Author: J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany, and Jack Thorne
Series: Harry Potter Series
Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books
Publish Date: July 31st, 2016
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
The Eighth Story. Nineteen Years Later.
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 and the first official Harry Potter story to be presented on stage. The play will receive its world premiere in London’s West End on July 30, 2016.
It was always difficult being Harry Potter and it isn’t much easier now that he is an overworked employee of the Ministry of Magic, a husband and father of three school-age children.
While Harry grapples with a past that refuses to stay where it belongs, his youngest son Albus must struggle with the weight of a family legacy he never wanted. As past and present fuse ominously, both father and son learn the uncomfortable truth: sometimes, darkness comes from unexpected places.
I never thought I would be assigning a one star review to anything with J.K. Rowling’s stamp of approval, let alone the eighth installment of the Harry Potter series. I grew up alongside Harry, Ron, and Hermione, and I practically breathed the wizarding world as a child. I was horribly disappointed on my eleventh birthday when my long-awaited Hogwarts letter got lost in the mail (it. is. still. coming! I 100% blame Errol). I dressed up as Harry Potter, wig and all, for four consecutive Halloweens, despite everyone I encountered automatically assuming I was a boy as a result. I desperately wanted to fall in love again with the magic that Rowling wove in previous installments, but in the back of my mind I knew it was a little too good to be true.
The one aspect that I tremendously enjoyed were the insights provided on the various characters as they aged and moved on with their lives following the seventh book and the Battle of Hogwarts. I also appreciated the glimpses into the lives of a wide array of minor characters that were only briefly mentioned in preceding books (although I’m still waiting for Peeves to make an appearance). Above and beyond that, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child quickly train-wrecked with essentially no other redeeming qualities.
Most noticeably, the play read like poorly-written fanfiction, which it was, in fact, considering that J.K. Rowling played no part in the actual writing of the script. The writing in no way, shape, or form could remotely compare to Rowling’s, a fact that was painfully obvious and further highlighted by blatant differences in styling, phrasing, etc. The dialogue routinely seemed awkward, out of place, and forced. While I tackled the book with full knowledge that this a script for a play that is intended to be watched rather than read, I doubt the verbal delivery of these lines would be any less off-putting.
The characters routinely acted and spoke out of character, differing greatly
from the individuals Rowling had carefully crafted over the years. They lacked a certain depth, and they were no longer motivated by the same factors nor upheld the same values. Therefore, the characters I thought I knew were given entirely new (and highly unwelcome) personalities, traits, and beliefs by Thorne. Yes, the play is set nineteen years after the conclusion of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, so I expected there to be some alterations to the manners in which the characters spoke and behaved, but nothing this drastic. The characters were so utterly unrecognizable that, had Thorne changed their names, I would never have identified them as belonging to the Harry Potter franchise.
Thorne turned the characters into simple-minded, buffoons, each with a singular focus or selfish aspiration. Ron, for example, was a complete joke throughout the play, serving purely as comic relief. While I adored his character in Rowling’s books, he came across as an immature idiot in the play who never transcended adolescence. Similarly, Draco appeared to have lost his edge – his comments were no longer biting and acrid, and he didn’t appear to foster the same hatred for Harry, Ron, and Hermione. He actually appeared to tolerate them. People can’t alter their mindsets and ideals that severely. My guess is one too many bludgers to the head.
The entire cast of characters were exceedingly flat and static with seemingly no affection or concern for their contemporaries. When Harry volunteered to insert himself into a dangerous situation, his peers were more than willing to step aside with not so much as a “good luck” or “see you later,” let alone genuine concern. What happened to the unbreakable bond between the trio? Why are they interacting like mere acquaintances as opposed to old friends?
The plot, although supposedly Rowling-approved, was riddled with plot holes and a multitude of suspicion-raising coincidences. Most prominently, the focus had evidently shifted from the previous struggle between good versus evil and emphasis on magic and the wizarding world to a more mature tone that identified the challenges associated with partaking in a family dynamic as well as holding positions of power. While this wasn’t necessarily a poor decision in and of itself, it wasn’t well-executed. To compound matters further, the incorporated scenes felt rather fake and atypical – they didn’t capture the beloved, everyday moments portrayed in the remainder of the series: Quidditch practices, meals in the Great Hall, shopping for school supplies in Diagon Alley, stirring up trouble in Hosmeade, completing homework in the Common Room, etc. What happened to the Hogwarts scenes and memories that I came to cherish over the years? As a result, it didn’t feel like part of the same franchise, let alone the next installment of the series.
What little plot was present was merely a ripoff of the original novels – Thorne simply rehashed the past to avoid introducing any creativity, calling into play the same villain, the same settings, and the same tired themes. They were new and exciting the first time around, but not the second or third. The play, overall, lacked originality and creativity, even for a fanfiction.
And lastly, it’s a play for Christ’s sake. It has an entirely different persona and feel to it than the rest of the series, causing it to stand out and attract attention. The book as a whole seems like more of a cringeworthy afterthought, and I would have been perfectly content having left off with the epilogue in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.
I’m still in shock. I so badly wanted to relive the magic that I recall from childhood of cracking open a new Harry Potter book for the first time and completely immersing myself in the story. I’m still in denial that Rowling endorsed this project from its initial stages, let alone that she has officially designated it as the eighth book in the Harry Potter series. I don’t think I’ll ever come to accept that fact.
|Plot & Premise|