Review: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child **SPOILERS**

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I refuse to take this story as canon.

First, I’ll explain where I came from before reading this script book. I started reading the Harry Potter series when I was 7, back in 2001 before the first film came out, and read books 5-7 on release date, watching most of the films on release date or the opening weekend. I loved Harry Potter, constantly rereading the series time and time again, content with the ending of book seven, although then I yearned for more. (I now realise that this world really should have been left alone.)

I attended the midnight launch of this book at Waterstone’s Piccadilly, but didn’t start reading straight away, although I’ve finished it now (the day after release). Something was missing though – I just wasn’t excited about this book. It’s not the eighth Harry Potter book for me.

I read spoilers for the play back when previews began and my overall reaction was WHAT. THE. EFF. The writers of this play could have done anything – ANYTHING – with the Harry Potter universe and they chose this. Time travel.

The marketing of this book is confusing – the dust jacket says the story is ’19 years later’ but this book takes place mostly 22 years later after the events of the first book. The time travel in Prisoner of Azkaban was one of the weakest elements of the Harry Potter universe, and it introduced plot holes to the story (and fans asking ‘oh, why didn’t they just use the time turner?’). This was fixed when the time turners were destroyed in Order of the Phoenix, but now they’re back! And super confusing! I was so confused as to what was happening when, why certain characters were somewhere when they’d been at a different time and place a minute ago. I would like to think this is clearer in the play – but it was a complete mess for me in the book.

The script book itself is just poorly executed. There’s minimal stage direction, no indication as to the appearance of any of the characters except Delphi, and no real discussion as to what we’re really seeing on stage except place and year. This is essentially a book of dialogue, which means we really lose sense of who these characters are, and I just couldn’t picture most of the characters despite having watched and read the epilogue, and having seen pictures of the cast online. This book really should have had photographs (or even illustrations) of the characters and set design, as well as more involved description.

Everyone I’ve spoken to who has seen the play has said it’s amazing, but the script book doesn’t reflect that. I’m surprised that a simulcast of this play isn’t in the works – Harry Potter is a global phenomenon and I haven’t been able to attend the play, despite being a UK fan.

If you haven’t read it yet, I’ll keep all plot spoilers below, but I think it’s important to note that this play simply undoes some of the most imporant elements of the books.

To cut a long story short, a lot of characters were completely out of character for me – especially Harry. Harry (now Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement) and Hermione (Minister for Magic) are now unruly, stomping into Hogwarts and bossing around Professor McGonagall. It felt wrong – there was no respect for their former Head of House, and Harry’s reaction to Albus joining Slytherin (which was hinted at, and even encouraged by Harry, in the epilogue of the seventh book) and his reaction to Albus’ friendship with Scorpius was completely unexpected and against the events of the epilogue. This outburst is even more strange when you consider Harry’s confusing dynamic with Draco – they almost seemed friends from my interpretation, which again contrasts with the feel I got for their relationship at the end of book seven, where Harry and Draco remained acquaintances with a mutual respect for one another.

Harry and Hermione’s behaviour towards Hogwarts was especially peculiar considering their reaction to ministry involvement in Hogwarts (Dolores Umbridge, anyone?) during the books. I’m not even sure their roles heading up the Ministry make sense – if anything, I would have imagined Harry would like to fade into obscurity after his Hogwarts career and infamy, which he so often despised.

Amos Diggory especially was out of character for me. I just can’t imagine him demanding that Cedric be brought back – he’s a smart man who lost his son, but ultimately accepted that fact in my mind. I think this may be explained by Delphi’s manipulation of Amos, but this wasn’t satisfactorily explained at the end of the play for me.

The time travel element did allow old characters to return – but I hated that they did. As well as being out of character for me – especially Umbridge and Snape – it felt like rousing the dead. Some things should just be left alone. On that topic, Harry’s dreams, his scar hurting and his ability to speak Parseltongue all felt overdone and conflicted with canon – it conflicted directly with the final line in the series that ‘All was well.’

Some characters strangely didn’t appear or appeared very little – I talked about the Potter/Granger-Weasley children above, but Ron plays a very small part in all of this, which is odd, and Hagrid is only brought in for one scene (a very touching scene, which I did like). I would have much preferred if we hadn’t seen old characters, who should have been left untouched, and seen beloved surviving characters again (I mean, they’re at Hogwarts, and Neville doesn’t appear!).

Some little points as well – Albus and Scorpius sometimes had such an encyclopaedic knowledge of the events of the books, they clearly must have read them, and Albus called Draco ‘Draco’ at one point, which felt off (it often felt like character relationships were a little off). The attitude towards love potions (which are comparable date rape drugs) also didn’t sit well with me.

A big dislike for me was Delphi’s backstory. Voldemort and Bellatrix just wouldn’t have had a child. Voldemort was, to me, asexual – he resisted Bellatrix’s advances and had no interest in producing an heir. He wanted to rule forever. Truly, Bellatrix’s unrequited love for old Voldy was always going to be unrequited for me, and I just can’t imagine their characters having sex (I mean, seriously, try it.) Bellatrix’s pregnancy just wouldn’t have gone unnoticed, especially by Draco, Lucius and Narcissa, in their own home. This seems like a big fanfiction-y plot hole for me, and as much as I love Voldy and Bellatrix, I can’t imagine them having a baby during Deathly Hallows.

Essentially, the series should have been left after Deathly Hallows – but the old horse is now being flogged. I don’t believe the script book represents the play well enough (which I’ve heard good things about and sounds like it has some amazing visual effects), and a script book is the wrong format to present this story, which depends on those visual effects to hide plot flaws. Cursed Child is conflicting, confusing and gets many characters completely wrong. I’d recommend seeing the play (or waiting for the inevitable recording), or avoiding altogether (and as fan of the books, it genuinely pains me to write that).
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    1. I was disappointed (evidently!) but know a lot of people who loved the play – it was the disregard for canon that did it for me. There’s a definitive edition out next year (which seems to me like milking the cash cow) which could be better – something like the Hamiltome would be great but can’t really revive the plot! I’ve also seen a few positive reviews so there are people out there who loved it!

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I’ve read all the HP books and seen the films; I like them, but I wouldn’t call myself a superfan or anything. Like you, I was happy with how things were left at the end of Deathly Hallows and I’ve got no real interest in reading Cursed Child; your review has made me think this is a very wise decision!

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  2. This is a really interesting review! 🙂 It sucks you didn’t enjoy the script. I saw the play last month and it really is an incredible show (and you’re right – itdoes have some amazing visual effects that are worth seeing it for alone), but I don’t know how I’ll feel about reading the script because a) I’ve never read one before and b) I don’t want to ruin my experience of seeing it on stage! I definitely agree with you about Voldemort though – I didn’t feel like he ever would have had a child either. He did want to rule forever and a child would only provide him with competition! Plus I can’t imagine he ever felt any urges whatsoever like that?!

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    1. There were definitely some moments where I was like HOW are they going to do this on stage? Glad you enjoyed the play – I think the problem with the book is it takes all the visuals away and leaves a plot which is problematic and unbelievable. I’d love to see something like the Hamiltome produced for the play but this was just disappointing!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Haha – trust me, it’s even like that when you see it on stage! Some of the things they did totally baffled me. MAGIC! Yeah I totally get what you mean – it’s really hard to visualise and the character development is also virtually non-existent due to the script format. A shame! 😦

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