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

About a year ago, this eighth story in the Harry Potter series came out, set nineteen years after the events of the original series. With the recent celebration of the twenty-year anniversary of the first book’s release, that makes last year the nineteenth anniversary. Hmm…the number 19 appears twice in one sentence. Nothing’s a coincidence in this world.

I started reading the series after the fourth book was released, and I read the first four in succession. Then, like most of the world, I waited years between books and devoured them immediately. This was before I started blogging, but if you search through my reviews on Goodreads, you’ll see short reviews of the first seven books, all of them receiving between four and five stars, with Half-Blood Prince, though wonderful, being my lowest rank, and Order of the Phoenix being my favorite.

It took me a year to pick up Cursed Child, mainly because I wanted to avoid all the hype—both positive and negative—that would surround it. Obviously, there’d be a lot of support for the book, but I knew that there’d be a lot of book haters out there because it wasn’t directly written by J.K. Rowling and it’s a script for a play instead of another novel. So I waited until the opportunity presented itself. I work at a summer arts program where I teach creative writing, and the program occurs in a middle school, and I teach in the library. There were five copies of the book right there, so while the kids have their daily pool time (under the supervision of a lifeguard), I have time to read.

The script aspect didn’t bother me in the least. I’m also an after-school drama director, so I read a lot of scripts. Actually, the script format intrigued me more, as I wondered how on Earth they put on this show with all the required effects. I’m no theatre Muggle, but this production requires advanced stage magic. I also understand that in a play, the performers imbue their roles with deeper characterization than what’s written on the page through their body language, facial expressions, and vocal inflections. So this review isn’t about the writing style; it’s about the story.

And the story is clever, nostalgic, surprising, and it contains a lot of heart.

The story focuses on Harry’s relationship with his middle child Albus Severus Potter, named for two of the bravest wizards Harry knew. Albus is starting his first year at Hogwart’s, and the Sorting Hat places him in Slytherin House—quite unexpected being a child of a Potter and Weasley, all former Gryffindors. He develops a friendship with Draco Malfoy’s bookwormish and loner son Scorpius, perhaps the coolest new character in the Potter universe.

The story flashes forward a few years, and the chasm between Harry and Albus grows. Meanwhile, the Ministry of Magic, now headed by Hermione Granger-Weasley, has confiscated an illegal time-turner. Meanwhile, Harry, who also works at the ministry, is visited by Cedric Diggory’s father, who is rightfully still bitter that Voldemort killed Cedric (“the spare”) after the the Tri-Wizard Tournament in Goblet of Fire, begs Harry to use the time-turner to go back and safe Cedric. Harry refuses, and Albus is coerced into doing it himself. Is he trying to show up his father by being the hero? Or is he trying to live up to his father’s heroic legacy?

In time-travel stories, going back in time to change the past ALWAYS has repercussions. The little changes made by Hermione’s time-turner in Prisoner of Azkaban barely made ripples in the time stream because they only went back an hour, and most of the time, she used it alone to take additional classes. But here, they’re going back over twenty years to stop someone from being killed. Expect major alterations, which I shall not spoil, and unexpected developments, which I also shall not spoil, but it was fun to see Professor Snape once again in the past.

Besides this clever plot, it was fun seeing where the old characters are now. Harry starts off as an ineffective parent, and that’s saying it nicely. But in the original series, he started off as an ineffective hero, relying on the quick thinking of his friends, or a gift from Fawkes the phoenix, or the assistance of Barty Crouch, Jr. disguised as Mad-Eye Moody. Harry grew into a braver young man as the series went on, and here, he shows some growth.

Though Ginny is a good sounding board for her husband Harry, she comes across as the least developed of the main characters (as she was the least developed of the six main Dumbledore’s Army kids in the original series). Hermione and Ron are great together, and he has some of the funniest lines in the play. As an adult, Draco Malfoy has surprising depth, dealing with the complex baggage of his father having been one of Voldermort’s top Death-Eaters, his own role in the events leading up to the Battle of Hogwart’s, the loss of his wife due to illness, and a rumor about the parentage of his son Scorpius. Oh, and can I mention again that Scorpius is an awesome character?

Many of the characters are dealing with strained parent-child relationships, and that’s where I appreciate the beauty of the story’s subtitle. Who is the titular “cursed child”? Is it Albus, cursed to live in his father’s shadow and never live up to him? Is it Harry, still cursed dealing with being the Boy Who Lived? Is it Scorpius, cursed by a rumor? Is it Draco, cursed by a family legacy and a long-standing rivalry with Harry? Is it Cedric, an unnecessary death due to Voldermort using the Avada Kedavra curse so long ago? It can apply to any of these and a few others who shall not be named.

In my ordering of the eight books in the series, it’s not my favorite and it’s not my least favorite—then again, the range between top and bottom is relatively narrow. I’m glad I read it, and I’m glad I waited so I could read it gleefully like a child. The script format wasn’t a curse at all, and I give Harry Potter and the Cursed Child FIVE STARS.

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Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is available at Amazon.

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