Harry Potter and The Cursed Child is the eighth installment of the massively popular Harry Potter series that has captured the world’s imagination for so many years. The last installment was released in 2007 and ever since then, there’s been this emptiness and fans have wanted to know what happened to our favourite characters as they grew up and went into mundane lives after experiencing so many adventures!
While Pottermore, the online encyclopedia, provided some insight, everyone wanted more and so it was announced, that the sequel to the series would be dramatised as a play in London and the script of the play published for fans all over the world. In addition to the play, a film based on the Hogwarts textbook “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find them” is to be released in November 2016 with Oscar winner Eddie Redmayne stepping into the shoes of author Newt Scamander as he travels to 1920s New York and the audience are introduced to a whole new world.
But lets get back to the present. Harry Potter and The Cursed Child (TCC) was released yesterday and was lapped up by fans all over the world. Some enjoyed the new peek into the lives of our favourite heroes, others felt nostalgic and yet some purists felt it was nothing more than fan-service, the plot reading a lot like what a lot of fan-fiction has put across through out the years.
The play is based on a new story by author J. K. Rowling and has been scripted by playwright Jack Thorne. The synopsis is as follows:
It was always difficult being Harry Potter and it isn’t much easier now that he is an overworked employee of the Ministry of Magic, a husband and father of three school-age children.
While Harry grapples with a past that refuses to stay where it belongs, his youngest son Albus must struggle with the weight of a family legacy he never wanted. As past and present fuse ominously, both father and son learn the uncomfortable truth: sometimes, darkness comes from unexpected places.
Spoiler Level: Major (this review will discuss massive plot points from the new story and it would be better to read it only after you’ve read the play or watched it at the theatre).
Initial Thoughts: I pre-ordered the book as soon as I heard about it. As the release date approached, I become more curious, excited and nervous and when I received my book (delivered on the release date itself), I dived right into it, excited to revisit a familiar world and nervous about reading what could possibly have been done to my favourite characters.
The Good (or “OMG the feels”):
While the dialogue has not been written by J.K. Rowling herself, the world still feels familiar. We start where we left off in Deathly Hallows with a grown up Harry and Ginny dropping off young Albus Severus Potter as he boards the Hogwarts Express to start his first year. We are then introduced to Scorpius Malfoy, the son of Harry’s erstwhile nemesis and rival, Draco Malfoy. Scorpius has to be the best thing about this new play. His dialogues show us exactly the kind of character he is and he is a total sweetheart. The complete opposite of his father! Seriously, I could adopt Scorpius. Albus and Scorpius both carry crazy baggage. Albus is in the shadow of his father’s legacy and doesn’t want to deal with it. Scorpius has to lay low as the others whisper that he may be the spawn of the vanquished villain Voldemort. Naturally, the hit it off – and it helps that both get sorted in Slytherin. This is great, because we now get to see a Potter in Slytherin, except that Albus comes off as a total douche and he doesn’t even want to talk to Harry, who in turn doesn’t know how to be a father to Albus, who thinks he’s very different to the rest of the Potters, except his anguished, rebellious teenage spirit is quite similar to that of his father!
The story makes use of time-turners, as the kids take it upon themselves to fix the mistakes of their fathers and so we get to meet many old and familiar faces and get to hold our hands to our crushed hearts as the memory of those fallen comes rushing back. The ending sequence is so heartbreaking and I don’t know about you, but I cried, as I’ve so often cried while reading the other books.
The characters do develop over the course of the book. Scorpius gains confidence, Albus gains understanding and Harry and Draco gain the wisdom to move beyond the past as they become allies and learn how be good fathers to their sons.
And oh, did I mention, Hermione’s still a badass, Ginny still holds her mature wisdom, Dumbledore still speaks in riddles through his memory portraits and Prof. McGonagall is still the kind but strict disciplinarian she always was along.
Ron’s still goofy (albeit a bit too much – more below) and its great to see the relationship between Ron and Hermione reiterated throughout all the timelines witnessed in the book. Also, their daughter Rose is basically a young Hermione with all of the Weasley athletic abilities and more, and her interaction with Scorpius (no doubt a nod to the Draco/Hermione shippers) was gold!
The Interesting (or “I still don’t know how to feel about this”):
Two words – Delphi Diggory, or rather just Delphi as she’s only pretending to be a Diggory and she actually is — drumroll — Voldemort’s daughter with none other than his most loyal groupie – Bellatrix Lestrange!
HOW – WHAT – WHY – you may ask and I don’t know any of these answers except for speculation! Yes, we all know Voldemort was a stone cold narcissist who only cared about gaining powers and immortality and decimating everything that lay in his path to homicidal glory. Plus the fact that bad old Voldy was even human anymore – would he even have the right … “appendage” to perform what was required to produce a child?
JKR has confirmed that Bellatrix was definitely in love with Voldemort. Here’s an excerpt from Chapter 36, “The Flaw in the Plan” from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows –
“My Lord . . . my Lord . . . ”
It was Bellatrix’s voice, and she spoke as if to a lover.
