I won’t recount all the ways I love the Harry Potter books, but I will say that after having read this, I want to go back and read the series again. Barely a month after finishing it for probably the fifth time. My love for this world, and these characters, is indelible. Needless to say, I highly anticipated Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.
Don’t mistake my delayed review as lack of enjoyment or diminished excitement – I did everything I could to savor these pages. I would never be able to experience them again, and JK Rowling has sworn-off further books. If that holds true, this is the last time I’ll ever get to be able to visit this world from a new angle, and I wanted it to last.
Let’s all just let this book breath for a bit…..
Okay. The preliminaries are out of the way. Be forewarned, this book has been out for a few weeks now, and I’m actually going to talk about the book. I’ll try not to give anything major away – but if you want to come at this book with fresh eyes stop reading now.
As a story, I think this book works. It hits all the right notes, has the correct feel to it, and the world is as real and full of insouciant comfort as the other books. The characters seem to fall basically in-line with what I want from them at this point in their lives, so I don’t feel like too much is missing. The new characters add depth to the story without seeming like casual additions, and give the familiar characters an extra layer of motivation and honesty.
But…..you guys. This isn’t a Harry Potter book. This is a Harry Potter movie. That is to say, it has all the ingredients that it needs to be a Harry Potter book, but it’s just not quite as core-of-your-being, soul-wrenchingly fully realized as a Harry Potter book.
The fantasy genre, I think, works best when the stories exist within the boundless confines of a persons imagination. Unmoored by the constraints of cinema, you are free to make of the story what you will. My Diagon Alley isn’t precisely the same as everyone else’s. Neither is my Middle Earth, or Westeros. Fantasy provides the audience with a template upon which their deepest and richest dreams can come to life. I think that’s why fantasy movies haven’t typically been as successful as those within the science fiction genre.
I’ve heard this complaint a lot about the Harry Potter movies. For instance, 12 Grimmauld Place doesn’t look, in the movie, like it does in my head. As much as the movie got right (Alan Rickman is a great example), I think it got just as much wrong. I don’t re-watch the movies for this reason – I’d much rather not be tied to the limitations of the medium.
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child isn’t a novel – it’s not, really, even a book. It’s the transcript of a play. While the story is every bit a part of the world we all love, it’s bound by the dictates of the medium in which it exists: this was written to be performed by actors. We don’t get the wealth of internal perspective that made the books such a treasure trove of characterization.
Also, this story covers years in the lives of its characters. If she had chosen to write this story as a novel instead of giving it to two other people to turn into a play, I think there’s enough here to write at least two more books. Instead, years of familial angst and character growth is abridged for the fear of gluten atrophication. “We cant have the audience sitting in their chairs for eight hours,” I can hear someone saying. “Cut those character scenes in the beginning.”
Beyond my griping that we, loyal and constant readers, aren’t being indulged enough, there are highlights I want to make note of. And I again warn you that SPOILERS follow.
The direction Draco Malfoy’s life takes is intriguing. I would love to know more about how he gets to where he is, and how his relationship plays out with his family. I thought Scorpius was a great character, and the rumors that haunt him could have warranted a book all by themselves.
Seeing Severus Snape again was blissful. I love that he – even an alternate reality he – learns of Harry’s naming his son after him.
As previously mentioned, I loved Scorpius Malfoy. But I also loved Albus Potter. I found his angst and rebelliousness not only believable, but likely. Growing with a father like Harry Potter would be an incredible burden, and it would weigh on any child. That he would become close friends with a Malfoy was a delightful twist that may not have been entirely surprising, but was nonetheless interesting and, I think, well done.
Oddly, however, I didn’t feel any attachment to the beloved trio of Harry, Ron, and Hermione. I didn’t feel like we were given any anchor for who they had become. We jumped 20 years into the future, and are presented with these three beings that are given the same name and background of the characters we watched grow up – but they don’t seem tethered to the reality we once knew. I think this is, again, entirely due to the limitations of the medium, but it’s still a glaring issue. Harry’s difficulty with parenting didn’t feel earned, to me. Ron’s bemused detachment from the trappings of the adult world seemed jarring and unfamiliar, and Hermoine just seemed like a more powerful version of her older self. These are cardboard characters when they were once fully realized, three dimensional people. It’s a sad, dismal send off, and stands in stark contrast to why the series is held so dearly by so many people.
And we get to spend a little time with Minerva McGonagall, and hear that Neville Longbottom is now a professor, but we hear nothing of Fred Weasley, Luna Lovegood, or Hagrid…..I guess we can’t have everything.
Maybe I’m being too hard on this. Maybe my ivory tower is a little drafty, and my whining is lacking perspective: at least we have a new Harry Potter book. I should probably be focusing on the good things – but in the back of my mind, I kept thinking this was a missed opportunity. This could’ve been Rowling’s triumphant return to the Potter-verse, but it just feels like an enjoyable addendum. And while that may be a bit of a let-down – it’s still a magnificent experience that every Harry Potter fan should reach for.
In any case, this is absolutely, unequivocally not JK Rowling’s Phantom Menace.
Reviewed twice previously, with an average rating of 4.