Harry Potter and the idea of new information on these fictional characters I love so much was powerful and I found myself a hundred pages in the night of the book’s release.

This is a hard review to write. I loved reading the play, because of the excitement of learning more about Harry, Hermione, Ron, and co. But, the play was not good and that was really sad.

Part of me thinks that this story was doomed from inception, that it would inevitably read as fan fiction, and possibly bad fan fiction. I mean, first we have a new writer (which is pretty much the definition of fan fic). Second, we have a new medium. I love plays. I love seeing plays and I also enjoy reading them. But Harry Potter has never been written as a play before and the way the play was written (visions of the past, clips of old moments, time travel and rewriting previous scenes), coupled with the fact that as a play, we lost a narrative voice and an insight into the story that goes past character’s lines and brief actions, lead to me feeling as if this play was the most basic form of gratuitous fan fiction coupled with a bad storyline.

Spoilers will follow:

I love Severus Snape for his flaws and his sacrifice and Cedric Diggory for his bravery. I love James and Lily Potter for their love and perpetual youth. That being said, the time travel in this play felt like a cheap plot device used so that the fans could see their fan favorites again and this smorgasbord of pandering would have been so much better off it had instead focused on developing new characters, enriching old characters, and remaining routed in the present and the issues that the son of Harry Potter.

The characters were also something I had an issue with. Ginny has basically no personality. We’re told that she’s a mother and a wife and she worries about Albus. Hermione has lost her depth. Ron is a caricature of his movie-self (and this play is so focused on best friend brotherhood, so where is the depth to Ron and Harry’s friendship?). And I’m sorry, but I do not believe this characterization of Harry Potter as a father who has failed his son. Harry Potter was an outcast and even when he had a hero’s life and responsibilities thrust upon him, he was an outsider with the weight of the world on his shoulder. I do not believe that he would have not put a 100% into developing relationships with his children, especially when Albus was viewed as the outsider of his family. All Harry wanted was a family and to belong, and I cannot believe in a Harry who would not understand Albus’ pain (the fact that Harry recognizes this at the end of Albus’ school days is too damn late for me to believe). Dumbledore breaking down in tears as a portrait was also a strange thing for me to picture.

I’m going to have trouble viewing this storyline as canon. I guess because of all the time rewriting, I just have to know that: Super Spoilers: Harry’s second son was different, a Slytherin, and he had a bad relationship with Harry up until his last few years of school, and that Bellatrix had sex with Voldemort (What?!) and their daughter is now locked up. Also, Albus is besties with Draco’s nice son. The rest I’m going to just let fade away. Except for Snape. It was fan junk but Snape allowing himself to not exist again in order to right his mistakes was the only part I loved.

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