Rating: All the stars. All of them. Galaxy of stars.
As the first Harry Potter-related book that has come out in almost a decade, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is not just eagerly awaited – it’s had every Potter-fan crying in anticipation. It’s required reading, not just to cement the future glimpsed at the end of Deathly Halllows but to show what will happen to the Potter, Granger and Weasley families 19 years after the Second Wizarding War.
Let’s get the main critique out of the way first: many people, hardcore fans and newly inducted alike, will complain that this version is in script format. Can I just say that J. K. Rowling should, if ever questioned or asked, tell the person criticising this book in such a way (to quote Heathers) to fuck themselves gently with a chainsaw. It has no bearing on story, world-building or character development. It’s well established that this book comes off the back of the Harry Potter and the Cursed Child play, that this is canon due to Rowling’s involvement, and if Shakespeare can do it, why can’t she? I’m not suggesting she is akin – sorry, but he has stood longevity and if children are forced to read it as part of English Literature in the 22nd Century then I will happily make the connection – but this is a work of art, and playwright Jack Thorne deserves the highest possible praise as a result.
Stylistically Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is so on point/fleek/yaaaas that it brought me back to a decade ago when I was in my mid-teens and going back and re-reading the original series. It personally reminded me of the time when I sat down after school and read the entirety of Order of the Phoenix in one day – I sat and devoured this book in four hours.
The best thing about this new format is that it allows a kind of stripped back reimagining that recalls the days of Hermione being called Hermy-own because no one could pronounce it right. It fully allows your imagination to take control and develop, and while the stage show is one way that Harry Potter and the Cursed Child could be imagined, there are plenty of stage managers, directors, and lighting and sound specialists THAT I HAVE CLOCKED ON FACEBOOK reading this, thinking, ‘How could I do this myself?’ That is the glory of a script – it is a blank canvas for your imagination, and while stage directions are included and beautiful in their depictions, probably demonstrating the influence that Director John Tiffany had on the book, they are directional only.
The worst thing that I can say about Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is that it has left canon and the Potterverse in a state of incompletion. While there were unsatisfying aspects about the way Deathly Hallows ended, it had a finality about it. This play opens up the possibility of new stories and rewriting old ones. While I doubt that J. K. Rowling would continue to poke at the established Potterverse, as she has expressly moved on (becoming a script-writer/producer for Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them), this play leaves the door open for someone else to do so later. In discussions with friends, we’ve compared this expansion of the Potter world with Anne Rice’s continued meddling with her Vampire Chronicles series. This continual movement ever forward is not, I think, something that would fit the Harry Potter narrative. Knowing when to stop is sometimes the best thing.
So onto the narrative itself… The twists and turns within the play are not always expected, but the allusions to previous works are there (I’m not going to head into spoiler territory but if you are afraid that this is in itself a spoiler then stop reading this article immediately), but the advancement of character development is masterful. In truth, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, in terms of its literary standing, has one author – Jack Thorne – however, in reality, it is clearly the combined effort of all three named writers, and it reads like that. The ideas are very obviously J. K. Rowling’s, the text is clearly from Jack Thorne, and the direction and beats are blatantly from director John Tiffany. Put simply – it works, and should the throuple ever find themselves asked to work on a non-Harry Potter show, they should seriously give it thought.
As a long-term fan of Harry Potter, and a fully grown adult, the play created an emotional connection and gave me a sense of completeness I haven’t found in a written text since I first read the Keys of the Kingdom series by Garth Nix. It brought me right back to a place where I could emotionally engage with every aspect of the story. Remembering the emotions tied to what Albus went through at his age, whilst appreciating the adult feelings Harry et al now have to cope with as adults themselves, it allows anyone and everyone to engage with the story.
To capture in a quote what I feel about this is easy: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is the one book to read this year and is deservedly grabbing all the attention and acclaim. It is the culmination of a decade of speculation It develops the original stories while allowing character growth, and it has made me willing to anything (literally anything) for tickets to the show. It even made me laugh and cry. So if ever an am-dram production needs a Severus Snape to stand in, please get in touch. I love this. Hard.
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is available to purchase from Amazon now.