“Imperfect understanding is often more dangerous than ignorance.” // Review of “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” by Newt Scamander (J. K. Rowling)

Title: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Author: Newt Scamander (J. K. Rowling)
Genre: Fantasy/series tie-in.
Date Read: 20/10/2016 – 22/10/2016
Rating: ★★

Review:

fantasticbeastscoverOkay, it might not be fair of me to judge a series tie-in written for Comic Relief as harshly as I do books generally, but I’ve got to be honest, this book was kind of boring?

Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them is the definitive text on magical creatures within the Harry Potter universe, but I found it fairly hard to believe that such a slim volume (80 pages + introduction) would rank so highly on magical bookshelves. There are eighty beasts featured in the book, and there is only a paragraph or two dedicated to each one. Having said that, reading what is supposed to be an academic text would probably not be made more interesting by extra details if one is not inclined to read this sort of thing already.

Many of the creatures featured are ones that are seen throughout the Harry Potter series, so I already had a passing familiarity with them. Others were new to me, or may have only ever got a passing mention that I have since forgotten (it’s been a while since I read a HP book). The writing style is fairly accessible and makes a few comments that raised a smirk, but there was nothing truly revelatory within the pages.

There are also the scribbled notes in Harry, Ron and Hermione’s handwriting. These are cute at first, but a lot of them seem like in-jokes with the reader, more so than actual notes a teenager would scribble in the margins.

I’m reading back over what I’ve written here and part of me thinks I’m being unnecessarily harsh. After all, I did know the book’s format going in. It’s not like I was expecting a riveting plot. But I don’t know, I was expecting something to hold my attention a bit more.

“My geekness is a-quivering.” // Review of “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Parts 1 and 2” by J. K. Rowling, John Tiffany and Jack Thorne

Title: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Parts 1 and 2
Author: J. K. Rowling, John Tiffany and Jack Thorne
Genre: YA/Play script
Date Read: 14/08/2016
Rating: ★★★★

Review:

Having not been involved at all in Harry Potter fandom since about 2008, I wasn’t really worried about whether I read this book or not. However, when my partner finally found an outlet in our city that wasn’t sold out and bought himself a copy, I decided to form my own thoughts regardless. To my surprise, I actually got caught up in the nostalgia, and the new characters, and ended up really enjoying it!

Harry Potter is now 40 years old, struggling with his relationship with his son, Albus, and on top of that, his scar has been hurting and he’s been having nightmares leading him to think that someone connected to the Dark Lord may be at large. Meanwhile, Albus and best friend Scorpius Malfoy, decide to try to right some of the wrongs wreaked by Lord Voldemort in the past, only to almost plunge the world back into darkness again.

I totally get why so many people were disappointed by this new addition to the Harry Potter ‘verse. For a start, the play format is not supposed to be read, and if you’re not used to reading plays (I am, I’ve been doing theatre for 15 years), I’m sure that would have tarnished the experience. A script is not written to be consumed en masse; it’s written to give the actors the necessary information to bring it to life on stage. I’ve seen complaints about some of the stage directions, but the thing is, stage directions aren’t meant to immerse you in the world. They’re the instructions for someone else who is going to do that immersing.

The structure of the story is also different to the novels. There is no starting off pre-school-year and then following the characters throughout the year towards a climax in June. It’s all rather more complicated than that and Hogwarts actually doesn’t play a huge role, so I totally appreciate that some readers did not feel that they were “back”.

As for the characters, I actually found myself sympathising far more with Harry in this story than I ever did in the novels (I always agreed with Hermione about his “saving people thing”). Draco Malfoy still has enough of teenage Draco in him to recognise, but he has matured as well, and tends to bring out the snark only when necessary, rather than every opportunity. There is still a lot of simmering tension between him and Harry, and I can see that playing out really well onstage.

I loved Albus and Scorpius’ friendship of epic proportions, though I did feel their motivations within their arc were a little over the top. Their character development through the course of the plot was well done, though, and their dialogue is great. Scorpius is such an unapologetic little geek, and I loved that.

There are some problems with some character development of other characters, but I was able to shrug it off a bit more. In most cases, it was either a side-character, or it was a development which was later addressed, so I was able to let it go.

There are some twists that are probably not a surprise to anyone anymore (unless you’ve been really, really careful to avoid spoilers). The big one is rather cliché and even a bit squicky, though I hope it would play out better onstage than in a dry script.

Overall, I think Cursed Child has the makings of a wonderful play, which I would love to see onstage. If this is the only preview I get for a while, though, I’ll be happy enough with that .


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