The Cursed Child

The Cursed Child is what you get when you take Harry Potter and combine it with Once Upon a Time and a dash of BBC’s Merlin. It’s entertaining and compelling and like the TV-show Once Upon a Time it’s kind of a trainwreck – in the best way possible. When I say trainwreck I mean there’s a lot of plotholes and treatment of characters that just didn’t line up to Rowling’s stories. The scriptwriter mostly got the style of dialogue for the characters right, but I felt he didn’t know what they were really about. Therefore most of the original characters are mere shadows of their book companions. They took one character trait from most of them and enlarged that and made it more dramatic. Then again, this is theatre. What works on stage is different than what works on paper. The Cursed Child is meant to give Harry Potter fans a wild ride like a rollercoaster. It’s great fun, but you might not want to look around too much or you’ll ruin your enjoyment.

I expected to hate this, but I don’t. I just can’t accept this as canon Harry Potter, because it’s too different from the original. In theory things might seem the same, but this reads like a soap opera. There’s plotholes, flaws and things that contradict the original series. But there’s also heartfelt moments that make you see Hogwarts and Harry’s past in a different light. I like that they’ve shown that Hogwarts is not paradise on earth for all students. I loved that Albus was very much the same as his father but still made very different choices and clearly has a different life than Harry does.

I also loved Scorpius’ and Albus’ ‘friendship’ and banter. In ways this friendship might be even deeper than Ron and Harry. It reminds me of Arthur and Merlin from the BBC-show Merlin where a pair of faithed best friends go on all sorts of adventures. Speaking about Scorpius he was perfect. One of the biggest flaws of the Harry Potter series is making it look like all Slytherins are evil. With Scorpius and Albus it does set things right. I love how geeky and goofy they were. Seriously, Scorpius has some amazing dialogue. I have to say I laughed out loud in occasions.

Another character done right is Draco. It’s clear from the get-go that he doesn’t visit Harry’s place all the time to drink tea with him. They’re still frenemies in a way and I like that. I’m also grateful about Draco not making the same mistakes as his father did. He’s actually a very loving and caring father.

But for all the good characters there’s bound to be some bad ones. There’s the professor from the original series that everyone either loves or hates that’s not his snarky self and there’s Delphi (did I mention this being a soap opera). And then there’s characters like Hermione and Ron that don’t feel like versions of themselves no matter what timeline. But I’m willing to let that last point go. Maybe it’s like reading something on WhatsApp where the text just doesn’t come across like it’s supposed to. But when did having a job at the ministery mean nothing? All the adults that work there do nothing but look for their children at places or just hang out at home! J.K Rowling always made sure the plot aligned with the daily activities of the characters.

If you would ask me what I wanted from a Harry Potter play I’d say I wanted to experience magical moments at Hogwarts with new characters in new settings. I was quite excited to see what Harry’s children would be up to because I like hearing about other perspectives of the well crafted wizarding world. I would also mention something about the political themes and social commentary that was always very apparant in the series. Even if all the books were about an orphan boy and his magical adventures it was never a question that there were more adult things going on in that world. Researchers say the Harry Potter series teaches people certain values like accepting people for who they are and not where they come from. The play embodies nothing of that rich world Rowling created. There’s no reading in between the lines. In fact the adult characters aren’t worried about politics and other adult matters. They’re only there to play the role they were assigned. The plot doesn’t move organically, things happen and people do something because the plot demands them to.

However I think the people that came up with The Cursed Child wanted to make a play that would let people relive Harry’s magic from a different perspective. They were looking for something for all ages. With laughs and giggles, but also dramatic turns and twists that are bizarre, but would have people sit at the edge of their seat. Visually this must be stunning. With all the different locations, times and even a little use of polyjuice potion I’m wondering how they can pull that off on stage. But knowing that they must have found a way I’m getting excited just thinking about it. The set must be phenomonal and magical. Harry Potter doesn’t have to be serious like Hamilton and Les Miserables. Even though Once Upon a Time is not a very well written show in my opinion, I still liked it. And this script felt exactly like what Once’s take on The Boy Who Lived would be. I mean, Harry Potter as a soap opera does sound amazing. I just can’t help wondering if Rowling is okay with this adaption of her story.

In the end I liked reading this. Sometimes I enjoyed it because it was so over the top that it got funny. Odette and I read this as a buddyread. She was surprised to learn how much she loved this, despite all the critics. In fact while I thought this didn’t feel like the Harry Potter I know, she liked how much this reminded her of the original series. And that’s okay, too :).

The Cursed Child is a script by John Tiffany, Jack Thorne and J.K Rowling. 

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The Watchmaker of Filigree Street

What if you had never met that person? How different would your life be without that first hello? In any life there are people who can change the course of action. This is what happens when Thaniel Steepleton meets the Japanse watchmaker Keita Mori. Against all odds they befriend each other – or was it a friendship that was always meant to be? Baron Mori makes Thaniel into another, better version of himself. At first you can’t imagine the chances of them meeting, but their lives become so intertwined it’s impossible to imagine it any other way.

The Watchmaker of Filigree Street excels with its own rules and style. It’s been often compared to The Night Circus, including me while reading this. However the comparision is only because it seems to be the same sort of genre. This has wonderful complex characters and development, magical realism, a dash of steampunk, countless of possibilities and inevitable faith. I can’t bring myself to put a label on it. That wouldn’t do it justice.

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You see, in most books things start out great for the characters but genuinely get worse and worse. Only to come back around in the end. Natasha Pulley doesn’t care much for this format. She is skilled enough to tell a story where the character is stuck in an ordinary life, but finds luck along the way. He lived his life like a clockwork, always carrying out the same motions. But then something happens that stops the clockwork, although you can count on the watchmaker to wind him up again. Throughout the book everything clicks for him, but it’s never boring.

