Yes, I read it. And I’ve had a couple of weeks to process Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, this big disappointment of a play that picks up where the epilogue in the final book of the Harry Potter series ends.
I love Harry Potter. I have always been stridently against Rowling continuing the story that was so perfectly completed in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. The series wraps up so beautifully. I’ve always been worried that any additions would tamper with the meaning of the series, so I mostly cover my eyes whenever new tidbits emerge from Pottermore or Rowling’s tweets.
Since the publication of book seven, I’ve always been relieved that Rowling stopped writing Harry Potter novels. While I will defend the story of the series to the death, statements Rowling has made lead me to wonder whether she really understands why the books are so good. I hope she does, but it’s possible that she wrote the books without realizing their genius. Think George Lucas and how episodes 1-3 reveal that he must have never understood why the original Star Wars were any good. But I have more faith in Rowling than in Lucas.
Anyhow. When I heard about Harry Potter and the Cursed Child I thought…a play! That could be fun, right? A play that takes place years later? Get some new characters in there and enjoy the wizarding world Rowling created? This could be ok!
Wrong. It’s not. It’s not ok. This is why:
Rowling Didn’t Actually Write It
The play was written by Jack Thorne while the story was created in collaboration with Rowling and given her stamp of approval. This is why the play reads like okayish fan fiction instead of Rowling’s actual work. The moral of this story is to never sign your characters over to other people. Unless you’re George Lucas, in which case, please let other people do the writing for you, k thanks.
It’s Not a Novel, It’s a Play
I think those of us who are just reading the script and not seeing the play in London are missing something in translation. By nature of the medium plays are meant to be viewed, of course, not read. A novel allows more time to get to know the characters and a more fleshed out story. Plays are shorter and because all the information the audience needs to know is shared through dialogue and visuals, it’s simply going to read much differently than a novel.
This may be why the characters in Cursed Child read like charicatures of themselves. Ron? Oh yeah, that kinda goofy guy that tells dad jokes. Hermione? Driven, ambitious smart girl. The characters sound like they were written by someone who is semi-familiar with the series, they don’t sound like the characters themselves.
While I adore the series of novels, I admit that Rowling’s writing style leaves something to be desired, her genius is in the story not the writing. But much of the dialogue in Cursed Child feels downright painful and I think it’s more than just the matter of it being a different medium.
Just Stop with the Time Travel
Time travel is just such a tired trope. It’s difficult to do it well without the same old problems coming up. Rowling DID do it well in Prisoner of Azkaban, but the time travel in Cursed Child is just exasperating and honestly, boring. New plot, please. You can do better, Rowling. I mean, Thorne. (Maybe he can’t?)
I Don’t Believe You About Voldemort
And then there’s the matter of Voldemort’s child that he shares with Bellatrix Lestrange. And just no. Nope. Absolutely not. Everything we know about Voldemort would tell us that this is impossible.
Voldemort does not desire friends. He wants followers. He doesn’t want family, he murdered all of his family. He does not want to need or be truly connected with anyone ever. True intimacy with another human being is unthinkable.
While the play tells the basic facts of the parentage of Voldemort’s child (Voldemort and Bellatrix), it doesn’t go into details or try to convince us that Voldemort loved Bellatrix–anyone familiar with these characters would know that’s absurd. Voldemort has no understanding of love. We see this again and again in the novels. But I don’t even think Voldemort is remotely interested in sex, even apart from love. How could he be interested in anything that requires another human being, vulnerability, and connection? If it takes two to tango, Voldemort isn’t interested in dancing, if you know what I mean. I can see Bellatrix being into him because of her insane obsession with him, but the idea that he would be sexually interested in anyone goes against everything we know about him. And I’m not buying it.
I expect this to be the only time I write about Voldemort’s sex life, but who knows? Life often surprises me.
To be fair, I didn’t hate the experience of reading Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. Seeing the names of my favorite characters on the page again felt a little magical. I’d actually love to see the play. There are so many different sets and scene changes that I can’t imagine how they even pull it off. It must be incredible.
But the STORY, y’all. The story wasn’t in the same ballpark as the novels. The characters were flat (except for Scorpius. I’m a big fan of Scorpius). And there were a few things–Voldemort’s lovechild being the most obvious–that just didn’t ring true from what we already know about these characters.
I think if I have one word to describe Harry Potter and the Cursed Child it would be uninspired. It’s so forgettable that I think I’ll be able to ignore that it ever happened and remember the novels as the true canon. So, if you’re worried that reading it will destroy your love for the series, it’s just not compelling enough to do that. And if you haven’t read it, I really wouldn’t bother. You’re not missing anything.
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