Book Title: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Parts One and Two: The Official Playscript of the Original West End Production
Author: J. K. Rowling, John Tiffany & Jack Thorne
Publication Date: July 25, 2017
Available on: Amazon as an eBook, a hardcover and as a paperback
Indie Athenaeum Rating (Chris Fried): 4 out of 5 Stars
Indie Athenaeum Rating (Brian Fried): 4.5 out of 5 Stars
Nineteen years after the end of the last book, Harry’s story picks up from the epilogue when he’s sending his son Albus Severus off to Hogwarts and takes it further. Albus, nervous about which house he’s going to be sorted in, makes some friends on the train to Hogwarts and learns about what happens when he’s put under the spotlight purely because he’s the son of the most famous man in the wizarding world.
As Albus and his close friends become more learned, they also become warier about the world they live in, thinking some aspects of it are unfair. They don’t trust the adults in their lives with how they are really feeling and thinking they can only rely on themselves. This, of course, gets them into a lot of trouble. But dark forces are gathering out on the fringes of civilized society and the Ministry of Magic is trying to figure out what’s going on. But will Harry and his friends be able to figure it out it before it’s too late and the lives of those they love are put at risk?
This story fits seamlessly into the Potter canon, as there are plenty of references to the previous novels. These references are very specific in this story, as they point to all different aspects of Harry’s lifetime. The events depicted here don’t contradict any of what has been previously established but they do add on to the canon in creative and unexpected ways. And the final scenes were very clever, suspenseful and well done, bringing the story full circle.
The middle of the story veers into science fiction territory, but I feel it is used well as a device to explore alternate points of view and the paths not taken had another choice been made. It’s presented in an exciting way that was riveting and kept me glued to my seat. It also has lasting repercussions going forward for the entire world. And the impact it has on those who participate in these events eventually do learn from the experience and apply it as they progress further into the story so I definitely can appreciate the consistency of character development that happens along the way.
There seems to be a soap opera element in terms of the main antagonist. I won’t say anything more about that individual and their nefarious plan, other than that their origins feel very fan fiction to me. However, the presentation of that origin, how it was explained and the scenes in which it was revealed were quite mesmerizing, used for complete and maximum emotional impact.
As a counterpoint, those final scenes were also quite agonizing, the most powerful and the most captivating. I challenge any Harry Potter fan to not feel something in the climax of this story. Harry in particular states something that rings so true, so plays to the theme of the story and encapsulates all of the Harry Potter stories to date so well that its resonance is very poetic. And the epilogue cements these themes home in a very poignant and appropriate way.
Resonance is the key word here, as it mostly rings true throughout the whole book. It successfully captures the embodiment of these beloved stories for the most part, with some minor missteps along the way.
I really liked the characterization of the children. Albus Severus can never seem to escape his father’s shadow no matter how hard he tries and their relationship is one of the strong spines of the story. Albus is awkward, emotional about himself and is as impulsive as any normal 14-year-old. He feels like a loser and a failure, especially in comparison to his famous father.
While naturally, Scorpius Malfoy also considers himself a loser but finds solace in his friendship with Albus. His enthusiasm and embracing of his nerd-like tendencies provide some comic relief and a stark contrast to the darker aspects of the plot. Together, they are losers banding together to not feel lonely and try to achieve success in their ambitious endeavors, finding inspiration and strength in each other. Their camaraderie together is one of the true highlights of this book.
I do wish we spent more time with Rose Weasley-Granger as she was a scene-stealer when we got to see her and very much the embodiment of her parents.
At times, it does feel like “Harry Potter’s Greatest Hits” in terms of how the story plays out but instead of just revisiting them, it uses them to add a different and refreshing take on a crucial scene or event. In that way, it feels good to revisit Harry’s old haunts and familiar characters, like spending time with old friends after not seeing them for a long while.
These scenes play an important part in the story and are used as a crucible that tests all the characters who endure them. As a play being performed, these moments must be true crowd-pleasers and hit the right emotional notes. Rave reviews of the play’s performance seem to bear this out, with plenty of cheers and applause being reported.
As a script, the dialogue should be read like this was a radio play. It uses words to express its performance, being expositional in nature and helping to paint a picture for the reader in their mind’s eye. However, sometimes it can be so descriptive that the dialogue feels clunky like this line of Draco’s dialogue: “I’m not one for small talk…”
Malfoy has changed over the years but to talk about himself like that seems out of place. But when you consider the context of the script, the purpose of the dialogue is to explain something being performed on a stage versus being read as a conversation in a novel. So, to me, it acts as a shorthand for the reader/audience member, even if it doesn’t always sound completely natural.
