Did I put on my Hufflepuff socks for the sole purpose of writing this post? Yes. Yes, I did. Badger pride, y’all.
I have never in my life been more nervous to read a book.
With all the mixed reviews (and my own cousin’s vehement vitriol), my copy of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child sat on my kitchen table for nearly two weeks before I finally cracked the cover. And I…enjoyed it. Quite a bit, actually.
Note: J.K. Rowling asked us to #keepthesecrets, so my plan is to be as unspoilery as possible in this post. However, your definition of a spoiler may be different (i.e. stricter) than mine. So if you’re trying to avoid even the slightest hints of spoilers, I suggest you stop reading now.
The first thing about this book is that it’s not a book. It’s a script. That means that we are not getting the full texture of the story on the page. We can’t. That’s not the intention of a script. So while some characterization read flat in places, it allowed me the freedom to imagine how it is taking place on stage, the same way the actors playing these roles in London got to, the same way the actors who eventually play these roles on Broadway will get to, the same way any actors get to who perform this piece in the future. That the beauty of a script. And while it takes a bit of getting used to, I truly liked it.
And actually, for a script, it’s still pretty detailed in regards to the atmosphere. There were stage directions and descriptions of scenery that made my breath catch. While I won’t say I felt as connected to the wizarding world as I did reading the novels, if that experience was a 10m Olympic platform dive, then reading Cursed Child was a diving board cannonball at your neighborhood pool. One definitively has more oomph, but they both get you fully into the appropriate setting.
And as for the plot itself?
It was fun. It was fun to read, fun to react to, fun to analyze. The new characters, especially Scorpius Malfoy, are interesting and engaging to read (Scorpius’ inclusion is not a spoiler, as he has been heavily featured in the theatre promos). I also really appreciated exploring the evolution of relationships previously established in the novels. It wasn’t perfect, but it was perfectly enjoyable.
Yeah, it’s a bit trope-y, a bit fan fiction-esque. I wrote some cheesy HP fan fic myself back in the day (shout out to 2007-09), and between the six unfinished pieces still kicking around on my laptop (no, you can’t read them), I hit three solid plot pieces of this story.
But to be honest, the sheer volume of HP fic that has been written, plus the hours and hours that so many fans have spent reading and analyzing that fic, means that nothing Rowling published about life beyond Deathly Hallows was going to read as truly original. We precluded that end many years ago.
This does bring up the argument “Well, should this have been published at all if it was just going to come off as derivative? Why not just…not?” I understand this line of thought, but I also know that, as a creator, it’s hard to keep something you’re intensely excited about to yourself. I honestly don’t think that Rowling did this just as a money grab. I truly believe that this story was something that, having formed in her mind, she had to share. I may be wrong, but that’s my feelings on it.
There’s a reason Rowling presented this story as a stage play. It’s not quite narratively rich enough for a novel, but it’s got a beautiful intimacy that translates perfectly on stage, aided by some stupendous special effects. The story is allowed to thrive in its smaller nature, to flit between character viewpoints with an ease not given as freely to novels.
Part of me wishes the script weren’t published, that we could all experience the story on stage as Rowling intended. But I’m also truly grateful that there is recognition of the unfortunate inaccessibility of live theatre and that the script was published to help ease that.
I read the script in under 24 hours. I experienced moments of sadness, moments of shock, moments of wonder. I laughed, I gasped, and I shed a tear or two. I was genuinely hooked into the story (seriously, I almost fell off the treadmill while reading).
So, no, this script is likely not going to live on as high a pedestal as the seven novels. There are some plot holes that still confuse me. But it has merit and weight of its own to contribute, and it allowed me to take one more deep, Rowling-given dive into a world I love so dearly.
To be honest, that alone is worth it for me.