Friday, August 5, 2016

Book Review: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child: A solid fanfiction
Review By: Nicole Motahari

Upon hearing about “another Harry Potter book,” I was wary of “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child”. While I am an aficionado of the series, I worried that this latest installment was just another ploy to keep revenue rolling in for J.K Rowling. Nonetheless, I let myself hope, and purchased the book when it came out.

I devoured it within twenty-four hours, staying up till the wee hours to finish the play- yes readers, this is a play, not just a book. As such, it takes a different mindset to get into it. One has to really visualize the writing as if it’s being performed in front of you. As our fantastic editor Kelly Aliano, theatre professor likes to say, a play script is like a blue print. The script can only guide you so far- your imagination has to fill in the rest.

The story takes place where the Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows left off, nineteen years after the Battle of Hogwarts (2017), focusing mainly on Harry’s young progeny, Albus Severus, and Draco Malfoy’s son, Scorpius. The two form a bond of friendship possibly even stronger than the friendship of the original golden trio of Harry, Ron, and Hermione. However, even from the first few pages, readers can tell that Albus Severus has daddy issues big enough to rival Kylo Ren’s. Both Albus and Scorpius suffer under the weight of their parents’ reputations, desperately clinging onto each other (with some mild homoerotic undertones that are of course rectified in a tied up package of an ending with heterosexual romantic prospects on the horizon).
(from L. to R. Noma Dumezweni as Hermione, Paul Thornley as Ron, & Jamie Parker as Harry)
The original trio is featured in the book. Hermione Granger is now Minister for Magic, with Harry working under her as Ron runs the joke shop and keeps things under control at home. Draco Malfoy plays a prominent role, not as a villain, but as a better father than Harry, and still holding that same allure he did as a young Death Eater: all very angsty and tense, but in a good way.

Other old friends and enemies pop up in their own ways, but the main characters in “The Cursed Child” feel a bit more real to me, facing issues that even Muggles might face. Of course, this being a Harry Potter book, all of that escalates quickly, but the relatability is still there. The play moves much more quickly than the books, which is to be expected to an extent, since it’s meant for viewing and not reading and the text is significantly shorter. It takes a while to build up action, kind of like the Forbidden Journey ride at Harry Potter World, but once it is up and running, then it takes off on a Kuka arm of a journey, flipping your brain every which way as you read.
The Potter Family

While it’s a great read, this piece feels significantly fanfiction-y. Don’t get me wrong, it’s solid work, but in reality, it’s written like a very good fanfiction play. It doesn’t quite feel quite like an actual Harry Potter book; it doesn’t have enough J.K Rowling for me to identify it as having her tone or writing style, but my opinion might change if I see it performed, as it’s meant to be. Again, with this being a play, one must remember that a great deal of character tone and depth relies on how the actor chooses to portray their part. The stage directions do a great job of giving the reader that cue, such as in Act One, Scene Seven: [ALBUS is sitting on his bed as the world goes on outside his door. Still against the constant motion outside. We hear a roar from JAMES off)]. Even if you’re not watching the play, readers can sense the isolation Albus has wrapped himself in as a defense against the world’s cruelty.

The Granger-Weasley Family
The play seems to play a bit heavily on the dying mother trope, and lacks enough strong female characters for my taste. Again, understandable, since they’re rushed for time, but Hermione as Minister for Magic plays right into the “working woman neglecting her family” stereotype, to the point where she says “Ron says he thinks I see more of my secretary, Ethel, than him. Do you think there’s a point where we made a choice- parent of the year, or Ministry official of the year?” This bothers me to no end; it just doesn’t seem like the Hermione we all knew and love. She had a strong bond in the books with her parents and I feel that she’d keep that sense of family as she grew up, balancing both a career and family, instead of simply being a career woman. Minerva McGonagall seems diluted and rather softened up… many of the female characters just felt a bit off. A quick kudos to the character of Astoria Malfoy who destroys the feels train without ever really being present onstage!

Despite its shortcomings, this is a must read for die-hard Potterheads and a solid source of sustenance until November, when Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them comes out in theaters. I’d rate the book an overall B plus, with bonus points for effort pushing it to an A minus. While the play didn’t break any new frontiers on the Harry Potter front, neither did it spoil the series, so go forth and read away!

Edited By: Kelly Aliano, PhD

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