Brief synopsis (Goodreads): 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.
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.
Rating: Left behind
Long story short (no spoilers): Although the Harry Potter series will forever hold a special place in my heart, this story was utter garbage.
- The tone and syntax don’t sound like Harry Potter. The narrative reads nothing like books 1-7. I realize that JK Rowling didn’t write the script herself, and therein lies part of the problem. The story reads like really, really, shitty fan fiction. Sentences are short and too simple, and only a handful of dialogues are more than 50 words. In several places quotes are lifted directly from books 1-7 and they still don’t sound right.
- The characters are badly written caricatures of themselves. Imagine you’re reading Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and Harry, Ron, and Hermione decide to dress up as their parents for Halloween. That’s what they sound like in Cursed Child: not 40-year-olds, but 12-year-olds playing 40-year-olds.
RON (hesitating in the face of her unwavering gaze): Fine. I, um, I think you’ve got really nice hair.
HERMIONE: Thank you, husband.
And that’s just the tippity-tip of the iceberg. The story is largely character-driven (as opposed to being magic-driven like in books 1-7), yet there is almost zero character development. We’re supposed to care about several new characters but we never get to know who they are, how they think, or what motivates them. Unlike books 1-7 Cursed Child isn’t in first person, and we aren’t privy to what takes place in the protagonist’s head (something that can be done in plays in the form of interior monologues). Without that as an anchor it’s easy to feel disconnected from his actions, and many times I wondered, Why is he doing that??
- The plot is kind of boring. It’s too much “been there, done that” for my liking. You see the same items, the same spells, the same people, the same problem…it’s not enough. There were one or two twists that I enjoyed, however I was too distracted by the fact that they came close to breaking universe rules (and opened up a whole can of worms).
- The book bends (and in one case breaks) universe rules. No, not like our Universe, the Harry Potter fictional universe. Every fictional universe has its own rules, and it’s the author’s responsibility to maintain consistency and explain any deviations from those rules. The reason they’re important is because they give the story structure and credence. In Cursed Child there are several instances when information is presented that challenges the Harry Potter canon, and the explanation for those anomalies comes down to creating more rules for the sake of moving the plot along.
- What was done well. Despite it being mostly terrible, there were small glimpses of that OG Harry Potter magic. Some of the dry humor is there; and one, maybe two, characters stay true to their book 1-7 selves.
The stage play has gotten good reviews, which makes me wonder if they’re even using the same script. It’s a two-part play that clocks in at a little over five hours; it took me about two to finish reading Cursed Child, so there’s clearly a lot missing in the transcript version. My guess is that the good acting is covering up the terrible, terrible story.
Anyways, have you read it? What did you think? Comment below! Keep reading if you’re interested in a spoiler review!
Long story long (SPOILERS): Alright, let’s talk specifics!
- Why does Ron still sound like he’s 15? His jokes aren’t funny anymore because they don’t fit his actual age. He’s also super hopeless and really immature, which isn’t endearing when you’re 40 years old.
- Fast-forwarding through Albus Severus’ three years at Hogwarts was a terrible idea for several reasons:
- We don’t know what he’s good at and what he’s not good at, so everything that happens later (his knowledge of magic, using certain spells, etc) is less believable.
- We aren’t invested in him the same way we were invested in Harry. There is no time for us to get to know Albus, to sympathize with him, before the story kicks off. I didn’t care about his daddy issues, and honestly thought he was a whiny child.
- The part I was the most disappointed with was the reappearance of the Time-Turner
- First “Professor Croaker’s Law”, which states that five hours is the longest somebody can go back in time without serious consequences, is suddenly a thing now. It appears for the first time in Cursed Child and has never been mentioned before. The easy in-universe explanation for this is that nobody in books 1-7 go back farther than five hours. What I don’t like about this is that it leaves me to wonder what other “rules” can be created in the Harry Potter universe to excuse lazy writing?
- This leads to the implication (during Draco’s conversation with Hermione) that all the Time-Turners that the Ministry of Magic had are “hour-reversal” Time-Turners
- Then in Cursed Child two more Time-Turners are found; one can go back an indefinite amount of time but only for five minutes, and the other can do the same with no restrictions. The latter was given to Hermione by Draco Malfoy, a known Death Eater. It seems extremely unlikely that with his family history his property wasn’t searched and seized by the Ministry after the Battle of Hogwarts.
