***This post contains SPOILERS for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child ***
Note: Also, please excuse any typos because I haven’t had a chance for a second read through yet
It has been a few days now since I finished reading “The Eighth Story” – Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.
For anyone who – somehow – happens to not be in the know, this is not a novel, it is a play/scriptbook based on the actual stage play that is being put on currently in London, England.
Sadly, I am not able to travel to England any time soon, and even if I could, the play is sold out well into next year! So, thank Dumbledore (!), JK Rowling and co. decided to release the play as a book format.
I know this has some people disappointed because:
(1) Why is it a play and not a book or movie to begin with?
(2) If it’s being released as a book, why not a proper novel?
(3) JK Rowling didn’t actually write the play herself. She collaborated with the playwright, Jack Thorne, and director, John Tiffany, to create this piece of work. Don’t be alarmed, it is her story, she just didn’t actually write the play.
One of my biggest concerns, aside from the obvious trauma of having characters I know and love either butchered or go off in a direction I didn’t want them to, was that if someone else is writing the actual dialogue, would they get too wrapped up in their image of them based, in large part now, on the movie versions?
If I ever got to ask JK Rowling one question (though I have a few!), the one that always comes back to me is if she found her own writing being swayed by the film representations – i.e. by the time the Deathly Hallows book was released, there had already been four movies, with two Dumbledores. Most people who read the books before the movies felt that Richard Harris was Dumbledore, the Dumbledore they grew up with, the one that was in their head. Then Michael Gambon took over and brought a certain…intensity…shall we say (Potterheads know what I’m referring to… 😛 ). Was her own Dumbledore ever influenced by the one that she saw coming from Michael Gambon?
I highly doubt it because she has very clear and concise ideas about her stories and characters, but does the same hold true when someone else, who is taking her lead, but who is not the original creator, goes ahead with the story?
This brings me to one of the issues I had with Cursed Child. But before I get into that, let me tell you what I thought overall!
So…How Did I Like Harry Potter and the Cursed Child?
A lot of people have asked me how the book was, but truthfully, I feel like I can’t give a proper answer without giving away some of the story, somehow.
I remember hearing recently, either one of the actors or writers, said something along the same lines – you really can’t discuss it without giving something away, and I completely understood that while reading it.
The little blurb about Albus Severus and Harry on the book jacket really is about as vague as you can be without spilling something.
My general – vague, spoiler-free – response to people has been similar to:
“It’s…interesting. It isn’t what I expected, even though I didn’t know WHAT to expect, and at times it made my insides feel uncomfortable. There are things that are not going to sit well with people, but, for the most part, they’re still the characters we love, so you do get into it and want to see where it goes.”
But since I warned of spoilers already, I’m going for it a bit more in-depth here:
***SPOILERS BE AHEAD***
The entire premise of Cursed Child is based on time travel and messing with timelines which I, personally, am not comfortable with because it usually goes horribly awry and confuses my brain (*cough*XMen*cough).
I was really worried they were going to screw up the timeline and just leave it be and say “Oh well! Alternate timeline!”, as has been a theme of late (*cough*XMenAgain*cough*StarTrekToo*cough*), but thankfully, through a simple shield spell, things were rectified.
The whole first part of the play, though, my chest had a constant constriction of anxiety, worrying about this exact thing. Also, I’m not going to lie, I really disliked Harry Potter’s son Albus Severus. He was all the whiny, emo, angst of Harry in Order of the Phoenix, with hardly any of the reason to be.
Maybe had we watched him grow from eleven to fifteen, as we did Harry, I would be more sympathetic. If we’d seen some of his struggles of being sorted into Slytherin (gasp! Called it!), rather than brief snippets that just mush together until they reach the time they need to be at for the story, I may have understood his pain more, but from where I was, he was just coming off as a brat.
It doesn’t help that we’ve all, essentially, grown up with Harry, so seeing his son treat him so shoddily (how dare you treat his attempt to reach out by giving you his blanket from Lily with such disrespect!!), didn’t sit well with me at all.
His reasons for going back into the past (to save Cedric because he thinks his dad should have/should help Amos Diggory who comes to ask him to do so) were very rooted in this teen-angst too, so the first half really was a bit, for lack of a better word, “meh” to me.
BUT Part 2 sure did pick up, and even though I feel like I need another read or two to see how I actually feel about this (that is to say, if I can accept it as canon), I did end feeling satisfied and wanting more.
