For Harry Potter fans, the witching hour arrives Sunday at 12:01 a.m.
Nine years after the release of the series’ seventh and final book, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,” readers will be once again lining up outside bookstores across the globe for the debut of author J.K. Rowling's latest story.
“Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” is a stage play in book form that picks up where Rowling’s last novel left off. The story follows Harry Potter’s son, Albus Severus, who feels overshadowed by his father’s fame while studying magic at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
The Sunday night release is a major event for fans and a bit of a throwback for Canadian bookstores.
“Back in 2007 for the release of “The Deathly Hallows,” it was enormous. We had thousands in all of our stores across the country, and in fact, well over 10,000 outside one of our Toronto locations,” Jeremy Cammy, vice-president and executive producer of events marketing and music for Indigo, told CTV News Channel on Saturday.
More than 140 Indigo stores across Canada will throw premiere parties for the books and begin selling copies at midnight. The parties will be celebrations of everything Potter, with magical trivia and costume contests. One store will even have a nine-foot wizard walking around on stilts.
But it’s yet to be seen whether fans will be as excited for “The Cursed Child” as they were for the novels.
“Will it be as big as 2007? This is a script, it’s not a book, we don’t know. But what we do know is that the fans of Harry potter are rabid. They’ve been waiting for this for nine years. There’s a new generation who wants this,” Cammy said.
The latest story begins, rather appropriately, at the epilogue of the seventh book. Harry and his two best friends – Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley – are adults with young children who are preparing to head off to the legendary school of magic.
It’s a natural place to revive the story, according to English professor Karin Westman who said the series has always been concerned with inter-generational perspectives.
“We begin our world experience with Harry, but of course we learn about his parents and the marauders’ generation, we learn about those before them, and so it seems perfect to be able to pick up where the epilogue leaves off,” said Westmount, who teaches several Harry Potter-related courses at Kansas State University.
The book is a script for a play that has already been on stage for several weeks in London for previews. The script is written by Jack Thorne from a story that he, Rowling and the play’s director, John Tiffany, wrote together
Westman said the fact that the story is written as a play will force readers to see the series through a new set of eyes and will expose them to a new genre.
“It’ll mean, of course, using more of your own imagination as you’re reading since you’ll be staging the play in your head as you read,” she said. “I think fans are going to be thrilled to have a chance to hear more about the world that Rowling created.”
Some fans initially feared the play's previews would spawn spoilers. But to assuage those concerns, audience members have been given small buttons after the play encouraging them to “KeepTheSecrets.”
And while a few spoilers have been leaked in some online forums, most of fans’ swirling questions – Is Voldemort back? Is Harry’s son the so-called “Cursed Child”? Are Ron and Hermione getting along? – remain unanswered.
The well-kept secrets have been a sigh of relief for Rowling. During the play’s official gala opening on Saturday, the author spoke candidly with reporters about her fears that her latest story would get spoiled.
"It is the most extraordinary fandom, so I'm kind of not surprised, because they didn't want to spoil it for each other," she said. "But I am so happy we got here without ruining everything."
Rowling also said she has big plans for the play, which has been rumoured to possibly be considered for a Broadway run in New York City.
“I’d like it to go wider than that,” Rowling said. "I'd like as many Potter fans to see it as possible."
With files from the Associated Press