NOTE: This post is spoiler-free, avoiding major plot-points (other than anything mentioned in the description of the book provided by the publisher). However, At the end – after my signature to sign off – I have a short list of a few spoilers that I wanted to briefly mention. This section has been marked as clearly and obviously as It could be.
It’s been almost a week now since Harry Potter and the Cursed Child came out, and I think that’s about enough time for me to fully digest it and arrive at my conclusions about how I really felt about it. As of right now, I still haven’t actually rated it on Goodreads, because when I finished reading it I felt like any rating I gave it wouldn’t have been genuine. As I read the book*, I couldn’t help but love it, more because of the fact that it was a new Harry Potter story rather than any merit that it had going for it as its own book. On the flip side, as I was reading it, I was also finding it very difficult to take some of it seriously because of the crazy plot and different feel that it had, and didn’t want to give it a completely negative review just because it wasn’t as similar to the original books as many expected it to be.
*(I don’t know how to describe it properly, but since it’s a physical book, I’ll refer to it as a book, however, I want to highlight that there is distinction between the terms book and novel in the context of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.)
In the past, I’ve made it quite clear that I was perfectly fine with the seven Harry Potter books. While people would talk about being desperate for an eighth book, I was more than content with how the story had gone. It was a perfectly crafted story spanning the seven books, and had an ending which I thought was as perfect as the ending could have been. I never really seen the need for another book, because; what if another book ruined the series? That being said, when it was announced that the Cursed Child was happening, I was pretty excited. I knew I’d never get to see the play any time soon, and wished that it could maybe be recorded and released on DVD. The announcement of it being released as a book surprised me a little, but just like everyone else was, I was very excited for the new book to come out.
Now, having finished the Cursed Child and taken a few days to consider it, I don’t think that I’ll truly consider it the ‘eighth’ instalment in the series; for me, the series will always be the seven books and nothing more. Sadly, when people ask what my favourite Harry Potter is, I don’t think that I’ll even consider the Cursed Child as part of the question.
On to the book itself, though. It has more than its fair share of problems, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy it. Being back in the world of Harry Potter was great and seeing some of the old favourites was great. It was crazy to read it and think about the fact that this is genuinely the new canon, that these events actually happen within the Harry Potter universe. I loved seeing where everyone was at with their lives, as well as getting to know Albus Severus, Rose, Scorpius, and a few unexpected new characters too! While the plot was complicated and problematic (more on that in a little bit!), reading it was just a lot of fun. Sure, looking back the problems are clear, but reading it on the day it came out and just wanting to love it made it really easy to love it. At a very basic level, it’s an extremely entertaining story, filled with all sorts of magic and whimsy that we’ve known and loved from Philosopher’s Stone to Deathly Hallows.
A lot of the complaints that I’ve been hearing have centred around the fact that it was too different than the books. To that, I say; it’s a play. We all knew from the minute it was announced that it was fundamentally going to be different from the novels. Novels have hundreds of pages worth of prose, while plays are a few hundred pages of mainly dialogue. With prose, writers can introduce intricate plots and explore characterisation in a lot of detail, but plays have to cut straight to mainly action while relying on the actors portrayal to build the character. So, if you haven’t read the play yet, my main advice is this; go in with an open mind. Don’t expect it to be of the same standard, on the same level, as the original novels in the series. Like we’ve surely all learned through reading Shakespeare at school; plays are meant to be watched, not read.
However, some of the problems were too evident to ignore, though. For one, and it almost pains me to say this; a lot of it read like fan-fiction. I know that JK Rowling didn’t actually write this, but her name is on the front and as far as I’m aware, she created the story. But a lot of it felt like it was a fan exploring what they think might have happened in the future. Saying that, it read like a really good fan-fiction, but something about it felt really inauthentic to me. The old characters had stayed the same in a lot of ways, but seemed very distant in others. Maybe it’s natural; people change, and book characters will too (looking at you, Atticus Finch… that’s another conversation for another time), but it was difficult to really accept some of the old characters actions at some points.
The main problem for me, though, was the plot. While the original Harry Potter books had some crazy plots, this one was just a bit too… too much. It was very strange, and while at the beginning it felt like an ambitious kind of strange, as it went on it just got more and more out-there and seemed to lose some of its charm. It becomes increasingly outlandish as it goes on, falling into a plot that felt like it wasn’t entirely planned out. As I’ve mentioned, though, it is a play, and it does have to be considered differently than the novels. I’m sure that if I had seen it played out on stage over a couple of hours it would have been a very different experience.
I don’t want to end on the negatives, though, so I just want to touch on a few more of the positives. I’ve already mentioned the characters, but I feel like I have to again. They are what drive the story, and the highlight of the book. Most of the new characters were fantastic, Albus Severus in particular. I don’t want to give too much away, but his ‘struggle with the weight of a family legacy he never wanted‘ comes across in the kind of way that I was really hoping that it would. When we see him at Hogwarts, around the other kids who all know the story of his father, his reactions to the way that he’s treated feel very genuine, and we are presented with some interesting new things to consider. Towards the end, there are also plenty heartwarming and emotional scenes, giving us glimpses into sides of the characters that we’ve never really seen before. And, I’d really be lying if I didn’t mention that I found the characters all grown up to be really enjoyable to read. Seeing Harry and Ginny as parents was fun, and seeing Ron, Hermione, and Draco as adults was eye-opening.
All things considered, I don’t think I’ll ever actually give it a proper rating, mainly because I don’t think I’ll be able to justify any rating that I give it. I’ll likely always waver about I feel about it, the good points making me want to go for 5/5, and the problems driving me towards a 1/5. I certainly think that it’s important to read if you’re a Harry Potter fan, and it’s undeniably a fun book, but regrettably, in my opinion, it doesn’t live up to what we’ve come to know and love from the Harry Potter series.
If you made it all the way to here, congratulations! I think this is the longest post I’ve ever made!
If you have read the book, I’d love to hear what you thought about it! Leave a comment (but please, please, be careful with spoilers!) and let me know whether you loved it, or hated it, or have decidedly mixed feelings about it like I do!
- I was a huge fan of Albus Severus being in Slytherin. It makes perfect sense to me that he was, and I’m delighted at how well it was handled. His friendship with Scorpius was also terrific, and clearly one of the highlights of the whole book. It was very reminiscent of Harry and Ron’s friendship, and in keeping with very heart of what made the original series what it was.
- The time-travel plot was far too complicated, and meddled with some of the canon that we’ve known for over a decade. One of the things I didn’t want for the Cursed Child to do was meddle with the canon. Thankfully, the ways that it did weren’t huge problems, but even in small ways, it feels strange to think that what we’ve known for over ten years is now a little different.
- Who would have that expected Amos Diggory would play an important part, and that the plot would focus on Harry and Draco’s kids trying to go back in time and stop Cedric from dying? Like, siriusly, that came out of nowhere!
- Remember the famous line in A Very Potter Musical, “Did somebody say Ron Weasley?“There was a scene in Cursed Child where Ron hears someone say his name and barges in asking if someone is talking about him. That had to be intentional.
- Voldemort has a daughter with Bellatrix Lestrange. What… What even?