BOOK REVIEW: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany & Jack Thorne
Reviewed by Steph O’Connell
The eighth story. Nineteen years later…
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.
Based on an original new story by J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany and Jack Thorne, 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 will receive its world premiere in London’s West End on 30th July 2016.
There have been a lot of feelings flying around since the announcement of the “8th Harry Potter book”, especially once it sunk in that this was going to be the script of the West End play, rather than the format so many Harry Potter fans have grown up expecting.
There was excitement, of course, followed closely by the concern that a script would be hard to get lost in, and that maybe our dear J.K. was perhaps jumping the shark. There was talk about the possibility that this would be about Albus, Scorpius, and Rose, as mentioned in the epilogue of the seventh book, attending Hogwarts and becoming the new “power trio”.
But there is so much more to this story, and it went off in a direction that many of us won’t have expected.
Those who live in London will be able to appreciate this story in all of its glory, but that doesn’t mean those of us in other parts of the world can’t find a certain amount of joy in the pages of this book.
All things considered, it is a return to the world of Hogwarts for those of us who have so missed it.
It’s difficult to write a review for this book without giving things away, as everything has been kept so secret, but I’ll do my very best!
If you don’t want to know anything about the actual plot before going in, I can tell you this:
- There’s laughter, and touching moments, and heartache, friendship, and drama, and adventure.
- We revisit some of the characters and places we’ve grown so familiar with over the last seven books.
- It’s a little light on the character development, but that’s understandable because it’s a script.
- Though it is a script, it’s easy to read.
- You cannot read this without having read the other seven or seen the movies. There are spoilers, and there are things that won’t make as much sense without that foundation. This is not a jumping-in point for people who haven’t read or watched any of the previous adventures, though it stands well enough in its own right that you can still enjoy it, even if you last read the books or saw the movies many many years ago.
- If you’ve seen the movies enough, you will no doubt hear your beloved returning characters speaking, as they perform the play in your head.
- You should read it.
- Great fun can be had if you get a group of friends together, pick your characters, and do a table read, as this reviewer did.
If you’re okay with knowing some of what happens, without giving too much away (no quotes or major plot-points beyond the first 10% of the book), this bit’s for you(otherwise, stop reading now, and come back once you’ve read the script):
Harry’s second son, Albus Severus, is on his way to Hogwarts for the first time. He’s worried about being sorted into Slytherin, there’s all kinds of pressure being put on him (by other kids… Harry is supportive and tells Albus that they will be proud of him no matter what house he is sorted into) to establish the rest of his life now. Rather daunting for an eleven-year-old.
ROSE (spotting ALBUS’S loving look at the Chocolate Frogs)
Al. We need to concentrate.
Concentrate on what?
On who we choose to be friends with. My mum and dad met your dad on their first Hogwarts Express you know…
So we need to choose now who to be friends with for life? That’s quite scary.
His peers are far less supportive when he’s sorted into Slytherin:
CRAIG BOWKER JR
Whoah! A Potter? In Slytherin.
ALBUS looks out, unsure. SCORPIUS smiles, delighted, as he shouts across to him.
You can stand next to me!
ALBUS (thoroughly discombobulated)
I suppose his hair isn’t that similar.
Albus? But this is wrong, Albus. This is not how it’s supposed to be.
And make fun of him when he seems not to be so good at magic:
Up. UP. UP.
His broom doesn’t move. Not even a millimetre. He stares at it with disbelieving desperation. There’s giggling from the rest of the class.
Oh Merlin’s beard, how humiliating! He really isn’t like his father at all is he?
Albus Potter, the Slytherin Squib.
And he’s friends with the only other kid as unpopular as he is:
I know what the rumour is, and it’s a lie.
ALBUS looks from an uncomfortable ROSE to a desperate SCORPIUS.
What – is the rumour?
The rumour is that my parents couldn’t have children. That my father and my grandfather were so desperate for a powerful heir, to prevent the end of the Malfoy line, that they… that they used a Time-Turner to send my mother back-
To send her back where?
The rumour is that he’s Voldemort’s son, Albus.
A horrible, uncomfortable silence.
It’s probably rubbish. I mean… look, you’ve got a nose.
The tension is slightly broken, SCORPIUS laughs, pathetically grateful.
And it’s just like my father’s! I got his nose, his hair and his name. Not that that’s a great thing either. I mean – father-son issues, I have them. But, on the whole, I’d rather be a Malfoy than, you know, the son of the Dark Lord.
But the story isn’t all doom and gloom. There are some positively laugh-out-loud moments, and cute awkwardness as Scorpius develops a crush on Rose:
Albus! Oh hello Rose, what do you smell of?
What do I smell of?
No, I meant it as a nice thing. You smell like a mixture of fresh flowers and fresh – bread.
Albus, I’m here, okay? If you need me.
I mean, nice bread, good bread, bread… what’s wrong with bread?
ROSE walks away, shaking her head.
What’s wrong with bread!
And then there’s that scene with the Polyjuice potion, among others, that I won’t include because they are far too fun in context to ruin the surprise!
For this reader, one of the most unexpected parts of the script was when, twenty pages in, four years disappeared in the space of ten pages, showing us the houses the kids were sorted into, Albus’s struggle to fit in, and the widening of the distance between Harry and Albus complete with more and more teenage-angst. While reading this scene, and for a scene or two after, I was waiting for the revelation that this was just Albus’s dream, and he had fallen asleep on the Hogwarts Express. I’m glad it wasn’t a dream.
This “montage” puts to bed any ideas that we would be following the kids in their first year of Hogwarts, and helps to separate this story from that particular series that was a part of so many childhoods, while still giving us a healthy dose of nostalgia.
It helps to give the story a much larger playing field, and to show that Albus really isn’t following in Harry’s footsteps, saving the world year after year. It allows the reader (or viewer) to see the gradual separation between Harry and Albus, as Albus grows to resent the fact that everyone always expected amazing things from him, as the son of The Boy Who Lived, and that he’s not able to live up to any of it.
And it opens the story up to deliver even more nostalgia than most Potter fans would dare to dream of, but without feeling forced. There are some convenient moments, and couple of cliches, but you know what? I don’t care.
There is more official Harry Potter fiction in the world, it was great fun, and it did deliver.This was not a let down. This was not a script published purely for cash-cow purposes. This story has a home within Harry Potter cannon, and added something to the Wizarding world.
This was pure Harry Potter in terms of the feels, though some scenes didn’t seem to capture Rowling’s voice entirely, they were still lots of fun, and there are plenty of events in this story that fan-fic writers will get a kick out of.
I loved it. I’m sorry it’s over already. But at no point was I annoyed that they decided to publish the script.
And now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to read it again.
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