Book Review (and Discussion): Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

OKAY. It’s finally done. I read it, digested it, and have produced some thoughts about Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (AKA the “8th Story, Nineteen Years Later”). There have been so many mixed reviews about this book, I wasn’t exactly sure exactly where I’d fall. I’d say I ended up somewhere in the middle. I’ve divided this post into Spoiler-free and Spoiler-full, so read on for my spoiler-free thoughts on the story!

Book Review (and Discussion): Harry Potter and the Cursed ChildHarry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany, Jack Thorne
Published by Arthur A. Levine Books on July 31st 2016
Genres: Children's Contemporary, Fantasy
Pages: 327
Format: Hardback
Goodreads

The Eighth Story. Nineteen Years Later.

Based on an original new story by J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne and John Tiffany, a new play by Jack Thorne, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is the eighth story in the Harry Potter series and the first official Harry Potter story to be presented on stage. The play will receive its world premiere in London’s West End on July 30, 2016.
It was always difficult being Harry Potter and it isn’t much easier now that he is an overworked employee of the Ministry of Magic, a husband and father of three school-age children.

While Harry grapples with a past that refuses to stay where it belongs, his youngest son Albus must struggle with the weight of a family legacy he never wanted. As past and present fuse ominously, both father and son learn the uncomfortable truth: sometimes, darkness comes from unexpected places.

Spoiler-free review: 

Was this book like reading the other Harry Potter novels? HECK NO! Remember that this is a SCRIPT you’ve got. This is supposed to be experienced as a play, but since us peons in anywhere-but-the-UK don’t get to see the play, we just have to be happy with the script. It’s not going to read the same! But did it serve its purpose? Did it bring us back to the Wizarding world and re-connect us with the characters that we have learned to love so much? Yeah, pretty much.

What I loved:
  • Getting to read to about Harry, Hermione, Ron, and Ginny all over again. Their banter is the same, and their characters felt mostly true to the HP novels.
  • Seeing a glimpse of what life is like 19+ years later. The book essentially picks up in the exact same place as the epilogue in the Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. We’ve all imagined what the gang’s life would be like years later, and now you get to find out. I would say that for the most part it felt pretty authentic (as far as what jobs they were performing, what life was like, etc.).
  • After a while, you get over the fact that you’re reading a script. I thought it was going to be a big hurdle and feel odd, but it really didn’t. I think it’s pretty easy to settle it and read it like a book. The stage directions and the setting description for each scene do a good enough getting your brain where it needs to be.
What I didn’t like so much:
  • You could tell JK Rowling had little to do with writing the play as there was very little world expansion. When the gang is referring to things in the past, it’s always to something that happened during the 7 books. Like nothing happened at all the last 20 years or so. That bothered me, and I think that’s why a lot of people are complaining that this book read like “fan fiction.” It wasn’t very inventive.
  • Sometimes Harry’s character was just all wrong. If you’ve read the book or you don’t care about spoilers, you can read more in my spoiler-ful section.

At the end of the day, I would never deter someone from reading this book. I think any good Potterhead should read it themselves and see how they feel about it, because loads of people are loving it. Let’s be honest, we’re all desperate for more Harry Potter, and since this is the closest we’re going to get, we just have to take it!

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Spoiler-full thoughts:

There were some things that just struck me as so odd that I felt like I had to talk about them with others who’ve read the script. So please, if you’ve read the book, chime in below so I can discuss with someone finally (none of my friends I see on a daily basis have read it *cries*).

  • How in the even heck do Scorpius and Albus escape from the Hogwarts Express when it’s explicitly written that Fred and George have never done it? I just don’t believe that these dorks could manage it if the masters couldn’t.
  • I’m sorry but Harry just seems like the worst dad ever to Albus. AND I DON’T BELIEVE IT. On top of that, Harry is so self-centered with him. I didn’t have father growing up, Albus, so that’s why it’s all new to me and blah blah blah why I suck at being a dad. Just shut-up Harry, because Albus is your YOUNGER son, so you’ve already had practice.  You’re sad Albus? Well let me just remind you that I was the chosen one and had to defeat Lord Voldemort. The Harry Potter I know and love would never say crap like that.
  • Or how about when Harry gets in a fight with Dumbledore’s portrait in the fourth act? “Go. Leave. I don’t want you here, I don’t need you. You were absent every time it really counted. I fought him three times without you. I’ll face him again, if needs be — alone.” WTF? Harry would NEVER say that. It’s like the script-writers only read Order of the Phoenix where Harry is all angsty and falsely based his character entirely on that.
  • Voldemort and ….. Bellatrix? No. Just no. Nope. No way. Voldemort is NOT HAVING SEX, okay? And he certainly doesn’t have a child. When the writers of this story were coming up with the plot, who thought, “Voldemort should have a kid!” And even worse, WHO AGREED WITH THEM?
  • The prophecy was dumb.

What were some of your spoiler-full thoughts on the script? I know I am complaining about a lot here, but did I still enjoy the book? Yes, of course. At the end of the day, it’s still Harry Potter… sort of.

 

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Have you read it yet? If not, do you plan on reading it? Tell me all of your thoughts in the comment section below! 

