Harry Potter And The Mixed Reviews *spoilers*
I have always been a Harry Potter fan, but I definitely can't claim I'm a Potterhead... I've read the books, I've seen the films, I listened to the audiobooks... but I have too many other things going on to dedicate such a large portion of my spare time to HP like a lot of people on the internet have.
I think I've said before that when I watch new films, I like to watch them with my brain switched off... I like to enjoy them as a standalone project (whether they are or not), and not pick them apart or look for the problems. These things were created for us to enjoy, we really should try doing that first. And I do, the first time, then I watch it again, almost certainly with a notepad and pen at the ready.
This is going to be a very mixed article, as what was going to be a review has evolved into a bit of a monster. By that I mean, after I read Harry Potter & The Cursed Child I went looking for what other people thought of it. This is something I like to do after any book, but usually, I'm not left with such a despair for my fellow muggles.
Why don't we start with my "review" of Cursed Child? Seems like a sensible thing to do.
I pre-ordered the book just like a lot of other people, with a £10 price tag on it. There was no way I was going to get up for a midnight sale of it (I can't think of anything worse than leaving the house at that time of night unless it's to go to the airport for a holiday). I would be happy to wait for it to arrive on my desk... or so I thought. With some minor kerfuffle, I managed to convince my mother not to purchase a copy, I'd pick one up for her... because as it turned out, I couldn't wait an extra day or two to read it and she could.
Off I trundled to Tesco to do some shopping, confident in the thought that I would find a large dumpbin staring me in the face as soon as I walked through the door. I wasn't disappointed, there right in the middle of the aisle, was a half empty display of Cursed Child. I knew that there would be less demand around buying this one, but I was surprised at how few physical copies there were.
Without breaking my stride I walked passed the dumpbin, sliding my fingers around a crisp copy of the book, taking it off the display as I went. Sacrificing my handbag to the wet patches of the trolley I placed the book on top, making sure it wouldn't get damp... if you know me, you know that something coming above my handbags in the pecking order is highly unusual. Carefully placed inside said handbag once purchased I drove keenly home, having to then begrudgingly empty my car and put away my perishables before opening it.
As a book person, I do have my initial quibbles, which I will cover in more detail a bit later. In brief here... the cover price is £20, and while no one is ever going to actually pay that price, it is ridiculous. Supermarkets and larger stores are going to make it half price and the poor little independents (the dwindling few) are going to be stuck between a rock and a hard place. My second thought was... has a play ever come out in this format before? (More on this one later too.)
So, the story...
Things in the wizarding world never quite change though. A time-turner has been confiscated from an ex-Death Eater. In the muggle and wizarding world alike, nothing stays a secret for long, and the rumour of the time-turner spreads. Amos Diggory, accompanied by Delphini Diggory his niece, comes to the Potter house to demand that they use it to save his son, Cedric. Harry denies there is a time-turner and sends Amos away.
As they make their departure from Platform 9 3/4 for their fourth year at Hogwarts, Rose Granger-Weasley confirms that the time-turner does exist, and Albus convinces Scorpius that they need to get off the train and rescue Cedric the only way they can... in time.
I don't want to put too many spoilers in, just in case someone thought they'd have a read regardless of me putting the word "spoilers" everywhere... but that is where the story begins.
The script sticks to the usually accepted formatting, and it's easy to follow if you have a passing knowledge of how they work. My issue with it as a script though is that the stage directions are appalling. Whether it's because they gave the actors free rein to create the scenes as they wanted, or thought they'd be redundant in a copy destined for mass-market readers' shelves I don't know, but the lines often feel little more than an after thought. Flicking back through I'm aware that there are more than I originally thought there were. I'm wondering if I might have made a slightly harsh judgement about them there but I'm going to stick with it as the one I just flicked to is Act One Scene Thirteen, which brings us to St Oswald's. This feels like they're trying to make an introduction to the place rather than put in the stage direction. It's like they've gone for a mix of everything, because of the natural lack of description within a script, and because the readers wouldn't be used to the different structure. (I feel like I've talked myself in a rather odd-shaped circle there.)
