It feels traitorous to say, but I did not enjoy Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. Like so much of the world, I am a Potter Head and gobble up anything and everything Harry Potter. I was even a counselor at Harry Potter Camp for two summers! So when I heard that an eighth book was being released in the form of a play script, I once again bubbled with excitement and anticipation at being back in the world of Harry Potter. It did not take many pages to realize this book is NOT J.K. Rowling’s work and for the zeal to wear thin.
The story takes place where Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows left off: nineteen years after the Battle of Hogwarts when Harry brought down Lord Voldemort. Harry’s younger son, Albus Severus Potter, is boarding the Hogwarts Express for the first time, nervous about which house he’ll be sorted into. Like his father’s first journey aboard the train, Albus immediately bonds with the first first-year he meets, Scorpius, who just happens to be Draco Malfloy’s son. SPOILER ALERT! The two boys are sorted into Slytherin and teen angst ensues. Albus is an unhappy adolescent, angry about always being in his famous father’s shadow. Scorpius is an overly meek follower coping with his mother’s death. Both boys come from families to which they do not identify. And of course, dark adventures evolve with Lord Voldemort once again playing the lead villain.
I’ll leave the spoilers at that. My main criticisms are not for the main plot line, which faces limitations given its format. Being a script, there is a finite amount of time and space to craft a nuanced story. Long descriptive passages or tumultuous internal thoughts are reduced to a sentence or two. And the choppy structure minimizes the poetic flow of the writing. I get that. My problem is that none of the characters are consistent with Rowling’s beautifully developed characters of the original seven books. Ok, just a few more spoilers: Hermione has somehow become the Minister of Magic, Snape makes a quick appearance where he smiles and trusts without question, Ron is a dopey joke who can barely think without his wife, and Dumbledore’s picture explicitly tells Harry that he loves him. Never would J.K. Rowling have so bluntly had Dumbledore profess his love for Harry, but rather only allude to it through roundabout prose. In this newest installment, Draco Malfloy even opens up to Harry, lamenting that it’s “exceptionally lonely, being Draco Malfloy” (pg. 261). Is the reader to assume that all of the characters we’ve grown to love and loath have lost their complexities as they’ve aged? To me, this story was a major disappointment and falls more in the category of fan fiction then a real Harry Potter book.
While of course I’ll still probably buy tickets for the play when it eventually makes its way to Kansas City, I feel no devotion to The Cursed Child and don’t know that I’d even consider it the eighth Harry Potter book. It is not J.K. Rowling, and that is very evident in the writing. So maybe the result of this book will be a distinguishing between all the Potter Heads out there and those of us who are really J.K. Rowling Heads.