Thursday, 4 August 2016
'Harry Potter and the Cursed Child' Book Review
This Sunday saw the release of the rehearsal script for the Harry Potter sequel play 'The Cursed Child' in book form. Whilst many Harry Potter fans were excited for the release of the story negative reviews were quick to surface online by those who were unhappy with the story and the way the book read.
Whilst the book is incredibly short in comparison to the previous Harry Potter novels, it's worth remembering that this is because this book is not a novel but a script. The writing is basic, with little to no text beyond dialogue and simple scene descriptions. If you can get over the way the story is presented, which from the initial fan reactions many were not able to do, there is something of an interesting story to be found.
'Harry Potter and the Cursed Child' takes place 19 years after the end of the last Harry Potter book, and follows Harry's youngest son Albus as he attempts to navigate his way through his early years at Hogwarts and deals with his less than perfect relationship with his father.
A lot of the play deals with this poor relationship between Harry and Ablus, with much of Albus' issues stemming from living in his fathers shadow and failing to believe that he is living up to the Potter legacy. Albus is sorted into Slytherin House and struggles during his lessons, leading to many within the school to mock and tease him, something that helps to solidify his friendship with Scorpius Malfoy, who receives similar treatment.
I found this shift in how the young Potter characters navigate school to be quite a welcome one, with Harry having been the fairly popular heroic Gryffindor student and Albus being the shunned Slytherin outcast. It helps to not only show how different Albus is from his father, but makes their arguments and difficulty in connecting feel more natural and nuanced.
There's also no way I can not mention at this point just how much I love Scorpius Malfoy. He's without a doubt one of the nicest, warmest and just all round likable characters in the whole book, possibly even the whole Harry Potter universe. His relationship with Albus feels so genuine and full of love that the two of them read as a more natural friendship than the main three character from the original book series.
Whilst the book has the underlying story of Albus and his father trying to work on their relationship the main thrust of the story comes when Harry and the ministry manage to find an illegal Time Turner, which Albus decides to try to use to save the life of Cedric Diggory following a visit from his elderly father.
Cedric, as fans will surely remember, lost his life during the events of 'The Goblet of Fire' when Voldemort first returned to life and murdered him during the graveyard battle. Going back to stop this means that the story dips back and forward into the three Tri Wizard tournament challenges, three of the most iconic set pieces from the series.
Whilst Albus and Scorpius first try to save Cedric's life during the first event they return to their own time to find that not only did Cedric still die at Voldemorts hand, but their have been subtle changes to history. Hermione and Ron are no longer married, erasing their children from history, and Hermoine has gone from being Minister For Magic to a rather nasty Defence Against the Dark Arts professor at Hogwarts.
Trying to once again change history the two of them travel back to the second challenge and manage to humiliate Cedric out of the Tri Wizard tournament, saving his life. Unfortunately, when the time turner returns them back to the present Scorpius finds Albus gone and a much darker world awaiting him.
This is the part of the story that I liked the most, and a setting that I really want to see explored further, and one that I'm sure will produce a lot of fan fiction. In this new timeline the humiliated Cedric blamed Harry for what happened during the Tri Wizard Tournament, and after suffering torment at the hands of his fellow students fell in league with dark wizards.
By the time the Battle of Hogwarts came around Cedric was a full blown Death Eater, and during the events of the battle murdered Neville Longbottom. The knock-on effects of this were huge, as Neville was no longer able to kill Nagini which meant the horcux's were never destroyed and Voldemort was able to win the war.
The new world is one where Voldemort rules supreme, Harry Potter was killed at the Battle of Hogwarts, Delores Umbridge runs Hogwarts and Scorpius is a thoroughly evil person. Trying desperately to find a way to correct the timeline and bring back the world as it should be Scorpius turns to the one person he finds who he believes can be trusted, Severus Snape.
Despite still being the Hogwarts potions teacher in this new timeline Snape is still acting as a double agent against Voldemort with all that remains of the Order of the Phoenix, Ron and Hermione. Using the time turner they manage to go back and prevent Albus and Scorpius from changing history, though it costs the three rebels their lives.
Despite being an alternate future and the events essentially being erased I loved these scenes, especially the ones with Snape. I found Snape's story in the books to be one of the most heartbreaking, and think of him as one of the biggest heroes of the series, so to see him still caring for Harry long after his death, to be willing to fight to save him and give his life yet again to do so is so wonderful.
Once returned to the present, now repaired, the two boys find the true enemy of the story hidden in plain sight the whole time, Delphi Diggory, Cedric's cousin who had been helping them to try to bring him back. Delphi steals the time turner from the duo and reveals herself to be a dark witch, intent on bringing Voldemort back to power. Having learnt from Scorpius of the alternate timeline that was created she's intent on doing the same, leading to the three of them battling across time.
They firstly end up back in the Tri-Wizard Tournament's third task, where Delphi fails to change history, leading her to follow a new plan, travelling further back to 1981 to prevent the original fall of Voldemort when he tries to kill the baby Harry Potter.
It's at this point, with Albus and Scorpius trapped in 1981 and their parents searching desperately for a way to save them in the present that the disturbing truth of Delphi's identity is revealed, she's Voldemorts daughter.
Thanks to Albus and Scorpius being able to leave a message through time for their parents the adults are able to travel back with a second time turner and together are able to defeat Delphi shortly before Voldemort arrives and kill Harry's parents, ensuring time runs to course.
A lot of criticism has been levelled at the story by fans for it feeling like 'fan fiction', and I guess that's part of the danger of using time travel so heavily in the story, especially as it features some of the more memorable parts of the Harry Potter series, but on a whole I found the story interesting and entertaining. Yes, it wasn't the best book in the world, but it was never meant to be a book, and I'm sure it translates well to stage as the play has been receiving 5 star reviews.
That's not to say that there aren't some issues with it, I don't like the fact that Voldemort and Bellatrix Lestrange had a child, and they clearly had no idea what to do with Ron now that he's an adult, but these flaws are small in relation to the overall enjoyment I got from the story.
I hope that I get to see the play at some point so that I can see the story the way that it was actually intended to be experienced, or that perhaps J.K. will choose to re-write it as an actual book, though I doubt that will actually happen.
'Harry Potter and the Cursed Child' isn't the best story in the world, and it does have some flaws, but then so did the rest of the Harry Potter series.