If you haven’t heard about Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, the new Harry Potter play that was just released in book form, well, you’ve probably been living under a rock. It has been hyped beyond all belief, and early readers have had wildly varying reactions. I was lucky enough to get my hands on a copy from my library the day after the book was released, so I’m sharing my thoughts with you. (**Mild spoilers follow, so don’t read on unless you’re okay with that.**)
When I started reading this book late one evening, I thought I would only read the first act or two. Then I decided to read just a few more scenes… and then the next act… and, readers, you know how that ended. All that to say, this is a fun read with interesting characters, and it’s a quick read because it’s a play, rather than a several hundred page tome like the original novels.
First, let’s discuss the plot. Harry, Ginny, Ron, and Hermione are all in their late 30s, preparing to send their children off to Hogwarts. Albus Potter befriends Scorpius Malfoy, and the unlikely pair of friends team up using a Time-Turner to go back in time and right the wrongs Albus feels his father committed. Meanwhile, Harry struggles with being a father and Ministry of Magic worker, as well as with feelings of guilt toward all who sacrificed so that he could live all those years ago.
Because the plot hinges on time travel, I was a bit skeptical when I picked it up. I thought the story would be ridiculous or overly convoluted. But I was pleasantly surprised at how well Harry Potter and the Cursed Child was able to use this plot device. Some of the events were a bit… questionable in terms of the likelihood of them actually happening (more on that later), but on the whole, it provided a fun way to look back at memorable events and characters from the original series. (We even get a cameo from Snape, who is just as dry and strangely lovable as ever.)
The characters, however, were the thing I was most worried about. Harry, Hermione, and Ron are some of the most beloved characters ever written, and many Harry Potter fans grew up alongside them. And I must say, this is where the play falters a bit. Still, Albus and Scorpius, children of these beloved characters, are really great. Albus has a huge chip on his shoulder (reminiscent of Harry in some of the later books), and Scorpius is a nerdy, quirky boy who remains loyal to his friend even when their fathers’ history threatens to interfere.
The adult characters were fairly consistent with the original series characters. Harry is brooding and conflicted and sometimes lashes out at the people who care most about him. Draco is even better than he was in the books–he is still imperious but actually gets a bit more depth and becomes more sympathetic in this play. But unfortunately Ron and Hermione–especially Hermione–get very little page time. They may be the Ron and Hermione we know and love, but we see so little of them that it’s hard to tell. As a life-long Hermione fan, this was my greatest disappointment with the play.
Now, there is one huge exception to this consistency (**spoilers ahead**)–Cedric Diggory. As a friend of mine pointed out, his new life as a Death Eater in one of the alternate histories Albus and Scorpius inadvertently create was totally out of character for him.
Many of my friends who have read Harry Potter and the Cursed Child have discussed how this play reads like fan fiction. I have to agree. This is not necessarily a bad thing, as there are many nods to the original series and to popular fan theories, but it’s a good thing to know before you read it. Also realize that the play doesn’t have nearly the depth in terms of character or world building as the books do; it’s much more simplistic. This is mostly the fault of the format–a play can’t have long paragraphs of description, and the inflection is brought by the actors–so I wonder if those who have panned the book would enjoy it in its original form. I would love to see the play myself!
So, to summarize: I actually really enjoyed Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. It’s a quick, fun read in which you can revisit the magical wizarding world and the characters you know and love. There are some inconsistencies in world building and characterization, but if you can look past a few flaws, it’s a fun ride. I’m glad I read it.
Have you read the book? What did you think about the characters and the plot? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!
Rating: Good but Forgettable