My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Fantastic Beasts was written as a screenplay of the movie – and is literally just that, word for word. A lot of people are disappointed that it isn’t a novel, but it isn’t fair to judge it for what it is not, and as far as plays go, it is brilliant.
It is a nostalgic delve back into the magical world and the start of an exciting new adventure. The setting is brilliantly framed, and the use of stage directions don’t impede at all, simply offering a cinematic style – which makes sense as this is what is intended. It is incredibly descriptive, painting vivid pictures of the beasts and magical world.
At first I was worried the plot would be weak – chasing down magical beasts in New York seems more like the plot of a TV episode than a highly-anticipated blockbuster film, however this was only one strand of a much bigger plot that carried all the elements we love from the original Harry Potter’s – just short of the much-loved characters.
The constant panning back and forth might be hard for some people to stick with, however I found it incredibly effective, once you get used to it. Equally it takes a bit more work from the imagination than a novel would – some elements came across far better in the film. However, the reverse was also true, there was a lot you get from reading the play that just wasn’t evident or expressed in the film.
Do I wish that Rowling had written a novel instead? Of course, it would have been amazing. However, that doesn’t diminish the fact that the screen-play is still brilliant, and Rowling seems to be working yet more magic in changing how we are reading – who else could possibly make reading plays popular?
Last but not least is the exquisite design of the book, by MinaLima, which doesn’t stop at the cover. Every page boast beautiful art deco embellishments, with many in the style of fantastical creatures, cementing the 20s New York theme, and making it just that bit more magical.