More Fan Fiction Than Sequel
We were sceptical, but that didn't stop us from grabbing the first copy of The Cursed Child we could find. While I wasn't hoping to be blown out of my mind, it's disheartening how my only sentiment towards the story is an indifferent "Meh".
The sequel opens with the Platform 9¾ scene that The Deathly Hallows finishes on. With a nod to the fateful train ride that brought our favourite trio together, Harry's younger son Albus finds a best friend on the way to Hogwarts in Scorpius Malfoy. Albus struggles under the immense pressure of being Harry Potter's son, especially as best friend to a Malfoy descendant who has some questionable rumours colouring his own past. Things get truly worrying, however, when Harry's scar starts hurting again. Voldemort may have left behind a lineage more traditional than Horcruxes, and the ensuing damage control involves a lot of time travel and alternate realities.
Sounds exciting, right?
The plot is heavily inter-textual and it takes us back to iconic moments of Harry's history that still strike a blow to the system. Cheeky and adventurous, the premise is classic Rowling. What lets you down is that it doesn't feel like Rowling's universe. Even taking into account that Harry, Ron and Hermione are now middle-aged adults with responsibilities, they don't feel like the characters we grew up with. Harry's sense of empathy and respect for others is blaringly absent; and Ron is an irrelevant, de-glorified stay-at-home dad who appears to be there simply as a not-so-humorous comic relief. Almost all the characters appear one dimensional – as if someone compiled a PowerPoint presentation highlighting their famous traits in bullet points.
Almost equally annoying is the treatment of Lord Voldemort. The Dark Lord is one of the most elegant villains to have lived in the pages of literature. His glamour lies in the terror he commands; his passion for solitude that blotted out his entire ancestry and his ego so large that his more ardent worshippers could only come as near as kissing the hem of his robes. He Who Must Not Be Named was untouchable. The revelation of such a mundane act on his part is as disenchanting as watching him hug Draco Malfoy and jump off a tower holding Harry's face close to his own.
There are, of course, plus points. The story does start to feel more real towards the end and one of the final scenes is almost as heart-rending as the ones we grew up crying over. At its core, it's a story about father-son relationships and the permanence of friendship through the ages. Having saved the world and defeated evil, Harry now has to master being a father – something he has no reference point for; it's touching to watch.
Finally, what we need to keep in mind is that The Cursed Child isn't a novel; it's the rehearsal script for a play. While the reading experience may feel bland, some truly impressive stage directions indicate that the actual play must look magnificent. But Harry Potter's stories are famous above all for feeding readers' imagination, and it shouldn't
need visual aid.
Unfortunately, it simply feels like reading fan fiction.