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!
I had similiar thoughts but I went half a star lower. I enjoyed the fact that it was a Play and seeing it performed is now high on my bookish bucket list. But I just wasn’t whisked away to a special place while reading that I have been on all the other Harry Potter books. The magic was missing. And I could feel the absence of JK’s voice in lots of places.
I liked the quotes you quoted but kind of hated how many original quotes from previous books ending up in this version too. It felt like cheating to do that.
I was torn between 3 and 3.5, but while I was in the zone, I was carried away with it and enjoyed it, it was only when I’d finished and took the time to reflect that I found fault and reconsidered, so I kept the .5 on to be true to my feelings when reading. I had never read any fan fiction, but I could see where this felt like it in that it felt like an homage to HP, but not genuine HP. I could feel JK in the moments of wisdom (like Dumbledore’s painting), but she felt absent in Harry as a character, especially when it came to his parenting. I found her depth of knowledge about the world and the characters was always really obvious in the novels, but that characters acted odd, or decisions were made regarding the script, that wouldn’t have fit with her plans for the world, but then as she was supposedly so heavily involved, why would she agree to it if she didn’t believe it? She did say to take it as canon. I idolise her, but I’m not taking it as canon. I’ve stumbled upon some fan fiction now, I haven’t got the time to dedicate to it just now (as I want to get through some TBR before it falls over and I suffer death-by-books), but I’m intrigued to read more fan fic to see what they do with the world. After writing this I saw a great review that called out that the only emotive scenes involved re-hashes of previous scenes. While I could see that was true, with a 2/3 hour production, I can see why you would need to do that to connect with the audience. I have more rants in my review on Goodreads, as I included spoilers in it, I definitely had problems that I couldn’t talk about here. Though .5 isn’t far off for us, Twinny! R xx
I totally get you’re feelings about this play. I feel like my rating was so high because I was swept away in the story and the characters and the general joy of returning to such a familiar world, but I was one of those people that thought it had a fanfiction feel to it. There were characters who were glaringly absent in there and that upset me, and there were characters who I felt a renewed joy for or fell in love with. I adored Scorpious (how do I spell his name, how is it such a difficult name to spell?) and I definitely feel like he carried the story along at times. I am heartbroken that he and Albus didn’t become a couple because it felt as if they could be they were they were written. I will undoubtedly venture into that realm of fanfiction soon. I did feel like some characters had a bit of a personality transplant and were different to how I remember but I’ve chosen to attribute it to aging. I did hate how it seemed to forget the continuity of the books, though, such as the whole Hagrid collecting Harry and Sirius’s motorbike (a glaringly obvious continuity error). I don’t know, I think I can just about accept it as canon but I will wait and see how I feel in a few weeks (or after a full series reread) and see how my feelings are then because it has been at least 2 years since I reread HP books.
Yes! I definitely felt swept up while I was reading it, interspersed with a few moments of “WUT?!”. It was only when I finished it and had a day or two to reflect before writing the review that I could pick out the issues I had with it, and then realised it actually wasn’t all that great. WHERE WAS TEDDY?! Are you kidding me?! And the trolley witch!? What even was that?! Scorpious and Albus were SO meant to be a thing, it was 100% baited the whole way through the play, and I even thought that may have explained Albus’ shitty attitude, that he was trying to deal with coming out. Ageing does contribute to personality changes of course, and I allowed for that, but there were some fundamental changes that I just couldn’t foresee. I haven’t reread HP in SUCH a long time, and I keep promising myself I will. But I think when I do I’ll read books 1-7 and skip “8”. I just want to stay in my perfectly formed HP bubble! R xx
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