book reviews · harry potter · harry potter and the cursed child · j.k. rowling · ya · young adult

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling

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“Harry, there is never a perfect answer in this messy, emotional world. Perfection is beyond the reach of humankind, beyond the reach of magic. 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.”

The eighth book in the Harry Potter series is perhaps the most anticipated novel of the entire decade. Adapted for the stage, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is actually the script of the new play which just premiered in England. Set nineteen years later, Harry Potter is now the Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement for the Ministry of Magic, husband of Ginny Weasley, and father of James, Albus and Lily.

Albus Severus Potter is the second son of the most famous wizard in the world and struggling to live up to that legacy and the responsibilities said legacy entails. The plot of the new story was incredibly clandestine and so, when I bought my copy, I went into the story with no expectations. I was very glad for the limited press and exposure of the book as it heightened my reading experience. Waiting in line for this book really made it feel like the old days, where I would dress up in my Slytherin uniform and force my mother to take me to the midnight release party for the newest Harry Potter book.

(warning: MASSIVE spoilers below)

The book picks up at the conclusion of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows where Harry’s son, Albus, is about to commence his first year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. We go through several years quite quickly: Albus meets and befriends Draco Malfoy’s son, Scorpius; both are sorted into Slytherin; Albus has poor magical skills; there are rumours surrounding Scorpius’ birth; and the tension between Harry and his son. Most importantly, we are given a quick glimpse into the eventual plot of the story: the discovery of the last Time-Turner in existence.

At the beginning of his fourth year, Albus overhears Amos Diggory pleading with his father to use the Time-Turner and go back in time to save his son, Cedric, who was killed by Voldemort in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Harry refuses and denies any knowledge of a Time-Turner, but Albus decides to take things into his own hands and convinces Scorpius to steal the Time-Turner with him, along with Amos’ niece, Delphi, to save Cedric.

The story was very true to the magical universe of Harry Potter and the world was just as familiar as it had been years ago. This time, however, we were not reading the adventures of a lonely child desperate to escape to Hogwarts where he felt the most loved and safe; we were reading about a lonely child who hated Hogwarts, who had only one friend, felt as though he didn’t fit in anywhere and could not live up to the expectations of a parent.

The relationship between Harry and Albus was the crux of this book. They had some really raw interactions, which promptly broke my heart. Harry is unable to understand his son, while Albus feels as though his father wants him to be someone he is not. Right from the very beginning, there is a lot of tension between Harry and Albus. It was heartbreaking to read, but also very important as we watch their relationship slowly develop and they begin to understand one another. Albus, unknowingly, venerates his father and puts him on a pedestal, which results in Albus feeling inadequate and unable to live up to the title of “Harry Potter’s son.”

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Albus’ source of comfort is his best friend, Scorpius Malfoy, who was my absolute favourite character. Scorpius was a true gift, and it is almost impossible to believe that this sweet boy is the son of Draco Malfoy, Harry’s greatest enemy (after Voldemort). There are rumours surrounding Scorpius, in that he is actually the son of Voldemort. The story goes that Draco and his wife, Astoria, were unable to produce a child, and so, desperate for a powerful heir, Draco and his father, Lucius, used a Time-Turner and traveled back in time in order to gain an heir. Supposedly, Scorpius is the son of Voldemort, which I did not believe for one minute. He is much too cute, gentle and geeky. This is an actual quote from Scorpius: “My geekness is a-quivering.” I mean, how could anyone believe this kid is Voldemort’s son? The relationship between Scorpius and Draco was wonderful to read. Draco is a fantastic father: he loves his son unconditionally and he tries to protect Scorpius from harm. Watching him search for Scorpius with such fierceness and determination tore me apart.

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I was so happy when Albus and Scorpius become friends. Albus, like Harry, does not judge anyone and so, when he meets Scorpius for the first time and hears the rumour of his birth, he doesn’t give the rumour any credence, and instead finds a life-long friend. I wish we were privy to the scene where Draco and Harry find out their sons become best friends. The looks on their faces would have been priceless.

Albus: “And it’s something I should have said a long time ago. In fact, you’re probably the best person I know. And you don’t — you couldn’t — hold me back. You make me stronger — and when Dad forced us apart — without you —”

Scorpius: “I didn’t much like my life without you in it either.”   

There were dozens of cameos from the original series in this book. When Albus and Scorpius attempt to save Cedric, they mess with time and end up creating two alternate universes: in the first one, Albus is sorted into Gryffindor and Ron and Hermione never married, and therefore their children don’t exist. Albus goes back in time to rectify this, but accidentally makes things worse. In the second reality, Harry Potter died at the Battle of Hogwarts and Voldemort rules with an iron fist. Dolores Umbridge is the Headmaster of Hogwarts and Scorpius is the leader of a gang of underage Death Eaters who torture Mud Bloods in the dungeons.

By far, my favourite cameo was Severus Snape. Reading about Snape again had me in literal tears. I have loved Snape from the beginning of the series, even when everyone else hated him, and to see him again was a gift. It was so touching to see him finally get the recognition he deserves. Snape was a hero and I’m so happy that we finally get to see the good side of him, rather than just a snippet as in The Deathly Hallows.

Snape: “Tell Albus – tell Albus Severus – I’m proud he carries my name.”  

Snape, along with Hermione and Ron, are what’s left of Dumbledore’s Army. Snape still maintains his cover, while Hermione has become the most wanted witch in the world. Scorpius manages to convince the gang that he comes from an alternate timeline and that this world they live in is not the real one. All together, they manage to restore the proper timeline, but not before the reader has to watch Ron, Hermione and Snape all die horribly. Thanks for that, Rowling.

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The book was full of twists and turns and massive plot twists. By far, the most incredible surprise of all was the revelation that Delphi is not the niece of Amos, but rather, the daughter of Bellatrix Lestrange and Lord Voldemort. It took me a while to wrap my head around this, but after some time, I accepted it and of course it makes perfect sense. The books do suggest, at least on Bellatrix’s part, a desire between the two and so a child is not that much of a stretch. I do know some people were annoyed by this, but I’m not one of them. If you reread the books, you’ll find the relationship between Voldemort and Bellatrix did not come out of nowhere, but rather, highly suggestive.

The format of the book did throw me off at the beginning as I was worried that I would have difficulty being pulled in as much as the other books, but thankfully that was not the case. The excitement, along with the plot and constant cameos, made the book impossible to put down and I read the entire thing in three-and-a-half hours. I was sucked into a familiar world that gave me such nostalgic feelings and reminded me just how much I love this series, and how much I missed it.

As Dumbledore once asked, “After all this time?”

“Always.”

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5 stars (did you really expect anything else?)

Buy the book here.

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