Stand back for Harry the Sixth

By Nicholas Moody

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Harry Potter fans have had to wait since June 2003 for the young wizard's next adventure. The countdown is all but over.

Author J. K. Rowling's sixth instalment, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, is due for worldwide release today at 11.01am. It will go on sale simultaneously in Britain, America, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and South Africa.

Security surrounding the launch has been tighter than for The Chamber of Secrets. Booksellers have had to promise not to breach the book's embargo. The books may not be handled before 11.01am and the boxes containing them must be locked away until 10 minutes before the release.

Andrew Hawkins from the book's Australasian distributors, Allen & Unwin, would not confirm the numbers ordered in New Zealand but said: "It will be as big, if not bigger, than the last one."

Dymocks' Queen St branch has more than 200 pre-booked copies, Whitcoulls would not confirm their exact numbers but they had "thousands and thousands in stock" in their 65 stores.

Whitcoulls' promotions manager Dorothy Vinicombe said interest in the book was huge: "It's the only book that we take nationwide pre-orders for."

She said security was very tight.

"If you sell it early they will have the blood of your first-born child."

She thinks her two sons will read the new book, "until they've got red eyes".

Whitcoulls expects the selling to be rapid: in 2003 they sold more than 30,000 copies in the first two days.

British bookseller Waterstone's predicts the book will sell more than two million copies in Britain and 10 million worldwide on the first day alone.

The retail price is $49.99 but booksellers are offering discounts.

Nikki Singh, 14, Newmarket

She has read all the books and seen all the films. "Ron and Hermione will get together and Harry will have a duel with Lord Voldemort."

May Singh, 14, Newmarket

"The last book and the movies are disappointing. I prefer the books."

She also thinks Ron and Hermione will get together.

Dhanish Semar, 12, Mt Roskill

Has read all books twice and seen the movies. Will get the new book from the library. "Harry will meet a prince. Maybe Harry's the prince."

Jimmy Li, 14, Mt Eden

Has read all the books except The Prisoner of Azkaban, and has seen the first two movies. "Lord Voldemort will come back and Harry will have to face him."

Naomi Nimkovsky, 11, Mt Wellington

Has only read Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, but has seen all the movies. She doesn't know what to expect from the new book.

Orama Asher, 7, Grey Lynn

Her favourite character is Harry Potter. "I don't like Hermione - she's bossy!" She doesn't know what to expect in the new book.

- NZ Herald

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