When it comes to most books, I am content just writing my review and being done with it. But when it comes to Harry Potter, and a book I never expected, I felt the need to look a little deeper into it and talk more about what actually happened and what I thought, and then pester you guys for what your thoughts were.
So that’s what we’re going to do today! Be warned: this post is going to be loaded with spoilers. If you haven’t read the book, but you’re reading past the image below, it’s your own fault if it gets ruined for you. You can read my spoiler-free review here.
Rather than doing this in a free-form way, I’ve broken it down into some different ideas that either came up in the book or that I’ve seen a pattern of in posts and reviews about the book. Free-form seemed like it would turn into me going on a long, confusing tangent, so this seemed like the better choice.
Crack Fanfic, or Real Harry Potter Story?
I have seen so many comments regarding this book just being a weird fanfiction that someone stole from the internet. It’s one of the most common complaints I’ve seen regarding the play.
And I totally see where everyone is coming from. Here’s the thing: JK Rowling didn’t technically write this. She approved it, and she contributed to it, but she didn’t write it. Which I guess makes it the official Harry Potter fanfiction?
It does have a lot of elements that you’d find in a typical fanfiction: some weird elements (the trolley witch, as we’ll discuss), the characters all just seem the slightest bit off, and the story doesn’t have the usual charm that Rowling injected into her previous books. There were a few times while reading this that I wondered how much fanfiction Jack Thorne had read before putting this together, because if we’re being honest, there are some things that are very common in fanfiction, but not canon in books, that appeared in this (for example, thanking Dumbledore, instead of thank goodness). But I haven’t heard of specific examples of bits stolen from posted fanfiction stories, so maybe he just borrowed those small elements.
So, conclusion in my mind: official Harry Potter fanfiction, as approved by JKR.
Play vs. Novel
Based on what I’ve been reading, the fact that this was a play script and not a novel seemed to be an issue for many people. Or at least, they’ve admitted to not having read many plays before.
In my experience, reading a play is different from reading a novel. There’s very little context, the dialogue is generally basic, and the characters aren’t overly developed, because a lot of it depends on who you’ve got playing what characters and what sort of director you have. And this one was no exception. It can be a good or bad thing, depending on how you approach it. If you’re injecting your own ideas and creating your own settings and adding your own emphasis to the dialogue, it’s a lot better than if you’re just reading it straight through.
I think this would be a whole different story on stage, and would likely be better received if we had all seen it in that format first, and read it for ourselves second.
Acceptance of the New Harry Potter Chapter
Does anyone else remember when the 7th Harry Potter book came out in 2007? It was great. We finally got to find out how the series ended, there were celebrations, and it was an amazing to finally know what happened to Harry Potter.
But does anyone else remember how much hate there was for that book? We’d waiting for ages for that book, and there were a lot of people who weren’t pleased with it. And not just with the epilogue, which still has mixed thoughts today. But the book as a whole had some really rough reviews.
But as time passed, everyone calmed down a bit, and everyone was fine with it.
I think what it came down to was that we’d all built up the story in our heads, and we had such high expectations that no book could match them. We all had our ideas of how we wanted it to do (fun fact: I’d wanted Harry to die and Voldemort win, because I adore those stories where evil prevails) that we couldn’t help but be disappointed when we got the real book.
Now, this is a different story, because this book isn’t a JKR novel, so it obviously is going to be missing that element. But we’ve been waiting nine years for this story, and we high high expectations for it – even higher than the last book. Let’s be honest, it would have been almost impossible to come up with a story we would have accepted without question.
Our Favourite Trio: Now vs. Then
This is another thing I’ve seen a lot of: Harry doesn’t match the guy we’ve come to love, nor do Hermione or Ron.
Well, of course not. Even if this had been JKR’s book, they’d be different. Because they’re nineteen years older, got married, have careers beyond saving the world, and procreated. Those things change you! I’m not the same person as I was five years ago, let alone nineteen years ago (however, I’m still reading and playing Mario Bros, so some things carry through). How can we expect the Golden Trio to be the same?
I actually thought that they were reasonable compared to their previous characters. I thought they aged into their characters well. But maybe that’s just me.
Speaking of Our Golden Trio: What the hell happened to Ron?
Seriously though. There was absolutely no purpose to his character, like they’d plugged him in so that he wouldn’t be missing but had nothing to do with him.
He’s such a great character that he should have been used more. There was lots of opportunity for it, and he could have done so much. But he was just there for comic relief instead. They might as well have killed him off for all he offered the story. Hell, killing him off would have probably made a much more interesting story.
The New Characters: Albus and Scorpius
Albus I didn’t mind, but I didn’t love him either. He does have a lot going on for him (and he seems the one of Harry’s kids that seemed almost normal?) and having a famous dad is a big deal, and that puberty is a thing at fourteen, but even so. I equated him with 5th book Harry, where he’s just so angry all the time, because it was kind of that.
Scorpius, on the other hand, where the hell did that kid come from? How did Draco Malfoy create that? His mother must have been a huge influence, though that’s got to be some penance for Malfoy . That being said, I thought he was great. He was a fun kid, and had his heart in the right place. I really enjoyed him, and would love to see more of him.
And, if you’re wondering, I 100% ship Albus and Scorpius. They’d better fall in love someday.
I liked Malfoy in this story. Yeah, he’s a big jerk and all that, and he was mixed up in some terrible things, but he really got it together for his kid. We really got to see in this story how he’s more than just a pureblood jerk, which was really great.
The Timeline Issue in 1981
Okay, so in the first Harry Potter book, we were told that Sirius was at James and Lily’s house when Hagrid arrived, and that he gave Hagrid his motorbike so he could transport Harry to his relatives.
So… Where was Sirius when they were all in the past? They mention Hagrid, but there’s no sign of Sirius anywhere. This stuff’s canon guys, you can’t just leave it out.
The Trolley Witch
This was the point of the story where I had to check and make sure that this was a published work and not some crack fic I was reading online.
Seriously, though. What the hell is the deal with the Trolley Witch? She’s just supposed to sell food on the train, not supposed to be completely off her rocker. I totally understand the purpose this served to the story, but even so. It came out of no where and really threw me for a loop. There was really no other way to make that plot point happen? I’m sure the writers are more talented than that. Let’s keep it canon, eh?
Wow, this got long.
All in all, I did enjoy this play. Is it everything I hoped and dreamed for an 8th Harry Potter book? Of course not – JKR didn’t write it. But it was fun and enjoyable, and I had a great time reading it. It may not get reread the way the previous books did, but it’s got a place on my shelf.
Let me know if you agree, disagree, see something I totally missed here! I really want to talk about this book.