The Hogwarts Express is rapidly approaching its final stop.
J.K. Rowling has announced that the seventh and final installment of the Harry Potter series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, will hit U.S. and British bookstores on July 21.
Rowling revealed the doomsday date and time—Pottermania will officially start at 12:01 a.m.—in a posting to her official Website Thursday. And that's about all she revealed.
Last summer, the author teased—or, depending on one's view, tormented—readers with the revelation that two of the saga's main characters will meet their demise in the series' final installment. Her claim seemed supported in December, when she announced the book's foreboding title, and while the general consensus is that the titular boy wizard is one of the ill-fated characters, neither Rowling, nor her Scholastic publishers, are talking.
Other authors, however, are.
So concerned were literary heavyweights John Irving and Stephen King about the bespectacled wand waver's fate that they last year publicly urged Rowling to reconsider—if she indeed had considered—killing off the boy wonder.
Rowling did not respond, though later took to her Website, breaking the seemingly dire news to fans that she had been toiling through the process of "writing scenes that have been planned, in some cases, for a dozen years or even more."
But while Rowling and her publishing ilk may not be talking, they're certainly hyping. Not that they need to.
The fantasy series' sixth installment, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, released in July 2005, became the fastest-selling book in history, moving more than 6.9 million copies its first day out. Each of the previous books—Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix—all reached number one on bestseller lists the world over and sold a combined total of 650 million copies.
And that's to say nothing of the success of their corresponding blockbuster cinematic adaptations.
Amazon.com has already estimated that the preorder record set by the penultimate Potter release, 1.5 million advance requests, will be greatly surpassed this time around.
Lisa Holton, president of Scholastic Children's Books, said the final installment of the "remarkable series" was already anticipated by "millions of readers—young and old, veterans and newcomers."
And, no doubt, what can only be described as diehards.
Two summers ago, for the launch of the sixth book, thousands of fans took to the streets, lining up outside bookstores in the U.S., U.K. and practically every other English-speaking territory, to be among the first to pick up their copy of the fantasy saga.
This summer, the 10th anniversary of the first Harry Potter publication, will likely be no different—though if anything, booksellers can expect even more fans to turn out.
Christopher North, the head of Amazon's U.K. book division, told Reuters, "It may be a long time before we see another book that commands as much anticipation, attention and demand as this final book."
Borders bookstores announced in December they had already begun a waiting list for the final installment, before either the title of the book or its publication date had been announced.
As it is, July might as well be dubbed Harry Potter Month. Not only is the final book due out on the 21st, but Hogwarts' star pupils are due to once again hit the big screen on July 13, when Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is set for release.