Further, in a December 2007 interview with PotterCast, Rowling said that the producers of the film series had to tell Helena Bonham Carter (who portrayed Bellatrix) to tone down the charm when interacting with Ralph Fiennes’ Voldemort and that Rowling herself had to confirmed that Bellatrix was sexually attracted to Voldemort. But we all sort of knew that … the bigger “problem” in the picture, many fans argue, is Voldemort’s inability to love. While we know that love is not a necessary reason for sex, there has to be some reason why Voldemort would indulge his most trusted Death Eater. So here are my thoughts –
- Bellatrix seduced Voldemort for some frolic in the sheets – I mean, she was unhinged, so maybe she needed to have a physical sign of her love for Voldemort or maybe she wanted to become “one” with him and Delphi was just a result of it.
- Voldemort believed in purity of the wizard world, so perhaps he would only entrust the highest office to those who carried his “pure” blood. As we do see in the darkest timeline, everyone reports to the Augurey and then we find out in the present, that Delphi is that Augurey. Throughout histroy, when warlords sacked cities and towns, they would impregnate the women to carry the bloodline of the warlords. So maybe, this was going to be Voldemort’s new world order!
- It could be that Delphi wasn’t produced as a result of sex after all, and instead it was some sort of weird magic spell or some unknown prophecy. Who knows, we are dealing with a bunch of fanatic Death Eaters.
It could be any reason, or it could be no reason. I sure hope JKR explains this in an interview or on Pottermore soon enough … because I can’t take anymore speculation and the fact that some are theorising the exact time of the copulation and that Harry even felt it with the worst headache ever – might just make my head explode!
Maniacal laughter was ringing in his ears: [Voldemort] was happier than he had been in a very long time: jubilant, ecstatic, triumphant: a wonderful, wonderful thing had happened.
The above is when Harry experiences the headache in Chapter 24 in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. He later finds out that Bellatrix Lestrange and gang have escaped Azkaban. Given Delphi’s age, it seems Voldemort celebrated this event rather ecstatically.
The character of Delphi herself is shown to be looking for parental recognition, much like Albus and Scorpius. She is rather good at the conning game though and the fact that she gets locked up in the end (instead of executed) gives me hope that we might just get another series of adventures of the gang, even though JKR has said this is it for Harry’s story (but, but, I need more Scorpius).
The Not So Good (or “why JKR why?”):
There were a couple of things that I thought could have been better. Most notably, was Ron’s character. In the epilogue of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Ron Weasley, along with Harry Potter, are aurors with the Ministry of Magic, and along with Hermione, have revamped the Ministry. It was said that Ron had also helped George out with the joke shop before becoming an Auror. However, in TCC, Ron is shown to be working only at the joke shop and is used almost exclusively to provide comic relief through the pages while the other characters carry on with the task of saving the world. That’s not exactly the Ron I remember. Ron’s always been an important part of the trio, yes a little insecure, but brave and resourceful. Here (in the current timeline) he almost feels like a side character, present in the pages only to remind us that he’s still part of the world, and to reiterate the Ron and Hermione relationship (which let’s be honest, was needed quite a bit ever since *that* interview).
Further, I would also have liked to learn a little more detail about the other children (James, Lily and Rose appear only a few times while the younger Granger-Weasley child, Hugo is completely absent) and would have loved to meet/read about Prof Longbottom, Luna Lovegood, Teddy Lupin and the rest of the Weasley family (who became our surrogate family while reading Harry Potter). Now, I understand, that as this was written to be a play, it wouldn’t have been possible to have more characters or add more duration time (the two parts combined run for more than 5 hours), but basically this is my way of saying this should have been a book first and then adapted into the play (and then into a movie many years later when the original cast can look grown up enough without the kind of makeup used in the ending of the film).
The Heartbreaking (aka “why do you do this to me JK, why?”):
The climax scene at Godric’s Hollow needs to be mentioned because it had me in tears, as the Harry Potter books so often have. Without stating too much, the pain Harry feels in that scene is something we have felt since book 1, only magnified this time as the event takes place in front of our character’s eyes. Oh Jo, you still know how to pull at our heartstrings.
The book explores the concept of time and we learn that no matter how much we try, we cannot and should not be able to change the past. All our sacrifices, hardships and journeys make us who we are and accepting these decisions can help us move forward into the future with better choices.
Overall, I really enjoyed reading TCC. It by no means fills up the huge gap left by the end of the series, but it comes close. It was really interesting to see what our heroes were up to and how they were dealing with normal life.
The appearance of past characters in the various timelines was also a pleasant homage, especially Prof Snape’s story. I also really liked the acknowledgment of how important Neville Longbottom’s character was in Voldemort’s defeat at the end of The Deathly Hallows.
All in all, while the new story wasn’t a game changer (except for the revelation of Delphi and her subsequent incarceration). it was a very enjoyable read. I loved being back in the world with a new story and a new generation (once again, I loved Scorpius)! I’m hopeful JKR will change her mind and give us another series with the youngsters and the other characters who were left out (looking at you Teddy Lupin) … although this may never come to happen (forever lonely without new Harry Potter).
As to the format of the book, while I knew that the book was written as a play, I found that it required a little more imagination to read than an actual novel. Even then, the language and interactions are quite beautifully done and one scene with Harry and Hermione has dialogues that almost sound like they rhyme! Sounds perfect for the stage setting. I’ve been told by a close friend who was lucky enough to see the play that it is magnificent, and I only hope I too can see it one day. Plus, have I mentioned that older Harry Potter is smoking hot (thanks to Jamie Parker who portrays him)!
4 out of 5 wands and a phoenix feather.