The anticipation has been building around “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” for weeks. Today, the book (actually, a screenplay) centered around Harry’s middle son Albus years after the infamous Battle of Hogwarts hit the shelves of bookstores everywhere, where it was promptly purchased by lines of eager children, teens and adults.
One of those eager people was me, a college senior who grew up reading and re-reading, and watching and re-watching the Harry Potter series, most likely just like you. And given the opportunity to fall back into a world that we thought came to an end with the release of the final book and movie, I was more than a little excited.
Unfortunately, I should have known better than to think that John Tiffany and Jack Thorne, the director and playwright respectively, could even begin to touch on the magic that the Harry Potter franchise made a reality.
Written in such a way that made me dread the bad acting the screenplay would spawn, the writers tried to force themes of love and friendship down the reader’s throat, and the book is more than a little cheesy as a result.
The plot revolves around Cedric Diggory, a time-turner, and some teenagers trying to do what they think is best. Unfortunately, the result is a hard-to-follow tale with little pay-off at the end that doesn’t do justice to the original stories.
While it’s good to see Harry, Ron and Hermione doing well in their later years and jumping back in action, the play’s attempt to refocus on their children was not successful. It may be time to let the Harry Potter novels rest in peace in our childhoods, and give up on attempts to prolong the magic.
For those of you who don’t plan to read the book, here’s an overview of what you’ve missed:
SPOILERS BEYOND THIS POINT — Start reading again after the line.
“Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” starts out just as the final book ends, with Albus boarding the train at Platform Nine and Three-Quarters, asking his father what would happen if he gets sorted into Slytherin. In the next few pages, you find out that — lo and behold — Albus’ fear came true and he joins Slytherin House with his new friend Scorpius, who happens to be Draco Malfoy’s only son.
The story then fast-forwards through a few years of Albus’ life and his rocky relationship with Harry comes to light. Albus endures a hard years at Hogwarts as “Harry Potter’s Son In Slytherin,” sparking arguments between father and son about how Harry doesn’t understand Albus, or something to that effect.
After a fight with his father and an overheard conversation between Harry and Amos Diggory, Albus hatches a plan to steal a time-turner and go back in time to save Cedric Diggory, and spite his father while he’s at it. Scorpius comes along for the ride and, as you can imagine, the rest of the book revolves around them meddling with time and then trying to set things back to the way they were.
You find out that Hermione is Minister of Magic, Ron is heading up Fred and George’s joke shop, and Harry is head of magical law enforcement. It’s nice to see the characters we know and love doing so well, except in the parenting department. Unfortunately, we don’t get to know new characters as well.
Eventually, you find out that a woman who was helping them bring back Cedric, his supposed cousin Delphi, is actually the daughter of Bellatrix Lestrange and Voldemort, and the reason Harry’s scar had been hurting throughout the entire book is because she was using the two boys to change history and restore her father to power. What?!
In the end, the power of friendship prevailed and Harry and his friends and family were able to stop — but not kill — Delphi, and she goes to Azkaban. History is preserved. The world is saved.
Part of the success of the original Harry Potter series was the relatability — as a 13-year-old reading the novels over and over again, I responded to Harry’s me-against-the-world mentality, the impossibility of the tasks that he faced and the small things that helped him get through the day.
“Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” has all the adventure of any of the original books, but none of the masterful unpacking of the reasoning and the characters’ feelings about it. You don’t get to hear Albus’ thoughts as he goes through these things; you don’t get to see into Harry’s head as the weight of the world falls onto his own son’s shoulders; you don’t even really get to understand the plotline.
The book takes itself too seriously, with several grave references to The End of the World as We Know It, and more than several lame attempts at comic relief that fall flat. Readers don’t truly get to meet new characters as we got to in the first Harry Potter books. The plot is too rushed and too complicated to be compelling.
I’ve always been a Harry Potter fan, and I always will be. But for me, a story like this just works to taint the memory of a truly incredible series. Harry Potter was never just a children’s series, but “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” is just a sloppy story looking to capitalize on readers’ enthusiasm. (I mean, come on — it was released on Harry and J.K. Rowling’s shared birthday!)
It’s a failed attempt to revive readers’ fervor for the franchise. Don’t fall into the trap. If you’re looking to fall back headfirst into the world of Harry Potter, just read the original series. This book will leave you wanting more.
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