Review: Harry Potter & the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling, J. Tiffany & J. Thorne

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child J.K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child J.K. rowling cover

Title: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child 
Author: J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne, John Tiffany 
Series: Harry Potter #8 
Genre: Fantasy, YA 
Publication date: July 31, 2016 
Rating: I honestly don't know...

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.
Harry, there is never a perfect answer in this messy, emotional world. Perfection is beyond the reach of humankind, beyond the reach of magic. In every shining moment of happiness is that drop of poison: the knowledge that pain will come again. Be honest to those you love, show your pain. To suffer is as human as to breathe.

Nine years. That’s how long it’s been since the release of the last Harry Potter book. I was only fourteen back then. Nothing more than a child, although I remember feeling pretty grown up already. I struggled with some of the vocabulary used in The Deathly Hallows at the time. It seems silly now. It may have been the first book I ever voluntarily read in English. Now I can’t even tell you the title of the last book I read in Dutch. Much has changed over the years. But what I vividly recall is how sad I felt after finishing that seventh book. I felt so devastated that I went straight back to page one and started over, suffering from a major case of denial. Because it couldn't possibly be over. Harry Potter had been such a huge part of my childhood but it was once and for all over.

Until a couple of months ago there was a huge announcement. An introduction of a play following the adventures of Harry’s son and a book containing the play’s script for all those living too far away from West End. Yes, it would in fact be a true sequel. Or so insiders told us. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. The official eighth story. Nineteen years later.

I cannot begin to describe my excitement. I may have literally jumped up and down my chair. Yes, even at 23. You know, you all know just what these books mean to me. I am not a rational human being when it comes to Harry Potter. I don’t think I even want to be. That news was what I had unconsciously been waiting for all these years. I would go back. Back to Hogwarts. Because that’s what J.K. Rowling had always said, right? Hogwarts will always be there to welcome you home.

So much for my initial reaction to the news. I think the word ‘script’ hadn't really sunk in yet. But as the months passed and I impatiently waited for the 31st of July, I started getting anxious. What did ‘script’ truly mean? What exactly would J.K. Rowling’s contribution be? Who actually wrote these words? The facts were a little blurry and I didn’t want to research too much. Because for all my curiosity, I couldn't imagine anything worse than getting spoiled. When I finally got my hands on that book I wanted to find everything out for myself.

Hogwarts is a big place. Big. Wonderful. Full of food. I’d give anything to be going back.

And so it happened. I went back. In many ways Harry Potter and the Cursed Child was more than I could ever hope to get. After the Deathly Hallows, Rowling told us she'd left Harry and the magic world behind for good. We all had to move on, which we did... in some ways. So imagine the buzz when, against all expectations, new material would magically appear. Material we would all get to read. I could barely believe it.

In so many ways this book was thrilling and exciting. I devoured every piece of it. I grinned like a fool when characters so dear to my heart walked onto those golden pages. I embraced them and let myself get completely sucked into the story. It was endlessly fascinating and compelling. This was not fanfiction, this was real. The story evolving in front of my eyes was Harry’s actual adult life. I LOVED it. We're talking Harry Potter here. How could I not? Right? Everything was so full of potential.

But that’s the thing. It’s starts with potential and unfortunately that's also where it ends. It’s a raw piece of dialogue. More like an outline or a draft of a story than a finished product. The script part didn’t suit me. I had prepared myself for that inconvenience, but I found I just couldn't distance myself from it. It bothered me endlessly. To the point where I would find myself filling the obvious blanks. I started adding my own descriptive narrative in my head. I have read enough of Rowling’s work to be able to imagine her style and flow and I needed it. Needed a slower pacing and surroundings and detail and well, more. But that obviously didn’t do the book any justice either. I am not J.K. Rowling. I am not nearly as good a writer.

Neither was whoever wrote this book. Because I am one hundred percent sure it was not Rowling. Looking back, I realize I couldn’t feel her voice in any part of it. Not in the world building and certainly not in the dialogue. The voicing of the characters I know so well was off. I will not pretend to know them better than she does - but I do know them better than any other characters in the literary world. They weren’t right. Rowling may have provided the backstory for all of this - but it was executed poorly. So poorly. God, you have no idea how much it pains me to admit this. Albus Severus Potter (the name still makes me cringe) was mostly annoying and so was just about everyone else. Scorpius Malfoy was the one character I truly enjoyed.

