Ok you’ve been warned. If you have not read Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, and are still reading, any resulting upset due to spoilers is your own damn fault.
I have been a fan of Harry Potter since the first book came out when I was 10-years-old. I waited in lines for midnight releases of the books AND the movies. I think J.K. Rowling is brilliant and that she created an absolutely amazing, immersive world. Needless to say, I was very excited when I heard about Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. I think I speak for most Potterheads when I say I’m excited for absolutely ANYTHING J.K. Rowling does to expand the Potter universe and that allows us to live in the world she’s created a little longer. Which is why it pains me to write this review.
A few things to keep in mind before I continue:
- The story Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is based on is not something J.K. Rowling created on her own. She created this story with two other people, Jack Thorne and John Tiffany.
- Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is not the actual new, original story co-authored by J.K. Rowling, but rather the play adaptation by Jack Thorne.
- Scripts don’t read like novels and are much more limited in terms of scope. So, it’s not going to hold its own against the other books (and really calling it the “eighth book” is wildly misleading) for that reason alone.
- I was sorted into Slytherin on Pottermore, and am damn proud of that fact!
Now that those are out of the way, let’s get this review started!
REASONS WHY THIS STORY IS TERRIBLE (IMHO)
1. Slytherin is STILL Considered the Bad House:
COME ON! I know bad reputations are difficult to overcome, but J.K. Rowling did a lot of work, especially on Pottermore, to make sure that people knew being a Slytherin wasn’t inherently a negative thing. I was hoping that the positive attention she worked on giving Slytherin through Pottermore would have extended to this new story…but no. The first two scenes of act one pretty much just consist of Albus freaking out about being sorted into Slytherin (and his older brother, James, teasing him about it). Harry and Ginny, instead of telling him that Slytherin is just as good as any of the other houses, just try to reassure him that the sorting hat takes your feelings into consideration. In act one, scene four, when Albus is sorted into Slytherin everyone loses their shit, and Albus is sent into a level of angst that rivals Harry’s in Order of the Pheonix. Even Ron’s and Hermione’s daughter, Rose, says, “This is not how it’s supposed to be”. Which I find particularly upsetting given her parentage, and all the equal rights work her mother did. All that being said, the most likable character in this whole thing turns out to be Scorpius Malfoy. So, there’s that…I guess.
But, seriously, after NINETEEN years you’d think that all the houses would be treated a bit more equally. What it really comes down to is that this attitude feels like a slap in the face to those of us in the fandom who are Slytherins. We’re proud of our house, and of possessing the qualities it’s known for. There’s a difference between being a Slytherin and being Death Eater. Something I was hoping would get cleared up a little more with this new installment.
2. It Reads Like Bad Fanfiction:
Now, don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love fan fiction. I mean, I grew up with ff.net, when it was just starting and pretty much only filled with nothing but the slashiest of slash fics and ships so cracked swiss cheese could carry more water. Sadly, I feel like this story would be right at home among the fan fiction of my youth. It really has everything one looks for in terrible, but fun, fan fiction:
- Horribly and unreasonable angsty main character
- Very obviously gay romance between two main characters
- Time travel and resulting alternate realities
- A very cracked ship
- A secret love child that is unreasonably powerful
- A plot that revolves around a previously unknown prophecy
- Attempts to bring back a fan-favorite side character that died
- A very obvious “twist”
Pretty much the only thing this story is missing, in terms of wonderfully bad fan fiction, is a sex scene or two.
What truly sent this story into bad fan fiction territory for me was the idea that Voldemort had a child…and that he had that child with Bellatrix Lestrange. I mean, come on! That’s about as believable as the the LOTR fanfic I wrote in 8th grade revolving around the daughter of Sauron and Galadriel (talk about your cracked ships!).
3. Character Development (or lack there of):
One of my absolute favorite things, in any story, is character development. I love to see characters grow and change as a result of their internal and external environments because that’s so universal to life. So, it’s actually the thing I’m probably the pickiest about when reading, or watching, any story, especially because of my background (and degree) in psychology. Unfortunately, this story has no discernible character development for any of the characters involved…and the story spans almost 4 years (which is problematic in and of itself).
