SPOILERS AHEAD. You have been warned.
Alright this will be a bit of a deviation from my usual form, going chapter to chapter reviewing what I like and didn’t like. For one, I can’t even do that since this is a play and I don’t feel qualified to pick apart a medium I’m that unfamiliar with. However, I will tell you my impressions and give you my overall recommendation.
When I heard there was a new Harry Potter book I was very excited. Harry Potter was one of the quintessential books in my childhood. I fell in love with the story, the characters and the world. In my opinion the series is still one of the best I have read.
Do I like the play format? Well no. It makes reading it a bit awkward. Overall I think this book would have been better if Rowling had written a novelization of the play. It doesn’t feel like Rowling’s narrative voice at all, and that bugs the crap out of me. A lot of the characters are almost caricatures of themselves. The pacing was all over the place. The story felt a bit like a convoluted fan fiction.
So with that I’m about to enter spoiler territory. Turn back now if you haven’t read the story.
Still with me? Great.
Alright, we pick up where we left off at the end of Deathly Hallows. Harry is seeing his son off to Hogwarts, and Albus is worried that he’ll be sorted into Slytherin.
He and Rose board the train and they enter a compartment where Scorpius Malfoy is sitting alone. Through Rose we get some clumsy exposition.
And we come upon my first complaint about this book. Everyone hates Scorpius because there is a rumor flying around that he is the son of Voldemort.
Why would someone think that? First of all it’s canon that a person born under the influence of a love potion cannot love. While it’s true that it isn’t necessary for someone to love a person to get them pregnant, even the timing is off. The rumor is that Astoria was taken back in time and impregnated by Voldemort because Malfoy’s father wanted to extend the family line past his son. That seems like a drastic way to deal with infertility. They could have adopted. They could have used some other magical means surely.
But no, we need to get this tragic backstory in somehow. If you can call it tragic. It’s actually really laughable. It sounds like a crazy story you’d see in a wizard tabloid, written by a disgraced Rita Seeker.
This shouldn’t have any real weight. The only people who should take this to heart are the kids raised by Luna Lovegood.
So Scorpius and Albus become friends. Scorpius is tickled pink that someone likes him for a change. Scorpius and Albus are decently written and I honestly really like the characterization of Scorpius. I was afraid he’d be obnoxious, like a first year Draco dialed up to eleven. Instead he’s a cinnamon roll. It was a pleasant surprise actually.
Albus is sorted into Slytherin. Of course he is, we have to have our angst somehow. Not that this is a bad choice, story wise but it would have been so much better to explore via a book, instead of a visual storytelling medium like a play.
What changes does this bring for Albus? What are the inner workings of Slytherin house like? I always got the impression that they were a tight knit group. Everyone else wrote them off, so they took care of their own. It seems like that could have come into play when Albus was bullied.
Because yes, he is bullied. Albus is constantly compared to his father (unavoidable I expect) and no one ever stops to think that he’s not an extension of Harry. James wasn’t given this treatment, why was Albus expected to be Harry Potter 2.0?
So Albus sucks at Quiddich, he’s an average student, and he’s not in Gryffindor. Yes, he might get teased a bit, but you’d expect that this sort of stuff would calm down after about a year.
No, it actually extends all the way into his fourth year. Fourth year. We fast forward through four years of magical education and focus solely on the bullying. What a waste. Half of the fun of Harry Potter was the world, not to mention the character building. I understand it’s a script, and adaptations need to be made (which makes me really really want a novelization of this so I can get some of the world I was missing, because it doesn’t appear in this play.) However, forgoing even a hint of that so we can get the “nobody understands me” cliche sucks.
So the plot gets rolling when Harry’s office seizes an illegal time turner from Theodore Nott’s home. (Really, shouldn’t he be in Azkaban for life? Or dead?) Amos Diggory turns up and tries to convince Harry to go back in time and save Cedric. Harry rightly tells him no.
We’re introduced to Delphi Diggory, whom Albus takes a liking to. He gets the bright idea to steal the time turner from the ministry in order to go back and save Cedric Diggory. Hermione (who is the Minister for Magic in this story) has it in her office. I can believe that Hermione could become the Minister in all honesty, but when I pictured her involvement in politics it was always about the rights of magical creatures.
They first have to escape the train and face down the trolley witch. Who turns out to be some sort of Terminator like thing. No, I am not even kidding. She comes after them with spikes and pumpkin pasty grenades. It was freaking hilarious. I wish we could have seen that fight play out.