What Didn’t I Like?
I’ll start with the negatives first and then build to the positives…
Ron was too goofy/too like movie-Ron
As much as I loved seeing the trio, and Ginny and Draco, among others, all back and, for the most part, just as I know them, I felt like Ron was used as way too much comic relief.
I think Rupert Grint did a fantastic job as Ron in the movies (honestly, can you really read Ron saying “Bloody hell!” without thinking of Rupert Grint now?), but they really did Ron’s character so little justice in the movies.
In the books, Ron has his hilarious moments, but he’s also a very brave and strong character when he needs to be. The movies, kind of, stripped that away from him, making him the silly, comic relief best friend and the play has just continued that. I don’t think there was a single scene where Ron wasn’t doing something that was just ridiculous, and that was a bit disappointing.
Ginny also didn’t do very much
Now Ginny is where I and a lot of other HP fans diverge because I actually liked movie-Ginny. I thought Bonnie Wright played a sweet, but still tough Ginny, one who I could see really cared about Harry all the way through. Many people have said they found her too weak and meek, but I never saw that… but I did see that in the play Ginny a bit.
I just feel like aside from berating Harry for being a bad father, or comforting him after a bad dream, she didn’t actually get to do very much. Same goes for their other two children, James and Lily, which leads me to my next point…
Not enough of the side characters
This really isn’t something I should complain about given which characters did show up (more on that later!), but I really missed seeing Luna, Neville and the Weasleys. Part of me feels like this is the downside of doing this as a play, you can only have a limited number in your company, which means you have to really make bold choices about who to keep in and who to cut out (or in Neville’s case, just mention and never show).
I think I was most upset that Luna was not only not seen, but never even mentioned in the play, and worse than her, neither was George! Time and again, it is said that Ron “runs a joke shop,” but it seems to me… it’s his brother’s joke shop…a brother they never once mention. I’d have really liked to know how George was coping, after the traumatic loss of Fred, all these years later.
Same goes for Teddy Lupin. There was no mentions of Harry’s godson in the least…
I understand the limitations of time, actors, space and money, but these were definite areas where the play was lacking. One of the reasons I started reading the Harry Potter books to begin with was because I got a taste for how many supporting characters there were in the movies and just how intricate the backstories were and I wanted to know more. Cursed Child spends 99% of the time with Albus (annoying) and Scorpius (sweet), which leaves a lot to be desired.
With a name like Albus Severus, could I have really expected anything less than angst from this child? I might be a little hard on this character, and might change my mind upon another reading, but my gut reaction from the first read through was that he just grated on my nerves.
Time Travel angle
As I mentioned already, this didn’t sit well with me as the main impetus for the plot, but they managed to correct it and I suppose it was fun to see the alternate realities once you know that everything is back to normal. Still, as I was reading it, I did worry if it would screw up everything I knew and loved.
As a person, she was very annoying. I knew from the get-go that there was something off about her and that she’d have to turn out to be the evildoer. For me, it was like when you’re watching an episode of Law & Order and everyone is struggling to figure out who the criminal is, and they just happen to have a big name guest star, so in the first five minutes you point to the TV and say “It’s him/her” and lo and behold…it is!
She rubbed me the wrong way from the very beginning, which I suppose means the writers were doing their job and my judge of character is pretty good, but I just didn’t like her as a character… Towards the end when her big secret and motivations come out it was a bit better (her big “I am Lord Voldemort”-esque moment), but I feel like she could have accomplished what she wanted to do in another way.
Canon or Fanfic?
Am I the only one that felt like I was reading FanFic at times?
Not just any fanfic, very clear Drarry fanfic… (And then in the end ASP/SM don’t even actually end up together, so it was a cop out fanfic?) I have never been one for the Drarry pairing, I always felt like those two really did just hate each other, but you could completely see that Albus and Scorpius were in love with each other (or at least would be in time), but the way it was all written seemed so very hokey and fanfic-like.
