Review: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Parts I and II

*Be warned, this review contains spoilers*

As a diehard Harry Potter fan, I was ecstatic when I heard the news that there would be an 8th Harry Potter book. I purchased it the day it was released and swelled with excitement looking at the back cover blurb which that read, “The eighth story. Nineteen years later.”

Nothing could be further from the truth. This is blatant false advertizing and, I feel, one of the many reasons Cursed Child has received such terrible reviews from fans and critics. Just to be clear, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this. Anyone observing me as I read would have noticed the unconscious smile on my face, my body curled and tensed as I read on, devouring scenes from a world I had longed to revisit.

However, that is what Cursed Child is, a collection of scenes, which make up acts, which make up the script of a play. This is not, “the eighth story” because it is not a story, it’s a play!  If you open a book expecting one thing and find another, you will always be disappointed. Jack Thorne’s play, based on a collaboration he wrote with J.K. Rowling and John Tiffany, is actually very engaging. The dialogue is good, and if you have a visual imagination it should be easy to imagine how awesome it would be to see this performed onstage with an undoubtedly massive budget for set design and special effects. I mean Hermione has weaponized her library… how cool is that?

One of the main criticism’s I have read is that it reads like fan fiction. Perhaps that is because it is fan fiction? This was not written by J.K. Rowling. Period. Her input in the plot is evident to any seasoned Harry Potter reader. There are all of the elements of the original tales.

There are strong female characters, Hermione and her daughter Rose of course, but specifically some of the new faces like Delphi. We also get a dose of the classic angst- addled teenager from young Albus, whose anger and self- pity strongly recall the Harry from Order of the Phoenix. Teenage rebellion, evil- to- good character transformations, time travel and even ‘He Who Must Not Be Named’ all make appearances, driving the plot along to its inevitable heroic conclusion.

If you approach this story for what it is, a script of a Harry Potter play, written by someone other than J.K. Rowling, it is easy to enjoy. It is a continuation, a glimpse once again into the magical world. I love the fact that Harry, Ron and Hermione are supporting characters in the narrative. Getting to know their children, to be surprised by them (spoiler alert, Albus chooses to be sorted into Slytherin! Gasp!) and follow their misadventures was a fun diversion. It is an alternative to the various possibilities which have been swirling around in our brains since the last, and final, novel was published.

If you’re a Harry Potter purist, if and you are expecting an eighth novel, don’t read this script. It will only disappoint you like it has innumerable others. If you open this book with full knowledge of what it is, seeking to revisit a world and some friends you thought were gone forever, I recommend it. I finished it and felt a kind of closure. Endless scenarios of how things end up in the magical world no longer swirl through my brain, making me wish for a pensieve to siphon them off into. It might not be the story I wanted, from the author I adore, but it was enough to make me smile. It was fun and light and entertaining.

An easy read if you can get over the idea of reading stage directions instead of sweeping prose and simply imagine how spectacular it would be onstage.

I give Harry Potter and the Cursed Child three stars out of five. I will pick it up again when I feel the need to revisit the magical world anew and so should you.