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A play by J.K. Rowling
(2016, Little, Brown & Co.)

A Harry Potter Book

Harry is estranged from his youngest son, who tries to go back in time to stop a defining moment of the past. Only the changes have terrible and unintended side effects, until they find the true manipulator of the upcoming Dark events.


-- First reading (hardcover)
May 24th to June 23rd, 2019


The format of the book, in the form of a play, makes it much more difficult to read than the seven novels that came before. I also don’t think the material was very interesting. I love time travel, and the unintended side effects it usually brings, but the characters weren’t very engaging, their motivations were suspect, and the plot didn’t move me to bring me back night after night. It was a struggle to finish this book. I wonder how I would feel if I saw it in a staged production.

Spoiler review:

I'm not sure if it was due to the format, the change in characters to the next generation, or the story itself, I can’t say. The format of a play didn’t help. I’ve never been a fan of reading this format, not when it was Shakespeare at school, nor the couple of plays I’ve read since then.

The author did a good job of adding setting and emotion through director notes that it wasn’t just a bunch of talking heads.

The story starts with a repeat of the epilog from The Deathly Hallows, as Harry and Ginny send their kids off to school. This time, young Albus meets Scorpius on the train, Draco’s son. I wonder how they do the advancing timeline on stage, from the sorting hat putting them both in Slytherin, to their advancing years. In the intervening time, Albus and Harry grow apart, and I think it’s due to both their attitudes. Albus thinks he has nothing in common with his father, is not as likable as his older brother James, and hangs around with his best friend Scorpius, who has his own rumors swirling around him -that he’s Voldemort’s son, born to Draco’s wife who used a time-turner to go back and get pregnant.

The main focus is on the Triwizard Cup, when Cedric Diggory died. His father visits with the rumor of a time turner asking Harry to go back in time. Hermione, who is Minister for Magic, confirms that all time turners were destroyed in the events of The Order of the Phoenix. But dark times are approaching. So many things are happening again; even Harry’s scar hurts and he can speak Parseltongue again. Then Hermione retrieves an illegal time turner.

The part of the book I was least impressed with was Albus and Scorpius’ infiltration of the ministry of magic. Having used Polyjuice potion so many times to gain entrance to various places, and especially their escapades into the ministry of magic themselves (and Gringotts), you would think Hermione would have instituted some countermeasures. I have a lot of trouble believing that they could sneak up to Hermione’s office and break in. A simple alohamora spell shouldn’t have been enough to unlock her door -she’s the Minister of Magic!

The two boys manage to be the first to (ever!) escape from the Hogwarts Express. Albus is convinced that he can achieve some sort of salvation by rescuing Cedric from the unnecessary death at the hands of Voldemort, and Scorpius is happy to follow along. I didn’t understand their motivation, right from the start. And when things got worse, I didn’t think their reasoning held much weight, either. But they’re kids, and Harry himself did a lot of sneaking around and mischief, so I shouldn’t be surprised at any of this.

The book is divided into four parts. In the first part, we get the dissatisfaction of Harry and Albus and their meeting with Delphi (Cedric’s cousin). They travel back in time to the first event, and prevent Cedric from defeating the dragon in the Triwizard Cup. Because of this, in part 2, the dynamics are changed, and Victor Krum and Hermione don’t end up going to the Yule dance together, so Ron doesn’t get jealous, and they never end up dating, nor of course, married. It’s an interesting twist in what the world could have looked like, but it’s mostly superficial, even though two major characters have changed completely. Hermione teaches at Hogwart’s and is very moody, snapping at people even worse than Snape. Of course, there are three events at the tournament, so they try again to make a better world. There are a few small changes in the timeline because of this, but they are vague and brushed off. So they decide to try again.

The third part comes after they humiliate Cedric in the underwater rescue. This causes him to become a deatheater! This is the more interesting part of the book, as we explore what the world might be like if Valdemort had survived. Harry dead, the school run by deatheaters, the enslavement of muggles, and so on. There is still a resistance, led by Snape, Hermione and Ron, but it’s pretty much run out of steam. Most importantly, Scorpius finds that he is alone, as Albus was never born. Even though he’s a confident young man with plenty of opportunity, this version of Scorpius doesn’t remember that life. He runs off to the forest to try and undo all their changes, but is chased by dementors. Snape sacrifices himself so he can activate the time turner, undoing the two changes they already made.

In the fourth part, they plan to destroy the time turner, but are prevented from doing so by Delphi, who shows she’s actually a powerful witch. She takes them back in time to the third even to the Cup, in which she tortures Scorpius, who is inadvertently saved by Cedric. Delphi reactivates the time turner and destroys it, leaving them even further in the past. Apparently, she’d decided that the time for subtlety has passed, and she’s going to confront Voldemort himself on the night he tried to kill Harry, to explain what happened since then. The message the stuck boys send into the future, a spell that activates on Harry’s blanket more than forty years in the future when it reacts with something he spilled in an earlier part of the book, was kind of neat. But the confrontation with Delphi and Voldemort was almost trivial and quick. It couldn’t take long, of course, as Voldemort thinks he’s encountered another witch.

It turns out that the Malfoy’s penchant for dark artefacts in the past saves the day, as Draco turns up at the Potter house with an old time turner, which he, Harry, Ginny, Ron and Hermione use to go help their kids.

All ends up the way it should, even if it’s excruciating for them to listen to Harry’s parents get killed. But it gives Albus a better understanding of his father, and it also gives Scorpius a mild resolution. While the fact that his father has a time turner could implicate him in being Voldemort’s son again, I think he understands that he isn’t.

So who is the Cursed Child? It could be Albus or Scorpius, because they both seem to be cursed in some ways. Albus is cursed with no friends and a reputation of being a Potter in Slytherin, while Scorpius is cursed with being a Malfoy with a dubious parentage. But I think the Cursed Child is Harry himself, at the end. Cursing him permitted Voldemort’s defeat.


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