Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is the long awaited official continuation of the Harry Potter series that defined an entire generation. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child was written as a script for an onstage play (you can get more information here) which they’ve published in a book format; lucky for us!
Harry Potter’s exploits had different meanings to everyone, but there is a general overtone – Harry Potter changed everyone’s lives for the better, in one way or another. So many of us will never forget it. Unfortunately, though, this meant that this new script, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, was under a lot of scrutiny. Would it live up to the hype after seven books, nine movies, and nineteen years?
To offer a quick recap, the last time we saw Harry and his friends was the end of the seventh book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. After defeating Voldemort and his army, largely in thanks to Neville killing Voldemort’s final horcrux (his pet snake, Nagini), Harry and his friends prevailed. The novel wraps up, and then it cuts to over a decade later: a scene of Harry and Ginny, now married, sending off their two sons to Hogwarts.
Their eldest, James, has already been at Hogwarts, but their middle child, Albus, is heading off to his first year. He expresses worry to his father about being placed in Slytherin, to which Harry responds that while he should feel no shame in being a Slytherin – he was named after a Slytherin after all (Albus Severus Potter) – that the sorting hat would take his wishes into account too.
Reassured, Albus boards the train with his brother. Ron and Hermione’s eldest, Rose, is in the same year as Albus and follows along with him, and Draco can be seen in the distance saying goodbye to his own son, Scorpius Malfoy. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child picks up right from this point.
It’s hard not to go into the story with high expectations. Unless you weren’t a die hard Harry Potter fan, this book means a lot – it represents a lot. The fact that it’s written in a script format helps; we’re not only revisiting the Harry Potter universe, but we’re revisiting it in a whole new way with a fresh pair of eyes. Reading it as a script allows for a much different perspective on the world and the writing. The authors are able to make cliffhangers dramatic and obvious. Somehow, they managed to cut out much of the in-between describing and still keep the original tone of the series, complete with that dash of dry humour and sarcasm that Rowling always managed to slip in.
The nostalgia rush is a big reason of why someone would keep reading, even if they didn’t like the format – we’re reintroduced to all the old favourite characters, and the writers are keenly aware of this vantage point. Throughout the book we’re shown or reminded of the things we loved about the Wizarding World in strategically placed bits and pieces; from mentions of Hogsmede to Dumbledore’s portrait in Hogwarts to mentions of old characters, some so vague only a true Potterhead would remember them without a solid reread or Google search. It’s definitely planned out to keep the nostalgia flowing. And after nineteen years, there’s plenty of nostalgia to go around.
Harry Potter is no different than every other fandom on the internet – it could be argued that it’s one of the first major online fandoms, or at least the one that brought a lot of people into the world of fandoms – like a gateway drug but for geekiness.
But being like any other fandom on the internet, if a particularly long lasting one, it was subject to its fans. Without any new content for so long, the community fell to pursuits such as fanfiction to fill the void. If you were into reading or writing said fanfiction, the novel begins with a distinct fanfiction feel to it, despite being written in script.
As the final Harry Potter book ended with Harry, Ron, Hermione, Ginny, and Draco sending their children off to school, so much fanfiction revolved around these children and speculations about their life that going into the novel is almost off-putting; there are so many different versions of these people that you’ve read, and you’re about to finally get the real version. And as strange as that is to start, the book doesn’t disappoint; the children are well represented, diverse, and even if perhaps they weren’t exactly what you wanted from a given child you couldn’t particularly accuse them of being undeveloped.
Overall, the novel was good. While they missed a few opportunities to be more interesting, diverse, and modern – notably the straight, white, male protagonists, among other clichés throughout the book – the storyline was interesting, it flawlessly reminded us of the old novels and their struggles and consequences for losing, it was engaging enough to be the kind of book you might read in a single day.
It did something new by releasing a script in book form – a trend that hopefully catches on – and, honestly, it was just nice to have more Harry Potter to read. We should be grateful for that.
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is now playing at the Palace Theatre in London, England.