What I think of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

cursed

By now I think that most people know and recognize what an oddity Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is. It’s the eighth official story in the series… that’s actually written by Jack Thorne and not Rowling (who limited herself to coming up with the story). It’s a published book… that’s actually a rehearsal script for a two-part play instead of being a novel. And it’s much less about Harry Potter than it is about his son.

It’s weird and has proven to be pretty divisive among Potter fans. I’m not exactly sure where I stand on it.

I blitzed through the book in about two nights. Since it’s a play, other than some stage directions and descriptions, pretty much all you’re reading is dialogue. That makes for a fast read right there — and not necessarily a bad one. I found it pretty easy to lose myself in the story and come up with the descriptive details from my prior experience with the franchise.

The tale concerns Albus Potter, a not-so-great wizard who is struggling with the legacy of his father, and his Hogwarts best friend Scorpio, a pretty-awesome-guy who is struggling with the rumors that he’s the spawn of Voldemort. Both are outcasts and find themselves at odds with their respective fathers (father-child relationships is at the core of the play’s theme).

Instead of being a story of what happens at Hogwarts in the vein of a standard HP story, Cursed Child goes a different route by establishing how crappy Albus and Scorpio’s lives are and then giving them a purpose: To, somehow, save Cedric Diggory from being killed back in the ’90s by Voldemort in Goblet of Fire. Enter a whole mess of time travel, paradoxes, alternate worlds, and a desperate search by parents across the world and eras to find their kids again.

I’ve read that Cursed Child is more or less fanfiction — and not a great at even that. I don’t know if I agree with that. It’s definitely more of an extended coda to the series than its own fully fleshed-out tale (and oh do I wish it was just one of Rowling’s monster novels instead of a play). Most of the play keeps pointing to past events and figures, from time-turners to Cedric to Harry’s parents to Dumbledore, instead of giving us a new dimension of Hogwarts or the Wizarding World to explore. I think the limitations of a play’s running time meant for more leaning on an established world than coming up with a lot of new ideas, but I’ve certainly read fanfic that was far, far worse than this.

At least it’s entertaining and a new Potter story — and one that doesn’t really mess up the series that came before it or end on a dumb cliffhanger. I can see why they felt pressured to release the script (other than money), since fans would’ve felt cheated that they wouldn’t be able to experience the next official story other than a fixed location play that will probably be sold out from here to 2050. I thought that some of the descriptions of the magic and effects going on would be intensely difficult to replicate on a stage, and so this might well make for a better movie (and one that is hopefully more fleshed out).

It could have been a great novel. Instead it’s an OK play that doesn’t quite hit the spot that Potter fans, starved for another book, have been hoping for.

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4 thoughts on “What I think of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

  1. bhagpuss August 16, 2016 / 1:12 pm

    Current state-of-the-art live theater special effects apparently leave movie special effects for dead and the ones in HPatCC are by all accounts breathtaking so I wouldn’t count on the inevitable movie outdoing them.

    If you want to read a really, really good piece of Harry Potter Fanfic Gone Pro then get hold of a copy of Rainbow Rowell’s “Carry On”. It’s superb. It pretty much does the entire seven books of HP in a single volume with better-realized characters, a more interesting plot – and all very much better written, too. For the fullest meta-effect read the equally brilliant “Fangirl” first, which is the story of the fictional fans who create the fictional fanfic about the fictional version of Harry Potter on which the fictional novel in the actual novel “Carry On” is based.

  2. Dobablo August 16, 2016 / 1:52 pm

    I really don’t understand why anyone would read a play script. You are missing 90% of the action. If you cannot see the play it is far better to wait until the TV dramatisation.

  3. Pasduil August 16, 2016 / 11:04 pm

    I found it thoroughly enjoyable. Maybe it’s a question of bringing sensible expectations to the party. I didn’t think it would amount to much, and was very pleasantly surprised.

    So fair warnings to anyone that has not yet read it…

    – It’s a play script, not a novel. However it rattles along, and you should have no trouble following what’s happening, any more than with a novel.

    – Harry’s grown up, and the story is not all about him and his year at Hogwarts. He does have a decent sized role in the story however.

    – It’s an enjoyable revisiting of the HP universe, including various beloved characters and situations, it’s not boldly going where no HP story has gone before.

    – However it’s not exactly the same kind of thing as the books either, and it’s definitely not a scene-for-scene, term-by-term rerun of an entire year at Hogwarts.

    – If you’re going to see the show, I’d recommend not reading the script yet, and seeing it unspoilered.

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