‘Harry Potter and the Cursed Child’ – Book Review

This article originally appeared on Lit To Lens on Sept. 3, 2016.

Title: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
Author: Jack Thorne
Year Of Publication: 2016
Genre: Fantasy

Spoilers to follow

It’s a miracle that this works at all. JK Rowling needs no introduction, yet her gifts as a writer are frequently overshadowed by the sheer force of her imagination and world-building ability. It’s a travesty. JK Rowling is an excellent writer.

And that’s why the newest entry into the Harry Potter cannon shouldn’t work. Rowling is given a story credit on this bound volume of the West End London stage play, but not for writing. That honor is bestowed on Jack Thorne, a veteran screenwriter with a diverse output to his name. But he’s no JK Rowling.

Even so, the script (for that’s what it is…the play’s script) reads like a breeze. It’s low-calorie junk food: one can plow through a box of fat free Cheez-Its in the matter of hours, but it’s not really the same, you know?

Anyway, Cursed Child opens at the close (hehe) of Deathly Hallows. Harry and Ginny’s sons are on their way to Hogwarts and the whole gang is back. Ron, Hermione, Draco, and all the kids. But this time, it’s different. Harry’s youngest son, Albus, and Draco’s son, Scorpius, are the main characters, and the plot…well, it’s still about Voldemort.

It seems that the wizards have been gossiping. Rumors swirl that Scorpius is not the son of Draco and whoever his wife is (side note: who wants to marry Draco after what went down at the Battle of Hogwarts?), but rather the son of Voldemort. No one can prove one way or the other because there is no wizard version of “Maury,” but it’s the driving question of a narrative that bubbles along in the background while its heroes take their adventure.

Albus has a conflicted relationship with his father. He’s nothing like him and uncomfortable and unimpressed with his father’s fame. He’s even sorted into Slytherin. One day, Amos Diggory comes by the Potter residence to inquire on another rumor: the Ministry of Magic’s confiscation of a powerful Time-Turner (which you’ll remember were all destroyed in Order of the Phoenix). Amos wants to use this to go back in time to save his son Cedric from his fate in Goblet of Fire but Harry doesn’t bite.

Albus, who is listening in at the top of the stairs (not under them), does. He solicits Scorpius, they break into the Ministry (which needs better safeguards against teenagers), and they concoct a plan with Amos’ niece and caretaker Delphini to go back in time. Yep, they ruin everything. Things get confusing. The best way to describe it is to say that Cursed Child reads like a Sparknotes to the original seven novels disguised as a new, redundant story. If this was a sitcom, you’d have the camera push in on Ron (who, under Thorne’s characterization, has become Shaggy from Scooby Doo) to say, “Voldemort’s back again-again?”

I found myself enjoying the father-son dynamics here. A question close to the play’s chest: How does the next generation deal with the burden of previous legacy? It’s something Harry faced during his time at Hogwarts, sure, but Albus has to face something different. Harry fought the battle that had to be fought; Albus doesn’t know what battles are left.

That said, I was overwhelmed by the laziness of the unconvincing “twist.” The original series is full of small, earned reveals; what happens here is not that. We all saw Voldemort live for a full year under a turban on the back of Professor Quirrell’s head. You want us to believe that guy is shooting anything but blanks? I’m fine with revisiting the past, let’s just make sure we’re not rewriting the canon. It belongs to all of us now. Sorry, JK, you can’t have it back.

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