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August 08, 2016

Book Review: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Text by Tanisha Choudhury. Images courtesy of Pottermore

Let’s discuss what we loved and what we didn’t!

After the release of the last book, we never thought we’d be putting our lives on hold to devour a new Harry Potter book, but 9 years, scattered Pottermore stories and many-Rowling-interviews-denying-said-book later, here we are. Reading Harry Potter & The Cursed Child was a thrilling ride, and not just because we couldn’t believe our luck at being given another chance to visit Rowling’s magical world. Unfortunately, the excitement didn’t last long. There was plenty we loved about the book, but there were also many things that left us irked. Below, we list a few of each (after all, one of the best parts of reading Harry Potter are the intense and passionate discussions that must follow).

Mild spoilers ahead!

What we loved:

Scorpius Malfoy
Once again, what a glorious character Rowling has created. He is the most stand-out addition to the series’ already glowing roster of fantastic characters. Warm, thoughtful, charming, nerdy, funny and loyal, Scorpius is everything we thought a Malfoy could never be. He is the most well-defined of the characters from the book and every page he is on sparkles.

The play format
While we enjoyed the twisting and turning, fast-paced plot in its script form, the stage directions and the dialogues left us wanting to witness its realisation on the stage. If the reviews are anything to go by, the play on West End is turning into a theatrical phenomena and after reading the book, we can only imagine how thrilling the experience must be.

Return of old favourites
The time-travel-involving plot of the book made it possible for us to see the return of some of our favourite characters from the series. Naturally, the most delightful was the comeback of Severus Snape, reminding us why we love him so much. Harry’s interaction with Dumbledore or rather Portrait Dumbledore, where he hashes out his grievances with his old mentor and father-figure, is also among the more moving scenes of the book.

What we didn’t like:

Missing JKR
Reading this book was a surreal experience, because while we were in Rowling’s familiar magical world, it seemed as if the point of view had shifted. The playwright did a great job with the dialogues and staging of scenes, but we were acutely aware that it wasn’t Rowling’s own voice we were reading – a rather disconcerting feeling for her loyal fans. Her signature wit, humour, charm and heart were there in parts, but the rich and vivid details with which she paints her world and soulfulness that made it iconic were sorely missed. The material was only a shadow of what it would have been in her hands.

Albus and Harry’s conflict
The central conflict of the story was the relationship between Harry and his younger son, Albus Severus. We get why Albus had trouble coping with being the son of The Boy Who Lived, especially considering how angsty teenagers are even when their parents aren’t famous for defeating the darkest wizard of all-time and saving the world. However, we didn’t quite buy that Harry would have trouble accepting his son just because he gets sorted into Slytherin and isn’t particularly popular at school. We are just told that they have a troubled relationship and are expected to go along with it.

Time travel
Rowling has gone on record to admit that she did away with the possibility of time travel in her previous books because it would have opened up too many plot loopholes. In light of that, we can’t understand why they chose to bring back Time Turners and hinge the entire action of the plot on them. As many fans have pointed out, the rules of time travel as used in this book don’t match those that Rowling wrote of in Prisoner of Azkaban. Not only that, it created a plot that was ultimately too convoluted and at the same time, a bit convenient, to really stick with the reader.

Treatment of other characters
Albus’ character isn’t defined sharply enough to truly make a mark. Harry has been stripped of his usual wit and good-heartedness — telling Albus he wished he wasn’t his son, forcing him to break up with his best friend, ordering a professor to surveil him at all times. All of these felt inauthentic to the character we all grew up with. We are told Ginny is bold, fierce and funny, but never really shown it. Ron, one of the central characters of the books has been reduced to background noise, serving nothing more than a mild comedic purpose. Harry and Ginny’s other children and Ron and Hermione’s children are hardly mentioned, let alone given a piece of the action. Teddy Lupin and the other Weasleys aren’t a part of the plot at all. We recognise that these omissions are probably to suit the format of a play, but we missed them nonetheless.

Verve verdict:
A lot of people have compared the experience of reading this book to reading excellent fan-fiction and we can’t say we disagree. Read the book as it is meant to be — the script of a play — and you might feel like you’ve just had some Fizzing Whizbees. It is an exceptional script based in a beloved world, and we’re sure it translates into a fantastic play. Read it as the next Harry Potter book, which some of us couldn’t help but do, and you will probably be left feeling like you just ate an Earwax flavoured Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans.

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