Written by Lauryn Smith
Nineties kids rejoice! Jack Thorne, with the help of J.K. Rowling and John Tiffany, has gifted us with a continuation of the “Harry Potter” series—but not in the way you would expect. The three chose to take the story to the stage. Lucky for those of us living in America, the script has been specially bound in book form. (Unfortunately, you can only see the theatrical production at the Palace Theatre in London.)
The next installment, titled “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child,” takes places 19 years after “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.” Instead of focusing on the titular character as in the first seven books, we now focus on his son, Albus Severus Potter. The young Potter, who is just beginning his studies at Hogwarts, struggles to live up to The Chosen One and his legacy in the wizarding community. To make matters worse, the Sorting Hat places Albus in the House of Slytherin.
After a dispute between son and father a few years later, Albus becomes fed up with perceived expectations, so he determines to have an impact of his own, despite his father’s ignorance and overprotection. What follows is an epic of good versus evil, light versus dark, that involves Cedric Diggory (yup), House drama, a forbidden Time-Turner and more. Past and present merge, family dynamics are explored, and potential catastrophic darkness looms.
Let’s set something straight from the get-go. This read is a screenplay, descriptions of characters, locations, actions and all. The story is therefore more superficial than the previous books in the series. The 300 pages are reflective of the length of the play, and the detailing is minimal. If you are not used to reading screenplays, you may be a bit disappointed with “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.”
If you are comfortable reading screenplays, though, then you will likely enjoy the book, even if only for nostalgia. In fact, nostalgia is actually what makes the book worth the read. “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” is quite different from the books preceding it. Whereas the original “Harry Potter” books are cherished by people of all ages, it seems as though the new story is geared toward a younger audience. Perhaps the disconnect is intentional, since the original seven “Harry Potter” books are already comprehensive, cohesive and satisfying.
The new story’s dialog is characteristically purposeful, meaningful and effortless. For example, the words of Dumbledore, or rather Dumbledore’s portrait, are once more profound: “There is never a perfect answer in this messy, emotional world. Perfection is beyond the reach of humankind, beyond the reach of magic… To suffer is as human as to breathe.” Classic Rowling. Despite being a work by multiple contributors, Rowling’s wonderful style is prominent.
Take the characterization, as well. We witness Albus settling into his own person, and we get to see a different, albeit slightly boring, side of Harry, Ron, Hermione and Ginny. (Caveat: Hermione is Minister of Magic now, which is pretty kick ass.) Refreshingly, the reemergence of Malfoy casts him in a heartwarming light. We even get to meet other youngsters, including Ron and Hermione’s daughter Rose and Malfoy’s son Scorpius. The latter we learn is Albus’s closest friend, which makes for an interesting twist. Of course, there are also cameos by fan favorites (*cough* Neville *cough*).
The plot, however, is a little sparse, maybe a bit tired. As I said, this story is meant for the stage, so any thin areas must be taken with a grain of salt. The same goes for a handful of internal contradictions, as well as for the lack of imagery, an element with which Rowling is usually so successful. It is surely difficult to bring to life an abundance of magic on stage, so the writers cater to this drawback. Given the obstacles of writing for the stage, the book form of “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” feels more or less complete.
Let’s take a moment to circle back to my “tired” comment. Given the effort taken to resurrect the story, you would think that there might be a bit more invention. We see old themes present themselves once again. Take for instance Harry’s painful scar, Harry’s anger with Dumbledore, the reappearance of Voldemort, time travel, Polyjuice Potion, etc.
Overall, “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” is a little flat, a little simple, but it is charming nonetheless. Be prepared for a different vibe, but try to appreciate that the series we know and love has not been ripped open and marred, but rather revisited and treasured. It is sweet and mellow with hints of the humor, drama and tension inherent to its predecessors. Even if you are one of the many who are skeptical about this addition to the “Harry Potter” series, I would recommend taking the time to read it. It is very different from a typical novel, but it is short enough to finish quickly, and if you read with an open mind and do not make too many comparisons to the first seven books, you will walk away feeling warm and fuzzy. I would see the theatrical production in a heartbeat.
Title: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (Harry Potter #8)
Author: Jack Thorne, J.K. Rowling and John Tiffany
Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books, Special Rehearsal Edition
Publication date: July 31, 2016
Page count: 320
List price: $29.99
Awards: 2016 Goodreads Choice Award for Fantasy
Nominations: 2016 Waterstones Book of the Year Nominee
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