Review: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany, & Jack Thorne
Author: J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany, Jack Thorne
Series: Harry Potter #8
Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books
Published: July 31st 2016
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
Format: Play Script, Hardback
Buy on Amazon | Buy from Publisher
Based on an original new story by J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne and John Tiffany, a new play by Jack Thorne, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is the eighth story in the Harry Potter series and the first official Harry Potter story to be presented on stage. The play will receive its world premiere in London’s West End on July 30, 2016.
It was always difficult being Harry Potter and it isn’t much easier now that he is an overworked employee of the Ministry of Magic, a husband and father of three school-age children.
While Harry grapples with a past that refuses to stay where it belongs, his youngest son Albus must struggle with the weight of a family legacy he never wanted. As past and present fuse ominously, both father and son learn the uncomfortable truth: sometimes, darkness comes from unexpected places. (Cover and synopsis from Goodreads.)
SPOILER WARNING: This review goes into detail about the book. I don’t often post spoilers, but this post is full of them.
So…I have a lot to say about Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. Some of it is good, some of it is…not so good. I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t love it at all, either. I had issues, but then I found some parts wonderfully endearing.
First of all, let me just say that I don’t consider Harry Potter and the Cursed Child to be canon. According to the synopsis above, which is from Goodreads, Cursed Child is a play based off a story written by J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany, and Jack Thorne. The play itself was written by Jack Thorne, as I understand it. (But seriously, though, that first sentence of the synopsis is worded pretty awkwardly.) So it seems to me that this play was written by Jack Thorne. Not by J.K. Rowling or John Tiffany. But I’ve seen many differing thoughts on that. Lots of readers seem to think that this was at least partially written by Rowling, and then others say, no, it’s just by Thorne. Either way, to me, if this wasn’t written solely by J.K. Rowling, I don’t know if it can be considered canon. [Edit: The inside flap of my copy is worded like this: “Based on an original new story by J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany, and Jack Thorne, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is a new play by Jack Thorne.” So that seems to clear my confusion up. This book that we have all read is written by Jack Thorne, not Rowling or even Thorne, Tiffany and Rowling. It’s based on a story written by all three of them, BUT THIS PLAY SCRIPT WAS WRITTEN SOLELY BY JACK THORNE. And yep, that makes it not canon to me.]
And there are other reasons why I don’t consider it canon, namely that there are several times when it goes against the canon of the previous Harry Potter books. I’ve seen articles written about how the time travel isn’t the same. And at first, I thought, “Yeah, but the Time Turner was different, so that clears that up.” But it doesn’t clear it up. Because in the previous Harry Potter books, such as Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, when time travel is used, not only do they only go back one hour in time (which is the difference between the old Time Turner and the new one, which can transport the user back years), the things that they do when they go back in time already happened in their previous time line, they just didn’t realize it. For instance, when Buckbeak is supposedly killed by the executioner Macnair, Harry and Co. just assume he was killed as they walk away. They didn’t actually see it happen. But what really happened was that Harry and Hermione freed Buckbeak when they later went back in time. But this happened ALL ALONG, they just didn’t realize it until they later went back in time.
In Cursed Child, when Albus and Scorpius go back in time, they completely alter the future. They come back to their own present time and it has changed–drastically. And what they did to alter the past hadn’t happened all along, because if it had, their present would be exactly as those alternate timelines are. So, in Cursed Child, there are alternate timelines, and in the previous Harry Potter books, the future ALWAYS turns out the same way, because everything always happened. I suppose you could still put it down to a different, more powerful Time Turner. But the difference in time travel is a big red flag for me when it comes to this play being considered canon.
Another aspect that makes it non-canon for me, is the use of Polyjuice Potion. A friend of mine brought up the fact that Polyjuice Potion takes a month to make, and yet in Cursed Child it seems to take a much shorter time. I’ve also seen people argue with the fact that Harry transfigures himself into Voldemort, when in the previous books, it seems as though this wasn’t possible. People used Polyjuice Potion to turn into other people, not transfiguration.
But the one aspect of Polyjuice Potion that hit me as I was reading Cursed Child was the fact that Delphi, after taking Polyjuice Potion to turn into Hermione, says, “I even sound like her!” In Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Harry and Ron have to disguise their voices so that they don’t give away their true identity after they transform into Crabbe and Goyle via Polyjuice Potion. In the movies, they ended up with Crabbe and Goyle’s voices. I understand that in a movie and in a play, it would be harder to turn Character A into Character B and keep Character A’s voice than it would be to turn Character A into Character B with Character B’s voice. Especially in a play. But in the movie, I don’t think they acknowledged that their voices changed. And if they did, it doesn’t really matter, because movie adaptations aren’t claiming to be canon. I have been corrected: in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, their voices do change when they take the Polyjuice Potion. So Delphi’s voice changing in Cursed Child sticks with the canon of the original books, where the movies didn’t. But I still stand by my other reasons as to why Cursed Child is not canon. (Thanks to Heather for pointing out my error in her comment!)
Other Things I Didn’t Love…
Other than those things that made it non-canon for me, there were several other things that I just didn’t enjoy about Cursed Child. Like Ron’s character. With the original Harry Potter books, Sirius Black is my favorite character. But Ron is my second favorite. And in Cursed Child, he was portrayed as this blundering, bumbling, dull guy. Especially in the alternate futures. But he really wasn’t much better in the “real” timeline. He sent Albus a love potion as a joke? When he was almost killed by a love potion himself? And he’s just seen as this stupid doofus for the entirety of the play. Yes, Ron was often the comic relief in the books, but he wasn’t like this. He wasn’t an idiot. He wasn’t one-dimensional. He might not have been as smart as Harry and Hermione, and definitely not about the Muggle world, and certainly he wasn’t as bright as they were in the first couple of books. But seriously? Cursed Child makes it seem like he got dumber and duller with age. THIS IS NOT MY RON WEASLEY.
Also, I’m just going to link to this Buzzfeed Post: 18 “Cursed Child” Moments Which Honestly Make No Sense because I really agree with all of their points, EXCEPT FOR #11. Snape was not a saint, and he did a lot of horrible things, but he was extremely brave and risked his life and ultimately died for the Order of the Phoenix’s cause (and for the benefit of the world). Which, to me, makes him a hero, no matter what his faults. He wasn’t a perfect guy and we shouldn’t put him on a pedestal and say that his sacrifice erased all the horrible things he did to Harry and everyone else, but those things do not negate the good things he did, either. Oh, and I didn’t agree with #10, either, as you’ll see below.
Onto the Good Things…
Now to what I enjoyed about Cursed Child. First of all, I loved Scorpius. He was the best character by far, and I loved him from the moment we met him. I also enjoyed the Trolley Witch scene, which everyone else seems to hate. It seemed a bit more Doctor Who to me than Harry Potter, but I love Doctor Who so it was very cool to me. And I LOVED the fact that Hermione was Minister for Magic! I also liked the idea that there was this Time Turner still in existence, and that it would cause all these problems. I just didn’t love the execution of the secret Time Turner… But I did like how Draco seems to at least have gotten a bit better as an adult. He’s not such a git now.
The London stage production of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child has gotten some really wonderful reviews. And that’s fantastic! The play script, however, has been getting some very bad reviews, which I completely understand. It alters the rules of the Harry Potter world that we know and love, it turns some characters into one-dimensional sidekicks, and, frankly, it just wasn’t well-written. There were some nice things here and there, and a great new character in Scorpius Malfoy. But overall, I was left disappointed and underwhelmed.