Jessica Contrera: The new Harry Potter book is here, and if you wanted it to be like the old ones, well ...

By Jessica Contrera

A scene from the movie Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets starring Daniel Radcliffe.
A scene from the movie Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets starring Daniel Radcliffe.

Harry dies.

Just kidding.

But consider this our dark mark in the sky: If you're looking to read about Harry Potter and the Cursed Child without any spoilers, read this instead. The book, which is branded as the official eighth story in the Harry Potter series, was published Sunday to all the midnight-release and nerds-dressing-in-cloaks fanfare of yesteryear.

The "book" is actually the script of a two-part play, which officially opened Saturday in London. Author J.K. Rowling was there, and she confirmed what many fans suspected about this unusual addendum to her masterful seven-part series.

Writer J.K. Rowling at the gala performance of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, at the Palace Theatre in central London. Photo / AP
Writer J.K. Rowling at the gala performance of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, at the Palace Theatre in central London. Photo / AP

"(Harry) goes on a very big journey during these two plays and then, yeah, I think we're done. This is the next generation, you know," she told Reuters. "I'm thrilled to see it realised so beautifully but, no, Harry is done now."

Harry is done now.

So for the generation of children who grew up with Harry, Ron and Hermione intertwined in their lives like the most dependable of friends, what happens in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, matters.

"Was it good?" our mums will ask. "Should I read it?" the muggles will say.

Any decision to continue the franchise would have been decried as a blatant money-grab by many, but Rowling knows most of her fans would read anything her fingers touched. She could put her grocery lists on Twitter. An actual eighth book? Unexpected, but we'd take it. A movie? Daniel Radcliffe's aging well, let's do it. A play? In London? Written by Rowling and two guys we've never heard of? And then you'll give us the script?

The book Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is out now. Photo / Doug Sherring
The book Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is out now. Photo / Doug Sherring

Well, there's an idea. (Here's where we'll choose not to bore you with a quote from a fan who thinks this will ruin her childhood and another who defends Rowling's right to do whatever she wants with the characters she created.) Think pieces abounded, but come midnight, bookstores around the world were packed. We forked over $30 and readied our reading lamps, preparing to spend a long night poring over the pages, trying to capture that feeling of being back in a familiar world. Give us the play! Give us our Magic back!

But here's what we forgot to remember about play scripts. They're written like this:

"Harry wakes suddenly. Breathing deeply in the night.

He waits a moment. Calming himself. And then he feels intense pain in his forehead. In his scar. Around him, Dark Magic moves.

GINNY: Harry ...

HARRY: It's fine. Go back to sleep.

GINNY: Lumos ... A nightmare?

HARRY: Yes."

Paul Thornley will play Ron, Noma Dumezweni will play Hermione and Jamie Parker will play Harry Potter in the London West End theatre production Harry Potter and the Cursed Child February. Photo / AP
Paul Thornley will play Ron, Noma Dumezweni will play Hermione and Jamie Parker will play Harry Potter in the London West End theatre production Harry Potter and the Cursed Child February. Photo / AP

On stage, perhaps, this would be a delight. To see how J.K. Rowling envisioned Harry as a 37-year-old man, to see magic turned real by invisible theater tricks. Reviews of the play all seemed to think so. "Quite simply, spellbinding," Variety said. A "thrilling theatrical spectacle," the Guardian promised.

But as a mere script, where everything besides dialogue is written as bland stage commands ("ALBUS is sleeping in a pew. GINNY is watching him carefully. HARRY is looking out the opposite window"), it feels nothing like the detailed-filled paragraphs of the Rowling we love. It's more like sneaking a peak at her unfinished notes or finding a fetching piece of fan fiction. The magic is stunted.

The gist of everything you want to know about what becomes of Harry, Ron and Hermione is revealed in the beginning pages. Harry is Head of Magical Law Enforcement for the Ministry of Magic. Ron runs his brothers' joke shop. Hermione is the Minster of Magic. (Good work on the girl power, J.K.) From there, the story is woven around one of Harry's sons, Albus, who, after being sorted into Slytherin, is miserable being a child of the famous Harry Potter. His best friend is Scorpius Malfoy, son of Draco Malfoy, who is also awash in teenage angst because of the rumors that he is really the son of Voldemort.

Emma Watson as Hermione Granger, points her wand at Tom Felton, who plays Draco Malfoy.
Emma Watson as Hermione Granger, points her wand at Tom Felton, who plays Draco Malfoy.

As they get into very typical Potter trouble with the help of a time-turner, a question hangs over the story: Is Voldemort, who Harry vanquished in the seventh book, really gone for good?

The plot itself is quite compelling. You can see how the play would be mightily impressive. Maybe we should all fly to London and see it together.

Except that it's sold out. But wait: Sometime before or after she uttered the words "Harry is done now," Rowling said at the premiere that they "really hope to take this play as many places as it's feasible to take it. So I hope a lot of (fans) will get to see this play in due course."

Maybe there will be magic left in it when Harry Potter and the Cursed Child makes its way to Broadway. Or Minneapolis. Or your cousin's community theater. Until then, of course, there's the upcoming film spin-off, Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them, due out in theaters this November. You could go to the Harry Potter theme park at Universal Studios in Florida. Or the one in California. Or the traveling Harry Potter exhibition. You could play Harry Potter Go, when the Pokemon Go creators want to strike it rich again. Gotta catch the Magic.

Really, you go ahead. I'm just going to hang back and read the old books again.

- Washington Post

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