We gave our online editor the brand new Harry Potter and the Cursed Child to review. Here’s what she thinks you should know before you read the book.
(Don’t worry, this is a spoiler-free zone! I wouldn’t do that to you.)
Disclaimer: On a scale of “Harry Potter — is that our ancient neighbour who lives up the road?” to “I sleep under a Harry Potter duvet and put a scar on my forehead every morning with eyeliner”, I would say I’m about a 6. I read all of the books enthusiastically and watched all of the movies, but that’s about it. I didn’t even know a new book was coming out until a week before Harry Potter and the Cursed Child was on sale. Maybe a die-hard fan would feel differently about the book.
Before we get into what you came for (a review of the latest Harry Potter book), let’s have a quick chat about expectations (bear with me, I promise it’s relevant to the review). Expectations are funny things — the same experience can be made terrible or amazing depending on what you expected it would be. If you’re expecting a 5-course dinner with unlimited wine and get toasted sandwiches, you’re going to be disappointed. If you’re expecting to have to run a marathon and instead get toasted sandwiches, you’re probably going to be happy (at least I would be).
And so, rather than a review of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, this article is more of a guide on how to adjust your expectations before reading it (so that you aren’t disappointed).
What you need to know before reading Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
1. It’s not like the other books
The most important thing about this book is something real Harry Potter fans probably know already. But in case, like me, you didn’t know it, this book is a script for a play and not a novel. That’s not a good or a bad thing, but if you open it up expecting a novel, you’re going to be as sad as Moaning Myrtle.
2. It won’t take long to read
It’s a really quick read. Because it’s the script for a play, most of the book is dialogue, with brief scene-setting descriptions in-between. It shouldn’t take you more than a weekend to read it from cover to cover — in fact it took me no more than 3 hours to finish it. If you’re looking forward to getting lost in a Harry Potter tome, adjust those expectations. (Quite frankly, I appreciated that it wasn’t that long; I tend to make poor decisions about sleep when I get into books.)
3. Everything will be familiar, but not new
One of the things I enjoyed most about each of the Harry Potter books was being introduced to new features of the intricately woven, fantastical world of magic (house elves, talking paintings, hippogriffs, the knight bus!). There’s nothing really new in this book, but I still enjoyed being transported back to Hogwarts and remembering moments from the previous books.
4. It’s more mature
This story is about grown-up Harry. Although we spend a lot of time with his teenage son, because Harry’s much older, the story is also more mature. I don’t think this should be unexpected — the first Harry Potter book was fun and light. But by the time we got to the last book, things were distinctly more dark and terrifying. Instead of this one dealing with dark and terrifying things though, the main theme is the emotional estrangement between Harry and his son. That sounds kind of boring, but I promise it’s not.
5. The whole gang’s back together
All the characters you know and love will be there. Thank goodness we get to hang out with Harry, Hermione & Ron again — maybe it’s because I’m older, but I appreciated seeing them having to deal with adult things like sending their kids off to school. As an added bonus, we meet most important characters from the books and even encounter people we thought were dead…
6. Should Harry Potter newbies read it?
Whenever a movie or book sequel comes out, people want to know ‘should I watch/read this if I haven’t watched/read the previous movies/books?’ I can answer this question definitively. You definitely should not be reading this book if you haven’t read the others or watched the movies. Because it’s a play and short on descriptions, you really will be lost if you aren’t familiar with the universe.
7. Reading it was great
I have zero regrets about reading the book. It was fun and entertaining taking a trip down memory lane to be back with Harry and co. After reading a few negative reviews, I feel like this book being billed as the “eighth story in the Harry Potter series” is what’s setting readers up for disappointment. Don’t think of this as another Harry Potter novel, think of it as a quick look at Harry’s life — 20-something years after defeating
Voldemort He Who Shall Not Be Named.