Series: Harry Potter #8
Published by Arthur A. Levine Books on July 31st 2016
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Play
Reading Challenges: 2016 50 Book Challenge, 2016 Book Riot Read Harder Challenge
Source: Purchased from Amazon
The Eighth Story. Nineteen Years Later.
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 received 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.
My beloved Harry Potter is back in this controversial new book. From just existing in the Bookternet for the past few months I have not been able to escape the comments of those who were disappointed with this latest chapter set in Harry’s magical world. However, I quite enjoyed checking in with out old friends Harry, Ron, and Hermione in their adult lives.
You probably already know this, but The Cursed Child is a play set for the stage in London. So this isn’t a novel, per se, but a script. That make the book quite a different read from the novels in the original series. The story and scenes are actually quite short, and understanding the story depends on a few stage directions and the words of the characters. In this format, we loose some of the additional details and narration associated with a novel told from a third person point of view. But this is to be expected from a play, so I was expecting something different overall. I clearly understood while reading that this story comes to life on the stage and that I’d be missing out on the 3-D experience of it all.
The story itself is one of time travel centered around Harry’s youngest son, Albus. Albus is struggling to make friends at Hogwarts as he is sorted into Slytherin and has become close with Draco Malfoy’s son, Scorpius. The central conflict of the story revolves around the choice to use a time turner to prevent the death of Cedric Diggory, an event that still haunts Harry. Harry refuses to meddle with time to bring Cedric back, but Albus decides to take matters into his own hands with the help of Scorpius and Delphi Diggory, Cedric’s cousin. The trio steals the time turner and begin a series of time travel experiments in attempts to fix history across the three events in the Triwizard Tournament.
I thought the time travel elements here were interesting, and I loved how Rowling used them to explore so many of the big “what ifs?” from the series. What if Cedric didn’t have to serve as collateral damage in Harry’s fight against Voldemort? What if Ron and Hermione never fell in love? What if Harry had died and Voldemort secured full power of the wizarding world? What if Harry’s parents had never been murdered? While the plot of the story is, admittedly, all over the place in pursuit of these answers, I still liked that Rowling chose to play with the existing story we know and love while also giving a glimpse into the lives of our favorite characters in the future. I also enjoyed the thematic parallels between Harry and Albus regarding the fixed nature of identity, reputation, and regrets.
There were some complaint about this book regarding how Rowling treated some of her characters. While I see where these are coming from, I do think we tend to idealize these characters and expect a lot from them. Harry isn’t a perfect dad, but I never expected him to be a perfect dad. Growing up doesn’t simply erase a person’s personality flaws and suddenly make them a perfect person. Harry was not particularly empathetic, patient, or detail-oriented as a child and it’s no surprise that he’s also this way as a dad. He clearly loves his kids, even though he royally f’s up some of his fatherhood moments. The only moment that I felt was truly off-base for a character was the imagining of Hermione Granger if she hadn’t married Ron. I did make a few scorn-y face at my book there. My feminist radars were going off because not marrying a specific boy does not fundamentally change one’s personality, and mean!Hermione is not the version of her that pops out of any life-path configuration that I can possibly imagine for her. This doesn’t surprise me, though, because Rowling never showed a lot of finesse with her female characters in general…but still.
FINAL GRADE: B-
I’m probably employing some score inflation here, but I enjoyed this read.It would be almost impossible for any new Harry Potter book to actual match the expectations of the HP fan base. Harry Potter purists may not be pleased, but I think it helps to think of this as a fun short story rather than an eighth book in the series. I thought it was a fun little window into life after Voldemort and I enjoyed the view…just nowhere near as much as I enjoyed the original seven novels.
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