J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany & Jack Thorne. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. New York: Arther A. Levine Books, 2016.
Rating: 2 out of 5 illegal Time Turners
Sooo…yeah. There’s going to be a lot of nitpicking in this post. Consider yourself warned.
I wanted to like this story so much more. Like everyone else, I was looking forward to a new Harry Potter book, even though I was disappointed it wouldn’t be in the typical novel form. It’s still officially the eighth Harry Potter book, and that’s worth celebrating. If I lived in the Chicago area, I totally would’ve wanted to partake in one of these amazing cauldron cakes at Lezbrarian’s HP release party!
But I didn’t like the story. The plot was full of issues, and overall it felt like someone’s fanfiction rather than a canon Harry Potter story. And there was barely a “cursed child” in it! [Edit: See below spoiler warning.]
But before I get to the grumbling and nitpicking, here are some things I did like:
- This bit with Ron in the modified recap of the Deathly Hallows Epilogue, in which he does a got-your-nose trick for young Lily Potter: “His hand is empty. It’s a lame trick. Everyone enjoys its lameness.“
- The Trolley Witch. She’s slightly fleshed out this story, with a bit of backstory and personality beyond just calling out “Anything from the trolley, dears?” She’s actually kind of badass.
- That Hermione kept her maiden name, so Rose and Hugo are Granger-Weasleys.
- Even though Rowling has said that she kind of regrets pairing Hermione with Ron in the Epilogue, she didn’t let that affect their chemistry throughout this story. I totally said an internal “Aww” when Ron said he wanted to renew their marriage.
- This description of the time travel: “And time stops. And then it turns over, thinks a bit, and begins spooling backwards, slow at first . . .“
. . .
. . .
. . .
Of course Albus Potter gets sorted into Slytherin, and of course he becomes best friends with Scorpius Malfoy, and of course Harry isn’t thrilled about this, and of course it becomes a forbidden friendship, and of course Voldemort and Belatrix got it on behind the scenes in Deathly Hallows and had a secret child together. This all feels like fanfic material to me.
You know what didn’t make total sense?
- I can see Harry not being thrilled that his son is best friends with a Malfoy, even though it seems like he and Draco have come to an understanding by the end of Deathly Hallows. But he made that big speech about it being totally cool if Albus gets into Slytherin, and yet it’s implied later that he is kind of bothered by it. Though, maybe that develops from Albus’ negative attitude and insistence that he must be a disappointing son for ending up in Slytherin.
- And then Harry turns the rest of the 180 and decides to believe the rumors about Scorpius being Voldemort’s son, despite his earlier assurances to Draco that the Ministry doesn’t believe that ridiculousness. Because clearly that’s what Bane’s vague prediction meant, right? It must be Scorpius who’s the “dark cloud” around Albus. I mean, I guess it fits with Harry’s tendency, when he was a teen, to latch onto a belief/”evidence” and not question it. Like when he believed Sirius Black was actually being tortured and dragged his friends into a raid on the Ministry, or when he believed Draco was a Death Eater and took it upon himself to spy on him throughout Half-Blood Prince (and, ok, he was right about that one). But you’d think he would have grown more careful about these sorts of things as an adult.
- Once he’s latched onto the Voldemort’s son rumor, Harry is a total jerk to Professor McGonagall, threatening to bring the Ministry down on Hogwarts if she doesn’t help him keep Albus and Scorpius apart. I guess it does remind me of teen Harry being a jerk to Lupin, also supposedly for a good cause, but again, I’d have thought Harry would have grown beyond that kind of behavior. And his apology after he realizes he’s been an awful prat is pretty rushed. Hi Professor I need to find Albus now oh by the way I’m sorry about earlier but help me find Albus now!
- The whole “cursed child” thing is just a few lines about the authorities checking Albus for hexes after his first time travel experiment, and another few lines in which Draco says one of his ancestors was cursed, which showed up as an illness in his wife…I guess that’s supposed to make Scorpius sort of cursed? Maybe? [Edit: Or maybe Delphi’s the “cursed child.” Being Voldemort’s kid has to be a kind of curse, amirite?]
