I’m not sure whether you’re aware of the fact, but the eighth Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (Parts I & II) was released last week. I had already made the decision not to rush out and buy it, being content to wait until I was in a Potterish sort of mood to invite it into the Shelfish circle….and THEN…a hefty package arrived at the door from Hachette Australia containing the very tome that others were scratching their eyes out to read! I must convey the Shelf’s deepest thanks to Hachette for sending us a copy of this massively coveted book.
Of course, all thoughts of waiting for the right mood flew out the window and I flew into the story, finishing it in just a few short sittings. I pondered how I was possibly going to be able to review it for you without spoiling it for those who haven’t yet read it, and I have decided that I will structure my review as an interview with myself, so that if a question looks a bit spoilery for your tastes, you can skip over that bit. Before we crack on, here’s the blurb from Goodreads:
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.
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.
And now, I give you: Bruce’s thoughts on Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (etc, etc)!
“What should Potter fans be prepared for before launching into this addition to the series? How does it differ from the previous novels?”
The most important difference I noticed when reading this was the fact that, as it isn’t a novel but rather a play script, the story misses all the imagery from the previous novels. Apart from a few stage notes, the action takes place entirely in dialogue, and this can take a while to get used to and feel quite bereft of substance. Also, the main characters in this story are Harry’s and Draco’s children and if you haven’t read Deathly Hallows for a while, it can be a bit tricky to remember who belongs to who. I had some trouble with characters referring to Harry’s children Lily and James, because my mind went straight to Harry’s parents out of force of habit.
“Since this wasn’t written solely by Jo, does it feel like a real Harry Potter book?”
Yes…..and no. There were moments when I was reading that I was whisked back to that feeling I had when reading the original stories for the first time. The world, the characters, everything felt just as it always had been. For most of the book though, certain things felt….a bit off. I’m not sure whether this had to do with the fact that this was a play script rather than a novel, or the fact that I was journeying with new characters, or the fact that it wasn’t a “Jo” book, or a combination of the three.
“Tell us about the new characters”
The main story revolves around Albus (Harry’s younger son) and Scorpius (Draco’s only son) who, surprisingly, become friends. Rose (Ron and Hermione’s daughter) read a bit like a hardcore, slightly more uppity version of Hermione. There is also another new character named Delphi who becomes friends with the two main lads.
“Which familiar characters make an appearance?”
Harry, obviously, who is now the Head of Magical Law Enforcement at the Ministry of Magic. Hermione, who is now the Minister for Magic. Ron, who now runs Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes. Ginny, who now edits the sports pages of the Daily Prophet. Professor McGonagall (hooray!) who is Headmistress of Hogwarts. Bane, the centaur (who is still a complete asshat). The trolley witch from the Hogwarts Express. Dumbledore (in painted form). Then….*possible spoilers here*…Amos Diggory (Cedric’s father), Severus Snape and Old Mouldy Shorts himself.
“Was it as great as you expected it to be?”
I certainly didn’t hate it. But I definitely didn’t love it, or even get anywhere near as excited as I did about the any of the previous books.
After putting the book down, apart from thinking, “Well, that was a reasonably entertaining way to spend a few hours!” the story made no impression on me whatsoever. After having reflected on it for a day, I really wonder why JK allowed this to go out as the eighth story because absolutely nothing important happens. There is no Wow! factor in either the characters or the action. Nothing significant is revealed or undertaken. It would probably be an exciting play to watch, but in terms of plot, it’s fairly forgettable. Not to mention a bit convoluted. And more than a little ridiculous in places.
“What’s your problem, Bruce? Are you seriously telling me there’s something wrong with this story?” **Possible spoilers here!***
Not wrong, exactly, just….a bit boring and forgettable really. Some of the magic was gone. The charm. The fun. The ...MAGIC.
And some of the characters were….well, take Ron for instance. Ron seemed to be included simply as comic relief. I know in the earlier books he’s a bit goofy and bumbling at times, but in this book there doesn’t seem to be a line of dialogue where Ron isn’t making an inane comment. This, it must be said, is probably quite disappointing for Ron fans. Snape, who makes a brief appearance, was practically unrecognisable from his former incarnation, which was massively upsetting for me, as Snape is clearly the greatest character in the series by a country mile. Even Hermione seemed a shadow of her former self.
And as for the new characters, Scorpius was …nice. Kind. Forgiving. Funny. In reasonably good mental health. With a reasonably good self-image. I know kids can be different from their parents, but it seemed to me a bit of a stretch that Draco Malfoy, himself a traumatised child, would be able, in an atmosphere of post-war backlash, to manage to raise such a well-balanced child.
There were multiple times when I felt like I had somehow got a copy of the script for Back to the Future II bound up in my book, because a lot of the story seemed to be inspired by that very movie. Don’t get me wrong, we Shelf denizens are MASSIVE B2tF fans from way back, but a HP/B2tF mashup is something I’ve never desired to see in the slightest. I suppose I’m saying that some parts of the plot descended into the ridiculous and unlikely, which was more than a little disappointing because even though infused with magic, the events of the previous books always had the ring of authenticity (or at least purpose) about them.
“If they haven’t already, do you recommend that Potter fans snag a copy of this book?”
Yeeeeeeeeeeeees. Yes. I think they probably should. Simply to satisfy their own curiosity about it.
“So will you be snuggling this one on the shelf next to your hardback copies of the rest of the series?”
Erm. No. I don’t think I will. In fact, I think I’m going to purge this one from my memory as soon as possible. It didn’t pass muster for me, and actually taints the memories I have of characters from the previous books, so I have decided to become one of those annoying people who doesn’t accept bits of the story that they didn’t enjoy as canon.
“If you could sum up Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (etc, etc) in one sentence, what would you say?”
It is an entertaining way to spend a few hours on a lazy afternoon, but not in keeping with the depth of atmosphere, emotion and growth that was present in the prior books.
So there you have it. I’m sorry if I have disappointed you by being disappointed with this latest HP offering, but I feel I must be true to my stony, only slightly magical heart. Have you read this one yet? Do you intend to? If you have read it, what did you think? (No spoilers!).
Thanks again to Hachette Australia for providing us with a copy of the book for review.
Until next time,