The experience of reading this book depends on your attitude going into it.
I went into it with some amount of trepidation, knowing that it was written in dramatic form, and that there were two others who worked on the book. I don’t have a very high opinion of collaborations. And so, yes, very low expectations.
I’d advise you too to keep your expectations reasonably low, keep in mind it’s not fully Rowling, and if you do that, this book could blow your mind.
What it’s about
It was always difficult being Harry Potter and it isn’t much easier now that he is an overworked employee of the Ministry of Magic, a husband and father of three school-age children.
While Harry grapples with a past that refuses to stay where it belongs, his youngest son Albus must struggle with the weight of a family legacy he never wanted. As past and present fuse ominously, both father and son learn the uncomfortable truth: sometimes, darkness comes from unexpected places.
~ Synopsis from goodreads
Here are some thoughts on the book:
Frankly, I went into this book purely for nostalgic reasons. I am not a big fan of plays, even less so, reading plays.
But the story here is strong, so strong that it overcame all play-related aversions from my side.
I was hooked from the very first chapter (or act) itself.
There has been a lot of chatter on the internet over just how much control Rowling had in the making of this book/play, and if you are worried about any of that, I am happy to say that this book has Rowling stamped all over it.
The characters, settings, dialog, interactions, everything is very Rowling-esque. Even if she didn’t actually write much of it, the other writers have done a terrific job getting her tone right (watch out for an extended teaser coming this Tuesday that gives you some idea what to expect from this book) .
The story is also typical Rowling – fast-paced, speedy, with some magic thrown in, a lot of sentiment too.
That said, in places it was a bit too fast. The plot mainly deals with time-travel and I really like a bit of setting up in such stories. The book moved from present to various times in the past so rapidly that I was disoriented at times.
However, it does do a decent job of stringing up all the threads from past to present and resolving an end to the story.
Where this book differs from the earlier books in this series is that for the first time, Rowling features adults (Harry, Ron, Hermione, and Draco), and their children in equal measure.
This brings out a different feel to the book, and an adult tone to the interactions.
The kids in the book – primarily Albus (Harry’s son), and Scorpius (Draco’s son) are the principal protagonists of this novel.
Scorpius (and Draco too) are surprisingly adorable. Maybe because of the death of his wife, Draco seems vulnerable, kind, a loving dad, and everything but the Draco from his Hogwarts days. The switch in personality is a bit much in places, but overall I think it works well. I have only one word for Scorpius – adorable.
Albus travels through life with a deep cloud over his head, unable to live up to the name of his famous father, and with Scorpius as his only friend. I liked Albus all right, but his character and motivations are the weakest aspects of this book, in my opinion. And frankly, I got tired of repeatedly reading about his mess-ups and never learning from them.
His friendship with Scorpius (the only redeeming thing about him) seems a little forced and one-sided. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but it just didn’t ring true. In fact the emphasis on friendship throughout this book/play seemed very heavy-handed and obvious.
So overall, Albus was a fail. Harry still is lovable (even if he makes an awful dad), Ginny was just the token wife, and Ron the token clown. But Hermione, Draco, and Scorpius really make up for all the weaknesses of the other characters.
There are other characters as well from the past who are in this book – Dumbledore (disappointing guest appearance), Snape (better), and Cedric (heart-breaking). I was a bit disappointed that Sirius and Lupin did not make an appearance, but I am also grateful that they didn’t simply make token appearances to satisfy the reader.
Thoughts on the play format
I won’t lie. I think this would have made a fantastic addition to the Harry Potter canon if Rowling had taken full ownership of it and fleshed out this really good story into a mind-blowing one. The play format is good too, and I found myself racing through it, but any day, I would prefer a full-blown book over a play.
That said, if I think of it as a play, it seems like a fantastic play. If you ever get the chance to watch the play, I don’t think you should miss it. The material in this book definitely makes for a glorious spectacular play.
How I wish it would come to Bangalore, I’d love to watch it!
So, have you read this book, or watched the play? Any thoughts?
You can also buy a copy of this book from Amazon.