Book review: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany, & Jack Thorne
Review by Kylie Thompson

Genre: Script, CYA, fantasy

It’s been a while since the last Harry Potter book, and the fandom is just as vocal as ever. And yet, reaction to the latest addition to the franchise, ‘Harry Potter and the Cursed Child’ hasn’t been quite what you’d expect.

Reaction has been lukewarm, rather than the expected flood of joyful literary reunion. Partly, this is because ‘The Cursed Child’ is the script from the theatre production, rather than a novel in its own right. For those eagerly anticipating a novel, it can be a bitter pill to swallow. It doesn’t help that the ships sunk in the original series remain firmly sunk, regardless of Rowling’s perceived changes of heart. Besides, though its title might muddy the waters, this isn’t Harry’s story, not really. Instead, it’s a story about the way other people’s stories impact our own.

Albus Severus, youngest son of Harry and Ginny, has a rather large burden to carry. The son of the conquering hero, expected to live up to the romanticised image of his father, Albus feels like he’s never come close to being enough. And when he’s not sorted into Gryffindor, like his parents and his brother, the ways he’s so different to his father start mattering more and more.

Scorpius Malfoy’s life isn’t any better. Rumours abound about him, malicious whispers that do as much damage as the eternal chatter about his family’s position in the war. It doesn’t matter how good a man his father is, Draco Malfoy will always be assumed a Death Eater, and his son will always be painted with the same blackened beliefs.

When the two boys strike up a friendship, Albus’s long-time best friend, Rose Granger-Weasley, is horrified, refusing to give the Malfoy heir a chance even if it means abandoning her friend. The two boys are drowning in their father’s legacies, and when the chance for adventure comes along, they’ll either repeat their father’s stories or step into their own.

There are issues in the story, and moments where long-time fans of the series who were hoping for some much needed shifts and resolutions can’t help but be frustrated. Again, the female characters are relegated to the distant background to make room for all of Harry’s angst. Ginny, especially, is absent with no real justification as to why. Clearly, she’s aware of her son’s struggles- some sense that she cares or is trying to help would have been nice. Instead, the female characters are there for the odd sarcastic comment or lecture, before vanishing back into the nothingness of their story arcs.

Male readers, surely, are capable of caring about female characters and their stories. There’s honestly no reason why we couldn’t see Ginny’s struggles to support her son, rather than simply Harry’s attempts to communicate with Albus. Ginny Weasley was a character who wasn’t afraid to stand up for her loved ones, or to fight to protect those in need of help. It makes absolutely no sense for her to be so invisible in the overarching family dynamics storyline.

And don’t even get me started on Hermione.

There are characters who still haven’t gotten their much needed shot at development, characters who are still, at 40, almost identical to their school selves. Though decades have past, nothing whatsoever has fundamentally changed. Characters haven’t grown or matured, simply bumbled along for no apparent reason beyond it serving a rather Swiss-cheese like plot. There are plot-holes aplenty, and if you’re going in to ‘The Cursed Child’ hoping for the sort of well-crafted plots of the original series, you’re likely to be disappointed.

The truth is that plays have far less time to develop plots and characters as their novel counterparts do, and at least some of the issues in ‘Harry Potter and The Cursed Child’ can be justified by the fact it’s a script rather than a story. Still, not all can be excused away so easily.

‘Harry Potter and The Cursed Child’ isn’t a bad read. Not really. And it’s certainly not one to be avoided. For all the cringe-worthy moments, there are others that are utterly captivating, and moments that deepen our love for certain characters. There are moments that tell us so much more about the characters we know and loathe. There’s staggering bravery and sacrifice, tenderness the likes of which were glossed over in the original canon, and for at least a few characters, there’s storylines that will break your heart all over again.
This isn’t the perfect addition to the Harry Potter canon, not by a long shot. And perhaps seeing the live performance helps hide some of those bigger flaws. But the Golden Trio are back, at least for a little while. And that’s still pretty magical.

‘Harry Potter and The Cursed Child’ is published in Australia by Hachette, and is available through the publisher’s website, and at leading retailers both on and off line.

Rating: 3 and a half stars

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