The dialogue is mostly spot-on for me at times and feels like the characters we know and love. But there are some places where it feels a little out of character. I don’t think Harry would ever say a particularly hurtful line to Albus like he does here, given his time with the Dursleys. But it does encapsulate his frustration with their relationship, especially as Harry astutely states that he grew up without ever having a loving father and how it can be difficult for him to be in this role.
Also, some pieces of the action feel out of character as well. For example, when Draco and Harry have a confrontation, the outcome of it seems off, especially given the vocation of one of those characters, supposedly at the top of his professional game.
I like the way it expanded on the Potter lore with some of the new characters while existing characters are given a larger role to play here. I also welcome the elements of the next generation of Harry Potter being utilized here and have a large part to play.
Thankfully, the characters we all know and love from the books have plenty of things to do here. Combined, it makes for a great cast of characters to involve ourselves in throughout the story. Those we don’t get to see are name-dropped here and there, fleshing out the story and adding that familiarity to it.
There was one scene that was particularly ingenious and delightful, shining through like light through the dark, evil cloud that hangs over the story. This scene revolves around a particular object that plays a very important role. The way it is hidden and how others try to find the clues to solve this particular puzzle all felt very authentic and in line with the character who hides it.
Finally, the title of each Harry Potter book is very important, as it reveals an important object(s), character or group in each story that is central to the plot, adding a sense of curiosity and intrigue. By the end of each story, that importance is clearly revealed. This book is no different in its title, as prior to this book’s release, we wonder who the Cursed Child is. Well, in this case, it’s not spelled out explicitly who the titular child is, though there are a couple of candidates who certainly fit this description. Whether this vagueness is intentional or the reader is meant to decide for themselves, I don’t know.
So, you’ve just read an adult’s opinion of this book. Considering that Harry Potter was written for children but equally enjoyed by adults, maybe you’re wondering what a child thinks of this book? Wonder no more, because I know what you REALLY want to know is what my eleven-year-old son Brian thinks of the story. Here is his review, written by him, in italics:
I thought it was amazing. I liked all the action and it was really page-turning.
I thought the book was pretty interesting, coming out with showing who’s getting which house with the Sorting Hat and it gets me thinking that I want to finish the book because I want to see what happens next.
It was also interesting to see how the kids from the original books grew up, what jobs they had and how they did them. Seeing Harry with his son Albus, it was like they were almost opposite personalities. I thought it was special how their relationship changed over the course of the book.
I liked the antagonist’s evil scheme because it kept me reading. I thought they hid their identity very secretly and how they did so was amazing. I was real surprised when I found out who the antagonist was and then I wanted to keep reading it more.
Albus was really daring, along with Scorpius. He was smart and he followed what Albus did almost. Their friendship was good from the beginning. It was a really quick thing about how they wanted to be friends. It was like from the original books, as they were daring like their parents. It was brave for Albus and Scorpius of them that they wanted to use something that was illegal to bring someone back who had already died in the books.
That final scene was pretty epic, like in the final scenes in the other books, like in the first one with Harry against Professor Quirrell, in the fourth one where they were in the graveyard with Lord Voldemort and the fifth when they were battling in the Ministry of Magic. They all have big end scenes.
I didn’t like it when they didn’t tell about the first couple of years, they just went first year on the train, second year on the train and third and fourth.
I didn’t like that because they didn’t explain what they did in those years. There’s always a lot going on in those years.
I liked the ending scene the most because it was the final confrontation when they were all going to fight the antagonist. It was very action-packed.
As a Harry Potter fan, I came away from this book feeling mostly satisfied with this new addition to the lore. As a result of this being a script book, each page is filled with dialogue along with some notes setting the scene, description of emotions on display and some directions telling you where the actors are placed on the stage. Your imagination has to do a lot of the heavy lifting and fill in the gaps in the absence of watching this being performed on a stage filled with scenery.
The plot does move very briskly because of the script format and it’s a very quick read as a result. But it also is a quick read because there’s a lot of white space on each page as a result of the script format of the book, with lots of spaces between lines. Both I and my son finished this book in a small amount of time.
Let’s face it, all true Harry Potter fans will be reading this book. But when you do, make sure your expectations are kept in check, as this is NOT a novel, it’s just a script book. It’s a stage play adapted into a book format, one medium adapted into another. Therefore, it’s a different experience from reading one of her novels. It mostly captures the magic, feel, and tone of her stories but the script aspect of it is somewhat limiting at times.
It is also a new full-length Harry Potter tale with a new story by J.K. Rowling, something we haven’t had in over nine years. So, I do think you should read this book, as it’s an entertaining story filled with characters we’ve come to love, new characters to care about and a fast-moving plot that whisks you away to a land of magic once again.
Two Harry Potter fans, an adult, and a child reviewed this, two different generations with two different perspectives. We agree on many things here and overall, we both enjoyed it very much.
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