The second alternate reality and big climactic twist also read as a bit fanfic-like – especially the climactic twist. The Voldie/Bella people (are there any?!) must be really happy though… 😛
Polyjuice Potion use
This is just a nerdy, nitpicky moment but – Polyjuice Potion takes a MONTH to brew, so to have AS, Scorpius and Delphi use that wasn’t really sensible. I convinced myself (and my niece corroborated with me 😛 ) that Delphi was shifty and maybe just had a bunch of it lying around. BUT then Albus mentions it again later when they want Harry to masquerade as Voldemort, that he is “good at Polyjuicing” — good or not Albus Severus, you can’t make a one-month potion in 5 minutes! (Just like Josh Groban can’t have his pizza in five minutes!)
What Did I Like?
Right from his first scene, I literally thought “I like this kid!” I like that he was nerdy and a bit insecure, the complete antithesis of his father. Speaking of, I liked the depth of his relationship – or lack thereof – with Draco. I actually cared more about their relationship and seeing it through than I did Albus and Harry’s.
When Part 2 starts with Scorpius alone, and Albus not existing, I was actually happier because I found Albus was holding the story down, and when Scorpius was given his time to shine it was much more interesting.
Of the newbies, he’s the clear favourite!
I didn’t expect McGonagall to be there at all much less to be there so much. She is one of my favourite characters and that only grew even more as I read this play. When she scolded – Minister for Magic – Hermione, that was pretty fantastic.
I was worried we wouldn’t see any of her and that she’d passed on from her job as Headmistress by this point. I was so glad she was back!
The time in the “Voldemort and Valor” universe
Much like the Star Trek Mirror, Mirror universe, these scenes gave us a look into a bleak alternate reality, which I enjoyed seeing – not least of all because MY FAVOURITE CHARACTER LIIIIIVES!
My niece actually said to me when she got to that part, “Were you happy? Were you happy to see Snape was alive?” and I was, I genuinely was, my heart literally skipped a beat when “Professor Snape” was mentioned and I was in jittery excitement all the way through the scenes where he interacts with Scorpius.
I know there will be some people who hate those scenes because they might think Snape acts out of character or that having Snape actually continue to be on the Order/Dumbledore’s side would be unrealistic, but I think this all comes back around to the “Great Snape Debate.” If anything, this will only make the debate even more interesting for years to come…
I like it because it really helps those of us in the pro-Snape camp by showing that, yeah, it started with Lily, but maybe it’s also possible he actually realized the error of his ways. That’s the Snape I’ve always believed in, so it was very nice to see.
My response to my niece when she asked me was that I was so, so happy, but I also was slightly nervous that he’d be a bad guy in this universe. It would have corroborated people’s theories that he really didn’t give a hoot aside from his love/obsession with Lily and needing to alleviate his guilt. The fact that it went my way, I was thrilled. 😀
And I won’t lie, as I was reading it (specifically the patronus part), I thought: “Is this cheesy? This might be cheesy… I don’t really care, I love it!” – so when it comes to Snape’s part in the play, sorry, I’m not really objective. 😛
For example, Scorpius’ line: “Thank you for being my light in the darkness” was…yes…quite cheesy, but because he said it to Snape, I just took it all starry-eyed. 😛 My reaction to it was literally: “Aww, that was SO cheesy,” but I still liked it.
Draco with the Trio
Having Draco spend some quality time with the trio (and even Ginny) was nice. This is another part that might come off as out-of-character, but with 20+ years to consider his life and then losing his wife, it’s not hard to believe Draco did some soul searching and became a new, and better, man.
I particularly enjoyed the small foray into his “small talk” with Harry about what he wished he could have done with his life. It was nice to see that Draco, deep down, was just an insecure kid, and even still an insecure adult/dad.
Harry and his parents
This is an odd thing to “like” because it was very sad, but having older-Harry actually present at the time of his parents’ deaths packed a huge emotional punch. That was sad to read and I’m sure would be even sadder to see.
Things I am unsure of and/or still have questions about…
Cedric the Death Eater
I am a proud (now) Hufflepuff and I have a very hard time believing that a Hufflepuff would become a Death Eater – especially just because he was humiliated or embarrassed. I’m sure there was more to it than this and maybe there are some bad-wizard Hufflepuffs around (though it’s the one house known to have the lowest percentage of dark wizards), but I just can’t believe it.
Voldemort and Bellatrix sitting in a tree…? o_o
I am definitely not one to disregard the obvious fact that Voldemort and Bellatrix had a…thing…of some sort…going, but them actually having a KID?!
