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Rowling Ran Out of Magic: A Review of “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child”

In case you missed it, J. K. Rowling’s magical world of Harry Potter is still alive and well as of last month, when Harry Potter and the Cursed Child  was released. I am a massive fan of J.K. Rowling and the Harry Potter series in general, but I was thoroughly disappointed by this newest addition to the collection. First imagined as a West End play and then released on July 31st as a script, The Cursed Child begins with the epilogue of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and follows Albus Severus Potter and the rest of the Potter family through his years at Hogwarts.

Rowling did not originally intend to release the script, but she acquiesced when Harry Potter fans unable to afford the travel protested. However, I may agree with Rowling’s initial inclination. A fair warning to all Harry Potter fans: The Cursed Child reads like a script and is much more difficult to visualize than the seven books that precede it. Much like Shakespeare is meant to be seen and heard, so may be Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.

Yet, there are more issues with The Cursed Child than just needing to read it aloud. While Harry Potter fans are used to highly fantastical plots, where a suspension of disbelief and a tremendous amount of buy-in are needed, The Cursed Child’s plot includes too many points of buy-in and not enough support for those moments.

First off, there’s a violation of the canon—Rowling asks the reader to believe that not all of the Ministry of Magic’s Time-Turners were destroyed in Harry Potter and the Order of Phoenix.  Now, Rowling does this quite often through the books, so it’s not totally unbelievable—but then she elaborated by having the remaining Time-Turners be of a more dangerous and advanced quality. Are you telling me that not one Auror or Ministry official are tracking who owns Time Turners, especially the dangerous ones? That’s ridiculous.

Let’s assume the reader buys into all this Time-Turner tomfoolery—or maybe the reader is an innocent soul who doesn’t have every line of every Harry Potter book memorized. You then have to buy into the fact that Cedric Diggory, one of the sweetest and politest characters in the seven books, turns into a Death Eater and actively supports Voldemort after losing the Tri-Wizard Tournament in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. I just don’t find that believable at all, but let’s say the reader continues to subscribe to Rowling’s ideas.

Finally, you have to believe that Voldemort had a daughter with none other than Bellatrix Lestrange. The same Bellatrix who, in the original novels, is married to Rodolphus Lestrange and does not act as school-girl crushed-out on Voldemort as Helena Bonham-Carter makes it seem in the film adaptations. Furthermore, their daughter is born days before the Battle of Hogwarts—which occurs on May 2nd, 1998—and sent to live with a fringe Death Eater Euphemia Rowle. To be blunt, this is the most ludicrous thing in the entire world. First and foremostly, I don’t believe that Voldemort and Bellatrix were involved in any way. If—and that’s a big if—they were involved, they were definitely protected every time because Voldemort has no capacity to love, so I can’t imagine him wanting or even allowing Bellatrix to want/have children.

Even if we go past that sordid detail, and if this timeline is accurate, Bellatrix would have been noticeably pregnant when Harry, Ron and Hermione were captured and tortured at Malfoy Manor. Even if the stress of the moment had prevented Harry from noticing it—Rowling often uses Harry as an unreliable and unastute narrator to keep things interesting —Hermione would have definitely noticed and probably said something once the trio reached Shell Cottage. But even if Hermione hadn’t said anything at first, her use of the Polyjuice Potion to transform into Bellatrix shortly thereafter in order to break into Gringotts would have meant that Hermione would have acquired Bellatrix’s pregnant form—which would definitely have been a red flag!

Personally, I don’t buy into that plotline. I just don’t. To buy into a crazy plot like that, which has more twists and turns without foreshadowing than any Harry Potter text, you need likeable characters. In The Cursed Child, Rowling produced only one: Scorpius Malfoy, a timid and loving friend who puts others’ struggles over his own. While I’m not a fan of the Draco Malfoy redemption arc, I did enjoy Rowling’s point that any one generation can make a difference to the family. Scorpius is the only character for whom I actively rooted.

Albus Severus Potter, the protagonist of the play, is distinctly unlikable. He is whiny, selfish and despondent for the majority of the script. He does not value friendship or his education, and he makes no effort to understand his own issues and insecurities in order to better himself and others.

Rose Weasley, Scorpius’ love-interest of Scorpius, is hyper-critical and oddly prejudiced, considering the contempt her mother and father faced in their lifetimes. Prejudice is a learned behavior, but I don’t know from whom Rose learned it. Also, I believe Rose was only thrown into the plot so as to mirror the Harry-Ron-Hermione dynamic; she was fairly pointless otherwise.

The Harry Potter series only works because Rowling places a fantastical and sometimes unbelievable plot onto the shoulders of a fabulous cast of characters, headed by Harry, Ron and Hermione. These are characters who are loved and who love in return—indeed, it’s the most amazing quality and the main theme of the first seven novels: their capacity to love.

The Cursed Child failed because the new characters were barely likeable and the old characters, the familiars who I turned to, were badly mischaracterized. No one had the capacity to love anyone anymore. When Harry Potter—an abused and mistreated child who always valued his friends and family above all else — told his son that he didn’t want him and he was a mistake, I gave up on The Cursed Child entirely.

While there were small rallying points (mostly around Ron and Hermione, as well as Ginny), overall I felt disappointed and dragged down by my brief encounter with the play. It is the only Harry Potter book that I did not immediately read again, that I did not pour over with curious, child-like intensity. I do not want this book as a part of the Harry Potter canon universe. Honestly,I do not support it and I do not like it.

Above all, this book violated the very happy ending I had imagined for these characters. They deserved their happy endings—weddings, children, comfortable jobs and large sprawling homes in the countryside. They worked for it, they killed for it and when you believe so passionately in these books and characters as I—and many other people all over the world—did, it hurts to know that all was not well. A favorite blogger of mine, Sharanya Sharma, summed it up more perfectly than I ever could when she wrote, “to be told now, after all this time, that all was not well…comes more like a blow to me than an exciting new journey.”

Image credits: Giphy.com

English major, History minor, Diet Coke addict // senior at Kenyon College // Memphis native // please contact hewittr@kenyon.edu for resume & full portfolio 
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