Finally, it’s my turn to read and review the eighth Harry Potter book!
This was one of the biggest surprises out of the Harry Potter world. I personally wasn’t expecting anything else after the last movie, and definitely didn’t think another book was coming. This new story picks up right where the last one left off, focusing on new characters, namely the children of Harry and Ginny Potter, Ron and Hermione Weasley, and Draco Malfoy. You’ll see the first generation quite often, but the time period and point of view are completely different. However, the setting–Hogwarts students navigating their way through school and the social heirarchy, one of whom is coping with everyone else having prior expectations about him due to circumstances entirely beyond his control–is very familiar.
The reactions so far have been extremely mixed. A number of my friends have loved it, hated it, or just been confused by it. My mother described it as “disturbing.” Now, honestly, I wasn’t that troubled by this, because I like disturbing stories. However, since so many have been wary of diving into this particular volume, I wanted to give as honest a reaction as possible.
Since this is a print publication of the play currently running on London’s West End, the book is dialogue heavy but spare on details. This isn’t necessarily a problem, but it might make it a difficult book to walk into without already knowing certain locations, like Platform 9 3/4, or the Ministry of Magic, or Godric’s Hollow. It doesn’t give you much to help visualize the settings. This also makes it a fast read. The most dedicated Potter enthusiasts can knock out a 700-page tome in a weekend, but this one in particular is designed to flow like a play, and takes roughly the same amount of time to finish.
The Slytherins are much more sympathetic characters here (Draco’s son, Scorpius, quickly became my favorite), and the bulk of the Hogwarts material is told from their perspective. I appreciated that aspect of it a lot, since I’ve been curious to see what the Hogwarts experience may have looked like from the one House everyone else hated. Some of our returning cast feels a bit off, possibly because of the passage of time, but I suspect mostly because the script was written with the idea that the actors would be the ones bringing nuance and energy to the parts.
Another interesting aspect of the stage play is how some of these scenes would work in that format. Movie magic makes almost anything possible; you have CGI, green screens, camera angles, and all other sorts of visual trickery to make the story translate, which is what we got with the cinematic adaptations of this same universe. However, on a stage, how exactly does one depict a Polyjuice Potion transformation? Or make an entire family disappear through a brick pillar? Or fly on broomsticks? It’s fascinating trying to visualize how this was done, and makes me want to see the play myself one day.
Still, very little description means there’s very little world-building, and that can make a reader feel less like they’re diving into a literary fantasy with a rich, complicated history behind it. Also, again because of the stage play format, the mystery is paced in a such a way that it can be introduced and resolved in a matter of hours, rather than weeks or even years. The plot is neater in this one book than the overarching one in the other books, but that’s not necessarily a criticism.
Overall, I enjoyed this return to the Potter universe. Just keep in mind it does have a different feel than the previous seven novels, and might work better on the stage than on the page.
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is available through the library catalog here. If you need to catch up on your Potter history or just want to go back to the beginning, check out the first book, Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone, here.