Book Review: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, by JK Rowling, Jack Thorne and John Tiffany


The Buildup
Once a reader becomes totally interested and lost in the magical world of Harry Potter, it’s a little difficult to come out of it. The magic remains. It’s as binding as Petrificus Totalus, you could say. For me, the world holds a lot of memories, and it definitely made my childhood a lot better. One of the first box sets I purchased after starting to earn my own salary was this series, and the accompanying three books of the Hogwarts Library. So when the announcement came that a new book based on the play Harry Potter and the Cursed Child was going to be released, there definitely was excitement. It was evident on my timeline as well; as I saw most Potterheads share the news eagerly. The clarification that it was not a novel, but a script, that did little to douse the excitement. Those who wouldn’t be able to see the play would at least get to read it and imagine, right?

The Preorders
When the last book of the series, **Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows**, released, the excitement was palpable when I stood in queue at the library early morning to borrow the book and read it. The times have changed though, and e-retailing has taken over. Both major e-retailers announced the book on pre-order earlier this year in February, and many of the readers chose to order it as early as that as well. Even I did. Each time the price of the book dropped, many would cancel and pre-order again. Each time, the excitement would go up a notch.

The Excitement and Expectation
“The eighth book, nineteen years later.”

The significance of the phrase “nineteen years later” can’t really be unknown to the vast following the series has. To use that on the book only amped up the excitement, I feel. The expectation rose, and as it did, on some level, the expectation changed from “It is the script of a play based on a new story by JK Rowling” to “It is the eighth book in the series by JK Rowling”. When that happened, the book took on a whole new perspective. It’s reasonable to expect there to be a lot of the magic that Rowling’s writing had, but that the play also had two co-authors John Tiffany and Jack Thorne got lost in translation.

On the Day
It’s not often that I have an examination on Sunday, but on this particular occasion, I did. For the most part, I focused on the task at hand, but when there was time to kill after finishing the paper, my thoughts were on when the book would reach me. A few friends had shared their similar thoughts. No one expects a book to be delivered on a Sunday, but when the e-retailer surprised me by delivering it that evening after six, I was pleasantly surprised. Without further ado, I got to reading and finished it in a few hours.

The Story
Harry Potter is now an overworked Ministry of Magic employee, but the past is still remembered. Parts of the past still haunt him and it doesn’t help that people from that past still approach him in hopes of miracles. His son Albus Severus Potter struggles to live up to the legacy that his schoolmates feel he has. People look at the differences he has from his father and add to the pressure of living up to expectation. Magic can weave miracles of course, but in changing some things, one must not forget that other things dependent on that action will change too.

What I Loved
The book rekindles the magic of a world I grew up reading. Even if it was the script of a play pushed forward as a book, it offered me a chance to return to the world I never left, and to do so through a new angle. Indeed, I could say that I spent 9 ¾ minutes looking at the cover art and admiring it.

The plot explores an angle I’ve always wondered about ever since reading it in the third book, The Prisoner of Azkaban. And I do honestly feel that the book has potential. For it to work, the reader needs to first be disillusioned though. The characters are no longer the same. We change with age and so do they. Each year, we see new people come into our life. This world is no different. There are new characters. Those character sketches are new. The characters add to the emotions and character sketches of the old favorites as well. These happen. To expect a world that succeeds the seventh book and follows it very closely does not work. It’ll only lead to dismay. The book will seem worse than it actually is.

Another thing I liked about the book is that it has quotes worth sharing. Like Scorpius saying, “I, uh, I opened a book. Something which has — in all my years on this planet — never been a particularly dangerous activity.” Or to quote Delphi, “That’s the thing, isn’t it? About friendships. You don’t know what he needs. You only know he needs it.” Or Dumbledore’s bit of wisdom, “In every shining moment of happiness is that drop of poison: the knowledge that pain will come again.”

There are moments that add to the intensity, and there are lines that are meant to diffuse it. The latter, however, may be lost because we are lost in that moment. The climax is wonderful, especially the way Albus communicates with Harry. The final battle also brings up some choices to make. Hard as they might have been, Harry and those there do make it. In doing so, they keep with the knowledge from the past. Time is not something to be meddled with.

What Didn’t Quite Work
This is not a novel. Yes, I began reading without that expectation. But at the end, that’s a negative. The writing is such that each scene of each act is short. While it keeps the pages turning, it also reduces the magic. The book may not be part of the series, but it is part of the world. Without much magic, it does not engage me completely as a reader.

Because it is part of the world, I expect some things to remain the same. One does not have a potion up one’s sleeve. The particular potion takes a long time to brew and has to satisfy particular conditions in order to work correctly. It has in the past. It should in this book. One does not expect a Ministry of Magic entrance to change its method of verification. The headquarters of the Ministry should know when the visitors are impostors, at least because those who they are impersonating are there in the Ministry at that time.

The extreme changes in the character sketches didn’t feel right. The same Harry who was last seen supporting Albus at the station at the end of Deathly Hallows turns into a broken shell of a man in a few years. Hermione is portrayed as, because of other events, a very rude teacher, which didn’t sit well in any alternative world. Also, her choice of hiding something very important item inside a book felt really out of place. Ron, part of the trio in the original series, is very much ‘a spare’ act here. The development of new characters felt hurried, and the relationships between them as well.

There is no villain in the piece until there is. I think that’s the best way to put it. The way the story goes, the villain of the piece, till the ‘actual villain’ is revealed, is Albus Severus Potter. And it’s more of a ‘villainy in order to save the day’ kind. The ‘actual villain’, while being an inspired choice, felt like a buzzkill.

Four acts and many thoughts later…
I could do with a Cheering Charm on me. The book, if I were to not mince words, feels like a fan fiction. While the world, with spells and magical objects etc., does make me nostalgic remembering them, the characters, for the most part, do not. Yes, there are touches of JK Rowling’s writing, but in the end, the co-authors’ are more prominently felt in the reading.

The familiarity is there, yet not the magic. Not really.

A score of 7 out of 10
A score of 7 out of 10
Book Details
Title: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Series: Harry Potter #8
JK Rowling, Jack Thorne, John Tiffany
ISBN/ASIN: 9780751565355 Publisher: Hachette India

I own a copy of the book. The views expressed here are my own, frank and uninfluenced.

(© Vinay Leo R. @ A Bookworm’s Musing
4th August 2016)



2 thoughts on “Book Review: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, by JK Rowling, Jack Thorne and John Tiffany

  1. I sort of have a bitter sweet relationship with this book.It definitely could’ve done better. But it wasn’t a total disappointment. Scorpius’ character was a lovely addition. The worst thing about the book or should I say script, was that all the characters seemed a bit “off”. I mean, none of them were acting the way I’d expect them to. Maybe its because they’re 19 years older. I don’t know. Did you feel the same way too? I love the wizarding world and so there’s no way I’d hate this book though.

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