But I mainly had issues with the portrayal of Ron Weasley and Draco Malfoy. Both are absolute favourites of mine. I love them unconditionally, strengths and flaws alike. But here they were...  complete caricatures of themselves. No, an insult to themselves. Fake to the point of ridicule. Whenever I start thinking about the way they were written, the steam just about bursts from my ears. I. Am. So. Angry. In this book, Ron is portrayed as a complete fool who is only present to lighten the mood in tense situations. While everyone has build astonishing careers for themselves, Ron is a total joke. No one takes him seriously, not even Ron himself. And this breaks my heart more than I can express. What did he ever do to deserve this? I almost feel like crying at this point. WHY would they do this to me? My babe. He is part of the golden trio, he’s a HERO. And Malfoy’s development was  equally bad. I've liked Malfoy from the start. Yes, even when he was still a complete pain-in-the-ass. But I fell in love with him when we got to see his other side. His weaknesses and vulnerabilities. I mean, we all know what a terrible soft spot I have for dark and broken characters. I was entirely in favour of his redemption. I wanted it to happen. But the way they redeemed him in The Cursed Child was so utterly unbelievable I could only roll my eyes. The "true" Draco Malfoy would have never behaved in such a manner. In such a pathetic submissive way. Not when he was eighteen, not when he is thirty, not even when he would turn sixty. What a monstrous destruction of such brilliant characters. Every single grey line got completely butchered.

And then I'm not even talking about the absence of so many other characters. Not even the silver trio was apparently important enough to make it into the book. Except for Ginny, but only because she is Harry’s wife. And she didn’t feel right either. More like boring movie-Ginny than badass book-Ginny. Neville was mentioned at some point, but no one even talked about Luna. Or George. Where was Hagrid? The other Weasleys? Teddy? They could have at least been mentioned, no? This was the opportunity to let us know what had become of them. It's seriously such a waste, especially considering the fact that thirty percent of the book was about Cedric Diggory - of all people.

And that’s basically it. I have an overall feeling of fan fiction gone bad. It took me a while and a lot of ranting with friends to get myself to the point where I could openly admit it, but it’s still true. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is a terrible disappointment. Not because it’s a script (well, not only) but because it doesn’t make you feel any of the magic of the previous installments. Everyone behaves completely out of character and even the story is very uncreative and at times completely ridiculous. (For those of you who have read it, I’m referring to things as the "Bellatrix-plot". That one was literally impossible if you try to place it within the original story.) Plot convenience slips in multiple times, unfortunately. Another example of why there’s just no way Rowling wrote this herself. Although I don’t understand how she could ever approve of this.

I did not expect this. And I’m not happy at all. I wish I could tell you otherwise, I really do. You have no idea. But it’s just not good. Too much doesn’t make sense, there are giant plot holes and all that unfortunately outweighs everything I did like. And I’m sorry I can’t really elaborate but despite everything, I don't want to actually spoil the story for you.

Should you read it? Yeah, I think you probably should. For your own peace of mind. Because this is the next story and it somehow feels wrong not to know what happens after the Battle Of Hogwarts on May 2nd, 1998. But don’t be like me. Don’t get your hopes up. Don’t get too excited. You might have fun. I will not pretend that I didn’t enjoy certain scenes. Some of it was good. Like I said, there is definitely potential. Now if only J.K. Rowling would reclaim her pen and write an actual book on this material I might just try my best and forget everything I felt about this one. God, I am so negative. I honestly feel bad about it, but at least you all know that I truly, honestly tried. And it has left me with an insatiable hunger for more and better.

Note: An insane amount of you are reading this and I'm dying to know what you guys think. Do you agree? Do you think I've gone completely mental? Leave a comment and let me know what you're thinking/feeling. I truly want to know. I honestly don't care if you disagree. Just give me something here.

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1 comment:

  1. Totally agree with you. The book is an insult to the original series and to the fans! JKR should be cursed (Crucio probably) for letting this happen.


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