I was introduced to Harry Potter by my father when I was 9 years old. I finished the series for the first time over the next two years, rushing home from school everyday to tear through the final book when it released a few weeks before my 11th birthday (I remember thinking that if I got my Hogwarts letter then, I’d be able to go without the fear of getting murdered by Voldemort).
My love for the stories of the black-haired boy with the lightning-bolt shaped scar was one I shared with my father, and engaging in rapt discussions about the series with him continues to be something I still enjoy today.
The Harry Potter Phenomenon
If you have grown up reading Harry Potter as I have, you will understand perfectly why I pre-ordered this sequel about a month before it came out. The series has enthralled generations of readers, young and old. I got something new out of it with every reading: the first time saw me soldiering past Dobby’s death with a passing pang of pain; the last time had me bawling like a baby as the house-elf rasped out his final words.
The rich style of writing, the relatable characters, the valuable life-lessons and the mind-boggling plot all made Harry Potter what it is today. But Harry Potter is not the only incredible series I’ve read, and I’m capable of viewing work written by Rowling objectively. It is simply a testament to the brilliance of Harry Potter that it remains the favourite of millions like me. But does Harry Potter and the Cursed Child live up to the original books?
It pains me to say it, but no. Before you start furiously calling me a muggle, let me begin by saying I knew exactly what I was getting into. I knew it was a script, that it was not written by J.K. Rowling alone; I knew not to get my expectations up. And yet, I confess myself disappointed.
My opinion regarding the plot of this play is split into two halves: Part 1 of the book was utterly mediocre, Part 2 was quite interesting and had me hooked. The book centres around the complicated lives of Scorpius Malfoy and Albus Potter, with the isolation and discrimination they face from their peers being a central theme. In their rush to do something heroic and prove their worth, the two youngsters decide to mess with the past and alter realities, leading to consequences far graver than they had ever anticipated.
My issue was that it ran too much like a poorly-written fanfic. A child of Voldemort and Bellatrix, desperate to meet her father by going back in time? It was a rather flimsy attempt to bring back a connection to the red-eyed menace. The second half was quite fast-paced and a fun read overall, but nothing particularly special. Time-travel suddenly became an over-used cliche in this book.
Plot-holes and Paradoxes
JKR made sure to use time-travel in only a single instance in the seven-book series – and she pulled it off with mastery, leaving no loopholes. Although a causal loop (one with no fixed beginning or end in time) was formed, the three-hour time jump was nothing short of remarkable in PoA.
In this play, however, time-travel spanning years is undertaken carelessly. It is used as a convenient way of dragging the events of the original series into the sequel, with little regard for continuity. The inexplicable appearance of a couple of Time Turners after the original series had stated that they had all been destroyed was merely a way to enable the bizarre events to unfold.
I did enjoy some of the alternate universes; they were a glimpse into the what-ifs of the magical world. My favourite bit was when the duo sent a message asking for their parents’ help across time with the help of Harry’s mum’s blanket, the thoughtless spill of a love potion, and Scorpius’ nerd side.
JKR, John Tiffany, and Jack Thorne can’t be faulted for lack of creativity in this aspect; they have imagined the other realities quite ingeniously.
We see two alternate universes, each one corresponding with one task of the Triwizard Tournament modified by the boys to save Cedric. The second one was excellent: it portrayed Umbridge as the cruel Headmistress of Hogwarts under Voldemort’s tyrannical regime, with muggle-borns and muggles being subjected to unspeakable horrors. Snape’s (albeit short) role won me over, as did Ron and Hermione as the rebellion leaders who confessed their love with their dying breaths.
The other reality? Not so great. I have no love for a universe in which Ron and Hermione do not end up together, with a reason so lame that it is laughable. The fact that Ron’s jealousy at the Yule Ball is shown to be the cause of the love these two best friends share, rather than the other way around, is ludicrous.
Which brings me to another point:
In the name of Merlin’s baggy Y-fronts, what kind of a name is Panju? It was ridiculous that Ron and Padma would be married; naming their child Panju cracked me up. If you’re going to mention an Indian name for a child, a little research would not be amiss.
On the whole, the characters lacked depth and were quite different from their younger selves, whom we had grown to cherish. I noticed that the personalities conformed more to the movie portrayal than the books, with Harry being rather angsty and Ron serving to give comic relief. I enjoyed the characters of Ginny and Hermione, though. These two, at least, resembled canon. While I liked Scorpius, Albus annoyed me with his constant whining, and Rose’s prejudice was completely at odds with being raised by Hermione and Ron.
Delphi was a fairly engaging character, though a bit obviously villainous; Draco’s nature was pretty complicated and his love for his late wife was touching. Snape, with his customary biting sarcasm and his determination to do right by Lily, stole the show. “Obviously.”
Should You Read It?
My advice? Read the script, but don’t waste money buying it. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows wrapped up the series and tied up all the loose ends; unravelling them now felt like far too contrived an effort to simply make way for a forced, fanfiction-esque sequel. The script book doesn’t showcase the beauty of JKR’s writing much; while allowances must be made seeing that it is not a proper novel, plays can be written beautifully too. This one, unfortunately, is not.
However, I do believe that the stage performance will be something to behold. If the actors play their parts well, the special effects and the rather exaggerated storyline could indeed make its stage performance a huge hit.
All in all, I was not very impressed with this pseudo-sequel. A prequel series, revealing the rich and unexplored history of the Marauders, Snape, and Lily would make far more sense than this. I wouldn’t be wrong to assume that a lot of Potterheads would prefer not to go with this version of future as canon.
I’ve reread the Harry Potter books many times for various reasons; once notably to soothe my eyes after subjecting them to the torture that was the first half of Fifty Shades of Grey, and restore my faith in humanity. Now, as I wait for a prequel that might never come, I’d like to curl up with my copy of the Deathly Hallows and remind myself of the true ending – that the scar had not pained Harry for nineteen years, and all was well.