- How do we know these are the last of the Time-Turners? By the book’s logic, there could be hundreds more hidden away, only to be presented at the opportune moment. This is why having rules in your universe is important.
- In terms of the actual time-turning, time travel in the Harry Potter universe previously worked in a “casual loop”, meaning that what was done using the Time-Turner always existed in that reality. In Book 3 Buckbeak and Sirius were always saved–there was never an alternate history where Buckbeak died and Sirius returned to Azkaban. But in Cursed Child, Albus Severus and Scorpius find that by interacting with the past they have drastically changed the future. So, without any explanation, Rowling has changed the way Time-Turners work; now things don’t appear as a fixed timeline and you can have alternate realities.
- In 2013 Rowling explained the lack of time travel as a plot device after Prisoner of Azkaban by saying the following: “I went far too light-heartedly into the subject of time travel in “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.” While I do not regret it (“Prisoner of Azkaban” is one of my favourite books in the series), it opened up a vast number of problems for me, because after all, if wizards could go back and undo problems, where were my future plots?I solved the problem to my own satisfaction in stages. Firstly, I had Dumbledore and Hermione emphasize how dangerous it would be to be seen in the past, to remind the reader that there might be unforeseen and dangerous consequences as well as solutions in time travel. Secondly, I had Hermione give back the only Time-Turner ever to enter Hogwarts. Thirdly, I smashed all remaining Time-Turners during the battle in the Department of Mysteries, removing the possibility of reliving even short periods in the future. This is just one example of the ways in which, when writing fantasy novels, one must be careful what one invents. For every benefit, there is usually a drawback.”So now what? How can we explain this obvious contradiction?
- If people really wanted to mess things up, all they had to do was ensure that Ron, Harry, and Hermione never became friends. That would do some serious damage right from the get-go.
- Voldemort is coming back, really? Is that the best you could do? And he had a daughter with Bellatrix Lestrange?? If she gave birth in the Malfoy Manor before the Battle of Hogwarts, why didn’t anybody notice?? I mean, Harry saw her there, about 2-3 months before the battle. She would have been in her 7th month of pregnancy. Like I said: really, really bad fan fiction.
- Professor McGonagall and maybe Professor Snape were the only two characters that sounded like themselves 75% of the time. Even then I couldn’t see Alan Rickman playing Stage Snape.
- Harry’s conversations with Dumbledore’s portrait were so stupid. It was a poor excuse to reintroduce some of Dumbledore’s wisdom, and having Dumbledore openly weeping at one point was the last straw. HE IS NOT DUMBLEDORE. You’d think a 40-year-old wizard would be able to tell the two apart. Instead Harry blames the portrait for every shitty thing Dumbledore did that apparently Harry has been holding as a grudge for the past 20 years. THE MAN IS DEAD, HE SAVED YOUR LIFE, GET OVER IT.
- How did Albus Severus, Scorpius, and Delphi get into the Ministry without being stopped by anybody? When Harry, Ron, and Hermione took the Polyjuice Potion they were separated by people they met while trying to find Umbridge’s office, and they weren’t even high ranking officials. Imagine if you saw the Minister of Magic and the Head of Magical Law Enforcement walking together. If Amos Diggory showed up at Harry’s house to talk to him, I’m sure plenty of people would be in their faces about something or the other.
- Why did Hermione guard the Time-Turner with a puzzle when she could have just hidden it without any clues (or by a stronger spell(s))? She didn’t trust anybody else with it, so only she would need to know where it was.
- The other “prophecy” about Voldemort’s return, which comes out of nowhere, is definitely not as clever as the last one, though Delphi’s decision to prevent Voldemort from killing Harry made more sense than killing Harry herself.
- Speaking of Delphi, how did she ever manage to get into Hogwarts?
Overall, this was a heartbreaking end to the Harry Potter story because it was so poorly written. I am extremely disappointed in Rowling for allowing this to be published as it does her work more harm than good, and I don’t accept that this is part of canon.