Speaking of Albus and Scorpius…
Issues with the time travel plot (prepare yourselves; there are many points here):
- How exactly do Albus and Scorpius climb out the window and up the side of the Hogwarts Express without a ladder or handholds or something? And once they’re up there, and the Trolley Witch tells them the Express doesn’t want students to leave before they get to Hogwarts, how are they still able to jump off? And somehow nobody else notices them jumping and stops the train. Was no one looking out the window? Did the Trolley Witch wait until the end of the trip to mention that two students are missing?
- How did Delphi get the bits of Ron, Harry and Hermione to make the Polyjuice Potion? And somehow, no one in the Ministry hears the big commotion in Hermione’s office when Albus, Scorpius, and Delphi are being attacked by the bookcases while trying to find the Time Turner. And somehow the three of them get out of the Ministry without being noticed, even though the Polyjuice had worn off and they look like themselves again. I guess we’re supposed to assume Delphi Apparated them out? And amazingly, Hermione never notices that the books have been messed around, thus signaling that someone’s stolen the Time Turner.
- And how exactly does this Time Turner work? Apparently, all you have to do is press it once (or sometimes just hold it) and it spins back to the exact time you want. Convenient.
- Once Albus and Scorpius go back to the first trial of the Triwizard Tournament, Albus is able to do the disarming spell in front of a whole crowd of students (after only a few minutes of practice), and yet 14-year-old Hermione is the only one who (maybe) sees him do it (and doesn’t even realize he looks just like one of her best friends). They’re all like, OMG where did Cedric’s wand go? Oh well, guess it’s just a freak accident.
- Once they get back to the present and are surrounded by the adults, no one notices Scorpius put the Time Turner back in his pocket. Convenient.
- When their first try doesn’t save Cedric after all, Albus and Scorpius go back to the second trial to try fixing that. And apparently, if Cedric Diggory had lost the second trial, he would have been so upset he’d have become a Death Eater, and killed Neville Longbottom, making Harry and friends lose the Battle of Hogwarts, and helping Voldemort take over the world. Um…
Cedric’s stronger than that. He’s known for being a really decent guy, so he wouldn’t turn to the dark side just because he lost a competition.
- In the Dark Timeline, Snape is still alive and teaching Potions (guess he lost the Defense Against the Dark Arts position again). And he’s apparently really easy to convince that Scorpius is from another reality in which Voldemort didn’t win. Seriously, even if Scorpius mentioned Lily, it seems too far-fetched for Snape to automatically believe the rest of Scorpius’ story.
- Delphi, who’s actually a villain now, is able to use the Time Turner while they’re already in the past, even though there’s supposed to be a five minute time limit (which I’m pretty sure they’ve run through by the time Delphi comes up with her final plan). And as for that plan, I don’t get why she doesn’t just try to kill Harry herself instead of waiting for Voldemort to try to convince him that she’s from the future and knows he’s going to be cursed if he tries to kill Harry. [Edit: Ok, never mind. If she tried to kill Harry herself, Lily’s love charm would have kicked her butt and she wouldn’t get to enjoy the Dark Timeline.]
- Finally, once they figure out Delphi’s evil plan, Albus and Scorpius get to Godric’s Hollow to stop her. They figure out they need to use tincture of Demiguise to write an invisible message onto Harry’s baby blanket so adult Harry will see it at the right time. How convenient that Bathilda Bagshot happens to have some Demiguises lying around, amirite? But then, how did they get the blanket away from Lily and Harry without anyone noticing?
. . .
Again, I realize a lot of these points are nitpicking, but they really got in the way of my enjoyment of the story. I guess it was still fun to see Harry, Ron, and Hermione in action again, but it wasn’t the way I’d hoped. What did you think? Did you like the story? Was it the return to the wizarding world you’d hoped for?
After so much time, you would have thought that these things would have been smoothed out somehow so they weren’t so noticeable. I don’t think that adult Harry seems very immature about their friendship. Good review though and it’s nice you put some positives in there too.
Thanks! I always try to show the good things in addition to the issues in a book.
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