First published in 2016
My rating: 3 out of 5
Image from Goodreads
The Short Of It:
It's not possible for me to really dislike anything related to my beloved Harry Potter universe, but "The Cursed Child" -- while a fun little read -- was, overall, a bit of a disappointment.
The Long Of It:
I discovered Harry Potter in 2000, not all that long before "Goblet of Fire" was released, when a younger neighbor insisted I borrow the first three books because she just knew I'd love them. I was 15, still young enough to be completely immersed in the magic of the wizarding world and enjoy the delicious anticipation of four more book releases and eight movie releases.
I've dressed up as Hermione at work on Halloween, I knit myself a Gryffindor scarf, I had the best time ever at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, I own two complete sets of the books and I'm working on a third with the illustrated editions. The moment I heard about "The Cursed Child" I knew I'd buy the book, though I didn't feel any burning need to read it the day it came out. I was a little skeptical of the idea of publishing a play script, but I was willing to give it a shot.
And, as I suspected, marketing "The Cursed Child" as the "eighth book" was misleading. Reading a play -- or at least, this one -- is nothing like reading a novel; it's all dialogue and no prose, and I sorely missed the descriptive details and captivating atmosphere typical of Harry Potter. Something that makes the originals so special is the delightful depictions of the setting and the sometimes-wacky characters, which were all but missing here. I have no doubt that the play (which I would love to see) is amazing to watch in person -- and I did look at some photos from the performance after I finished the book, which helped me get an idea of how the story was intended to be taken in -- but I was left wondering if the only reason the script was published in book format was to rake in a shitload of money.
Other problems I had with "The Cursed Child" were the rather flimsy plot, which involves Harry's and Draco's young sons, Albus and Scorpius, heading off to Hogwarts for the first time where they're lonely outcasts; certain inconsistencies with the original books; the portrayals of the original cast of characters, particularly poor Ron as a ridiculously dopey idiot; the really, really short length (there's much less text in those 300 pages than you'd think!); questions raised but not answered; and some decidedly unrealistic happenings, which is perhaps what irritated me the most.
While the first seven books were written for kids (or kids who turned into grown-ups while reading the series) this latest installment feels much more geared toward adults -- and let's face it, I'm pretty sure there are now more Harry Potter fans over 18 than under. So, while the unrealistic bits of the original seven stories can be dismissed because, after all, the books are for children, the ridiculous and absurd things that happen in this new release can't really be excused that way. As well, it's a lot easier to look past plot discrepancies when you're absolutely engrossed in the story -- and I doubt anyone was that into "The Cursed Child," at least in book format. The story just seemed sort of dashed together and lazily written -- which brings me back to the thought that perhaps the script shouldn't have been published at all. Surely all the details that are missing from the book were endlessly hashed out to create a vibrant play production (though that doesn't account for the plot discrepancies).
All that said, it was still a pleasant read, and it was a treat to revisit Hogwarts and catch up with Harry, Ron and Hermione as adults and parents (even if I didn't always appreciate the portrayal). Many Harry Potter fans have probably already read it now, three weeks later, but any HP-lover who hasn't should find it an enjoyable little diversion despite its flaws -- and everyone is sure to fall in love with Scorpius Malfoy!
P.S. I'm flabbergasted by how controversial this book is (though I really shouldn't be, considering this say-anything-online, get-offended-about-everything age we're living in). While browsing Google the other day to see if I could get an idea of how much of a role J.K. really played in the writing of the script (because, honestly, it doesn't feel like her work at all), I read an article bemoaning the rampant sexism in the new story, and another about readers accusing the authors of "queerbaiting" -- a new-to-me phrase which apparently means deliberately making it seem as if Albus and Scorpius might have a romantic relationship to "reel in" certain readers. I'm sure there are plenty more issues with "The Cursed Child" that people have found to whine about, and this is in addition the controversy about casting a black actress to play Hermione. Just... ugh! People take the fun out of everything.