Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Book Reviews Are Mixed

The bulk of reviews for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child are theater ones, but with the books release, some publications review what is on the page.

With Harry Potter and the Cursed Child selling out of book shops like hotcakes this week, reviews are trickling in for the “on the page” experience of what Rowling says (for now) will be the final Potter tale. Most publications sent theater reviewers to London last week for their takes of the show in the format it was meant to be experienced in. But with the book now a best seller, some places are reviewing the reading experience. And not all of them are impressed.

Entertainment Weekly is impressed, for one. Their review of the script is an “A.” The money quote: “Cursed Child is all about ingenious experiments in the unseen. Here, the reader dares to enact a stretch of logic, imagination, and ethos, borne from Harry’s arrival in both the real world and the “real world.” This is Harry Potter like you’ve never experienced it before. Welcome to the theatre, where participants are asked to fall deeply into the hypnosis of a narrative while also being made wholly aware that they’re watching from the outside. It’s a dastardly strange, magical beast, but it’s one Rowling’s readers have been known — trained, even — to conquer.’

But not everyone loves the fact that this is a new medium. Slate, ever the contrarian publication, notes dryly:  If Cursed Child is, as I suspect, the first play an entire generation of children will read, theater might be in for a rough couple of decades.

Piles of the new Harry Potter script book ‘Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Parts One

The New York Times is more forgiving:

The script is missing the fully imagined, immersive amplitude of Ms. Rowling’s novels, but she did such a remarkable job in those volumes conjuring a fictional universe that this play nimbly sustains itself simply by situating its canny story line in that world and remaining true to its characters and rules.

Those who complain that it should have been a novel are reminded that since some of these scene–especially in the time travel section, are directly from the books, having them is script form also prevents us from having what would essentially be a cut’n’paste job otherwise. That doesn’t deter The Washington Post from complaining.

But as a mere script, where everything besides dialogue is written as bland stage commands (“ALBUS is sleeping in a pew. GINNY is watching him carefully. HARRY is looking out the opposite window”), it feels nothing like the detailed-filled paragraphs of the Rowling we love. It’s more like sneaking a peek at her unfinished notes or finding a fetching piece of fan fiction. The magic is stunted.

USA Today says the magic isn’t in the words. The magic is in the love.

Just like you, the play argues, {Rowling} wonders what would have happened if Voldemort had won or if one character survived or another died. Very quickly, even while just reading the script of Cursed Child, you remember that Rowling loves these stories and characters as much as you do, and it becomes easier and more enjoyable to read the script. After all, love, as Voldemort never understood, is the strongest magic of all.

But over all, most places complain that the result of reading it in script form left them feeling like they were experiencing fan fiction, or at least something that “could have been better.” As The Atlantic puts is:

Reading Cursed Child, for all its compelling twists and turns, at many points feels like reading well-crafted fan fiction—the names are the same, and the characters feel familiar, but it’s apparent that they’re imitations nonetheless. It’s entirely possible that seeing the stage play, directed by the monumentally talented John Tiffany (Black Watch), is a different experience, and certainly there’s no sign of anything but a furious demand for tickets. But for readers, in agreeing to revisit characters whose stories have already been deftly wrapped up, Rowling risks undermining the powerful legacy she gave them in the first place.