A note to witches and wizards: This is not a spoiler-free review so please ready your Forgetfulness Charm if you plan on reading the whole thing and have not yet sped through both parts of the new play.
Wizards and witches the world over were beside themselves with excitement on Saturday night as the clock struck midnight and bookstores started selling sparkling new copies of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. The new book is actually a play in two parts that opened in London’s West End on the same night after a month of previews. The play was written by Jack Thorne in collaboration with John Tiffany, and is based on the original magical world of Harry Potter that J.K. Rowling created.
The new story starts up almost directly where Rowling left our heroes 19 years after Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Harry has married Ginny and their progeny are off to Hogwarts. Fears of a new school are unsurprising, and Harry sends his younger son Albus off with words of encouragement and the intel that the Sorting Hat won’t put him in a House he doesn’t want to be in. At his side is his best friend and cousin, Rose Granger-Weasley. Almost immediately, things start to go off the rails, as they do, and that’s where this reader started to see the whisper of internet prophecy come true. The story that follows takes the son of The Boy Who Lived down dark and dangerous paths, nearly destroys the world, and shows that every little action can have disaster consequences on the future.
In the end, it’s not that Harry Potter and the Cursed Child isn’t good. It just could have been better.
Over the course two plays in four acts, Thorne’s story dances through the world Rowling built nearly 20 years ago. His original characters are few, which is fine, and for the most part well developed. There’s something a bit precious about the way he writes the characters from Rowling’s world, and it’s clear from the start that Thorne is perhaps one of the biggest fans of Harry’s story (and in my opinion, of Snape and Lily in particular) out there. But here, the interactions between these characters lack a certain dimensionality. Harry, Ron, and even Draco feel flat throughout their scenes. Ginny remains, as always, almost an afterthought despite her illustrious marriage. Even Hermione, perhaps the most well-written of our heroes, lacks the energy of the little girl who sassed her way into our hearts in 1997. And Albus and Scorpius, our new heroes, waffle over decisions that makes you want to shake them by their shirt collars and interactions that feel straight out of some Harry/Draco BroTP fan fiction.
As a reader, I was disappointed by the heavy-handedness of our chief villain, Delphi. When the big reveal is made, it’s hard not to quirk an eyebrow and say quietly to yourself, “really?” It feels a little too neat from the very beginning that she happens to be exactly where she needs to be for each moment of the story. The one upside of her story is the way Thorne weaves her character’s history so firmly into both the original story Rowling wrote and this newer story and its characters. Despite the blunt methods Thorne uses to position his characters exactly where he wants them for the climax, the lesson he has been moving towards, and the trials he has put your favorite characters through, are worthy of the heartbreak I came to expect from Rowling as the series wrapped up in Deathly Hallows.
Even though I was, in the end, not terribly impressed by this new Harry Potter adventure, I still had a lot of fun diving back into the wizard world, and if given the chance, I’d jump at seeing this performed live on a stage. I’m well aware that reading a play is not the same as seeing one performed; perhaps the actors, staging, and direction of a live performance would breathe life into moments that felt flat on the page. Harry Potter and The Cursed Child is definitely worth a read, but maybe this is one you grab from the library or purchase in ebook format just to save a few pennies.
Now take out those wands and Obliviate!
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 burritos.
Featured Image: Pottermore