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17 comments

  1. I was pretty disappointed by Cursed Child (I gave it two stars). I know it’s a different format and therefore it will have a different overall feeling to it, but then they shouldn’t have marketed it as the “eighth story” if it’s not meant to directly connect with the vibe and characters of the original series. I did really like Scorpius, though 🙂

    1. Yes, I agree about the marketing as the “8th story.” I think that’s what initially got a lot of us Potterheads to buy the book (so that means it was great for marketing!), but just set us all up for disappointment. I’m surprised by how much JK Rowling backed the story, though. Seemed very unlike her series. :-\

  2. The Voldemort having a child thing was difficult. I’ve recently been rewatching and reading the Half Blood Prince and, especially from the book’s perspective, Tom Riddle is seductive and handsome and charming and popular. That’s the Voldemort I can imagine might have a child but when he becomes Voldemort and creates horcruxes, he really becomes less than human in a way, and his motivations are clearly self-centred. He has no time for friends or relationships or anything approaching that. His sole goal is to make himself immortal which he does but for Harry Potter and Dumbledore’s detective work into horcruxes.
    That book even references the fact that the Philosopher’s Stone wasn’t enough for him, as he would have to rely on the elixir it produces, rather than on himself. It all comes back to himself and points towards a small margin for sexual thoughts.
    Good to hear your thoughts!

    1. I 100% agree. Yeah, with Tom Riddle it would have been far more believable, but once he got started with the horcruxes there’s just no way that would have been something he prioritized. It’s just odd that JK Rowling backed this story so much.

  3. Ugh. I just left the whole thing about Voldemort having a child out of my review completely. I just needed to push that out of my mind. It just felt so unnecessary and unrealistic. There were a lot of things I really didn’t like about this story, but I was just so happy to be back in this world that I tried to ignore it as much as I could. I agree with literally your entire review haha!

    1. Hahahaha yes! There were a lot of issues BUT it was Harry Potter so I can’t hate it that much 😂

  4. Completely agree with your thoughts about Harry. He was totally unlikable here, and his treatment of Albus was off. It felt forced – like they had to have Harry act a certain way to propel certain plot elements that they wanted to include, regardless of whether or not it truly fit the characters.
    And really excellent point questioning how Albus & Scorpius were able to get off the Hogwarts Express when Fred & George never could.

  5. I really enjoyed your review, and I agreed with most of what you said. Most disappointing for me was Harry’s character. He just wasn’t very nice any more, which spoilt it a little for me, but other than that, I quite enjoyed it. 🙂

  6. Nice one! I think it is safe to put a review of Cursed child too. I agree with many of your points on why you didnt like the book. How could they escape? And the prophecy was kind of like wine in new bottle. Before HP was the chosen one. Now from the evil side there is a chosen one. Also how the Polyjuice portion could be made in such a short span of time!!

  7. I can’t buy that whole “Harry never had a dad so he’s a bad dad” thing because what about ALL HIS FATHER-FIGURE MENTORS??? Like he totally had Dumbledore and Hagrid and Lupin and Sirius were there for a while, and what about Mr. Weasley?!??!? Like Harry was totally surrounded by epic father figures, so #no to him being a bad dad because of that. And also why doesn’t anyone ever mention Harry’s older son?😂 I never see him come up in reviews…hahah…is there a reason no one talks about him? omg I’m curious! ANYWAY. I confess I haven’t read this! I’ve read a huge truckload of spoilery reviews though because I’m so curious. But the idea of reading a play doesn’t really do anything for me. 😛

  8. LOL I hated it, but I agree that every Potterhead just has to give it a go – such mixed reviews. VOLDEMORT THOUGH. UGHHHHH. Like…like…who thought it was a good idea to have that? That was probably the worst part of the book for me. Pretty sure my sister thought something was seriously wrong because I screamed and dropped the book. Accurate reaction.

  9. Must be one hell of change, reading a HP script instead of a HP brick of a novel. Glad you managed to find positive things about it since I’ve seen a lot of bashing for this poor fellow. By the way, I haven’t ready any of the HP books yet. I do plan on doing so, I have the whole set (except the 8th book now). But, it will have to wait a little more! 😛 Great review!

    – Lashaan

    1. Hah, I can’t believe you’ve never read HP! It shaped so much of my childhood I can’t even imagine what it would be like growing up without it! When you get to it I hope you enjoy it (:

  10. I completely agree!! Don’t get me wrong, I did enjoy reading it but it just didn’t feel right to me. I had such high expectations going into it and, if I’m being honest, none of them were really fulfilled. Some of it was just too far fetched for me, like Voldemort having a child, and the trolley lady going full out ninja on the two kids (what was that?). Harry just didn’t seem that much like Harry to me but at least Ron and Hermione were a bit more like themselves.

  11. I suspect that the play doesn’t have allusions to stuff not in the books because to do that you basically have to have a character give a little speech about it, like Shakespeare does at the start of many of his plays. And that’s going to feel awkward and take time away from the main plot, if that other past action isn’t relevant to the current plot. But you’re right. It would have been nice to know a bit more about what happened to the characters in the intervening years.