Rating: 2.5 Stars
Age Recommendation: 11/12 + (Middle Grade)
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Warnings: Violence, Character Death
Genres: Fantasy, Action and Adventure, Coming-of-Age
Pages: 308 (Hardback edition)
ALBUS: We’re ready to put our lives at risk.
SCORPIUS: Are we?
AMOS (gravely): I hope you have it in you.
NOTE: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child actually has three credited creators: J.K. Rowling and John Tiffany helped to create the story, but Jack Throne is the actual playwright. So I will be addressing each of them individually throughout this review.
To start, I want to say that I did originally consider giving Harry Potter and the Cursed Child four stars instead of 2.5 because I did really enjoy reading it. But in hindsight, I do understand where the other average or negative reviews are coming from. This story, while laugh-out-loud funny and undoubtedly astounding to view on a live stage, breaks Rowling’s own rules, and that’s a huge problem for fans.
I don’t want to spoil anything for those who haven’t read it, but let’s start with my absolute favorite part: Scorpius Malfoy. He has immediately risen to my top five characters list, because of his sheer wit. He’s also very caring in a way that most readers assumed his father could never be. I am not personally in that camp, as I tend to go with the book version of Draco Malfoy, who quite clearly seems redeemable. But Scorpius is immediately a sympathetic character because of rumors about who his actual father might be. But I won’t get too into that for fear of ruining the surprise of the story. Thorne has created incredible lines that, honestly, I wish I had an excuse to quote. They’re just that funny.
Albus Potter was great too, and his personal struggle felt entirely founded and reasonable, which is impressive for a play. The first half of the play does cover his formative Hogwarts years, though briefly, but I think it works despite how quickly it went by. In a live production, I imagine it wouldn’t feel so fast. Again, Thorne’s writing feels alive in a way that plays almost never do for me, so I really did enjoy reading Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.
Despite those two fantastic characters, many of them were bizarre. Ron Weasley was not his usual self, seeming to deflate as a character. There’s a Trolley Witch, as she’s called in the character list, who seems like something out of Percy Jackson instead of Harry Potter; and the main problem I had with this book? Delphi. As a character, she is extremely problematic. She breaks suspension of disbelief for the reader like nothing Rowling has ever created before. There were so many problems with lore being either ignored or changed and as a fan since I was only five years old, it was actually sort of offensive to see that she didn’t stick to the world we are used to and try to find a story that fit within it.
To be honest, I didn’t need an eighth book. And this felt like Rowling, Thorne and Tiffany decided to write a piece of fanfiction, then put it on the stage in two parts. Which, of course, means more productions in the same way that the Fantastic Beasts films will be a trilogy for reasons yet unknown. But here’s hoping that the movies stick to the lore, as they’re set in the past rather than the future. Or, if we’re going by the new Harry Potter timeline, the present.
As for John Tiffany’s work on Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, he is a renowned director and I don’t doubt that the effects and stage presence must be brilliant. Incredibly so. But as much as I would love to see it live, I don’t know that I would want to go back twice to do so. I do understand that the play would probably be massively long, however, were it not split.
At any rate, the main issue for most everyone, it seems, it the lore. Which, to be clear, is the term for a story/world’s rules, backstory, character list, things like that. The things that the author creates themselves are called Canon, and the things that the fans imagine or wish for or wonder about, those are called Headcanons (because they’re made up in someone else’s head, I suppose). This play felt like it was almost entirely a piece of fanfiction, built around those headcanon ideas. Delphi as a character should not be possible. The plot device that Draco uses should not be possible, nor should the one that Albus and Scorpius use to create the majority of the story’s conflict. I understand why Rowling let the latter happen, but a great deal of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child seems unlikely based on Rowling’s previous works.
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Now, that isn’t to say that I didn’t quite like this play. As I said, I nearly gave this four stars and did rate it as such on Goodreads initially. But as I looked into it more and considered it, I understood where people felt the faults were coming from. As a reading experience, it was definitely worth four stars. But as a work in the Harry Potter universe and franchise, I couldn’t let myself leave that rating.
A great deal of readers probably won’t even register those lore differences, as some were probably the sort who preferred watching the films, or maybe who only read the books once and enjoyed them but didn’t commit a lot of the lore to memory. Which is entirely valid and shouldn’t be discredited. But, that said, those people might actually enjoy this much more than people like me, who love the books far better than any other series, and who grew up reading and re-reading, and then watching the movies a silly number of times.
So, as much fun as I had reading it, I certainly don’t feel like it’s part of canon, and I’m not particularly inclined to include it as such in my mental log of the plot arc of Harry Potter and his friends. Perhaps if it had been created sooner, people would have been more receptive, but as something that I’d read for fun, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is spectacularly entertaining.