Last month, I purchased my first new book in quite some time. Although I typically only buy used books as a rule, my wife and I thought the latest Harry Potter “book” would be an acceptable exception. I use the term “book” loosely because Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is actually the script of the hit play written by Jack Thorne, based on an original story created by him, J.K. Rowling, and director John Tiffany. Although I typically don’t read plays (another rule I’m breaking), I found myself enjoying the format. The story moves along at a brisk pace, and I found myself imagining the actors from the films performing the parts. Although Cursed Child lacks the grand details of Rowling’s immersive wizarding world, I thought this was a solid story that kept me up way past my bedtime.
Cursed Child begins with the closing scene from Deathly Hallows 19 years after Voldemort’s defeat. Harry is now a middle-aged man leading a rather mundane life in the Ministry of Magic along with best friends Ron and Hermione. It was amusing to see that Harry has transformed from a sulky and complaining child to an even sulkier adult who is struggling with being a father to his youngest son, Albus Severus Potter. This father-son conflict is the heart of Cursed Child as Albus struggles with being the son of the most famous wizard who ever lived. Albus’s worst fear is realized when he is sorted into Slytherin house and cannot live up to being the wizard that Harry was. The tension continues to build as Harry doesn’t know how to communicate with his son. However Albus is not the only one with problems, as his best friend Scorpius is also dealing with ridicule for who his father is. Scorpius is the son of Harry’s old nemesis Draco Malfoy, and there is a rumor that Scorpius is actually the son of Voldemort. Harry’s problems with his son escalate as Albus and Scorpius become best friends.
As with Rowling’s novels, this story has plenty of twists and turns as several familiar events from the books are revisited. Time travel is a central component of this story in the form of an illegal time-turner that the boys acquire. I was very surprised by a return to Goblet of Fire as well as a character I never thought we would see again. Thorne definitely manages to craft a page-turner of a story that deals with the age-old dilemma of altering the timeline. We get to briefly glimpse on alternate worlds in addition to taking the story back to where it all began. As with tradition, there is a great shocker at the end.
This is not to say that there aren’t faults in the story. When dealing with time travel, it is always wise not to scrutinize too closely for the danger of finding massive plot holes. However, this can all be forgiven. My main problems with Cursed Child is in how some of the adult characters were handled. Although I found this version of Harry to be acceptable and believable, I struggled with the interpretations of Hermione and Ron. I understand that a lot of time has passed plus it’s hard to get a grasp on the characters without seeing the performances, I just didn’t like their portrayals in this work. However, I did enjoy the development of Draco. It was interesting to read his views on the past and to see how he and Harry take their antagonistic relationship to the next level.
Despite the timey-wimey shenanigans, there is a lot of heart to be found in Cursed Child. Thorne manages to intersperse his action with some truly emotional moments as Harry and Albus struggle in their relationship.
Was the eighth book in the Harry Potter saga necessary? No, but I definitely enjoyed it immensely. Much like time travel, fiction writing allows us the freedom to add an interesting dimension to a wonderfully established world.
Harry, there is never a perfect answer in this messy, emotional world. Perfection is beyond the reach of humankind, beyond the reach of magic. In every shining moment of happiness is that drop of poison: the knowledge that pain will come again. Be honest to those you love, show your pain. To suffer is as human as to breathe.”