Monday, August 29, 2016

Review: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany, & Jack Thorne

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany, & Jack Thorne
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (Harry Potter #8)
By J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany, & Jack Thorne
Publisher:
Arthur A. Levine Books
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased

Review: Oh man—I don’t know if I’ve ever been more daunted by the prospect of writing a review. I mean, this is Harry Potter. Thanks to my fantastic failure at rereading the series since I started blogging, I’ve never reviewed any of the HP books until now. I wasn’t even going to write a review of Cursed Child, especially since I hadn’t reviewed any of the novels. I thought I might write something about Cursed Child for the blog for next year’s Harry Potter Month event, but now that I’ve finished reading it, I’m finding that I need to talk through my feelings a bit. Now. And in the form of a review.

Before proceeding, I’d like to beg pardon in advance for my vagueness throughout this review because just about every plot element is a HUGE spoiler. Please also excuse all of the italics; I’m feeling some strong emotions about this one.

Going into both reading and reviewing Cursed Child with anything remotely resembling objectivity was impossible. Again, it’s Harry Potter. I did try not to get hung up on the format and kept in mind that I was reading a script of a play meant to be performed on the stage. It was a bit of an adjustment reading about our beloved trio again because seven novels preceded Cursed Child, but it wasn’t a distraction.

Perhaps due to the play format, Cursed Child drops bombshell revelation after bombshell revelation. I can’t emphasize bombshell enough. There are so many plot twists packed into this, maybe because it has to deliver a conflict and its resolution by the end of the fourth act and not a seventh novel, but it’s still a lot to digest. I found some of the surprises plausible within the existing framework of the Potterverse but others . . . maybe not so much? One in particular definitely needed the details filled in but alas, they were not, leaving a rather large continuity gap.

As much as I hate saying this, I also felt that consistency was kind of an issue for the characters. Ron gets shortchanged the most, I think; his primary role in Cursed Child seems to be the comic relief. As for Harry, there was a line of his that makes me wince every time I think back on it. I get that living a normal life probably continued to be tough after he defeated Voldemort because there was no escaping being Harry Potter, one of the most famous wizards ever. I cannot, however, ever picture Harry uttering these words, even at his angriest. They certainly amplify the dramatic tension in this scene, but in my opinion at the expense of Harry acting in a very uncharacteristic manner.

I know that so far, this review sounds like I didn’t enjoy the play, but that’s not the case. Yes, I did have the above-mentioned issues, but virtually nothing was going to cloud the fact that I was reading about the wizarding world again, eleven years after Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. I admit that an unstoppable wave of sentimentality was always going to be the deciding factor in my overall rating of Cursed Child, and that remains true. The play does, however, feature some merits that are all its own, including the wonderful Scorpius Malfoy, son of yes—Draco. Young Scorpius has already gained quite the fanbase, and you’ll quickly discover why.

I really liked how the play traversed the entire original series, an ambitious and—here I go drowning in sentiment again—wonderful nostalgia trip. I also loved how the play’s title was open to several interpretations of which character it referred to. Family is at the forefront of the plot, and it’s explored in great emotional depth that will often seize your heart in its grip.

While I don’t feel that Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is on quite the same level as the original books, I give J.K. Rowling credit for venturing outside of the novel format. I would absolutely see the play; it would be extremely interesting to compare the experience of just reading the script to watching it performed live by actors.

All in All: Fan reactions to this have been all over the place, and me, I fall somewhere in the middle-ish. I would have bought and read this even if it had received a million negative reviews. For me, Harry Potter will always be among the books that truly changed my life, and I’ll always follow it wherever it journeys. I love it unconditionally, and nothing can ever change that. At the same time, though, I agree with a few of the criticisms that have been made about Cursed Child. So many of us love Harry Potter and his friends so freaking much, it’s hard to say who’s going to adore the play merely because it’s a new HP story and who’s going to be upset by the frenzy of revelations and some of the character portrayals. Reading Cursed Child is most certainly an instance of Your Mileage May Vary.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Fandom Mashups (68)

Fandom Mashups is a feature hosted by Lunar Rainbows Reviews. There's a different scenario each week, and you choose a "dream team" of five characters from five different fandoms whom you think are best suited for the situation.

This week's topic is:
You were on the train (headed to Hogwarts obviously) when it gets hijacked by bad guys! OMG OMG OMG. Who are the hijackers?

  1. Voldemort: Who else would dare hijack the Hogwarts Express?!
  2. The Joker: I feel like he would do something like this just to amuse himself.
  3. Kylo Ren: Well, he did sort of flunk out of Jedi school and is pretty crazy, so I could picture him attempting to deprive Hogwarts students of their education.
  4. Loki: This guy loves chaos, so why not disrupt the start of a new school year?
  5. The White Witch (The Chronicles of Narnia): She'd probably join in to try and steal everyone's magic or some other evil scheme.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Harry Potter Moment of the Week (139)

Harry Potter Moment of the Week is a meme hosted by Uncorked Thoughts and Lunar Rainbows Reviews. The aim of this meme is to share with fellow bloggers a character, spell, chapter, object or quote from the books/films/J. K. Rowling herself or anything Potter related! A list of upcoming topics can be found here.

This week's topic is:
Which Non-Harry Potter Characters Would Do Well at Hogwarts?

