Saturday 12 November 2016

Book Review: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling

Last Updated: 10 May 2024

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child book cover

Based on an original new story by J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne and John Tiffany, a new play by Jack Thorne, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is the eighth story in the Harry Potter series and the first official Harry Potter story to be presented on stage. The play received its world premiere in London’s West End on July 30, 2016.

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.

First things first, yes, I know this review is about three months late. 

Now we've got that out the way, I should explain why it's three months late. 

Being the massive Harry Potter fan that I am, I dragged my boyfriend along to the midnight launch party in Waterstones Peterborough on 31st July, just so I could be one of the first to get my hands on a copy. I did strongly consider pulling an all-nighter to read the book, but figured the aforementioned long-suffering boyfriend might have had something to say about that! Instead, I settled for absorbing as many pages as I could the following morning while he was in the shower, before finally getting a chance to read the rest of it in about two glorious uninterrupted hours later that night.

At this point, I feel as though we need to discuss the format. As if you didn't already know, it's written as a play script rather than the more traditional novel format we're used to from Rowling. In itself, this doesn't really bother me. I had to study all kinds of writing, including drama and scripts, during the course of my degree, so I'm not really phased by format or presentation nowadays. I even bought tickets to see the stage version of Cursed Child way back when the first batch of tickets was released (and yes, I'm still sitting here waiting patiently for next February to finally roll around, more than a year on) because I was that convinced I was going to love it. And in spite of everything, I'm still looking forward to seeing the play. It's always better to experience something in the medium it was first intended to be shown in, and from what I've heard about the show so far, it's going to be truly magical... Pun intended!

That being said, I do think Cursed Child would have benefitted from starting out as a novel. One of the biggest draws for me personally about the original Harry Potter series was the sheer level and intricacy of the description. (If you missed me harping on about the description the first time, check out my re-read reviews of the original series). The wizarding world is truly remarkable, and I honestly believe that is the main reason why Harry and Co still have such a firm hold on the world's imagination today, fifteen years after Philosopher's Stone was first released.

The problem with that lies with the very nature of a script; scripts are designed to be concise and functional, therefore you miss out on the vast majority of that crucial detail and description. Despite the fact that, as hard as it may be to believe, Cursed Child actually uses a lot more description and direction than many scripts, this sadly meant that I felt it lacked that vital spark that catapulted the books to global success.

That's not to say that it isn't good - it is, of course. It's just that I, like many other diehard Potter fans I know, came away from the book feeling a little disappointed and let down. Aside from the poor decision to release it immediately as a script rather than waiting a little longer for a potential novel, the entire book seemed rather rushed and not well thought out. Even the copyediting and proofreading lacked the polish that I've come to expect from Harry Potter books, as I often found myself stumbling over unusual wording and clumsy constructions.

But what about the story itself?

Well, coming back to my original point, that's the reason why it's taken me three months to write this review. I love Harry Potter... but I just didn't love Cursed Child. 

I presume you've all read the story by now? If you haven't you might want to stop reading now... #KeepTheSecret

That's not to say that there weren't certain aspects of the book I liked. There were a few moments that were just so completely right which J.K. got totally on point. Albus and Scorpius' friendship for one. McGonagall for two. Ron for three. Revisiting Snape for four (though I have to admit, I kind of would have liked to see old Snape too). Did I mention how great Scorpius Malfoy is?

However, these moments of perfection were sadly interspersed with some other, rather less-than-great moments.

Let's talk about Harry for a minute. The famous Harry Potter, worrying about his relationship with his family and working some menial office job in the Ministry? I'm sorry, but I just didn't buy that at all. Where did the stubborn, hot-headed, but ultimately loveable Harry Potter go in the intervening twenty-odd years? And don't even get me started on Ginny. Ugh.

Another thing that slightly put me off the plot itself was the fact that it included so much time travel. At this point, I'm willing to hold my hands up and admit that, on the whole, I'm just not that big a fan of time travel stories. Prisoner of Azkaban wasn't a problem because it was done so well and it wasn't the main focus of the plot, but I just couldn't immerse myself in Cursed Child. If I'm honest, it was beginning to feel like a lazy rehash of Prisoner of Azkaban. Why, oh why, did you have to rush the book, J.K.?

And then we come to the plot twist and the biggest surprise of all.

**If you haven't read the book but haven't stopped reading this review yet, warning: major spoiler ahead!**


Yes, you read that right.

Where on earth did that come from? Voldemort having a child with Bellatrix Lestrange is the single most unbelievable thing I think I've ever read. It's basically impossible to wrap my head around because it goes completely against everything that Rowling has spent the last seven books telling us about Voldemort.

Bellatrix is infatuated with him, but, as we're told many times, he's not capable of love. Plus, Voldemort is obsessed with basically becoming immortal - that's the whole point of making not just one or two, but SEVEN Horcruxes. Why would he plan for a child so that his memory could live on when he had absolutely no intentions of dying at all in the first place? There are just too many gaping plot holes in this entire idea for my liking.

One more thing - where was George? And Luna? There are so many beloved characters that didn't make the transition from Deathly Hallows to Cursed Child. (And I'm not just talking about what happened in the Battle of Hogwarts). That's another thing that I think a novel version would have addressed in a much more satisfactory way.

Please, J.K., on behalf of Potter fans around the world, turn Cursed Child into a fully-fledged novel!

Rating: 3.5 stars

If you don't already own it, grab yourself a copy of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child now (paid link; commission earned).

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Are you a Harry Potter fan? What did you think of Cursed Child? Let me know in the comments below.  

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