by Jack Thorne
Overall: 3.5 out of 5 stars
I think just having Harry, Ron, and Hermione in a story that Rowling touched automatically makes it a 3-star book, but this one didn’t get much above that baseline for me. First of all, the format was weird, being a play. Thorne and the third writer, John Tiffany, have theater experience, which makes me doubt my initial reaction that the format was an odd and awkwardly executed choice. It seemed that they were trying to fit narration into stage directions and it felt forced and just off a lot of the time. Also, I know they managed to produce this as a stage play in London, but… how?!?! I was so distracted trying to imagine transfiguring by Polyjuice Potion, time traveling, and so many quick and broad scene changes, that I was often and unpleasantly jolted out of the story.
That being said, it’s a quick read. The act breaks are cliffhangers, and 300 pages of double-spaced text move you right along. Character-wise, Ron acts pretty much exactly the same as he did in the original 7 books, which felt comforting but also I was thinking, “Aren’t you a grownup now?” Harry, Hermione, and Ginny all have slightly changed in believable ways. Draco Malfoy also makes an appearance and has chilled way out and had some introspective moments with Harry that felt out of character, at least for what we’d been given about Draco since we last saw him at age 17. There was some character development on Harry’s part that was interesting, about his parenting hangups, and the similar development of his son, who learns to love himself and accept that he’s not perfect or a leader befitting the great Harry Potter’s son.
SPOILER ALERT: However, there were several plot devices I didn’t care for. The first was that the main character is Harry’s black-sheep middle child, Albus Severus Potter, who gets sorted into Slytherin early in the play. You go along thinking he’s your guy, he’s the protagonist, and then he and his best friend, Scorpius Malfoy (yup, Draco’s kid) go back in time and change things, making it so that Albus never existed, so Scorpius carries the story for a bit, which was jarring. The conflict and solution are presented early enough on that I knew it wasn’t the full story, and then there was a twist, which was enough. But then there was another twist! And another! It got to feeling like the third Back to the Future movie. Actually the big, final twist I really did like, but I could’ve done without a lot of the other stuff. Some of the plot and character developments are not built up to strongly, though they almost certainly had room for it, especially if they cut out some of the time travel bits. We also get official years for the events in the original 7 books, earlier than the publication dates (the Triwizard Tournament from Goblet of Fire, for example, takes place in 1995, though the book was published in 2000). Harry also get to talk to Dumbledore’s portrait, which raised questions for me about how much of the person is in their portrait after they die. I could probably go on and on about the details of the world, but I’ll leave it there.
A colleague mentioned they’d heard it reads like fan fiction, and ultimately I agree, though it was nice to see Harry and co. again, as grownups, and get to know their kids a bit more. It wasn’t as scary as the books but did have its tense and action-packed moments.