I was so thrown by this momentarily and didn’t believe it, that I was caught up in that theory from earlier in the book about the time turner being used to go back and get someone impregnated just so Voldemort would have an heir later… I couldn’t fathom that this was meant to have taken place in the stories we already know/canon (And unless JKR can outright say she always planned this or can explain it… I may never be able to!)
But clearly that made no sense whatsoever and it was just the fact that Voldie and Bella (ew ew ew ew) knocked boots at some point… (ewwww).
I wasn’t really sold on this, even though I think it is an interesting little twist, mostly because I couldn’t figure out when she had 9 months out-of-action when we didn’t see her around, BUT then I read a few theories online saying, if you actually look carefully, there is actually more than enough time for her to be pregnant and have a kid between Order of the Phoenix and Deathly Hallows. If you disregard her showing up – looking very un-pregnant – at the Burrow and when Dumbledore is killed in the Half-Blood Prince movie, there’s a good chance she was pregnant all throughout HBP.
Some people speculate she was pregnant when she and Narcissa went to see Snape at Spinner’s End because she mentions that if she had “sons” she’d be happy to give them up to The Dark Lord… why would she say it like that and not as “if I had a son/child” when she doesn’t have any kids? Alternately, she could have either already had Delphi or known she’s having a daughter (soon) because she only mentions if she had “sons” and not daughters/a daughter…
If she was pregnant at that point (summer of 1996), Delphi could have even been born in early 1997…which would make her the right age (“early twenties” as she says at one point) AND movie-Bella could have even been present for Dumbledore’s death (but not the Burrow destruction, unless she was just hiding it really well under that corset!).
So…the possibilities date-wise are there, but there’s the whole other conundrum of Voldemort being unable to love.
But then again…who said he ever loved Bella, really.
I imagine this will also bring up a lot of questions from children who either read the play or go to see it with their parents. It’d be easy to get around if they didn’t mention Bellatrix’s husband, but Delphi does mention Rodolphus is the one who corroborates whose kid she is/the prophecy (that I didn’t fully understand, to be honest). I’m sure there will be more than a few “But if Rodolphus and Bellatrix were married, how is she Voldemort’s daughter?” questions…
Questions that I will deflect onto parents when asked them from school children (or hope their parents have already explain…somehow. 😛 )
See above. Didn’t really get where it came from. Did I miss something?
Why did Harry suddenly have his Voldemort connection back? Clearly Delphi has been around for 20+ years herself, so if it’s all because of her, why didn’t Harry feel all this much earlier? Where’s she been this whole time? Why’d she only start pestering Albus Severus when he was 14/15? Why not befriend him when he was 5 as his “invisible friend” and wreak some havoc? (She would have only been 13/14 herself at the point, but I’m sure she, as a Riddle-Lestrange, would’ve been smart and evil enough to get this done! Hm, I may be a Hufflepuff, but I do have the ability to think up dark things… Maybe Death-Eater-Cedric isn’t so unreasonable a thought after all!)
The cover of the book
I still don’t quite get who that is on there and what it represents. Is it Albus Severus? Is it Delphi? Is it Albus Severus sitting in a nest made by Delphi? (The wings, I assume, represent her).
Who IS The Cursed Child?
I figure this seems obvious – it’s Delphi, right?
But it really could be any of the children the play focuses on!
It could be Albus Severus – cursed because of his connection to his father, his sorting into Slytherin, his screw-ups and his attraction to a pure-evil woman.
It could be Scorpius – cursed because of his name, his father and the loss of his mother (and his own screw-ups, though he worked a lot harder than Albus to fix them).
But it’s most likely Delphi… because, come on, her parents. Yuck. Lol.
(A friend of mine suggested she even thought it was Harry as she was reading Part 1).
Anyhow, in the end, as I told my cousin when she said she’s afraid to read it in case it ruins the world for her, I find it’s still okay with me because if I need be, I can still disregard it. 😛
I would like to see the play though because I can’t even fathom how they did the effects for it! I hope they either put it in theatres or bring it here at some point. My brother and sister have both said they think they’d have a hard time with it because they’re so used to the movie actors, and though I had originally said “as long as they do the characters justice I’ll be fine with it” – that’s when I had seen who’s playing Harry, Ron, Hermione and Draco and was satisfied… Now that I know who else is in the play… it might be a bit harder for me to let go and see them as the characters (Alan Rickman and Maggie Smith are exceptionally hard to replace…sorry…)
So that’s that for me on Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.