If you’ve been anxiously awaiting the eighth story in the Harry Potter series, you are not alone. J. K. Rowling’s newest Harry Potter installment has arrived, and it does not disappoint. Looking for more reasons to rush out and buy Harry Potter and the Cursed Child? Read on!
About the book: Nineteen years after Harry Potter has finished his seventh year at Hogwarts and faced Voldemort for what everyone hoped was the last time, his children head off to Hogwarts and find trouble of their own. Albus Severus Potter, Harry’s second son, has a difficult relationship with his father and finds his Hogwarts education an uncomfortable experience. He does have one close friend, though–Draco Malfoy’s only son, Scorpius. When Albus and Scorpius learn of a chance for adventure that Harry refuses to take, they seize it, though it may lead them straight into Voldemort’s clutches. Harry, Ginny, Ron, Hermione, Draco, and Headmistress McGonnagal must devise a plan to save the children and maybe even the world.
About the layout: This Harry Potter story was written (and performed) as a play. The book is formatted with acts and scenes rather than chapters, and consists mainly of dialogue and stage directions. Watching the story must be an incredible experience, but reading it is certainly magical as well. The Harry Potter stories are so action-heavy that this format works well for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. There are also many interesting relationships in this book, which the plethora of dialogue reveals and examines. It’s been a couple of years since I last read a play, and I was a little skeptical about this change of form for the Harry Potter series, but I think many of the same qualities from the novels are highlighted in the play as well and this format is a great fit.
The book itself is also beautiful. Even compared to what I normally expect in a hardcover book, this one stands out. The covers are heavy and sturdy (they’ll stand a lot of rereads!), the cover sheet is durable, and even the pages themselves are thick and crisp. The colors are gorgeously Gryffindor-esque, and the design is neat and attractive. Normally I care more about the story than the aesthetic, but beautiful books are worth noting.
About the characters: of course we have some of the old gang, tangled up in mischief as usual. Including our favorite characters from the novels as adults here is a way to acknowledge the time that has passed since the first kids who read the Harry Potter series who have grown into adults themselves, and also to include the adults who have fallen in love with the Harry Potter series although they may not have been able to read it as children. Adult Harry is a prominent figure, but this book also heavily features a few members of the next generation: young Albus Potter, Scorpius Malfoy, and Rose Granger-Weasley give readers a great reminder of Harry’s early Hogwarts days. They are what keeps this story in line with the rest of the series as a children’s tale. In no way are these new children a repeat of our favorite children from the first seven books, but they do strongly remind the reader of Harry and crew’s early days at Hogwarts, trying to fit in and resolve problems relating to the Dark Lord. Albus and Scorpius are just as entertaining as Harry and his friends were as children, although they face their own challenges. Albus’ rocky relationship with Harry is one of the main tensions in this story (people expect great things when you’re Harry Potter’s son), and Scorpius, who has challenges of his own regarding rumors of his parentage, proves to be an apt buffer for Albus:
“SCORPIUS: …He will always be Harry Potter, you know that, right? And you will always be his son. And I know it’s hard, and the other kids are awful, but you have to learn to be okay with that, because–there are worse things, okay?”
Scorpius is a great sidekick in Albus’ attempt at rebellion, but he’s more than that, as well. When he gets stuck in a sort of alternative universe, Scorpius battles his own obstacles and balances the weight of good for one versus good for all:
“SCORPIUS: The world changes and we change with it. I’m better off in this world. But the world is not better. And I don’t want that.
There are also some great tributes to dead characters who couldn’t quite make a full appearance in this story. Snape appears in Scorpius’ alternative universe, accepting his fate and passing on his blessing. Dumbledore occupies a few important portraits at Hogwarts and the Ministry of Magic, offering his usual sage and slightly infuriating advise:
“DUMBLEDORE: Harry, there is never a perfect answer in this messy, emotional world. Perfection is beyond the reach of humankind, beyond the reach of magic. In every shining moment of happiness is that drop of poison: the knowledge that pain will come again. Be honest to those you love, show your pain. To suffer is as human as to breathe.”
This story has a great format, a great cast of characters…and a great plot. I love stories that play with time, and this one certainly does that. There seems to be only one Time-Turner left in existence, an of course it’s the Potters who find it. This opens up all sorts of possibilities involving Voldemort’s potential return to power, and Rowling uses those to send the reader down a wonderful and suspenseful path. As much as Harry would like to step in and spare his loved ones, even he has his limits. Much like Harry and his friends had to partake in some dark battles as children, so too do the children of this book find themselves face to face with danger.
“HARRY: We have no idea where they are or when they are. Searching in time when you’ve no idea where in time to search, that’s a fool’s errand. No, love won’t do it and nor will a Time-Turner, I’m afraid. It’s up to our sons now–they’re the only ones who can save us.”
So intense. I couldn’t put it down. I read the whole book in just a few hours, quite by accident. Some people say that reading a play should take about the same amount of time as watching it, and maybe for some people that’s true. It took me a little longer–I think reading both the dialogue and stage directions takes a little longer than seeing and hearing them simultaneously. But I also think that I read a little slowly, trying to take everything in as fully as possible to provide the most thoughtful reviews. Even if it took a little longer than watching the play might have, this book was still a remarkably quick and addicting read, easily consumed in a single afternoon.
My reaction: 5 out of 5 stars. This is definitely one of the best books I’ve read all year, maybe even the best. It’s a perfect mix of old and new, both reminding the reader of where the rest of the series has taken us, and then soaring to new heights again. It’s incredible to be able to see what has become of our favorite fictional children and imagine that they’re still out there, in their own magical world, living and laughing and saving the world from evil and destruction. Without giving spoilers, I can’t explain just how many resolutions this story provides for the series, but in so many ways it gives readers a proper Harry Potter send-off. If you’ve read the rest of the series, this book is not to be missed.
- If you want another middle grade series full of magic and adventure, the first place you look should be in C. S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia. This is another series that enchants me just as much as an adult as it did in my childhood. The movies, in my opinion, are nothing to judge the series by. The books are fantastic.
- If you just can’t get enough J. K. Rowling, and are looking for something a little more adult, check out the Cormoran Strike series. These books, written under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith, feature a private detective operating out of modern-day London. You can find my review of the first book here.
Coming Up Next: Caroline Kepnes’ Hidden Bodies, the sequel to her fantastic debut novel You (you can find my review of that here) is finally being crossed off of my TBR list. I’ve been looking forward to this second story about modern stalker Joe Goldberg and his deadly quest for love for months. (stay tuned to find out if it lives up to expectations!)
From the magical world of books,
The Literary Elephant