Sunday, August 28, 2016

Book Review: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J. K. Rowling, John Tiffany, and Jack Thorne (Harry Potter #8)



Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: More time with the Harry Potter gang
Cons: Plot feels a little out there, issues of reading a script
The Bottom Line:
Read scripted magic
Revisit Harry Potter
Fun visit for fans




A Different Trip to the Harry Potter World

When I first heard that there was going to be a play sequel to the Harry Potter series, I was intrigued and hoped at some point I’d get to see it.  When they announced they were going to release the rehearsal script, I was happy, but didn’t plan to buy it right away.  I should know me better than that.  Yep, I caved and bought Harry Potter and the Cursed Child the week it came out.

If you aren’t yet familiar with the world of Harry Potter thanks to the wildly successful novels and equally wildly successful movies, then this book isn’t for you.  It assumes you know the backstory to what happens here, and if you don’t, you will be positively lost.  There are references to events and cameos by characters from the past books.  However, if you are already a fan, you’ll love diving into the latest story.

What is most notable about this book is that it is a bound copy of the rehearsal script for the play.  That means it reads very differently than a novel.  Essentially, it gives us dialogue and minimal stage direction and even less description.  It’s a different type of read, and you need to be in the proper mindset going into the book as a result.

The play actually opens with a scene we are already familiar with - the epilogue of the final novel.  In it, we see an adult Harry Potter sending his middle child off to his first year at Hogwarts.  From there, we see Albus Severus Potter landing in the unlikeliest house in the school and making a surprising best friend.  We breeze through a few scenes before really landing on the heart of the story, which involves time travel, alternative realities, and a chance to save an innocent from dying.  But when things go wrong, can Albus Potter undo what he has done?  Can Harry Potter work with his son to save the day?

I’ve seen some fans complain about this book being glorified fan fiction, and I can see their complaints.  The plot seems a little wacky overall, not the carefully thought out books in the series.  Yet, every time I started to feel that way, the characters pulled me back into the story and I forgot my complaints.  If you know and love these characters, it’s hard to not cheer for them.  I still feel like the basic premise of the story doesn’t sit completely right, but I don’t mind so much.

And that’s because I love the core cast of characters, and it was great to see them again.  I’m not sure I bought Ron’s personality in the story, but that’s my only real quibble with the characters.  There was a surprise ally along the way, and I loved seeing that relationship develop.  There were some truly touching moments as well.  Many of them were predictable, but that didn’t make them any less touching.

Those used to the immersive world of the Harry Potter novels will definitely miss that here.  Once again, we are reading a play, which is mostly dialogue.  The details of Harry’s world aren’t here because we would see that on stage.

And maybe that’s part of the reason I always had a hard time getting truly into the world like I would the books.  I kept picturing actors on a stage as events unfolded.  And the short scenes always made me think of how the scenes would change for an audience.  I tried to picture how they’d do the magic on stage as well.  That was distracting, although it is a personal issue.

The book is only 300 pages, so shorter than most of the novels.  Couple that with lots of white space because this is a script, and you have a very fast read.  Again, I think this helps explain some of the complaints from fans.

While I don’t think this will ever be anyone’s favorite book in the series, I’m certainly glad I read Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.  If I ever get a chance to see it, I’ll jump.  If you are a fan, go into it expecting a play script instead of a novel, and you’ll be just fine.

This review is part of this week's Marvelous Middle Grade Monday.

9 comments:

  1. I've held off for that reason - a play! But I ought to get a copy. Thanks!

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    1. It's a different read, but I do think it's worth it.

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  2. I just started it and am enjoying that it's a play, especially since I'm helping work on my first play. Oh, the sets must have been so complicated.

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    1. The sets may actually have been minimalist so they could move around easily. At least I hope so because otherwise the changes would take forever!

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  3. I actually saw a DNF of this one and wondered if they went into it expecting too much?
    Looks like an alright edition to the series to me.

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    1. I definitely think you have to have lowered expectations. This isn't one of the novels. But if you know what you are reading going into it, you should be fine.

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  4. I've mostly heard horrible reviews of this, so it was nice to read yours which is more balanced. I know I will want to read this at some point, just to continue to live in that world for a bit. Thanks for the heads up on the pros and cons of the play!

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    1. It's definitely perfect for revisiting the world. Not a perfect addition, but not quite as bad as everyone else seems to think either.

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  5. I may be the only person on the planet who hasn't read these books. I read the first one, but never got around to the rest. The funny thing is, I do love reading plays, so I might really enjoy this. Thanks for the review.

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