It’s been about nine years since the last “Harry Potter” book came out, and I’ll admit it: while I’m not as big a fan of the series as I used to be, there was still some part of me that wasn’t ready to give up on Harry just yet.
That said, I had a lot of reservations about the play, since the spoilers released a month before its release (or maybe longer; summer has made me surprisingly lose track of time) made it seem like it was going to be officially published fanfiction that J.K. Rowling sanctioned. Also, while I adored Harry Potter, over the years I’ve gotten irritated by the fact that Rowling can’t seem to let the series speak for itself and honestly, I didn’t think the last two books were actually that good. For all that I could recite information about Harry Potter and Hogwarts off the top of my head in fifth grade, by the time the series ended, some of the magic had faded.
There were midnight release parties, but I didn’t go. In fact, I only just got the book Friday night and read it Saturday morning. I did get it at the same Barnes and Noble store I’ve bought all of my other “Harry Potter” books from though, so maybe that counts for something.
“Harry Potter” is something that’s so ingrained in the collective conscience of my generation that I think whenever something new comes out, we greedily eat it up even if we’re honest with ourselves that it’s not that good. The alternative reaction is usually one of displeasure. I’m sure many fans picked up “The Cursed Child” thinking it would be a novelization of the West End play and were disappointed to see that it wasn’t. I wasn’t particularly bothered by the format of story, to be honest–a story’s a story and I’d rather it be dialogue-driven most of the time anyway. There may have also been the expectation that JKR herself wrote the play, which she didn’t, though her name is the most prominently displayed on the cover. She came up with the story, but the writing is credited to Jack Thorne, and I think it’s important to remember that there’s a difference there, much like there was a difference between the movie scripts and the books.
And since we’re all being honest and candid about our feelings on “Harry Potter” and its latest installment (and maybe the last), I think it’s probably okay for me to say that comparatively, it isn’t bad. In fact, for the most part I enjoyed it, even if there were issues I had with the way characters and pieces of the narrative were handled. I went in not expecting much (is this how I’ve been approaching all media now?) and was delivered what reads as a solidly “Harry Potter” adventure. Maybe I didn’t go in with the same excitement that I might have with earlier books, but Harry’s older now and so am I.
Of course, there were things I had issues with. I remember a few years back a stink being made about JKR stating that maybe Ron and Hermione shouldn’t have ended up together after all, but in a play that really should be more about the next generation, we have that relationship at the forefront and we’re told repeatedly why they belong together–which feels a lot like backtracking on backtracking. It’s whatever, but honestly, at this point, what’s done is done, and it’s not like there’s a divorce likely (do wizards even get divorces?), so it felt like it was added in to make people feel better than having much to do with the actual plot of the story.
Other things that bothered me include the way Delphi was handled. Listen, I get that the whole message of the story is that we don’t have to be our (dead) parents, and that we should make our own path, but why does it feel like young women with dad issues are usually made to be villainous? I don’t know. There was something about the whole plotline that I found particularly unappealing. I guess she and Harry are supposed to represent two sides of the same coin in the whole “We’re orphans whose parents had big personalities” thing, and she’s also supposed to mirror Albus with respect to the “Famous Fathers” deal, but I wasn’t a big fan. There’s also her silver hair, which is pretty “My Immortal”-esque for a published work. Honestly.
I didn’t like Rose, but I would chalk that more up to grown men not knowing how to write girls (the older the female characters were, the better they were written, I think) than as a consequence of Rose. Maybe the goal had been to make her a mini-Hermione, but she just came off as being mean. Additionally, what was her actual function in this play besides being a perfunctory romance option for Scorpius? Which, by the way, another issue–did we need it? No. It would have been cooler for Rose to have actually been involved, even though the narrative made it very impossible for her to have any real role in the plot, then as whatever it was you’d call what they did.
All that considered, there were a few things that I really did like. What even was the Trolley Witch? I loved her. The blanket was a deus ex machina, but in the way that every “Harry Potter” book has one, and even if it was cheesy, I liked it. Harry’s dream sequences were solid and I wish that there were more of them. And Scorpius.
I love this boy.
Scorpius Malfoy is the best part of “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.” He has some of the best lines, and he’s so endearing. His interactions with Albus and his motivations (primarily, helping his friend) are the some of the best parts of this play. I like that he has a thing when he speaks, where he’s like, “Okay, two points. One, etc,” because I could imagine him doing it through all the scenes that we don’t see as Albus approaches 4th year. He felt like a fully-fledged character even though he wasn’t really the protagonist. Scorpius is so likable. I wish every other character in this play felt as complete as Scorpius Malfoy did.
Some tech-specs regarding this book: I’m glad I didn’t have to pay the full price, and that my Barnes & Noble membership has really paid for itself. It’s only in hardcover right now, which means that you only have one option, and its list price is $32. Considering how much paper they waste with front matter and back matter and section divisions, you’re paying for a lot less content than you’d think with your first look at the book. Additionally, depending on which retailer you get it from, the condition might look a little banged up considering how many people are probably picking it up and putting it back down again trying to decide whether or not they actually want to buy the book. The lines are spaced enough apart that you can see clear divisions between the dialogue and the action, but again, because it’s a play, that means that if you think you’re going to be getting 300+ pages of content, you’re going to be disappointed.
In any case, I’m glad I bought it regardless of the price. I got what I paid for, and it was actually a pretty fun adventure. My opinion might be shaded by nostalgia for the thing I used to love; I think a person will never love anything as deeply as they did a thing when they were in middle school, and since Harry Potter is that for me, I’m always going to have some fondness in my heart after all for him.
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