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

Posted on | July 31, 2016 | No Comments

I’m a self-confessed Potterhead. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve read the books, heard the audio books (narrated by Stephen Fry), and even watched the movies despite hating them. I’ve been wary of Pottermore, and the stuff that’s continuously churned out, but hey – more Harry Potter’s a Good Thing, right?

So, I went to the midnight launch yesterday (today?), and got the book, and obviously, the Decent Thing to do in that case is to finish the book straightaway. And, I did.

Note: spoilers ahead. Many spoilers ahead.

I was left confused and unimpressed. And no, this wasn’t because it was written in a play format (more on that later).

The plot was easy. Uncreative. Almost like fan fiction, where you roll your eyes, but keep reading anyway, because hey – more Harry Potter.

Harry and Hermione hold high positions in the Ministry of Magic, and are still married to Ginny and Ron respectively. Their kids go to Hogwarts, as does Draco’s son: Scorpius. Scorpius is widely believed to be the offspring of Voldemort himself, and hence, there’s stigma against him.

Against all odds (or maybe not), Harry’s son, Albus Severus Potter, gets sorted into Slytherin and befriends Scorpius, and the duo don’t have any other friends. The other kids (Hermione and Ron’s daughter: Rose, and Harry and Ginny’s other two kids: James and Lily) don’t make much of an appearance.

So, two kids are left to themselves (Scorpius because of the rumour about his parentage and Albus because he’s not naturally talented or charismatic; he’s called the “Slytherin Squib” early in his Hogwarts life). Further, as Albus doesn’t really settle into Hogwarts life and has a massive inferiority complex, his relationship with his father is strained. In contrast, Draco and Scorpius are very close, and you can see Draco adopting the parent-of-the-year role, when he reaches out to Harry to quash rumours about his son’s parentage or when he threatens Harry due to how events unfold. This Draco is almost likeable compared to Harry.

The years come and go, and somewhere in the middle of his Hogwarts life, he overhears his father talking to Amos Diggory (Cedric’s father) about using a time-turner to go back in time to ensure that The Dark Lord didn’t kill Cedric. Yes, even I thought that all the time-turners had been rendered useless in the Battle of the Department of Mysteries, but a new version had been created by Death Eaters, and confiscated by the Ministry.

And so, Albus decides that he must be the one that undoes Cedric’s death, by getting the time-turner and going back in time. Scorpius and a new character, Delphi, join him on this adventure. At one point, there’s that sense of deja vu, when they take Polyjuice potion to enter the Ministry. You can see where this is going: multiple alternate universes unfold, including one where Harry dies in the Battle of Hogwarts, Voldemort takes over, and Hermione is on the most-wanted list. All this because Neville was killed, and consequently, no one killed Nagini. At each point, the trio keep going back in time again to fix their previous mess.

For me, the plot seems absurd: would an untalented wizard who couldn’t even pull off the Expelliarmus spell really go back in time to change history? Or, was he just that foolish and naive? Perhaps I’m being harsh? Maybe he just thought that those are the lengths a son will go through to gain acceptance from his father: the famous, never-wrong, always-courageous Harry Potter?

Harry and Albus are both quite unlikeable in this book.

Harry strongarms Professor McGonagall (who’s still a great character) into spying on his son using the Maraduer’s Map to ensure that Scorpius and Albus don’t hang out. His rationale: Bain, the centaur, told him a dark cloud was looming over his son, and he assumes that it has to be Scorpius. For me, that goes against everything the first seven books taught Harry: that look beneath the surface. It’s hard to believe that after everything – after Snape – he still jumps to conclusions. And, that Ginny doesn’t have enough influence to change his mind. Maybe being a protective father means that you can’t see clearly when it comes to your own son, and hence make rash decisions and are downright obnoxious to professors like McGonagall?

Albus, on the other hand, well: you can see why the Sorting House put him in Slytherin: ambition. At least he doesn’t turn out to be evil?

Scorpius, on the other hand, is a pretty good character: the anti-Draco if you will (but for one of the alternate universes where he’s called The Scorpion King). He’s faithful, nerdy (like Hermione), and courageous. Here, I’m admittedly nitpicking, but wouldn’t it be really nice if he had Neville’s “will stand up to friends” attitude?

The book, winding through multiple alternate realities, is more a testament to how perfectly the events unfolded in the original series. It goes to show that it was the only way in which a happy ending could have occurred.

But, creating time-turners again, to just keep going back in time, as the main premise is weak and unimaginative. And, the way the ending unfolds, is incredibly disappointing, if I compare it to the original series of seven.

Here’s the problem: this is written as a play, which means that a lot of the detailed, descriptive and imaginative writing has to be forfeited, and new concepts (or magic) cannot be introduced. And, hence, the plot feels dumbed down. But even so, think back to the Philosopher’s Stone – the first book, the leanest book. The ending was so vivid, and definitely not dumb: the chess game, the flying keys, the three-headed dog.

Also, a lot of the typical favorites get what seems to be an obligatory nod: Dumbledore, Snape, Petunia. But, what about Ron and Ginny’s other siblings: nothing about George? And, nothing about why Ron is running the Weasley’s Wizarding Wheezes? Not even a mention? And, nothing about Tonks and Lupin’s kid? No house elves? And no Trelawney (although there’s another prophecy? But where does this prophecy come from? Or rather, from whom?).

Again, I appreciate that it’s a play so it needs to be simplified, but, in my opinion, this is just capitalizing on the Harry Potter brand, without giving the fans a story that is worth resuscitating the brand for.

And, as a Potterhead, that disappoints me.

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