Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J. K. Rowling, Jack Thorne, and John Tiffany is a sequel of sorts to Rowling’s tremendously famous Harry Potter novels. This is probably one of the only things people who’ve read it so far will agree on. Now, the book was released because the play is only being shown in England and fans elsewhere would have thrown a fit if they weren’t able to experience it in some way. It’s important to remember going in that this is a play script rather than a novel. That actually affects a lot in this review as well as my general feelings towards the book.
The story follows Albus Severus, his friend Scorpius, and Harry Potter the father who could do better as Albus and Scorpius attempt to set right what once went wrong. Albus and Harry have nothing in common, something that we are led to think gets thrown in Albus’ face quite a bit at school. He can’t measure up to his famous dad and Harry doesn’t have the time to spend with him for them to work through that. So he grows bitter over the first few years he’s at Hogwarts, until an overheard conversation leads him to stealing a time-turner to go save Cedric Diggory. This is all fine, I’m good with this plot line. What I feel like the script needed was a little more attention to each different version of the timeline, consequences essentially. I would have also liked to have seen more of the villain prior to the very end.
All that said, is it a good Harry Potter novel? Well, no, if you walk into reading this expecting a Harry Potter novel you will be very disappointed. The language used for a novel and a script are very different, with plays being as visual as they are the book lacks a lot of the description that a novel would have and you don’t get much about how characters feel beyond the occasional note for clarification. The story also feels disjointed in places because of scene shifts and not being able to see the actors’ reactions directly. That said, it’s a script, so I can’t really hold it to novel standards. As far as scripts go, I could have gone with more stage direction in the book itself to help follow what was going on, but it wasn’t bad. My big problem with Cursed Child is that it lacks the scope the series proper felt like it had, the weight of consequence when characters made choices. Partly because of how directly involved they were in things compared to how successful they were, the villain also felt very small, again, I’d have liked to see more build up there.
As to the good parts, I really liked Scorpius and the way that wanting to take care of him humanized Malfoy. The friendship between Scorpius and Albus was also pretty fun, I would have actually like to have seen that used to give us more insight into some of the other young characters. I appreciate that the golden trio mess up massively, even as adults, especially things like Harry not keeping up with his paperwork. More effort needed to have been given to showing that Harry is under a tremendous amount of stress though, there is a scene that feels very out of character because of this lack.
So, what’s the long and short of this? How does Harry Potter and the Cursed Child rank? For me, it gets a solid three out of five. There was a lot wrong that could have and should have been worked out better, especially given that plays tend to go through multiple runs. The language was off, again that difference between novels and scripts, and didn’t feel like J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter. The characters could have all been more developed. But, the story is pretty good if a little too much like early aughts fan fiction, and it makes me want to see the show. That I think is the big thing here, there isn’t a sequel to worry over, but reading the script does make me want to see the play. I think that’s a pretty fair measure of it doing its job.