Harry Potter changed my life.
It gave me a dream, an imaginative escape, a creative outlet for ideas. Harry means more to me than any other fiction series or books I’ve read, because—in some way—I am who I am today because of him. So when I heard that a Harry Potter play was going to be written, produced, and performed in London I had mixed feelings for several reasons.
Of course, I was happy first of all because Harry Potter will always be a soft spot in my heart. I knew that it could be a biography of Dobby’s life and I would still be on the edge of my seat. It didn’t really matter what it was about or who was in it because all that mattered was that it existed in the first place. When Deathly Hallows was published in 2007 I thought it was the end of an era, the last time I would ever read a Harry Potter novel for the first time, but I’m glad to be wrong.
However, it’s a double-edged sword. While I think that J.K. Rowling has an amazing connection with her fans, it also stunts and bloats the world she’s created in sometimes unflattering ways. Twitter and Pottermore are good and all, but constantly adding to the canon has its toll—as seen in the backlash to her Magic in North America series and its unrealistic portrayals of what that would be like. Fan fiction readers and writers put so much work into expanding the universe with theories and imaginative creations, and when J.K. Rowling says otherwise it puts a damper on the fan party.
Between 2007 and now, I have probably read over 1,000 Harry Potter fan fictions both good and bad. I’ve also written my own stories in the universe so I knew that whatever this new book was going to entail it would change my writing. I’d say that I’m definitely an expert when it comes to Harry Potter canon, fan theory, fiction, and trivia so I knew that this book would change my world no matter what.
But not as much as I thought it would.
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is a two part, four act play that deals with the tenuous relationship between Harry Potter and his son, Albus. It begins with the epilogue from Deathly Hallows as Albus is sent off to Hogwarts to be sorted into a House. He and cousin Rose determine that whoever they befriend on the train will determine their course in life—just as it did their parents. Of course, Albus then befriend Scorpius Malfoy, the son of his father’s childhood enemy. This sets off a chain of events that leads to Albus becoming a Slytherin, being ostracized from the other students, and clinging onto his friendship with Scorpius while his relationship with his father begins to fray.
After learning about the death of Cedric Diggory and the discovery of a Time-Turner, Albus Potter decides to right his father’s wrongs and go back in time to save the Hufflepuff. He drags Scorpius with him, and together they discover that even the smallest change can have catastrophic consequences.
There were a lot of unanswered questions at the end of Deathly Hallows such as what kind of jobs everyone had, what their lives were like, how the world functioned in the aftermath of the Battle. Cursed Child does that and more in some unexpected ways. We learn that Harry is an overworked Ministry man, that Ron works at the joke shop with George, and that Hermione finally gets the recognition she deserves. They’re all happily married, working to make the world a better place, and hoping to keep their children out of the darkness they grew up in.
The characters are all faithful to the original series, and most of the fan favorites make at least a cameo in the play as a whole. The relationships between them have changed mildly with work and kids, but they’re still the same Golden Trio at heart. The relationship between Harry and Albus, the core of the play, is realistic and incredibly engaging. The audience empathizes with both Harry and Albus, and it’s impossible not to feel for either of their situations.
Albus’ childhood as the son of the Boy-Who-Lived is weighted by his father’s past. The fact that he was sorted into Slytherin instead of Gryffindor speaks volumes, as does his friendship with the boy rumored to be Voldemort’s son. He feels like he doesn’t belong at home or at school and that’s why he decides to change time.
The pacing and plot of the story is mostly well done and fantastic. The use of time travel as a plot device contributes and fits within the universe in surprising ways. The plot between Harry and his son is also touching and perfect. However, and I do not say this lightly, the play does read like a fan fiction at times. It uses multiple tropes of fan fiction including one of the Big Three.
(The Big Three include: Female Harry Potter, Voldemort’s Child, and Long Lost Black).
While I cannot know what kind of process went into writing this play, I can assume that they know the most popular tropes and actively chose which ones they wanted to use. As such, I can only condemn their lazy choice and the multiple unanswered plot holes that it creates. There were better ways to do it, a better bad guy to create, and a better way to do the ultimate showdown. Because of this part two is weaker than the beginning, and frequently made me roll my eyes.
There are a lot of amazing things about Cursed Child though: Hermione’s job, Scorpius’ personality, Ron and Hermione’s marriage, the consequences of time travel, the cameo of a certain potion’s master to name a few. Reading this book is like traveling down nostalgia lane while drinking a cup of tea, and it reminds of the magic of my childhood and the magic of Harry Potter.
If you’re a Harry Potter fan, a person with daddy issues, someone interested in the butterfly effect, or a twenty-something holding onto childhood dreams then I recommend you pick up Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. Although it may read like a fan fiction at times, it would be a fan fiction of the highest quality when it comes to characterization, plot, and setting. While I do hope that this is the end of Harry Potter’s story so that we can go back to the way things were, I appreciate the effort that went into creating this new piece of canon.
So go back to Hogwarts, travel back in time, and enjoy the magic.