Friday, August 5, 2016

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child book cover
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is finally out. It's the "final" and eighth installment of J.K. Rowling's fantastical world. On Harry Potter's thirty-sixth birthday, the special rehearsal edition of the play was published. Of course, I lined up for the midnight release party and was super excited to be apart of the phenomenon once again. Even though we're encouraged to "keep the secrets", the play is public now and I couldn't help but want to share my thoughts.

WARNING BEYOND THIS POINT - this review contains spoilers.

Set nineteen years after Deathly Hallows, young sons Albus Potter and Scorpius Malfoy form an unlikely friendship as they struggle to live up to their families' legendary reputation.

The duo goes to great lengths to step out of their parent's shadows. Potter, who is sorted into Slytherin instead of the favored Gryffindor house, becomes an outcast while Malfoy is bullied by swirling rumors about being an illegitimate heir to Voldemort. . . .

Much to the chagrin of the Potter and Granger-Weasley clan, Albus's friendship to Scorpius helps them gain access to one of the last Time Turners. When the try to change the past by preventing Cedric Diggory's death, their choices set off a domino effect with the series's history as we know it.

Cursed Child's initial publication as a play is both a blessing and a curse. As the former, it can breeze through events deeply enough to fill two acts and for the lucky fans who get to see it live on stage. As the latter, the plot is puzzling (to say the least) by going against so many plots and established characters set in the books. It's nearly impossible to elaborate all of them here.

Most importantly, where the story starts off on the wrong foot, is J.K. Rowling with Jack Thorne and John Tiffany's choice to use the Time Turner as their main plot device. It's well-known Rowling has admitted multiple times she regretted creating the object in Prisoner of Azkaban because it opened up plot holes about why a professor would give a kid the ability to turn back time just to attend more classes when it could've been used to kill Voldemort, among other events. So why bring it up again?

It's obvious from nearly the beginning that being consistent from the original books is not the main part of the book. Non-canon stories can be as imaginative as they want, but typically, there is sufficient text for fans to try to back up their cases. Here, Cursed Child isn't just merely non-canon; it manipulates the history of the wizarding world as the authors would like, and the result worse than a fanfiction gone wrong.

For many fans, Diggory's death was the pivotal moment in realizing nobody we loved was safe in the wizarding world. From then on, the books became a bloodbath. If we ever wondered what life would've been like if events turned out differently, we get the lowdown in several new ways, which is where the can of worms pour out in terms of characterization, i.e. not many of our old favorite feel like their old selves but as matured adults. Everyone feels a little off-kilter from how we left them as if the idea of them was plucked from Rowling's books, and then shifted to meet whatever tone this version was going for.

To open up the series to the next generation of characters, Albus may be the black sheep of the famed Potter family, but this escapade feels so rushed. Redoing previous events we all loved in the originals is supposed to give us a nostalgia trip by changing what we loved into an escapade that feels forced. And, then the mix of new characters and information like Scorpius possibly being a random product of Malfoy's wife and Voldemort getting it on is just absolutely weird. The decision tries to be creative, but ends up as repetitive.

If you choose to feel like it, the adventure can explore other realities that lurked under the surface like Hermione and Ron not getting married, Voldemort rising to power after Harry is Killed and wins the Battle of Hogwarts, among others. But like Prisoner of Azkaban, it's weird that Albus and Scorpius would choose Cedric's death to change (which there isn't an emotional pull for them to do this except to draw on that our handsome Hufflepuff was slaughtered), instead of letting Scorpius seeing his dying mother one last time or find out if he was the actual heir of Slytherin.

Because of the admirably loveable teens, their adventure is exciting when it first kicks off. But since their tale revolves around going back in time to correct different mistakes in alternate worlds, it become recyclable.

As Dumbledore once said, “It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities", who the young boys decide to become is the center of this journey. Albus and Scorpios' misadventures brilliantly explores the differences, misunderstandings, and detachment teenagers with their parents often suffer. Through them, their fathers Harry and Draco discover their own means of parenting. Cursed Child hones in on breaking the cycle of compartmentalizing what "evil" looks like and raising the next generation differently.

This approach is also reflected with Delphi, a fascinating new addition but also the biggest and most frustrating issue. She is the result of an untamed force of nature without parental guidance striving to take her place as the rightful heiress next to the Dark Lord. Meaning: she is Voldemort and Bellatrix Lestrange's daughter. Like the tabloid-esque whispers of Scorpius' real parents, this aspect of the storyline felt very self-inserted rather than something meaningful. While tiny amounts of evidence supporting this possible hook-up can be trailed (if you want to believe it so badly) in the previous books, no amount of reasoning can wrap my brain around BLT and No-Nose getting it on. I laughed for a good five minutes, and this wasn't the first time my eyebrows shot through the roof with the story. It often feels so rare that female characters are villains, so that might've been my main attraction to Delphi, but this almost ruined my ability to take her seriously.

Similar in trying to separate a book from it's film adaptation, a new challenge emerges in accepting how and if this edition fits into the wizarding world as we know it. For many, it will be very hard. After the seventh book was released, many fans believed Deathly Hallows was the last exploration of this story because Rowling declaring she may or may never return to the wizarding world in future projects. Allowing closure to fill the space of the series coming to an end is almost what makes this story that much harder to understand. What was the originality of this story that needed to be told? There's certainly better fanfiction out there that could've fulfiled the coherence lacking here. Outside of the loveable next generation kids, it's hard to pinpoint a satisfying enough answer.

Because of the acclaim, the show is getting, one can only imagine how the magical elements on the page come to life. The book works as a play, mostly because it incites fans who can't see the production to only want to see it more, which will undoubtedly lead to re-reads and trips down memory lane. Overall, it's a breezy read but it won't be known for its attention to detail or consistent worldbuilding, which for the eighth book is something all fans should have the right to expect.As a rehearsal script of Rowling's collaboration with Thorne and Tiffany, it isn't perfect. However, Cursed Child certainly has wings, but it struggles to take flight.

Rating: ★1/2☆☆

Things I Loved / Additional Thoughts:

  • "Hogwarts will be the making of you, Albus. I promise you, there is nothing to be frightened of there."
  • "...look you've got a nose."
  • Petunia kept Harry's baby blanket and Dudley sent it to him when she passed away.
  • Absolutely would love to see Platform 9 3/4, the wand fights, and the bookshelves/Ministry scene on stage
  • "I'm paint and memory, Harry, paint and memory."
  • Harry's vitriol attitude towards McGonagall = UNACCEPTABLE, DUDE.
  • Apparently, not getting the boy or girl you love turns you into a grumpypants no matter who you are. Hello, Snape-mione.
  • Draco's character development is the best.
  • Of course, it all goes back to Neville.
  • The play take place at Hogwarts where Neville is a teacher....but Neville never actually appears....Uhmph.
  • Bet me: Voldemort Day becomes a thing.
  • [ALBUS] You just saw me two minutes, ago. [SCORPIUS] A lot has happened since then.
  • Only Hermione could cancel a meeting with the Goblins.
  • Act Four. Scene 15. Favorite scene of the whole play.

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