That aside, I enjoyed it. You do have to stick with it though. After I'd read a bit, I took a quick break... and I did contemplate not going back to it. But the race was on, I had to beat a friend who was reading it! Nose back in the pages, I was happier to find that the story did pick up, and all in all I enjoyed it as a piece of writing.
This is where I take a bit of a turn... as I said earlier, I went and read reviews of the book on Amazon. Honestly, if you want to have some amusement or a bit of trauma, you should go and read some... sometimes I really can't tell if they're serious or someone is just taking the piss.
To the quibbling... let's go over some of the things people are moaning about, and what I'm moaning about on occasion. When I went in and looked at the reviews there were 411, and the book was sporting 3.8 out of 5 stars. (214 5*, 54 4*, 54 3*, 28 2* and 61 1*)
It isn't a book
People... it's right there on the front of the cover. It's all over the description. Even JK said it herself when she tweeted about it. Yet somehow lots of people who were desperate to read this script are unable to read the simplest description. I asked someone who hadn't read the book to describe to me what it would be inside, without actually opening it... "well it's a play, it says so right there... a new play by Jack Thorne."
It isn't written by JK Rowling
The last sentence above is another prime example of how people have just skipped over the important details of the book... what did they all do? Just pre-order it because it said Harry Potter and then didn't read anything else about it?! The play was based off a short story written by JK Rowling, Jack Thorne, and John Tiffany... something else that is really clear before you buy it.
"The characters aren't the characters I remember"
That isn't a direct quote, it's a combination of several sentiments expressed by reviewers. *deep sigh* People do change... it isn't like it is out of the ordinary for people to be different when you see them years later. Plus, twenty odd years of life without Voldemort is going to be a bit dull. All work and no play makes Harry a dull boy.
If I'm honest, I didn't find these "new" versions of the old characters that annoying. Harry is a dad coping with a difficult teen. Hermione is being the swottiest she's ever been, and Ron... well bless his cotton socks, he's just as daft as he was before and we all know that to be true! I have to say though... I like new Draco. It doesn't matter how many times you deny it, he always had a soft side, you could tell that from the original novels, he wasn't entirely evil.
Bad fan fiction
A lot are grizzling that it's bad fan fiction. Clearly, you haven't read much fan fiction... I've read much worse. Let's face it, the winner of the worst fan fiction based on Harry Potter goes to Mortal Instruments... allegedly. (To be honest, I only noted the similarities after I'd read people saying it online... see, read a book for the book it is first.)
It isn't book 8
This one is entirely the fault of the publishers in my opinion. The back of the book says it right there in print. And it's just wrong. Why did they put that on there? Why did they put Harry Potter in the title? (Well, we know the answer to that one.) I would hope there would have been less moaning if they'd just called it Cursed Child... but after the reviews, I don't know if I have that much faith left in muggles.
All the time turners were destroyed
Again, it has been twenty odd years... take a look at the last twenty years of muggle history, and look at what we've invented. I'm almost certain that wizards didn't stop inventing and creating things after the Battle of Hogwarts. This also goes for the potions and spells... I know those have been around a long long time, but with more progressive people in charge at the MoM then I'm sure brewing techniques have moved on too. But those things aren't going to be explained in a play, are they?!
Wibbly wobbly timey wimey mishaps
Lots of people are saying there are errors in what happen with the jumps backwards and forwards (and the fact they can go so much further... see the comment above about things changing). Unless someone has actually been back in time and knows what happens when you kill a butterfly, I'm not going to have a debate with anyone about this.
The link between the play and the series is stretched
While this is a play based on characters from the series, with some new ones added in, I don't know whether it was sensible to make the beginning of the play out of the end of the novels. If you wanted them to be two distinct things, then it might have been worth having a chapter filling in some of the in between... hell, if you wanted to keep it different, like the play, then why not make it a Daily Prophet article... "On the anniversary of the Battle of Hogwarts, we look back over the last twenty years and see where our heroes lives have taken them."
