DRACO (roar): My son is missing!
GINNY (an equal roar): So is mine!
He meets her look. There’s real emotion in this room.
- Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Parts 1 and 2, by J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany, and Jack Thorne
You want to know how it was? It was okay. Even at the end of the original Harry Potter series, Rowling’s writing was starting to taper off, the plot twists were sloppy, the sweet moments were sappy, and the epilogue smacked of pandering, of some publisher somewhere saying, “give the public what they want.” Book 7 lost some of the purity of the earlier parts of the series. This is like a long version of that much-debated, crowd-pleasing, guilty-pleasure cringe-worthy epilogue.
The characters veer wildly from sounding like themselves to sounding like completely different people. A few lines of dialog are spot on, but most are dreadful. Possibly the sentimentality could be saved with good enough acting, but the acting in my head is pretty good and it wasn’t good enough to save it for me.
Here’s a particularly bad example of Malfoy (yeah, he’s in it) and Harry talking:
HARRY: Quite a surprise to see you, Draco. I thought you didn’t believe in my dreams.
DRACO: I don’t, but I do trust your luck. Harry Potter is always where the action is.
Why do these sound like lines from a Bond movie knockoff (with oracles)? The depictions of kids don’t ring true, either. Moments of solidarity are portrayed with a sappy declaration of best-friendship and a hug, motivations for getting into trouble are thin at best, and problems are solved almost the second they come up and never have unexpected complications. The plot material is almost completely salvaged from the original series–which I have some grace for, knowing that adding to or changing a beloved storyline is a lose-lose situation for most authors–but I nonetheless feel I shouldn’t have expectations for Harry Potter books that are actually lower than my general expectations.
Part of the problem is that I don’t totally buy this whole future for Harry, and that’s more of a problem with the original series than this particular spin-off. I think that after defeating the most famous dark wizard of all time and dying in the process, he would want to do something more restful than being an auror, at least for a while. Also, the Potter gang is charming as rebels fighting the establishment, but less believable as the establishment. Hermione can pull it off, but Harry? In the books he always seemed happiest during the DA meetings, and I really think he would have flourished as a teacher, remaining outside of political machinations, and just working toward the common good like Dumbledore.
I didn’t get excited about this book, and the only really positive thing I can say about it is that maybe it will loosen up the “canon” status of HP, so that he reaches the role of a Robin Hood or Sherlock Holmes, and everyone can write their own interpretations and some will be crappy and some will be amazing and that’s fine, because at the core he’s not an overworked government employee who has an awkward relationship with his son (and I don’t buy that either–personal relationships have always been the most important thing to Harry–Hermione might overwork herself but I see Harry as the type that might call in sick just to lay in bed with his wife a few more hours), he’s a hero. And we all need heroes.
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