It would seem unfair of me not to treat my followers and regular readers to a review of the most hotly anticipated book of the year: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.
I’ve seen a mixed bag of reviews on Goodreads and elsewhere, some saying that it is nothing but fan-fiction and others saying it is what it is and should be accepted as such.
Now for me I’m between the two. For me Harry Potter and the Cursed Child should never have happened. That’s not saying I didn’t like it (we’ll get to that part later), it’s just me saying that enough was enough where it was left at the end of book seven.
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was a gift for me by my grandmother. She bought it me from Launch Pad in Meadowhall which is now a Waterstones down by Debenhams. She’d seen on tv that it was becoming a phenomenon and knowing my love of reading; bought it for me. I devoured it quickly and each subsequent time a HP book was released she preordered it and queued diligently outside to get it for me. I’m pleased to say that despite the fact I am now 26 years old this tradition did not change and she dropped me the Harry Potter and the Cursed Child off at my house on Saturday.
Now the book itself for those who don’t know; and I must admit I am truly astonished at the amount of people who didn’t know, it is a play script. It was written to be a West End show and released in book form but it is nevertheless a script. Once you’ve accepted that fact you may be in with a chance of enjoying it. Pointer number 2 it is not written solely by JK Rowling in fact its mostly based around a story idea she came up with and written with two co-authors John Tiffany and Jack Thorne. None of the original actors from the film star in the show either incase you were wondering.
Now here lies the problem I think most people might find with this one. They’re expecting a HP novel, they want it to feature their favourite threesome creating mayhem and getting up to mischief at Hogwarts and saving the world. But this one is set 19 years later. The threesome are grown just like they were at the end of book 7 and nothing is going to change that. So again, if you’re expecting a HP novel please turn back now.
The storyline features the old favourites Harry, Ron, Hermione and of course Ginny and also Draco Malfoy. But it’s a very different outlook. These characters are now middle aged men and women with children of their own and jobs. They’re not about to be flying around on magical missions and saving the world.
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child does however holdsthe attention despite not being very long (330 pages roughly) and the one thing you have to acknowledge when reading a script is that the main body of it is going to be dialogue with a few stage directions thrown in. There certainly isn’t any long descriptive pieces about action or spells or what people look like. It’s simple and dumbed down for actors/actresses to read and study. A play script does not have to do the telling part of the story because the costumes/actions/scenery/sound effects do this for them. Anyone whose studied Shakespeare or any other play in literature will agree with me there.
So I’ll break it down a little. What worked well for me? I really enjoyed the fact that it was a HP story. Excusing whatever person wrote it, it was still there. There were the old characters we love and hate from professor Neville Longbottom through to Draco Malfoy himself and it felt lovely to experience that world again and see what they’ve been up to. Have you ever wondered after finishing a book series what the characters did next? Imagined them carrying on their lives outside of the book? Well that’s what this book was, a catch up on the lives of the Potters, Malfoy’s and Granger-Weasleys. I felt that a lot of the characters ‘voices’ remained authentic.
What didn’t work well for me? As aforementioned you can’t enjoy a script, stripped to the bare bones of dialogue and direction as much as you can a novel. It was also fairly short, a quick episodic trip down memory lane and it was over with.
Some points I’d like to address while keeping it fairly spoiler free.
‘I can’t imagine HP having a son like that’ we as readers do not get to dictate how characters offspring turn out and quite often children are not like their parents.
‘I was shipping S&A so much they should have been together’ bashing an author for choosing not to have homosexual characters is as bad as bashing them for having them. As a writer myself it is incredibly difficult to highlight someone’s sexual preferences which are irrelevant to the novel itself or to create a homosexual character for the sake of remaining PC. The two have a natural, caring, bromance which guess what? Happens in real life without them having to be gay!
‘It reads like fan fiction’ in some parts yes it does but let’s remember JK wasn’t the only author so there was always going to be outside influence in there. Plus the style and format of a script as I’ve mentioned a few times in this review are very different to the style of a novel.
Finally, I gave Harry Potter and the Cursed Child a 4 stars overall. Of course like everyone I would have preferred it in novel form but I respect it for what it is. It loses a star because 75% of me feels that this play has been another attempt to milk the HP franchise for everything it is worth. But I’m not complaining, whenever anything HP related comes out I will continue to lap it up while mentally passing moral judgement.