There’s a slow pace that comes with all the luck that very much suits all the Japanese characters in this book (and there were a lot). But in the end it gets a thrilling finale with twists that are as unpredictable as the toss of a coin or using dice. I can imagine that it’s so easy to overdo it, which will make the reader feel like Thaniel gets way too much. But it all happens organically, which only a truly gifted writer can achieve. In this book full of wonders and science ahead of its time there’s only one thing I found unbelievable. I didn’t really understand how an ordinary man with average intelligence managed to learn Japanese out of dictionary in only a few months.

That didn’t stop me from adding this novel to my favorites. It’s not just the fact that the story combines two of my favorite topics: Japan and steampunk Victorian London. It does so without feeling too intense or too much. The story slowly grabs you and without noticing you’re engulfed. It’s a love story, it’s a mystery, it’s an historic novel and I can only hope that in 100 years it will be a classic.

Over Sea, Under Stone

Find the treasure, said the note I read on a birthday party. I knew it was only a game, but I reveled in finding the clues. While the other kids were wondering when it was time to eat fries or what the prize at the end would be, I felt important and adventurous. Although I have to admit I was a bit dissapointed when I found out what the chest at the end of the treasure hunt contained. I don’t know what was inside of it anymore, but I do remember the excitement of the journey.

Over Sea, Under Stone continuously reminded me of that experience. It had the excitement of a treasure hunt designed for kid’s birthday parties. While fun and enjoyable, the clues are not hard to crack. Our heroes never have too much trouble with it. And when they think they do you quickly learn that as a reader you don’t have to worry for them too long. It only takes a couple of pages before luck strikes. It’s not clever deductions that help them on this quest. It’s more that magical moment when people happen to be at the right place in the right time. Call it coincidence, call it faith or destiny.

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The book is even a little cheesy. The evil guys are so obviously the bad guy that they might as well run around with signs around their neck that tell us so. This first novel in the Darkness is Rising trilogy gives off a warm and nostalgic feeling. Once more I felt like I was that kid going on a treasure hunt, but this time the prize did matter. What didn’t was the villains nor the attempts to make this scary. Sometimes I loved the nostalgic and warm feeling I got during this read, but at other times I wished for something more. I wanted this book to surprise me after all. To reveal a mystery or show me an unexpected turn of events. I hoped Bill might help the heroes in the end or that Gumerry was actually not an ally of the children at all. I found myself looking for a darker turn of events, but all I found was the light. Some of my thirst for an actual mystery did get quenched when Gumerry’s secret was hinted at. I hope to see more of this in the series.

A treasure hunt is well and all, but what I want to see in the other books is an actual heroic quest. I want Simon, Jane and Barney to turn into the heroes that would be worthy enough to sit at the round table. I want more elements of why the Arthurian legends is still being passed on from generation to generation to seep into the story. Thankfully Susan Cooper decided this novel couldn’t be a standalone after all. Because this truly does read like a prologue that’s leading up to the real thing. The birthday bash is over, it’s time for a true adventure.

Over Sea, Under Stone is a novel by Susan Cooper. It’s part of the The Dark is Rising sequence.

The Answer

Confession: most of the tv-shows I watch are cartoons. I get as much of a kick from funny animated characters as I do when Sherlock makes a brilliant deduction. Last year I discovered Steven Universe and it’s honestly the best thing I’ve watched in 2016. To me it transcends being a kid’s show. It’s not just the first show created by a woman on Cartoon Network, it’s also a wonderfully diverse story that breaks down stereotypes. In the end Steven Universe teaches anyone that watches that you don’t have to be what others expect of you. The molds and stigmas don’t apply. The main character is one of the cutest characters and a boy that wears pink all the time. It must also be one of the first cartoons that made no doubt about characters not being straight. The message of breaking stereotypes shows in all the episodes, but one in particulair.

Now that episode has been made into a picture book. There’s new art by two incredible artist and the story isn’t made up of dialogue, but it’s fiction. It’s got Sugar’s own creative style all over it. Just like her show, her writing is not conventional. I called this book a picturebook, but it’s sort of inbetween that and a graphic novel. The story however is the same in the episode. And what a beautiful tribute to the show this is. There’s not a lot of pages and while I wish there had been more, it’s a nice book to allow yourself a little breather.

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I wouldn’t say the story is missing something without all the dialogue, animation and music. It still stands and remains interesting. However it was more suitable for, and enjoyable in, the tv-show. The pages of the book feel a little cluttered. On some of them there’s a lot of text, so it has to be written in a font that’s easy to read. This is a good decision, but it’s not as aesthetically pleasing. The font is probably Times New Roman, which is really overused. The drawings themselves are beautiful, but don’t get enough space to shine. Only in a few occasions they take up the whole page. This is due to the characters Ruby and Sapphire taking up the top and bottom part with their commentary on the story. I’ve never liked it when manga’s did that and I don’t like it here either. This book reads like those version of movies where the actors comment on what happens. It’s unnecessary and takes you out of the story. Sapphire even tells you there’s only 5 more pages to go, which it wasn’t, but it does highlight the fact that this is a very short book.

The Answer is a tribute to a wonderful episode. I wanted it to feel more like its own product and not just a little extra. While I enjoyed it and the story remains wonderful, I did expect more. I wish they spend more time on making it feel complete, like a fusion. I like the story and I like the drawings, but spending more time on choosing the font and placing the drawings would have made it better in my opinion. Having said that I hope the message of the story is as clear as it is in the show: you can be whatever you choose.

The Answer is a picture book written by Rebecca Sugar. Art by Elle Michalka and Tiffany Ford.