Book Review – Harry Potter and The Cursed Child

For a diehard Harry Potter fan like me, the news of the 8th book was not an easy one to digest. I did often wonder what happened to the Potter and Weasley families after the Deathly Hallows prologue, but somehow I was happy with the end of the iconic seven-book series. What if the new book spoilt the imaginary world Rowling had successfully embedded in my mind? What if I didn’t like the adult versions of the characters with whom I had fallen in love with the instant I met them on the Hogwarts Express? I had purposely stayed away from the boor reviews until I read the book myself.

And now I am left with mixed feelings.

I must give credit to Rowling for keeping her word of not writing any more Potter novels, for the eighth book is not a novel (Thank God!), but a play. The book made me nostalgic and gave me a chance to be with old friends who I haven’t seen in awhile. It just wasn’t what I was expecting it to be, but it was a fast paced, short and a lovely visit to my precious magical world.

Here is a review of ‘Harry Potter and the Cursed Child’:

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Based on an original new story by J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne and John Tiffany, a new play by Jack Thorne, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is the eighth story in the Harry Potter series.

Since ‘Harry Potter and the Cursed Child’ is a play, it is dialogue driven and written in a markedly simplistic manner. It lacks Rowling’s characteristic writing style, especially the presence of an omniscient narrator. Unlike its predecessors, this is a less magical story, focusing more on relationships, conflicts and the dialogue between characters. Although there is no description of the fictional universe that the series is famous for, potter fans can easily fill in the background using their imagination and slide smoothly into this beloved and familiar world.

The story is set 19 years after The Deathly Hallows and picks up where the last novel left off, with the middle-aged Harry watching his son, Albus, board the Hogwarts Express. The story flashes forward to Albus’s later years at Hogwarts with his best friend, Scorpius (Draco Malfoy’s son) as they deal with the pain caused by fathers who are physically or emotionally absent. The initial scenes at Hogwarts, are all so brief that one can hardly get a flavor of what is actually happening. The first half is quite innocent, while the second takes a dark turn.

The story deals with the consequences of letting the past hold on the present as both friends suffer from having a famous parent. Albus has to suffer because of high expectations from the son of ‘The Chosen One’ and Scorpius is rumored to be the son of the Dark Lord himself. In a misguided notion Albus sets out to correct what he considers his father’s biggest mistake, Cedric’s death with the help of a Time-Turner. Albus and Scorpius eventually learn that playing with time has grave consequences. The power of familial love and the importance of friendship is emphasized when the Potters, Weasleys and Malfoys finally get together to deal with the dark forces that once again threaten the fate of their magical world.

Despite the heartfelt conversations between the characters, there is a lack in character development. The familiar characters like Harry, Ginny, Draco, Hermione, Ron, Dumbledore and McGonagall are a shallow version of themselves and the new ones like Albus, Rose, Scorpius, Lily and James are not developed to their full potential.

Albus and Scorpius are the main protagonists from the new generation and their friendship is well developed. Scorpius’s character is the highlight of the script, endearing throughout. The awkwardness of hugs between the two best friends is pointed out time and again, and the character of Rose as the love interest for Scorpius seems to be deliberately inserted to prove his heterosexuality.

As for the old crew, they are contradictory to their former selves in many aspects. It is very hard to imagine Harry talk to his former Professor in an outrageous manner when he bullies Headmistress McGonagall into keeping Albus away from Scorpius. There is no way Harry would stoop to threatening his beloved Professor with his ministry connections and telling her that she doesn’t know what it means to be a parent as she isn’t one. Even Hermoine, who is now the Minister for Magic, would never address her as ‘Minerva’. And it is not satisfying to see Draco Malfoy as a decent human who stands by his former arc enemies, the Gryffindor trio.

The interaction between Dumbledore’s portrait and Harry is something that one longed for. The most poetic moment is the ex-headmaster’s advice for 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 to breathe.’

But to witness the great Dumbledore apologize for the times he went wrong, and their mutual declaration of their love, destroyed the wonderful sentiment that has been left unspoken so far. Somethings are better left unsaid to avoid understating their sheer profoundness. The same can be said for this 8th book. It would’ve been better to leave the series intact although the fast paced plot and the nonstop suspense makes the book a real page-turner.

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