Harry, Ron, Hermione, Ginny, and Draco are little changed since we last encountered them. Except, now, they just seem to be bored with their lives and long for their younger days. Interactions between Draco and Harry are almost exactly what they were in the first book. None of them exhibit particularly good parenting. And Ron is rendered fairly one dimensional.
As for the main character, Albus, he starts whiny, goes from angsty to omg-somebody-smack-this-kid, and then only ends at tolerable. Scorpius pretty much stays the same through the entire play, which is to say he stays the most likable character, but doesn’t really seem to grow or be enriched by the experiences he goes through…he’s just inherently a good person with a good outlook on life and that’s merely reinforced. Then, there’s Delphi…I could (and might) write an entire post on her alone. As the daughter of Voldemort and Bellatrix, this character had a lot of interesting potential in terms of development. But, no. In the end, all she wanted was to serve a father she had never met and bring back “The Dark”. She had no vision of her own and was a completely subservient character in the end. We didn’t get see how she came to her path or what she was like as she progressed because all we see of Delphi until act three, scene sixteen is her befriending and helping Albus and Scorpius (if we see her at all…she’s not in it very much).
4. Cedric Diggory and the Alternate Realities:
Just…omg. I need a minute for my brain to settle because this made me bang my head against a wall, repeatedly and forcefully. WHY? Why, of all the people we’ve lost, did this story revolve around Cedric Diggory? I mean, I get it, for some, he was a favorite…but overall not that important or influential. Why did they decide to make a prophecy revolving around him and his survival? Why did they even have to make a new prophecy? I feel like we’ve officially hit ‘over-used’ with that.
Due to this new development and subsequent attempts to rewrite history, Cedric loses what made him so likable in the first place. Cedric was a Hufflepuff through and through. He was kind, loyal, trustworthy, and just. Then we find out that, just because he gets embarrassed during one of the Triwizard Tournament events, he ends up turning evil, joining the Death Eaters, and killing Neville Longbottom…how does that even remotely make sense?! That’s not who Cedric was and simply getting embarrassed was NOT going to make him do a 180 like that. I mean he was in Hufflepuff, they’re sort of used to catching a little flack and not being taken super seriously.
Also, Cedric Diggory apparently plays a significant role in whether or not Ron and Hermione end up together. In both of the alternate realities resulting from changes in Cedric’s time line, Ron and Hermione are not together. Why? Because Ron didn’t get jealous of Krum. Which, in one timeline resulted in him marrying Padma Patil and Hermione becoming a very angry, bitter DADA professor. Just, why? Not only is this disrespectful to the relationships J.K. Rowling spent seven books building, but it’s disrespectful to fans who are invested in said relationships. I’m not happy to know that one of my favorite relationships was started because of something as ridiculous as jealousy.
5. It Genuinely Adds Nothing of Value to the Universe and Doesn’t Advance the Story in Any Way:
Nothing else…that’s it. That’s my overall opinion about the existence of this so-called “eighth book”.
REASONS WHY THIS STORY IS FUN (IMHO)
1. It Reads Like Bad Fan Fiction:
Let’s be honest, who doesn’t love a wonderfully bad fan fiction? If you treat the play like you found it on FF.net, you’ll have a much more enjoyable time reading it. I promise.
2. The Relationship Between Scorpius and Albus:
I love Scorpius…just absolutely love him. I tolerate Albus. However, what I love the most is the Ambiguously Gay Duo type relationship they have going on. It’s adorable. They even do the thing where they pretend to be interested in girls, but anyone can see they only have eyes for each other. Plus, all the hugging. This is genuinely the most compelling aspect of the story and makes the script worth reading.
3. Snape LIVES:
In the nightmare reality, where Voldemort lives and Umbridge is Headmistress of Hogwarts, Snape is alive and still fighting the good fight! Getting to see Snape alive and spend a few scenes with him is truly wonderful.