I was heartbroken when I read the last page of Harry Potter and the Deadly Hallows. Not because I was unhappy with the ending but because the world that I had immersed myself in for years was finally over. I found solace in rereading the series and companion books but that sense of finality never truly left me. It was like the death of a friend, haunting me and never able to be replaced, like a missed last step on a staircase. It was like sifting through faded photographs rather then recapturing what was lost.
So it was with no surprise that I was as excited as any Potter fan at the announcement of a new installment. I longed to fly across the pond to attend the premiere in person, but was consoled once again in the delicious excitement of waiting for a new book to be released. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child conjured up images of years of midnight gatherings at various bookshops, surrounded by my enthusiastic albeit impatient brethren. This time around it was a little less glamorous, as I picked up my copy the day it dropped at my local Target. However, from the first page I was pulled back into the easy magic of the wizarding world. The characters were right where I had left them, and picking up the thread of the story felt like slipping on a favorite pair of cozy socks.
“Whether you come back by page or by the big screen, Hogwarts will always be there to welcome you home.” tweet this
Dubbed as the eighth story, nineteen years later the story centers around Albus, Harry and Ginny’s youngest son. It picks up where the last book left off, at Kings Cross Station with Albus preparing to board the Hogwarts Express. The excitement and anticipation of the milestone soon fades as Albus is sorted into Slytherin House rather than Gryffindor. As he struggles through his first year at Hogwarts he becomes more and more alienated from his father. The separation is compounded as Albus befriends Scorpius Malfoy, the only child of Draco. Albus’ bitterness grows as he tires of living in the shadow of his father’s fame, constantly feeling like an unseen disappointment. In his quest to prove himself, he and Scorpius concoct a plan to right Harry’s most tragic wrong, the death of Cedric Diggory.
While the characters, new and old read like pure Rowling, the atmosphere is lacking in some of the whimsy and enchantment that made the series unforgettable. What Cursed Child loses in depth in regains in a fresh insight into Harry’s mindset as a parent and further glimpses into his past. As he struggles to connect with his son, we see Harry as a man who allows insecurities and fears to rule his actions. As Albus plays with time and the wizarding world is once again threatened, Harry learns to come to terms with his past once and for all.
Highlights include the outcast-inspired friendship between Albus and Scorpius, at once witty and heartwarming. Another, is the narrative arc and ultimate redemption of Draco Malfoy. If you were like me, always secretly rooting for Draco, then this book will leave you satiated and feeling a bit smug. This Draco is far more multi-dimensional and layered than his younger counterpart, portrayed as a complicated man who grapples with love, loss and the suffocation of stigma.
At times the story feels rushed and lacking in original thought, piggybacking on the legacy rather than creating something wholly its own. Another gripe I had was the sorely missed presence of Hagrid, who only shows up briefly in a rehashed moment of the past. However, what ultimately saves the book is its ability to tap into the creative genius that made Ms. Rowling famous. She did such a phenomenal job conjuring up an immersive universe, that the play succeeds by deftly placing itself in that world and remaining true to its characters and laws. If you have yet to read the book in fear of disappointment, then breathe easy. Despite its flaws the work is an authentic one, holding far more weight then your average piece of fan fiction. So dust off your wands, grab a glass of butter beer and make your way to Platform 9 3/4, its time to go home.