NEW YORK — The books are out; the word is spreading.
“The last Potter is amazing. It has definitely gone way beyond what I expected,” Deb Kiehlmeier, 16, of the Philadelphia suburb of Cherry Hill, N.J., says of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,” which was released Saturday to worldwide ecstasy.
“Harry Potter fans are always trying to predict what will happen next, and J.K. Rowling always gives them something different,” Kiehlmeier told The Associated Press.
On Day 1 of the A.H. (After Harry) Era, reviewers and readers mourned the end of a historic series that proved young people can still crave the written word like the crispiest French fry. It was a day for the sleepless and the sleepy to enjoy and to recall one last, fresh taste of Potter.
The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times and the Chicago Tribune were among those bowing before Rowling’s achievement. She was compared to the greats of children’s and fantasy authors — J.R.R. Tolkien, L. Frank Baum, Roald Dahl — and held in awe for living up to the most intimidating standards.
“To create such an extraordinary world, fill it with complicated characters and convergent back stories is beyond the reach of most writers,” wrote the Los Angeles Times’ Mary McNamara.
“To sustain that world and grow those characters over seven books filled with plot twists, folklore and even a magical curriculum and then bring it all to an articulate, emotionally wrenching conclusion — that is a truly epic quest.”
The AP’s Deepti Hajela called the seventh and final Potter a “classic,” writing that Rowling “completes her entertaining, compulsively readable series with a book that is both heartbreaking and hopeful, one that left this reader sad to say goodbye to Harry but thoroughly satisfied at how it all went.”
Some readers, ironically, were tougher than the critics, especially about the 759-page book’s brief epilogue. One reader on the Potter fan site www.mugglenet.com even suggested skipping the last chapter, or at least reading it later so the rest of the book could be thoroughly enjoyed first.
For those who can’t wait to find out whether Harry lives, Potter fan Julie Neal advises patience. In a customer review on Amazon.com, she writes, “Regardless of the temptation, don’t skip to the end. It doesn’t work.
The answers to all those key questions everyone wants to know unfold throughout the story.”
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For some, a magical feeling
At the Barnes & Noble in Manhattan’s Union Square, Anna Todd and Kelsey Barry, both 20, jumped up and down, screaming and hugging as they touched their Harry Potter books and smelled them as if handling a newborn baby.
“It smells like fresh parchment,” said Barry. “It smells like magic.”
Barry waited hours; others waited days. One man even risked his life for Potter. In Canberra, Australia, a 21-year-old man jumped into the frigid waters of Lake Burley Griffin on Friday afternoon to retrieve a pre-order voucher he had dropped. Paramedics found the man shivering and distressed — and without the voucher, Emergency Services spokesman Darren Cutrupi said. He was given another voucher by the bookstore.
Potter is a pastime and a business. Before the release date, booksellers competed worldwide to sell the $34.99 book, with some cutting the price by two-thirds. Now, the re-sales are starting. On Amazon.com, some individuals were hawking used copies, and some new ones, for as little as $16, $1.99 less than Amazon’s price. On eBay, where just a few days ago a pre-release copy was worth $250, “Deathly Hallows” was offered Saturday for immediate purchase for $10.99.
The first six Potter books have sold more than 325 million copies, and in some places demand for “Deathly Hallows” is already exceeding supply. Taylor Books, an independent book store in Charleston, W.Va., quickly sold out of the 100 copies of the book it had put on sale.
Employee Dane Klingaman said Saturday that customers had been asking for the book all morning, but that only 12 copies that had been specially ordered remained.
“I’ve had to turn people away,” he said. “I hate to do that if we’ve got books here.”
The British retailer Asda Group Ltd., which slashed the price for “Deathly Hallows” to $10, said Saturday it had sold 450,000 copies of the book between midnight and 4 p.m. and was selling it twice as fast as the previous Potter. Waterstone’s, a British bookstore chain, said that at the height of the overnight sales frenzy, staff members were serving 20 customers a second.
Even people in war zones are reading Harry Potter. About 50 foreigners working in Afghanistan got their hands on a copy of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” on its release date, beating many of their friends back home.
“I sent several text messages to friends and none of them had it yet, and they all said ’I can’t believe you’re in Kabul and you got the book before us,”’ said U.N. worker Jayne Cravens, 41, of Henderson, Ky.
John Connolly, an executive with Paxton International, a logistics and moving company, bought 50 copies of the book in Dubai at 3:01 a.m. Saturday, the exact time of the book’s release in London. He boarded a plane to Kabul a couple hours later with the books on board.
“Harry Potter is released worldwide at the same time. As a logistics company based in Afghanistan for five years, we saw every reason to include Afghanistan,” said Connolly, who asked customers to donate a book to the American University in Kabul in exchange for the free shipping on the book. “It was not on the publisher’s list, that’s for sure.”
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