Why you shouldn't expect 'Harry Potter and the Cursed Child' to beat the novels
A review of the eighth Harry Potter story, with spoilers
First, a little background for those who haven't read Harry Potter and the Cursed Child but don't mind a few spoilers. A very nervous Albus Severus Potter starts his first year at Hogwarts, only to find that he is nothing like his father. He gets sorted into the house he wanted the least, he's bad at Quidditch and he shuns any attempts by Harry to connect with him. Albus is miserable at Hogwarts. The only consolation: he and Draco Malfoy's son Scorpius are inseparable. Events lead to them meeting a 20-something-year-old girl named Delphi, who introduces herself as Amos Diggory's niece. Amos still holds Harry accountable for the death of his son Cedric, and Delphi convinces Albus and Scorpius to help her save Cedric. They use a stolen Time-Turner to go back in time to change the course of history, but there are massive consequences.
I'll just get right to it: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child does not disappoint. Before you object or agree, ask yourself this question: how did you read the book?
We're used to the detail and depth J.K. Rowling offers in the novels – every expression, every thought, every location is described thoroughly for us to paint a picture. But the Cursed Child is the script of a currently sold-out West End play, which only occasionally specifies expressions and context of a character's line. The rest is left to our imagination. Unless you've watched the play or you have good imagination, the new book could read a little plain.
That's not how I read it, and that's not how you should, either.
The Cursed Child isn't a super fresh story – it returns to familiar moments from the old books, but boasts a lot of creativity when it comes to tackling the big ripple effects through time. It's what many have loved about Rowling's series, and it's also what we can enjoy in the new book. Not to mention a few jaw-dropping moments that can be explained with a few fan theories if you knew what to Google after reading it.
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child can be finished in just hours – mostly because I couldn't put it down. It's easy to feel unsatisfied at how quickly the story was over, but remember that this play is a bonus chapter of the universe, and we're lucky enough to have it. While you might not yet become as attached to the new generation as much as you were/are to Harry and his peers, the eighth story is a beautiful glimpse into his future.
Read the new book as if you're meeting an old friend after years apart. You're getting up to speed with what's going on with them – except what's going on here is pretty wild and there's scary time travelling and evil to deal with – but don't expect to know everything between now and the last time you met. Despite the speed at which the book jumps through the years, it's enough to set the foundation for new characters and further develop the old. It's also vital that you read every line expressively. A little intonation is all that stands between a mundane line and humour (if you need to go back and re-read all of Ron's lines, do it).
Nothing will beat the first seven books, although it's not because the Cursed Child isn't able to. It's supposed to complement its predecessors and live up to their legacy, and to me it does, as Albus eventually lives up to Harry's legacy – in a new, unexpected way. The magic is also in how there are small never-seen-before moments from the old books that are revealed to us in a different light. Knowing that those were actually always in the story is what truly rounds up the already rich narrative.
Rowling told Reuters yesterday that she's now really done writing about the boy who lived, but there's always hoping that this isn't the end of the fun for those who come after him.