Thursday, August 18, 2016

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by John Tiffany & Jack Thorne

Posted by Rebecca Brendel

Reviewed by: Becky Brendel

What I Read: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by John Tiffany and Jack Thorne; based on characters by J.K. Rowling

Find It @YCLD: Here!

What It's About: Albus Potter, son of Harry Potter, is miserable. He doesn't feel his famous father understands him, he got sorted into Slytherin - a House he hates - and his only friend Scorpius is rumored to be the son of the Dark Lord. When the two boys hear of something they can do to try and change their world for the better, they seize the moment, but may in fact be making things worse...

What I Thought: Despite being the eighth installment in the Harry Potter series, this screenplay would have worked better as a standalone story about a boy growing up with a famous father. As-is, it's written itself into a corner: the plot hinges on young Albus Potter's frustrations at living in his father's shadow, but it's not allowed to ever fully become Albus's story - the title isn't Albus Potter and the Cursed Child for good reason. The climax of the story hinges completely on Harry's personal trauma, and events from Harry's life are frequently revisited (sometimes physically) by the characters.

The plot and many of the characterizations also read like fan fiction: full of cameos, trivia, full redemption arcs for fan-favorite characters, and a villainness with a completely unbelievable backstory. The moral of the story, that "anyone can become anything if circumstances were different", also flies completely in the face of the Harry Potter novels' focus on personal choice. This is not a Harry Potter story. It's an anti-Harry Potter story starring the cast of Harry Potter.

All of which is unfortunate, because the two new protagonists, Albus Potter and Scorpius Malfoy, are delightful. Both sound very believably like teenagers - their banter is great - and the "anyone can become anything" theme isn't a bad idea in and of itself, just one at odds with the world of Harry Potter in the novels. The screenplay is also very good at "show, don't tell" for evoking how miserable Albus is: its use of short vignettes to show time passing is very powerful, as incident upon incident piles on Albus until he reaches a breaking point. I would very, very happily read a seven-novel series about Albus Potter and Scorpius Malfoy. Just maybe not one with this plot. Or where Albus's dad still manages to get his name in the title.

Recommended, ironically enough, more for casual fans of Harry Potter than diehard ones.

Readalikes: The Magicians by Lev Grossman, for more "gritty" fantasy; Carry On by Rainbow Rowell, for a pair of main characters that should appeal to fans of Albus and Scorpius.

Or look this book up on NoveList!