Harry Potter and the Cursed Child: Parts One and Two by Jack Thorne, 2016
I would be remiss if I didn’t have something to say about the book that is arguably the most significant book release of the year. The Harry Potter franchise has devoted fans among adults and children alike, with its biggest fan base being people around my age who were kids in the late nineties when the first couple books came out. This new book seems to me to be targeted towards that twenty-something and thirty-something age demographic more than towards children or teens, but I still feel that my role as a children’s librarian makes it important for me to be familiar with it. But besides, it’s Harry Potter. It was worth a read regardless of my job.
Let me start by saying that it’s a good book. It has an interesting plot, plenty of both humor and suspense, good character development, skillful depiction of the setting, and proper characterization of already beloved characters. I definitely enjoyed it. But don’t let the names Harry Potter and J.K. Rowling lead to you assume that this new title is equivalent to the other books that bear those names on the cover.
For me, the big difference is the fact that it’s written in play format. Yes, I understand that it’s being performed as a play and that that’s the point. But I bet it’s somewhat more enjoyable seen on stage than being read. Dialogue reads differently depending upon the format of the book. For me, some parts of this book just sounded a little clipped. And, of course, there’s less text dedicated to description of action, and no room for train-of-thought passages. Again, it’s well-written, but because of the difference in format, the writing style is completely different than that of the original seven books. And because it’s shorter, the plot is definitely not quite as intricate.
The basic premise is that Harry Potter’s son Albus (named, of course, for Dumbledore) has a strained relationship with his father. Things start to go wrong when he starts school at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and gets sorted into Slytherin rather than Gryffindor, his father’s house and the one associated with courage. And he doesn’t seem to have his father’s wizardry skills, either. His new best friend, Scorpius Malfoy, is the son of Harry Potter’s old rival Draco. By year four, Albus and Harry actively resent each other. So when Albus overhears Harry Potter refusing to use an illegal time turner to save Cedric Diggory, a Hogwarts student who died when Harry was a boy, Albus becomes determined that he and Scorpius must steal the time turner and do it themselves. Predictably, their attempts to tamper with time turn out badly, but they manage to set things straight. As it turns out, though, they are merely puppets in someone else’s plan. In the second half of the book, they find themselves in a situation where they must find a way to prevent history from being rewritten to ensure Voldemort’s ultimate success. Harry, Ron, Hermione, Ginny, Draco Malfoy, and Professor McGonagall all play important roles in the story, and their interactions give opportunity for plenty of humor and nostalgia.