Nine years ago, I anxiously waited in line at my local Barnes and Noble to see how the epic Harry Potter series would draw to a close. I opened the book immediately and read at every stoplight and stop sign on the way home (Sorry Mom and Dad! At least I wasn’t reading WHILE driving). I don’t remember if I slept before I finished it or not. If I did, I stayed up late into the early morning reading it that first night. The midnight release of Cursed Child brought me no less anxiety but also almost just as much joy as receiving the final tome of the Rowling 7. The other difference nine years has made is that I now have Bipolar Disorder and a sleep schedule is incredibly important, so it was an internal battle whether to even open Cursed Child on the first night. Though not written by J.K. Rowling, it is, after all, based on an original new story by her. The idea of more J.K. Rowling sanctioned Harry Potter canon was ultimately too tempting, and I got comfy to read “just a chapter or two.” Alas, the book is a script instead of an actual novel and is split into two parts that each contain two acts, so reading “just a chapter or two” was never really in the cards, but I was optimistic at the time.
The script starts exactly where the last novel left off, immediately throwing the reader back into the world of magic and witches and wizards. Albus Potter is sorted into Slytherin and time initially passes very quickly, with about three years passing in only six scenes. The first piece of information that was noteworthy was that Hermione Granger-Weasley (of course she hyphenated) has become the Minister of Magic. That information had come out in the media a few weeks ago, so it wasn’t a surprise, but it was still interesting. The second was that wizarding nursing homes exist. I don’t know why I found that so fascinating, but I love learning about the wizarding equivalents for mundane Muggle things. It seems to me that Albus has some type of mental illness, maybe depression, which is going untreated. He is miserable at school, disliked by and disliking most of his peers. The biggest surprise in the early part of the script, however, is that the Trolley Witch is an utter and complete bad ass! However, her scene was very clearly not one where J.K. Rowling had a lot of input. By the end of the first act, I had my suspicions about what it meant that Albus Severus was the “Cursed Child,” but nothing had been even close to confirmed yet. At this point, I had been reading for about an hour and a half and was a quarter of the way through the script, so it’s a fairly quick read.
In Act Two, Harry says and does things that are decidedly unlike the Harry I’ve come to know and love. This could be because 22 years have passed but is more likely because someone other than J.K. Rowling is writing him. At this point, I’m grateful for the new story but a little frustrated by all the tiny differences that seem to shout “J.K. Rowling didn’t write this!” at me. Harry continues to act very unlike himself and I found reading the sections with him in them unsatisfying and a little confusing. I understand that the whole point is that Albus’ actions have had undesired consequences, but watching the Golden Trio all act so out of character is a difficult thing to read. I’m also left desiring to read more Ginny Potter. I always wanted to see her character fleshed out more in the book series but that doesn’t seem to be a wish that will be fulfilled in the script. There was a bit thrown in at the end of Act Two, Scene Sixteen that I found very confusing. Scorpius says something to Albus about how he isn’t allowed to leave the school building. Given the circumstances of what they are about to do, whatever prevents him from leaving the school building shouldn’t be able to work. A fun little cameo was made by Moaning Myrtle, whose full name we finally learned. That was a question I never knew I needed the answer to, but I like knowing more about her as a live human. Exhaustion got the better of me and I only made it through half of the book in the first sitting, but even that only lasted until 2:45AM after starting to read around 12:45 due to the format of the book.
The concept of alternative realities really explores what it could have been like if Voldemort had won the Battle of Hogwarts. One of the most interesting things to read was about what became of Mudbloods if that was the case. It really drove home the parallels between Voldemort/Hitler and Death Eaters/Nazis. The end of Act 3, Scene 11 seemed like it would be an appropriate place for the script to end, but it kept on going and I was not disappointed. My favorite quote really hit home and reminded me of my struggle with Bipolar Disorder in a big way. In a sea of words written by others, these words rang the most true to Rowling’s previous writings and were completely appropriate for the character who said them:
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.
If I’m being honest, the climax was a bit rushed and didn’t have me on the edge of my seat or anything, but I’ve come to expect a lot from any book with “Harry Potter” in the title and may be judging the script a little too harshly. Overall, I greatly enjoyed delving back into Harry’s world and feel like the authors did the characters justice. I would definitely recommend that any Harry Potter fan find a copy of this and read it!