Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, by J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany and Jack Thorne

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is the 8th installment in the Harry Potter story, set 19 years after the battle of Hogwarts. The book is the Official Script of the Westend play ‘Harry Potter and the Cursed Child’.

19 years after The Battle of Hogwarts, Harry Potter is the Head of Magical Law Enforcement and has three children with his wife Ginny Weasley. When Harry’s youngest son, Albus Severus Potter, goes to Hogwarts, he struggles to cope under the weight of his family’s legacy. Ignoring their families’ prejudices, Albus develops a strong friendship with Scorpius Malfoy, leading them on a harrowing adventure that brings Harry’s past surging back. 

Controversy

Before I give my review, I want to address the huge amount of controversy surrounding the release of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. One main reason for some fans’ anger is that many were expecting a book – as in a novel. It was made very clear that HPATCC would be the script of the play, and it is unfortunate that this communication was somehow missed by many fans. 

I have read several scathing comments about how unsatisfying reading a script is. I have to say, I love reading plays. I love the theatre, so I find it really interesting to read stage direction and imagine the sets and the on-stage interactions between the characters. On the other hand, I can completely see where the dissatisfaction is coming from because any prospective reader needs to understand that reading a novel is a very different experience to reading a script. If you embrace the novelty of the experience you will enjoy the book much more.

Another complaint widely publicized is that the book is not written by J.K. Rowling. Again, this was made very clear and is specified on the cover – although, due to the emphasis placed on J.K. Rowling’s name to entice purchases, I also understand how people could pick up a copy under the impression that J.K. Rowling wrote it. 

I feel bad that so many people are disappointed because they were not aware of what the book actually is before they purchased it, but I hope the angry responses die down and reviews focus more on the actual content.

Thoughts

Overall, I really enjoyed the plot of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. Rowling, Tiffany and Thorne were very creative in developing an engaging and intricate story that includes strong links to the original 7 volume series. I loved how the narrative explores the theme of time, allowing Thorne to incorporate scenes from past Harry Potter novels, adding an element of familiarity to the new story. 

Though it was important to ensure that HPATCC would act as a sequel, I think making the primary characters children (instead of Harry, Ron and Hermione) was a clever move. It was exciting to read about new characters, particularly as they showed Harry, Ron, Hermione and Draco as parents. 

The character of Albus was incredibly endearing. It was fascinating to see the dark side of being ‘the famous Harry Potter’ passed on to Albus, who struggles to live up to being ‘Harry Potter’s son’. The difficult relationship between Harry and Albus allowed for further exploration of Harry’s character and added a strong theme of family to the plot. This combination is what J.K. Rowling was always incredible at: writing a story full of magic, adventure, and peril whilst weaving in the importance of love, friendship and family. I was very glad to see that Thorne was able to preserve and incorporate that blend of themes. 

A more minor plot line, which is one of my favorite parts, is the characterisation of Scorpius and his relationship with his father Draco Malfoy. Scorpius is my absolute favorite character, exemplifying the redundant nature of Hogwarts Houses. He represents the complete opposite of a stereotypical Slytherin by being kind, honest, loyal and selfless. His character allowed Thorne to showcase the softer nature of Draco Malfoy that Rowling alluded to in The Deathly Hallows. I was delighted to be given more insight into Draco’s character and his childhood with his father Lucius as they were elements of Harry Potter that always fascinated me. 

Though I have identified some huge positives of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, I still have mixed feelings about it. I am a massive, massive, Harry Potter fan so I think I was experiencing some emotional confusion while reading HPATCC. It is difficult to reconcile your expectation of an ‘8th Harry Potter book’ with the script, which is not only a different format to the original series but is also written by a different author.

The main complaint I have is that Thorne did not always stay true to Rowling’s original characters. The discrepancies were not glaringly obvious, but I did become irritated a number of times because I felt several characters were not genuine. Ron’s characterisation seemed particularly inconsistent. Ron is portrayed as quite a goofy, sidekick-like, background character in HPATCC. This strongly contradicted the image I have of him, particularly after reading The Deathly Hallows. Rowling depicted Ron growing in bravery, confidence and maturity throughout the series. Because of his heart-warming journey of development, I did not appreciate the half-hearted way in which Thorne included Ron Weasley. 

Finally, there were a couple inconceivable aspects of the plot (though I can’t say which because I don’t want to include spoilers). In order to create the desired challenges and ending of the play, some events were written in a very convenient way rather than remaining authentic to Rowling’s characters and her wizarding world.  In these sections, the storyline felt thin, which was disappointing. 

To some extent the script felt like an adequate fan fiction, with characterisation and plot lines appearing inconsistent with the original series. However (!!), despite my several complaints, I truly enjoyed reading Harry Potter and the Cursed Child and I will definitely be seeing the show in the Westend when tickets become more obtainable! It was wonderful to have a continuation of the Harry Potter series so many years after The Deathly Hallows‘ release. It was incredibly satisfying to see the later lives of Harry, Ron, Hermione and Draco, and meet their children. 

I recommend this book, without hesitation, to all Harry Potter fans. It is different to the novels by J.K. Rowling but it is a true gift to have the story continue in any form. 

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