Genres: Childrens, Play, Fantasy
Publisher: Little Brown UK
Publication Date: July 31st 2016
3 OUT OF 5 STARS
“Hogwarts isn’t actually that pleasant a place when you don’t fit in.”
Nineteen years later and The Boy Who Lived is a father. Harry’s middle child, Albus Severus, is having a more difficult time fitting in at Hogwarts. For Harry Hogwarts was Heaven, for Albus it’s near Hell. As Albus tries to navigate his school years Harry begins to have disturbing dreams. Dark forces are returning to the wizarding world and somehow Albus will be involved.
This is a very hard book to review in part because it is a play script and not an actual novel and also because it follows such a huge franchise. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is an enjoyable adventure. Even as a script the characters are strong and the plot is fast-paced and exciting. If it were on its own it could potentially be a masterpiece, but it’s not.
The trouble with Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is how it fits into the rest of the series as a whole. It doesn’t quite respect the series it came from. It changes several rules of the world, creates plots that rely on things happening during the duration of previous books which very obviously didn’t happen. It creates massive plot holes for itself by disregarding the world and rules the previous novels set up.
As a new writer taking on a beloved series Thorne does quite well; most of the characters are recognizable. Draco finally gets some redemption,something Rowling would have been loathe to give him, so in a way a fresh writer is good. Scorpius and Albus are brilliant characters, Rose is a little cruel (and forgiven too easily for it) but as a new cast they work. But Thorne’s character writing is not without fault. Ron was shafted worse than in the films, Harry is ridiculously childish and Hugo seems like an afterthought only mentioned past Act II.
Worse still were the parts featuring Dumbledore and Snape, that feel as though they were specifically inserted to “correct” fan feelings. Dumbledore and Snape are both morally grey at best, but Cursed Child very bluntly has characters explain how everything they did was really right. How fans are wrong to interpret them as anything but pure and good. Dumbledore’s character is entirely useless except to smack fans over the head with the writer’s desired interpretation.
The list of moments where the plot takes a wrong turn (looking at you Trolley Witch) is massive, but only because this play is following a series that already had a complex world full of rules. The consensus is, and with good reason, fanfiction. I’ve never read anything that felt more acutely like a plot written by teenaged girl with a self-insert actually included in canon. That doesn’t make the plot unexciting, after all, people read fanfiction plenty. People just don’t expect fanfiction to become part of a series they enjoy.
Is Cursed Child a fun read? Absolutely. Will fans of the series enjoy it? Probably. Everyone will be excited to return to Hogwarts, but it’s only enjoyable if you’re willing to accept all the strange faults it presents. It tampers with the old canon, the plot just borders on ridiculous but it still manages to be enjoyable.
It will always be risky to try and follow up something like Harry Potter and Jack Thorne has not entirely succeeded, but he did make something entertaining and perhaps that’s all we can ask from anyone who isn’t Rowling.