Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany, and Jack Thorne, published July 2016 by Little Brown UK.
Read: August 2016
Genre: Young Adult/Fantasy/Play
Get It Now: Wordery
Goodreads Synopsis: It was always difficult being Harry Potter and it isn’t much easier now that he is an overworked employee of the Ministry of Magic, a husband and father of three school-age children.
While Harry grapples with a past that refuses to stay where it belongs, his youngest son Albus must struggle with the weight of a family legacy he never wanted. As past and present fuse ominously, both father and son learn the uncomfortable truth: sometimes, darkness comes from unexpected places.
I just… I can’t… I don’t know how I feel!!
I was equally excited and petrified going into this story. I wasn’t sure how I felt about the play, going so far as to ask if there’s ever such a thing as too much Harry Potter. There’s historically a bad outcome when something is literally perfection, and then you try to add to it (Sex and the City 2, Son of the Mask, Go Set A Watchman…). It’s always a risk, and I’m undecided as to whether or not this one has paid off.
Part of me really wanted to love this story, and part of me was swept away with it, because after all it is Harry Potter. I read it in one evening, and checked out a few reviews when I’d finished. I was surprised by how many people really hated it, because while it was far from perfect, I still enjoyed it. So, we’ll start with the good, before I go into the issues I had with this script.
Scorpius Malfoy: From what I can tell he’s coming out on top as a much loved new character. It took me a little while to warm up to him, but when I did, I really liked him. I did find it a little odd that Malfoy’s son would have a mixture of personality quirks from other characters (spoilers in my Goodreads review), but overall I’m a fan.
The Format: I rarely ever read plays (maybe a handful in my entire life), so I was really concerned that JK’s story-telling just wouldn’t translate in play format. I’m not going to lie, it is not the same as reading one of the HP novels, but, it really wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be. I think because I know the characters and settings so well, I was able to visualise characters, staging and mannerisms, without much need for description at all (someone less familiar with the world may struggle with this). Yes, it was incredibly dialogue heavy (as to be expected in a script), but the story moved at a quick pace, and was entertaining.
The Story: There were elements of the story I really enjoyed, and I definitely think you can see JK’s influence in there, but there were inconsistencies and cliches that were jarring and just didn’t work for me. I do think it would be 10x better seeing it performed on stage, and that was something I factored in to my rating. That being said, I thought the general premise was pretty good, I’m just not sure I want to see it as “canon”. I really like how the original series finished, and I’ve seen lots of people refer to this as fan fiction-esque, and that’s how I’d prefer to view it. Adult golden-trio just doesn’t do it for me.
The Characters: There were some characters I was expecting/hoping to see in the play who just didn’t show up, there were others who I could have done without, and there were some characters who seemed to have periodic personality transplants. That being said, the play is set 19 years after the end of the original series, and within the first 50 pages, we actually end up being 22/23 years after the original series (the first part of the play flies by – it annoyed me initially, but made sense by the end). Do you know anyone who is the same person at 18 that they are when they are 40, really? Subtle character changes made sense, but some of the not-so-subtle character changes did bug me (see my Goodreads review for spoilers!).
The Final Verdict: Obviously it’s difficult to fit a lot into a single play, even if it is split across two acts, over two productions (!). That being said, I still felt there were missed opportunities in this play that could have been developed, and would have benefited the fans, and the Wizarding World much, much more. It is what it is, and it is out in the Universe now, so we either accept it as canon, or ignore its existence. I’m not accepting this as canon, not because it’s that bad, I just can’t accept a play over a novel, I don’t agree with all of the plot choices, and I’d rather leave the original story untainted. I will accept this as a fan fiction effort, and I would still like to see the play, because apparently the stage production is fabulous.
Now, to stir the pot a little! Supposedly the “definitive” script is being released in 2017, which has had changes made to it since the creation of this “rehearsal” edition. Obviously, as a ridiculous Potter-head, I will likely have to buy this one too, BUT I would be massively pissed off if there were no significant changes and I’d purchased two editions of essentially the same story. On the other hand, if it has been changed loads, I don’t know how I’d feel about that either, as I’ve already read and stored this version in my memory-bank! I did spot a couple of typos in this version though, so it would be nice to have a copy without those (pretty poor seeing as “rehearsal” edition shouldn’t mean “typo” edition). I probably will read this story again at some point in the future and see how I feel about it when the dust has settled. I’m just a jumble of emotions, and know that for this moment in time, it was enjoyable fan fiction that gave me feels, but it’s not canon #sorrynotsorry.
“Harry, there is never a perfect answer in this messy, emotional world. Perfection is beyond the reach of humankind, beyond the reach of magic. In every shining moment of happiness is that drop of poison: the knowledge that pain will come again. Be honest to those you love, show your pain. To suffer is as human as to breathe.”
“The world changes and we change with it. I am better off in this world. But the world is not better.”
Have you read Harry Potter and the Cursed Child? What were your views? Have you seen the play and is it much better as a performance than a book? Let me know in the comments!