Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is almost here! It’s time to dig in faster than you can say “it’s wingardium leviOsa, not leviosA.” But first, to bring you up to speed, here’s a refresher on what happened in the last chapter of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, which came out nine years ago.
In the epilogue, J.K. Rowling flashes forward nineteen years to show us what everyone’s favorite characters are up to, and it’s all about new beginnings. The golden trio’s a bunch of grown-ups now with their own kids. It’s September, and everyone arrives at King’s Cross to ship their magical kids off to Hogwarts. Here’s a quick rundown.
The biggest book of the summer isn’t a blockbuster Harry Potter. It’s a play about a middle-aged wizard.
The publication of “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child,” the eighth installment in J. K. Rowling’s best-selling series, is being celebrated at more than 5,000 bookstores and libraries across the country this weekend, with midnight release parties featuring costume contests, magic shows, wizard rock bands, live owls and butterbeer, the beverage of choice among young wizards.
The elaborate rollout has all the flourishes that fans have come to expect for a new Harry Potter book. But for many nostalgic readers, this one feels different. “Cursed Child” is not a new novel, but a script of a play — a format that typically isn’t read for pleasure and almost never produces overnight best sellers. And unlike the previous seven books in the series, it was not written by Ms. Rowling herself.
In a sense, “Cursed Child” is more like sanctioned fan fiction than a new work by a beloved writer. Ms. Rowling worked on the play’s plot with the playwright Jack Thorne and the director John Tiffany, and while she helped shape the story, she has made it abundantly clear that she did not write the script.
The idea for the play, which explores Harry’s life as an adult and parent, didn’t originate with Ms. Rowling, either: She merely agreed to it when two theater producers proposed the concept.
Which raises a sticky question: If Ms. Rowling didn’t conceive the play, or write it, is “Cursed Child” really a new Harry Potter story by J. K. Rowling? And if it isn’t, do Harry Potter fans even care?
Many, apparently, do not.
“J. K. Rowling’s involvement legitimizes it as canon, and the fact that other people collaborated on it doesn’t detract from that,” said Matt Maggiacomo, executive director of the Harry Potter Alliance, a nonprofit group that promotes literacy and other causes.‘Harry Potter and the Cursed Child’ Producers Consider a Broadway Run JULY 31, 2016
Melissa Anelli, the author of “Harry, a History,” a book about the Harry Potter phenomenon, agreed that any story with Ms. Rowling’s blessing counts as a continuation of the tale — a view that many Potter fans seem to share, based on the vast number of preorders and the ecstatic response on social media to news that the play would be published.
“The thing that we all always want most from her is a book, but if we’re getting the story in the form of a play, as long as she says it’s the real deal, we’re on board,” said Ms. Anelli, who is organizing a midnight release party for some 2,000 fans at Geeky Con, a festival in Orlando, Fla., that will feature a costume ball and performances by wizard rock bands.
But other Potter fans are skeptical, arguing that a story that didn’t spring from Ms. Rowling’s imagination just isn’t the same.
“I’ve spoken to a lot of people who aren’t sure if they’re going to treat it as canon, because J. K. Rowling didn’t write it,” said Helen Haslam, who publishes Potter fan fiction at the website Wattpad. “I grew up with the books, I spent a lot of time in that world, and the idea of someone else adding to that is a little bit nerve-racking.”
Some will skip it altogether. Sharanya Sharma, an elementary school teacher in Washington who fell under Harry Potter’s spell when she was 9, said she was satisfied when the series ended with “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.”