Sixth ''Harry Potter'' novel is due July 16. J.K. Rowling announces that she's finished writing ''Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince''

By Gary Susman
Updated December 21, 2004 at 05:00 AM EST
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban: Murray Close/Warner Bros.

Harry Potter fans who were expecting a big announcement from J.K. Rowling got their present a few days early. On the author’s website on Monday, she posted the news (hidden behind several layers of riddles and puzzles) that she’s finished writing the sixth Potter tome, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. And on Tuesday, her publishers, Scholastic and Bloomsbury, announced that the book will go on sale throughout the English-speaking world on July 16, 2005.

Fans who had to wait three years between Book 4 (2000’s Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and Book 5 (2003’s Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix) will be relieved that the wait for Book 6 is just two years. Apparently, Rowling has had much of Half-Blood Prince planned out in her head for a long time; according to her publishers’ joint statement, she’s had the first chapter in her mind for 13 years. Scholastic and Bloomsbury confirmed Rowling’s earlier assertion that the prince of the title is neither Harry nor nemesis Lord Voldemort, and they hinted that the book begins amid the war between good and evil wizards that loomed in the last chapter of Phoenix, taking up ”the story of Harry Potter’s sixth year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry at this point in the midst of the storm of this battle of good and evil.”

”Although I have joked about HP&THBP racing my third baby into the world,” the pregnant author wrote in her own statement, ”I have in fact had all the time I needed to tinker with the manuscript to my satisfaction and I am as happy as I have ever been with the end result. I only hope you feel that it was worth the wait when you finally read it!”