Written by JK Rowling, John Tiffany and Jack Thorne
I know this technically isn’t a book – it’s a rehearsal edition script for a theatre play in London that began in July, and is now branching out around the world – but it’s a story that picks up where Harry Potter left off, and is canon. So, because everything else came from books, I’m going to consider this as a book too.
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is, as I mentioned earlier, a new story that actually begins in Kings’ Cross Station on September 1st, 2017 – where Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows left off. I won’t get into that many story details because pretty much everything is a spoiler, but I will say that it revolves around Albus Severus Potter and Scorpius Malfoy, and that’s how vague I’ll keep it.
I was not ready for this story. I really wasn’t. I’m passionate about many things, but there are very few things I’m as passionate about as Harry Potter. I grew up with this, and as I grew older I looked at it differently. It used to be those movies I was blown away by as a little kid, but then it became so much more than that (and of course, I would find out that the movies are basically garbage in comparison to the books, or as I like to call them, the real Harry Potter). I basically owe my childhood to Harry Potter and football.
Now, coming back to the point, I was not ready for this story. Maybe it’s just because for years I’ve been used to Harry Potter being this complete world, with the only additional material being JK Rowling’s story details and the fan fiction I chose to consider to be true. Speaking of fan fiction, there are certain things in this story that spawn directly from popular fan-fic, and I think that’s a really nice thing to have done. I won’t reveal any of them, and to be honest if you aren’t a massive Potterhead you probably won’t even recognise them, but they felt great to read.
That’s the thing about The Cursed Child. If it is someone who isn’t a Potterhead reading this, it would go right over their head. Nothing would make sense. They wouldn’t be able to properly connect to the story. There are oftentimes things like this get critiqued, but I like it when something knows its audience and tries to be the best it can for that specific audience. It makes it more special.
Having picked up where it left off, the story does a great job of building the world as it is now (or, actually, in the near future). It isn’t thrown in your face where everyone is and what everyone’s doing, it’s just woven into the story. The story itself is quite brave. It took some serious risks, and what I mean by that is it might anger a few fans. I was quite confused about how to feel while I was reading it, but it felt clearer when I finished it. I’m glad the story didn’t play it safe and just went through with what it had to. More than anything, it’s a family story. A very touching, powerful one. So powerful, in fact, that I had to put the book down and breathe in a few scenes. I genuinely had to take time to process what I was reading.
That power really comes from the characters, which is how it’s always been with Harry Potter. Despite being in a world of magic, of trolls, giants, flying on broomsticks, owl letters, and so many other incredible things, Harry Potter has always been about humans. About family, friendship, loyalty, power, social disorder. The original story was about Tom Riddle’s transformation because of his split feelings about his parents, as he gradually went through his family and other wizards to become the Dark Lord, and how he was brought down not by magic, not by some force of nature that killed him, but by the power of a mother’s love for her child. It’s a story about how that child grew up despising the world, and then finding his world. A world where he belongs, where he makes friends who he considers his real family, and finds his real home. A story of how vengeance can drive a man insane in Lord Voldemort, and how love is the most powerful. A story remembered not by the spectacle of magic, but by every character that lost their life – from Cedric Diggory to Fred Weasley – for one boy who had to make everything right for the people he loved, people who guided him and raised him for his whole life, giving everything for him. That is Harry Potter.
That was admittedly long.
And that is also what this story is like. The power comes from the characters. From their relationships, their views, their interactions, their desires and most importantly, their arcs.
However, there is something strange about this story, and it’s something I never had to think about when reviewing the original Harry Potter books. There are flaws.
I can’t just view this as a Harry Potter fan. There are pretty evident faults in this story, and the most major one is one that most people might not catch because they’re too invested in the story that it just passes their thought. There is a major plot point in Part I that just fades away as the story progresses. It isn’t even addressed at the end, and the funny thing is I thought it was the most important part of Part I. It was sort of addressed, but not the way it was supposed to be and it actually left a plot hole. Harry Potter isn’t supposed to have plot holes. But this story did.
Furthermore, there are aspects of this story that are rushed. There’s an entire section in Part I that needed a lot more depth than it got, and it’s a shame that that section of the story was told the way it was. There are several plot twists throughout the story, some of which work and some of which seriously lacked connection to hit well. This includes what is possibly the most important one, which barely had any build up and was the most sudden thing imaginable.
It feels very weird for me to say all that because that’s not how it’s supposed to be. It just isn’t. The story is intensely powerful, the characters are incredible, it took risks that I’m glad it took, but at the same time it has all those flaws I mentioned above that could have been easily avoided with a little more attention to detail.
Let me end, though, on a positive note. Although the ending also felt a little inconclusive, it was unbelievably intense. Actually, intense is too soft a word. I was in tears and I was even contemplating reading on, because it was breaking my heart. It was really strange that this is how it was ending, but it was possibly the most emotionally compelling ending I’ve ever read.
This is going to be the first Harry Potter book that I don’t give my full rating. I’ve been debating over what to give this for the entirety of this review, but I think I’ll give it the benefit of the doubt.
On a scale where M is the lowest and R is the highest possible rating, with the highlighted letter being the rating:
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child: MIHIR