Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
By J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne and John Tiffany
Arthur A. Levine Books
320 pages, $29.99
By Alyssa Fisher
“Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” could have been a really great novel.
Instead, it was an OK play.
To be fair, I didn’t see the play, which debuted July 30 at the Palace Theatre in London, England. The Guardian called it “spellbinding” and “utterly theatrical.” The Telegraph raved it was a “magical show” with a “strong emotional core.”
I’m sure it was that lovely. If I had seen the same play I read, I’m fairly certain I would be saying the same. But I didn’t, and I was left wanting more. Or rather, something different. Oh yes, I was longing for the magical way J.K. Rowling penned her stories to create the beloved wizarding world.
The “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” manuscript was released July 31 to Potterheads craving to know more about what happened to The Boy Who Lived than the epilogue following Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows shared. It was a bold move – not necessarily a bad one, but one that was sure to let down some hardcore fans.
It starts with the manuscript format. Scene and gesture descriptions were italicized and placed between each character’s lines. As someone exposed to plays and expecting the format, it was easy to follow and a fast read at 308 pages, especially compared to the others in the series. “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” hit 870 pages.
There is suspense. There is love. There is a plot twist. The book is full of drama, everything necessary for a book or a play. It had all your favorite characters and then some. But were you reading it as the eighth book in the Harry Potter series or the play’s script? It seems obvious, but opinions depended on whether the reader is a true fan.
“Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” begins with Harry Potter (the head of Magical Law Enforcement), his wife Ginny Weasley and their three children at Platform 9¾, where their eldest two boys are catching the train to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. James, the oldest, is entering his second year of Gryffindor. The middle child, Albus Severus, is visibly nervous about being sorted into Slytherin. He gets on the train with Rose Granger-Weasley, the daughter of Hermione (the Minister of Magic) and Ron. Rose is the spitting image of her mother: ambitious with goals of breaking the Quidditch scoring record and advanced knowledge of everyone’s backstories. They have to pick the right train car, she tells Albus, because, well, look at their parents. That’s how they met, and they became heroes.
Albus enters a car with a lone blond boy, who introduces himself at Scorpius Malfoy (the son of Draco). Rose is not pleased: It’s been speculated that he’s the son of Voldemort. She leaves in a huff, but Albus and Scorpius hit it off immediately.
Albus makes it clear that he is uncomfortable living in his father’s shadows. Harry often tells Ginny that he doesn’t understand his son. Albus doesn’t like the pressure of being the son of The Boy Who Lived. He withdraws more from his father when the Sorting Hat does indeed place him in Slytherin with Scorpius, a sweet bookworm.
Albus’ first few years of Hogwarts fly by in the book. He’s painted as a sullen teen angry with his father. Harry is the exacerbated father worrying about his dreams of Voldemort, which hadn’t happened in years. The scene switches are described as “seamless,” and it’s exciting to imagine the constant stage transformations. To the reader, it’s choppy – we’re used to a whole novel dedicated to one year of school. The excitement doesn’t truly begin until Albus’ fourth year, however, when he leaves school more upset than ever after Harry mistakenly says, “Well, there are times I wish you weren’t my son.”
He and Scorpius go on an adventure to bring Cedric Diggory back from the dead in hopes of helping his father, Amos Diggory, who never recovered from his son being spared for Harry during the Triwizard Tournament years before. They overhear of a Time-Turner that had not been destroyed and was being held by the Minister of Magic. With the help of Amos’ niece, they steal the Time-Turner and try to change the past.
Needless to say, their actions create more problems. There are twists and turns and so much talk of love. It all comes down to love, doesn’t it? It’s the reason Harry lived.
The scale of writing. “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” was not exceptional writing. It didn’t touch the writing of the other books. It was cheesy and simple, as a good play should be. A Harry Potter novel, on the other hand, not so much.