Title: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Parts 1 and 2
Author: J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany, Jack Thorne
“Harry Potter rolled over inside his blankets without waking up. One small hand closed on the letter beside him and he slept on, not knowing he was special, not knowing he was famous, not knowing he would be woken in a few hours’ time by Mrs. Dursley’s scream as she opened the front door to put out the milk bottles, nor that he would spend the next few weeks being prodded and pinched by his cousin Dudley…He couldn’t know that at this very moment, people meeting in secret all over the country were holding up their glasses and saying in hushed voices: ‘To Harry Potter – the boy who lived!'”- Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.
When J.K. Rowling wrote the prophetic final paragraph in the first chapter of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (Philosopher’s for the Brits), she could not have known that , nearly twenty years after publication, people would still be talking about her books. Such longevity in literature is unprecedented. Interest in most popular novels fade after the release of the final book and/or film. Take The Hunger Games for example. Originally published from 2008-2010, the trilogy of dystopian YA novels by Suzanne Collins did not become a pop culture phenomenon until the fist installment was given the feature film treatment in 2012. The popularity of the series peeked with the release of the second, and arguably, the best film in the series, Catching Fire. Sales of the books spiked and The Hunger Games was dubbed the new Harry Potter, but just like the Twilight series before it, interest in the novels and films began to peter out with the release of the final two films Mockingjay Parts 1 and 2. Merely four years after The Hunger Games concluded in print, the franchise was already becoming a thing of the past.
The Divergent series suffered an even worse fate, becoming irrelevant after the third and final book in the trilogy Allegiant failed to connect with readers. That indifference translated into the film adaptions, the final of which was cancelled due to poor box office performance. It would stand to reason then that Harry Potter, which ended in 2007 with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, would suffer a similar fate. But once again, Harry Potter and its creator J.K. Rowling have beaten the odds. Acclaim and love for the series did not die out after the final book or the final film which was released in 2011. Thanks to Pottermore and news of the upcoming spin off Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Harry Potter has managed to remain relevant. That’s why it should come as no surprise that when J.K. Rowling announced that the script book for the plays Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Parts 1 and 2 would be released on July 31st 2016, the book immediately became the publication event of the decade.
Much has been said about the Cursed Child. Many people believe that it’s just glorified fanfiction and while others champion it as the best thing they’ve ever read. My feelings for the book lay somewhere in the middle. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Parts 1 and 2 is good, but not great and that’s okay. Even the weakest Harry Potter novels are better than half the fiction currently cluttering the YA shelves at Barnes and Noble. Because it’s play, it’s hard to accept Cursed Child as a true sequel to the original series. The trio has returned, along with their children, but the script spends so much time revisiting past events that it feels more like an homage to the magic of the saga then a proper continuation.
That’s not to say that I did not enjoy the trip down memory lane. I loved it, but I was able to accept the fact that the Cursed Child exists to celebrate what makes the Harry Potter novels so special: the triumph of love, the power of friendship and the rewards of perseverance. Even though Rowling did not write the script (she came up with the story), her fingerprints are all over the story. The rich attention to detail, the strong character development, the witty dialogue, it’s all there for us to enjoy. It’s only when the script tries to tread new ground and solidify itself as a true part of Potter canon that it stumbles. Some of the plot twists are a bit unbelievable and out of character, much of which has to do with the fact that, I said before, the script was not written by Rowling, but rather inspired by one of her stories.
Nevertheless, I did enjoy reading the Cursed Child, so much so that I have decided to re-read the entire series, something I have not done in quite some time. Unlike the Star Wars prequels, which nearly torpedoed that particular saga, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Parts 1 and 2 strengthens the original seven novels by highlighting what was so great about them in the first place. It’s a love letter to Rowling’s magnum opus, to her tale of a young boy trying to find his place in the world.
People have been talking about Harry Potter since he stole our hearts back in 1997. Nineteen years later, he is still a major touchstone in people’s lives. Twenty years from now people will continue to crack the spines of Potter novels and get lost in Rowling rich world. Fifty years from now, readers will raise their glasses and say in hushed voices “To Harry Potter–the boy who lived.”