*SPOILERS AHEAD* (although realistically it’s been long enough since its release… read it already!)
It pains me.
I love Harry Potter. The fact that my wife has been reading the saga aloud to our son of late has also emboldened that love once again. And riding off that fandom, I chose to finally read Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. (Originally written as a play. I read the book of the play.)
And it so pains me.
It pains me because I think that JK Rowling is a fantastic story teller.
But I cannot give this story more than 2 stars. Why? Same reason I finally dumped off the “Once Upon a Time” TV show… using the damned time-travel-oops-we-messed-up-the-past-and-now-we-have-to-go-fix-it-so-all-can-be-as-it-was plot trope. My LEAST favorite plot trope. I check out almost instantly when that is used. It’s a plot device that I call immensely lazy. Sure, it explores the “what if” scenarios, but again, I believe it to be a lazy way to do so.
Now I realize that the Prisoner of Azkaban used time travel. That one I didn’t mind so much. I also know that one of my favorite books, “Timeline” by Michael Crichton, was all about time travel. Neither story had those “oops” moments where the main character thought they were doing something good and then only to royally screw it all up. They had what I believe is called “deterministic time travel” (as a friend told me) where they go to the past to find out that their involvement was all a part of it all from the onset.
HPatCC’s plot revolved around Harry’s son, Albus Severus Potter, trying to deal with his father’s legacy while pulling his kind, unwitting friend, Scorpius Malfoy, with him. Their idea: bring back Cedric Diggory to correct what Albus sees as a great injustice done by his father after overhearing Amos Diggory implore Harry to use a confiscated time turner so the man could see his son once more. See… time turners, though rare already, were being hunted and destroyed to prevent the return of the dark lord as they were being made to go back more than just a few hours. Unfortunately, once that started, I could see the tracks out ahead showing that this train was going to derail.
After two attempts that resulted in disastrous outcomes, then two subsequent corrections, a new dark wizard was revealed: Voldemort’s daughter. Yep. Something I have to hurt my brain to make a valid possibility given the story as it was. Apparently via Bellatrix Lestrange and ol’ Voldy himself, Voldemort being a character that never struck me as wanting a legacy in that manner. I mean, why create horcruxes if your eventual concern is to bear a child to support a legacy? My brain is sore thinking about it.
Anyway, in the end, they triumph, a random kid dies, and all is forgiven.
Now, here’s the few bright spots. These are the things that kept it from being a 1-star read (I hate the time travel trope that much, plus the Voldemort’s-kid thing was lame and weak):
- Draco Malfoy – his revelations, his character, all what I wished and hoped he would be. Through his son’s and Harry’s son’s friendship, Harry and Draco faced each other more as friends than they had ever dreamed of in the past. This was the great spot of the book.
- The rest of the characters weren’t changed. They were them, just as you would expect them as adults. And their positions and careers each suited them.
- The portrayal of parenthood. The struggle of Harry and all to understand what their children were going through was really well done in comparison to the plot… just could have done that also without time travel.
- The touching point which pulled on the heart-strings – Snape in one of the alternate realities caused by one of the mistakes. Yes, it made me tear up a little, however, still pissed me off that it was even a thing to begin with. It touched on emotions we already dealt with and didn’t need the alternate reality to confirm the man’s dedication to Harry’s mother. So this was a bright spot that was really also a dim spot.
- Albus and Scorpio’s friendship. I liked Albus being sorted to Slytherin and their friendship. Also could have done without the time travel.
Overall, I felt that this story wasn’t really super thought out. It felt like a forced rehash of the old stories behind the original 7 books. There were some new, nicer aspects to it, particularly Draco, but otherwise the plot disappointed me in the worst way.
All that being said, it didn’t diminish my liking of the whole series. I don’t have to like every story, or every aspect of every story. Even JK Rowling’s book, “A Casual Vacancy,” while good, isn’t the resounding page-turner the other 7 Harry Potter books were. I am only 1/3rd through and have been reading other books in between to take breaks from it. I see the Cursed Child as a misstep. A stumble. But not one that can’t be fixed in the next story, if there is one.
I have my own idea where this story should go from here. But I doubt JKR would want to hear it.