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Last Updated: Saturday, 21 July 2007, 14:17 GMT 15:17 UK
Potter books fly off the shelves
Sydney bookstore staff unpack the latest Harry Potter book
Australian fans get their hands on the latest Harry Potter book

Harry Potter fans are finally finding out their hero's fate, after the seventh and final book in the popular series went on sale.

The first copies of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows were snapped up across the world.

UK book chain Waterstones said more than 250,000 fans turned up at midnight to its shops across the UK.

Author JK Rowling had admitted to "excitement, nerves and relief" as the launch approached.

WH Smith said it had sold a total of 15 of the books per second at 400 of its shops since they opened just after midnight on Saturday.

And supermarket chain Asda said it had sold 250,000 copies between midnight and 0900 BST, half of its entire Deathly Hallows stock.

The anticipation of the final instalment has been growing for months.

JK Rowling holds a copy of her final Harry Potter novel
JK Rowling held a moonlight reading of the book at midnight

"All the secrets I have been carrying around for so long will be yours, too," she wrote to fans on her website.

"Within hours you will know what happens to Harry, Ron, Hermione and the rest in their final adventure.

"Those who guessed correctly will be vindicated, and those who guessed wrongly will not, I hope, be too disappointed!"

Speed reader and Potter fan Anne Jones was one of the first to finish the book, reading more than 4,000 words a minute.

Book critics

"It's a real page-turner, great fun. The kids are going to love it but there are some sad moments in it," said the 55-year-old.

Newspaper critics have already begun publishing their reviews of the book - The Times said it was "the most adult" of the series, while the Sun described it as "a classic good-versus-evil tale on a par with Tolkien's Lord of the Rings trilogy".

Young Harry Potter fans sitting reading
These fans in Hong Kong could not wait to start reading

Just after midnight on Saturday, Rowling read excerpts from her new book to 500 competition winners at London's Natural History Museum before embarking on an all-night book-signing.

Reading from the first chapter, entitled The Dark Lord Ascending, Rowling's voice echoed around the auditorium.

"The two men appeared out of nowhere, a few yards apart in the narrow moonlit lane," she began.

The book was released at the witching hour of midnight BST, meaning that in other countries like India and Australia, fans were waking up to magic breakfasts laid on by book shops.

Staff at stores in Hong Kong planned to tour the city dressed as wizards, while in Bangladesh, customs offices continued to work on a Friday - a holiday in the country - to ensure the novel was delivered on time.

A few people who got the book early posted on my friend's blog, telling her the plot - she was devastated
Abi C
Harry Potter fan

In New York, a street party included face-painting, wand-making, fire-eaters and magicians, while in Bangkok, an outdoor movie screen was showing all the Potter films throughout the night.

325 million sold

A decade after the first instalment, Harry Potter has become a global phenomenon with 325 million books already sold.

That number will grow as millions of copies of the new novel are snapped up over the weekend.

It is being released in 93 countries, with a print run of 12 million in the US alone and more than 2.2 million ordered in advance from internet retailer Amazon.

Loyal fans will finally reach the climax of the story after 10 years of twists and turns in the life of the young wizard.

A final confrontation between Harry and his evil nemesis, Lord Voldemort, has been building throughout the series - and Rowling has revealed some characters do not survive.




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