Yes, the book was released yesterday in our part of the world. We were among the first in our city to buy it (having preordered it months earlier), and the kid, despite her fever (or perhaps because of), speed read it in less than two hours and posted a review at her blog.
Being afflicted by the same fever (thanks to the “butter beer” (aerated grape juice with ice of dubious origin) we had for breakfast yesterday at the Harry Potter themed event in our backyard mall), I finished reading the book as well. While I may not say anything too different from my daughter, here goes my “review” of it.
While I am a hardcore advocate of reading books before watching on-screen or on-stage adaptations, especially of the Harry Potter series, I have to reverse my opinion for The Cursed Child. If at all the play is staged in your part of the world, watch it first before reading the script. While the premise of the play is interesting, reading the script is like drinking salt water to quench your thirst. Leaves you completely dissatisfied. However, we don’t have too much of choice in our neighbourhood – the play will never be staged here, or if it is, it would be too expensive for middle class attendance and we have to settle for the script of the play.
I am not against reading play scripts. Oscar Wilde continues to be my favourite play writer and Salome and the Importance of being Earnest are all-time greats. As script, Cursed Child falls terribly short in its extremely jumpy and sketchy progression. Agreed that the play has been written to fit into a certain time duration – say two hours, and it has to be racy, but for all the hype the HP franchise generates all over the world, the authors could have expanded the script more for publishing as book. The first three years of Hogwarts life are too rapid and could have just as well been a narrator’s voice reciting the details rather than scenes. It is a little irritating to read quarter page scenes, followed by quarter page scene breaks.
While as an adult, I see that the HP stories (the seven original ones) have many plot holes and imbecilities (e.g. why make the triwizard cup a portkey to bring HP to the graveyard and run this whole charade of Triwizard tournament? Much easier to have one of the death eaters kidnap HP and bring him there, no? Lots of them in every book), I agree that the series itself is very entertaining, if you just remove the critical eye of an adult reader. The stories are fantastic, fun and touching. But where Rowling scores big time is in characterisation. Her characters – every single one of them – are so beautifully developed that even half way through the series, you feel like you know them well in person. The growth and evolution of each character through the seven years is also natural – children growing into adolescents and being thrust into adulthood earlier than necessary has been handled very elegantly.
This is where I feel that The Cursed Child failed. The characters are too sketchy and almost cardboard. The carry-over characters – Harry, Hermione, Ron, Ginny are very shallow, and one must superimpose the H,H,R and G from the earlier novels into this to get a grip on their actions. Minerva is probably the only carry-over character who has come out strong (even if brief) in this novel. Harry’s remorse about all the people who died for him in the great war is very superficial. In fact, his heartbreak at Cedric’s death was better brought out in the Order of the Phoenix.
Hermione is much less “warm” in this one than she is as a youngster – middle age does not seem to agree with her. Ron has been portrayed as a clown and a side-kick to Harry and Hermione – much like the movies of the HP series, but unlike the seven books where Ron was much better characterised as a solid and serious friend. The part where history is altered, and Ron is married to Padma but has vague midlife back-burner feelings for the single Hermione is cute. Portrait Dumbledore is irritating – he says nothing of any consequence but interrupts the already disjoint flow of story. Snape is, as usual, the melting candle – he sacrifices himself to save the Potter family. Not as touching as his original death. The writers have taken extreme pains to portray Draco Malfoy as a nice guy, but it seemed that the younger Draco was more real than this transformed cardboard Draco. Talking of Draco, that part about him insulating his sickly wife and baby is fuzzy – why withdraw them from public? Not convincing there. Where is Hagrid (except in the flashback)? Where is Neville? Where is Luna? Tsk tsk.
Of the “new” characters, Scorpius Malfoy takes the cake – very endearing (sickly so, sometimes) and is the real hero of the book. Albus Potter is the quintessential middle child – not the confident first-born nor the baby, trying to break free from the shadows of famous parents. It seems a little weird that a “great” school like Hogwarts would allow house-hatred to such proportions as described. Considering that Harry himself assured Albus that one of the bravest men he knew was in Slytherin, I am not sure why there would be so much whiplash against Albus being in Slytherin. It also seemed that JKR and her co-authors were not in agreement over whether or not to make Albus and Scorpius an “item”, because they do behave like they have a crush on each other, but end the story rather lamely with Scorpius asking Rose out – although Scorpius seems to have a crush on Rose since the beginning as well. Umm…I see some sex identity problems there.
In The Big Bang Theory, there is one episode where Amy would point out obvious plot holes that bring the entire Indiana Jones franchise crumbling. The plot hole on which Cursed Child is built is this – [[spoiler alert]] if Delphi being what she is, had access to the time turner through a highly immature Albus, who was tied around her little finger anyway, all she had to do was confound/curse him, steal the time turner, go by herself to whichever time period she wanted, and reverse history. No need for the elaborate charade of letting Albus and Scorpius go through with their Triwizard Tournament trips and muck ups. Of course, we wouldn’t have a play or a script that probably fetched the authors a hell lot of money then. So, let us gloss over the plot hole and move on.
If you are a HP fan, and have (repeatedly) read and watched the HP franchise, this will complete your collection. I am not sure if The Cursed Child would do anything more to the HP story. Pottermore and fanfiction are probably better than The Cursed Child to quench your HP thirst.