People writing reviews who haven't read much, if any, of the book
"I couldn't even get through the first ten pages..." You can't tell a book from reading so little... especially a play, you can probably tell you don't like reading plays in that length of time, but you will have appreciated nothing of the story. Because of the "botch" between the end of the series and the beginning of the play, the first ten pages or so are a little confusing, I'll give you that much. But you've still essentially judged a book by its cover. It took me three goes to read Lovely Bones, the beginning caught me every time, but on that third go I managed to power through another two chapters and was hooked. "I tried it once and didn't like it" really doesn't cut it in the book world for me I'm afraid... if we didn't try anything new, it would be a very boring place.
"It's hard to read as it's written in script form"
That's because it's a script. I think the main issue here is that people don't really understand the difference between a book and a play. A lot of people commented that there wasn't enough description. *sigh again* As I read the script I could see it in my head, just like you can when you read a novel... only this time you get the added bonus of using your own imagination to fill in the blanks that will obviously be left because it's a script. In a novel you get that all thrown in for free with the scripted bits! It makes me a little sad that some readers can't fill in those wonderful blanks themselves, they really are missing out.
Rehashing old content
You get a story you can already identify with, told in a different light... I didn't hear anyone complaining when it happened in PoA... and yes, I'm sure there were some... perhaps I'll go and read some of those reviews too.
Albus and Scorpius are gay
Maybe they were, maybe they weren't... but sometimes you just need to take what you're given and deal with it. It's not like we haven't dealt with the bromance before in Harry Potter. There is a lot of friendship and closeness referenced in it, but that is true of the series too. Is it not just true friendship born out of challenging circumstances?
Publish it as a play was intended to be published
Yes people would have moaned about it not being a hardback, and it not matching with the previous books... but that's the point. It isn't supposed to, it is a whole new beast. I don't think I've seen a play published in this format before, and I've worked with books for nearly 16 years. Classify it properly, publish it in the "accepted" format and then you can stand up for yourself saying "I'm a play, you can tell... just look at me."
Scorpius and the rumours he's Voldemort's son, and the fact that Voldemort has a daughter
We're just going to have to deal with the fact that the timeline seems a bit skewed. Scorpius would never have been Voldemort's son, but he's the son of a Death Eater with a dubious background and let's face it, not the most popular kid in school... it's an obvious step for bullying of this character... get over it, it wasn't put in there as a serious possibility.
Just because no one mentioned Bellatrix was pregnant doesn't mean that she wasn't. If you can hide an entire house from sight I'm sure someone thought about using the spell to hide a few lumps and bumps... I am of course kidding with this last sentence... forgive me for adding some humour to the nit-picking of readers.
Phew, I feel better after getting that off my chest. There was only so much head shaking I could do at the screen before I felt like I was going to explode with anger. For all those bad reviews there were plenty of nice ones, and more fair ones. A lot of people felt like it did justice to the original series and a lot didn't (quite a few people were talking about "canon", and really, I don't think half of them know what it actually means... so please stop).
Was it as good as the series? No.
Was it worth reading? Yes.
Would it be worth seeing the play? Certainly.
This is what you all asked for, you asked for more, and you got more... but like making wishes from a genie, you should have been more specific. People were expecting heroic things from our old favourites, but as it turns out, they're just like most of us... it can be pretty hum-drum living a normal life.
The highlight for me was Scorpius, he was so entertaining, who'd have thought I'd have been preferring a Malfoy in this tale! Oh my god, and I nearly forgot the trolley witch... nice twist there, she kind of rocked my literary world too.
I think after this long people have merged so many different things together, the films, the books, the audio and our own perceptions of the characters, that this was never going to be the massive crowd pleaser that the series was. It is a great shame. But will I be grumpily packaging it back up and returning it because I didn't like it? No... and if anyone actually did that you need to get a grip.
There, I think I've annoyed lots of people, well done me. I am of course entitled to my own opinions, as are you... but it would be nice if some common sense was used occasionally for the simple issues.
Off I trot to read some reviews of the Harry Potter series... just for laughs.