Review: ‘Harry Potter and the Cursed Child’ by Jack Thorne

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child_cover

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.

Gosh, so many mixed feelings, you guys. I don’t normally review books this close to their release date, so I’ll be super-careful to avoid spoilers.

I think ultimately how much fans of the series will love or loathe The Cursed Child will depend on the extend to which the nostalgia of catching up with beloved characters outweighs the flaws in the story. Because we do get to see pretty much all the major characters from the series at one point or another — particularly Harry, Ginny, Hermione and Draco. (I was never a massive fan of Ron, but I still didn’t really like the way he was portrayed in the script — even though he did get some amusing lines.)

The absolute best thing about The Cursed Child is the delightful Scorpio Malfoy, who at Hogwarts becomes friends with Albus, Harry’s second son. Scorpio is optimistic, friendly and funny, and this book is worth reading just for him. I wanted to cuddle him and bake him pie.

I … wasn’t as enthusiastic about Albus, who is the sullenest teenager that ever sullened. To be fair to him, he is bullied horrifically by his Hogwarts peers after failing to live up to their expectations. But he still isn’t much fun to be around, and I wanted to see more of the relationship between him and his parents, because, honestly, I didn’t get it. (Also, his older brother, James, is mentioned in passing and then never seen again. Like, if he were also at Hogwarts, surely he’d stick up for his brother? I don’t know, maybe I missed something.)

Albus’s familial relationships weren’t the only case where I wanted more than I got from The Cursed Child. Despite the size of the book, it is a light read. In case it wasn’t clear from the blurb, it’s a script for a play. That means the action is thinly described and not very satisfying (the big fight scene was basically a one-liner). The dialogue, by necessity, needs to tell a lot of the action, which means that the “show, don’t tell” rule of good novel writing is often ignored.

The dialogue itself is closer to real speech than a novel’s typical dialogue, which omits a lot of the “ums” and verbal meandering that people do. The end result is that the play can be quite trying to read at times; I quite often had to re-read larger blocks of speech to get a sense for what the character was saying, because their dialogue was so choppy. (As an aside, the number of misused commas I saw was rather depressing. Given how much the publisher must have made from this release, surely they could have afforded a copy editor?)

Finally, the plot was — for me, at least — entirely predictable and had a few plot holes that left me confused, and one ridiculous moment that made me shake my head. On the upside, it also had a few touching moments.

If I saw The Cursed Child as a play rather than reading it, the stylistic flaws would have been less obvious. The fight scenes would be acted out, the dialogue would seem more natural to the ear, and the commas wouldn’t offend. Maybe Albus would have been more sympathetic too, though I’m not so sure about that. If it’s ever produced in Australia I’ll definitely check it out, but I can’t see myself re-reading the script the same way I would the original novels.

I wavered between three and four stars for The Cursed Child, because I did enjoy it despite its flaws. Maybe I’m more sappy and sentimental than I thought.


Three-and-a-half stars