Books

15 things you need to know before reading Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Here's what you need to know (from someone who saw the first preview in London in June 2016). No spoilers!
The Palace Theatre hosted the premiere of Harry Potter and The Cursed Child on July 30, 2016 in London, England. (Ian Gavan/Getty Images)

Seven books. That was J.K. Rowling's original promise to her ever-growing horde of loyal fans. In 2007 she delivered, ending the series with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Prophecies were fulfilled, teenage romances resolved and just desserts paid to heroes and villains alike.

In Rowling's final words to readers, "all was well."

On July 31, 2016, a brand new Potter adventure hit the shelves for the first time since Deathly Hallows was published. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Parts One and Two reached #1 on Amazon.ca's bestseller list with days to go before its midnight release.

But before diving head-long into Pottermania, let's cool our heels and clarify some misconceptions flying around about the eighth story. Here's what you need to know (from someone who saw the first preview in London last June. No spoilers. I promise.):

1. First of all, and most importantly, this book is a script by Jack Thorne. It is not a novel by J.K. Rowling. It is not a novel adaptation of a play. It is a script and it is a play.

(Manuel Harlan/Harry Potter and the Cursed Child)

2. It is also not a musical.

3. Scriptwriter Jack Thorne is a British playwright and Potter enthusiast. The script is based on a concept developed between Thorne, Rowling and Cursed Child director John Tiffany.

4. The play has been in previews since early June and despite Rowling's plea to fans to #KeeptheSecrets, plot spoilers can be found online. 

Scorpius Malfoy (left, portrayed by Anthony Boyle) and Albus Potter (portrayed by Sam Clemmett). (Manuel Harlan/Harry Potter and the Cursed Child)

5. The play officially premiered at the Palace Theatre in London, England on July 30, 2016. Plans have been announced to bring the play to Broadway in spring 2018.

6. The book is set 19 years after the Battle of Hogwarts. Harry is in his late 30s. He works at the Ministry of Magic and has three kids.

7. When Thorne, Rowling and Tiffany were imagining the new story, they began by wondering how Harry would deal with fatherhood, as someone who grew up an orphan and was severely abused as a child. The central premise of the play became Harry's relationship with one of his sons.

Harry Potter (portrayed by Jamie Parker) with his middle child, Albus Potter (portrayed by Sam Clemmett). (Manuel Harlan/Harry Potter and the Cursed Child)

8. Many iconic magical creatures, objects and events make appearances.

9. You need to have read the books — or at least have a very good understanding of the story — to know what's going on in the play.

10. The British media have been giving the production rave reviews.

11. While this is the first full-fledged Potter adventure since Deathly Hallows, Rowling has provided glimpses into Potter's post-Voldemort life before (it looks pretty great) on her website Pottermore.

12. She has also, on occasion, dropped new character details (Dumbledore is gay) and corrected fan theories on Twitter (Ron Weasley is not a time travelling Dumbledore).

13. Rowling is actively expanding the magical world to North America. She made her screenwriting debut with Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, starring Oscar winner Eddie Redmayne. Here's the trailer:

14. The script book of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Parts One and Two became available at midnight on July 31, 2016. 

15. The staging is — there's no other word for it — magical. The cast is brimming with chemistry and charisma, bringing to life the friendship, humour and adventure that captivated the Potter generation to begin with. How will readers react to a raw script? Only someone truly skilled in divination could make a prediction.

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