I own twenty-one Harry Potter books: a set in Dutch, a set in English, and a set of e-books. This is excluding my copies of Quidditch through the Ages and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. I own three sets of Harry Potter related clothing and all eight films on DVD. I’ve gone to midnight screenings. I’ve braved my irrational yet powerful loathing of Eddie Redmayne and gone to see Fantastic Beasts. I used to moderate subsections of a thriving a Harry Potter internet forum. I even taught Potions class. I am, in short, a Harry Potter-nerd. Some of my best memories are from when I was working in a bookstore and got to illegally read the latest instalments before its original publication date, tucked up in the back when things were quiet, using the dust jacket of another book to hide what I was doing.
So why did it take me so long to pick up Harry Potter and the Cursed Child? I don’t know, but I’m three quarters of a year late to the party. It might have been the format. Or it might have been that not reading, I knew that there was more out there, that I wasn’t quite done with the Potterverse.
I’ve glanced at it as I walked by my bookshelf, until eventually I simply stopped noticing the book. It took a bout of insomnia to get me there; after tossing and turning for hours and not wanting to switch on anything electronic (blue light!) I scanned the bookshelf again and there it was, embedded between In the light of what we know (too taxing) and Anne Applebaum’s Gulag (too depressing), there it was. I finished it the next day.
So did I like it? Yes, I did. Mostly.
First things first: I was always going to like anything Potter-related. Reading about Harry, Ron and Hermione (I still hate Ginny) is soothing. The fact that they’re now grown-ups doesn’t really matter; as children who’ve had to mature early, they’ve barely changed. Ron has mellowed out a bit and Hermione is a bit more political, and seeing them in a parental role changes things, but there’s a soothing familiarity to it all. They’re not static, but their transition into adulthood feels fluent and smooth.
The plot also hold several points of interest. The idea of Harry’s son being an unpopular Slytherin outcast, is intriguing; so is watching Harry come to terms with the idea that having your parents near doesn’t always mean you’ll like them. Draco Malfoy 2.0 is also something of a revelation; the story’s events have traumatised him more than Harry even, and he’s still trying to figure out his place in the world. Draco’s son and Albus Potter’s best friend Scorpius is a delight, though I suspect he’ll need a good actor to represent him on-stage to prevent him from grating. And, if I’m perfectly honest, as a Potterhead, any new information is welcome.
Other elements of the story fell a little flat. The big revelation near the end was predictable enough that I spotted it almost from the beginning, and trust me when I say I’m not usually good at predicting stuff. It’s also highly convoluted: a lot happens in a fairly short amount of time. I don’t know if it’s because of the format, but it all felt rushed. Time travel as a plot device in itself has been done, and it has been done better – though, in all fairness, it has also been done a lot worse.
But this all feels a little finicky when I remember how quickly I finished it, or how much fun I had reading it.
Chances are that, if you’re a Potter-fan, you’ve already read this. If you’re not at least vaguely familiar with Potter-lore and specifically The Goblet of Fire, then don’t bother. But if you’re on the fence, like I was, give it a go. At the very least, it’s entertaining.