They manage to get into the ministry via Polyjuice Potion (which the play forgets is an extremely difficult potion to brew, and takes two months to make. So how did they manage it that day? Unless Albus keeps flask of the stuff just for the hell of it.)
They go back in time, but the time turner has a defect. It can only take you years into the past for five minutes, and it might injure you. They dress as Durmstrang students and interfere with the first task, taking Cedric’s wand. They have a brief conversation with Hermione which has disastrous consequences.
When they return Hermione is the DADA teacher, a bitter woman scorned and a milder version of Snape. Ron married someone else and his children with Hermione cease to exist.
We come to the next thing I dislike. Harry and Albus have a huge disconnect in his book. Harry doesn’t act like a good father at all. Albus has a huge chip on his shoulder and refuses to listen to his father at all. It’s bad all around. In this alternate time line Harry decides the thing that’s hurting Albus is his only friend Scorpius and bullies the headmistress into stalking them both. It’s so OOC it pulled me out of the narrative.
After weeks apart, Albus and Scorpius reconcile. They try to change time again and this time it actually erases Albus completely. Harry Potter was killed in the Battle of Hogwarts and Voldemort rules the world. Umbridge (the cow) runs Hogwarts. Scorpius tries to figure out why this future came to be. Apparently when they humiliated Cedric during the second task, it made him an angry and bitter person who turned into a Death Eater.
Never ever in a million years would Cedric have become a Death Eater! He’s not Snape, who was treated like crap his entire life and felt a pull to the dark side as a way to gain some of his own back. He was raised in a loving family, he had a lot of friends, he was a very noble guy. Basically its like pantsing guy in public and then having him transform into a super villain. It doesn’t happen like that!
So in this new reality the only ones fighting Voldemort are Hermione, Ron, and Snape. (I somehow seriously doubt that. There would be a resistance, or at least protest. No one with morals can exist in Voldemort’s idea of a perfect world.)
They undo what they’ve done, and things go back to the way they were. They decide to destroy the time turner. Only wait, something is wrong.
When I first met Delphi, she sort of struck me as the self-insert character in a fanfic. She’s got a weird name, even by Harry Potter standards, we’ve had no mention of her relation to Diggory up to that point. I was afraid it was going to get cringey and involve a love triangle. It does get cringey but thankfully no love triangle. (Unless you think that Scorpious is crushing on Albus, which there is evidence for.)
Delphi is Voldemort’s daughter.
Yeah, we officially entered into fanfic territory.
Delphi takes them back in time to try and fulfill a new prophecy. Yeah we get to the third act and there’s a new prophecy. Wasn’t this something that should have been mentioned before? I mean we spent an entire book on that alone in the HP series. Moving on. That plan doesn’t work out and she takes them further back in time, to the day Voldemort is coming to kill Harry’s Parents. She smashes the time turner and leaves them suspended in time.
They assume she’s going to kill Harry before Voldemort can, thus he is never killed. Through a series of incredible coincidences, they manage to get Harry and the rest back in time, and stop Delphi’s actual plan.
They return to the future, and Harry has a heart to heart with his son, and all is resolved.
Okay, overall thoughts. If you’re expecting this to be a continuation, you’ll be disappointed. This book has some of Rowling’s humor but none of her characters. Her narrative voice and a large part of her world are gone or modified too much. If you are reading it to get another Harry Potter story, you’ll be disappointed. The story is underwhelming and sometimes confusing.
The few things that I liked were fleshing out Scorpius and Draco. We get a few surprisingly heartfelt moments with Draco, and Scorpius is adorable.
Terminator Trolley Lady. Enough said.
Some of the jokes were funny, and some of the ideas were sort of interesting. Mostly though, I feel like the playwright was trying to capitalize on fan’s nostalgia by giving us a highlights reel of all the great parts of Harry Potter.
I didn’t want Harry Potter. I wanted Albus and Scorpius and their new adventures. Bringing back Voldemort as the big bad was a mistake, in my opinion. Especially since he isn’t as big a bad as you’d think. Delphi is not foreshadowed enough to build adequate tension. She doesn’t really feel right as a villain here.
I am not offended by this edition. It does not ruin my childhood or make me want to pull my hair out in fury. It is slightly disappointing, but nothing more than that.
This has been done before, and unfortunately it was sort of done better.
As it is, I’d watch this over the play. The play doesn’t push its comedy far enough to make it a parody, nor does it make the dark stuff dark enough to actually be scary. It is thoroughly middling.
So for that I give it a very average score. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child gets a five out of ten. Nice try, but it wasn’t quite what I was looking for. I’m hoping Rowling will Retcon this and start a series about Albus and Scorpius with an original baddie.