Ooh, what a fun question! I'd love to see these characters at Hogwarts:

  • Aelin (Throne of Glass): She'd take Hogwarts by storm for sure, lol. And what an asset she'd be to Dumbledore's Army, not only with her magic but also with her non-magical fighting skills!
  • Aang (Avatar: The Last Airbender): Aang really enjoyed his very brief stint attending school, so I think he'd love it at Hogwarts.
  • Kell (Shades of Magic): Kell is a whiz at elemental magic, so classes should be a breeze for him. As a collector of magical trinkets, he'd also probably appreciate all of the magical objects around Hogwarts.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Review: Sabriel by Garth Nix

Sabriel by Garth Nix
Sabriel (The Old Kingdom #1)
By Garth Nix
Publisher:
Harper
Format: Paperback
Source: Gift from Micheline of Lunar Rainbows Reviews

To Sum It Up: As both the daughter of a necromancer and a necromancer herself, Sabriel has had a rather unconventional upbringing. Now eighteen, she’s still not quite prepared to assume her father’s title as the Abhorsen, but Sabriel has little choice when her father disappears and is believed to be in very great danger. To find him, Sabriel must journey into the unknown of the Old Kingdom, where all sorts of evil beings created by Free Magic await. Sabriel fears that these creatures are responsible for whatever has befallen her father, but she’s determined to find him.

Review: Sabriel is one of those books that lingered on my TBR for who knows how long and now that I’ve finally moved it to my Read shelf, I have to wonder why I didn’t pick it up sooner.

I admit to finding the world a tad confusing at first. Sabriel’s quest to find her missing father, Abhorsen, begins in Ancelstierre, where our protagonist has spent most of her life. I think I’d expected more of a medieval setting for some reason, but Ancelstierre seemed rather modern. This wasn’t an issue, but it did take me a bit to get a grip on the magic system. Sabriel practices Charter Magic as opposed to Free Magic, which, as its name seems to imply, isn’t bound by rules. On the other side of the Wall that separates Ancelstierre from the Old Kingdom (I couldn’t help thinking of the Wall from A Song of Ice and Fire/Game of Thrones here, LOL), Free Magic has been used to raise the Dead, and they take all sorts of grotesque forms. While the differences between the two types of magic become evident, I still thought a little more explanation would have been helpful here.

My tiny hiccup with the world-building aside, this was a tautly paced, wonderfully written novel. I loved the imagery that Garth Nix’s prose evoked, even when said imagery scared the hell out of me. Necromancy plays a huge part in the novel, and Nix totally delivers with the thrills and chills. The Dead seemed all too real, and every time they got too close to Sabriel and her companions, my heart skipped a few beats on their behalf.

Despite Sabriel being eighteen, the novel feels like a coming-of-age story in a way. Sabriel is a skilled necromancer (a good necromancer, one who puts spirits to rest, not one who raises them for an army of the undead), but there’s still so much she doesn’t know. All these years, she believed her father’s name was Abhorsen, and now she learns that he is the Abhorsen, a title that Sabriel must now take on, along with all of its burdens. Sabriel is more than equipped for the responsibility, though; she’s such a steady character, resourceful when questing solo but also willing to accept help when it’s offered. And help in locating her father does arrive in the forms of a sassy cat and a young man awakened after being suspended in time for 200 years.

Mogget is a talking cat with snark to spare. His biting commentary provides some of the book’s most humorous moments. Don’t assume that Mogget is merely the comic relief, though; there’s much more to this feline, I promise. As for Touchstone, the third member of Sabriel’s group, my heart went out to him for losing about 200 years of his life because of some extremely powerful magic. What he hasn’t lost, however, is his guilt over an event in the past that continues to reverberate throughout the present-day Old Kingdom. Although Touchstone struggles to avoid dwelling on the past, he also realizes the urgency to Sabriel’s mission. As much as I still would have enjoyed this book even if Sabriel had continued journeying alone, the addition of her two very intriguing companions was most definitely welcome.

I ended up becoming so engrossed in Sabriel’s tale that the ending arrived all too soon. Seriously—I wasn’t yet ready to say goodbye to this brave young woman who owned everything that life and death threw at her. I’ll certainly be visiting the Old Kingdom again and look forward to discovering more of its secrets.

All in All: A good necromancer? Yes! Sabriel is quite a unique fantasy anchored by a very grounded heroine with formidable inner strength and magical talent. Definitely recommended for fantasy fans.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Fandom Mashups (67)

Fandom Mashups is a feature hosted by Lunar Rainbows Reviews. There's a different scenario each week, and you choose a "dream team" of five characters from five different fandoms whom you think are best suited for the situation.

This week's topic is:
You've stumbled onto THE ONE RING (WHAT THE HELL FRODO?! You had ONE job!) and now you need to take it to Mount Doom to destroy it. Who do you choose as your own Fellowship of the Ring?

  1. Aelin (Throne of Glass): Because I always take Aelin along on these types of missions, LOL.
  2. Harry Potter: If Harry could find and destroy the horcruxes, he's got this.
  3. Aang (Avatar: The Last Airbender): Aang is just an all-around great guy to have on your team for quest-type adventures.
  4. Kell (Shades of Magic): Kell also has some experience dealing with troublesome objects, plus he could stash the ring in his special coat for safekeeping.
  5. Sabriel (The Old Kingdom): Being a necromancer (a good one), not much rattles this brave lady. She's journeyed into the unknown before and knows how to keep her wits about her even under pressure.
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