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On Jan. 29, fans gathered at the Harvard Book Store to celebrate the midnight release of Sarah J. Maas’s new book, “House of Flame and Shadow.” Maas, a bestselling author of fantasy novels, has recently skyrocketed in popularity due to the rise of BookTok, or the subcommunity of readers on TikTok who share and discuss their favorite novels and authors. “House of Flame and Shadow” is the third installment in her Crescent City series and notably crosses over with her equally beloved “A Court of Thorns and Roses” saga.
The Harvard Book Store’s release party offered fans a chance to get a copy of the highly anticipated book at the moment of its release, as well as allow readers to connect with other members of her fandom. Participants were invited to dress up as their favorite Crescent City character, and many attendees sported custom jackets, shiny jewelry, and faux elf ears. To add to the whimsical ambiance, employees wandered between the shelves with Maas memorabilia like bookmarks, stickers, and temporary tattoos. Topping it all off, the book store draped a black-and-gold photo booth across one bookshelf to give fans the opportunity to take their perfect book selfies.
Activities were also provided to entertain the patrons. In the lower level of the store, a friendship bracelet-making station offered star-themed beads. The store also hosted a trivia game, quizzing readers on book-related knowledge by asking questions such as “What is Bryce Quinlan’s father’s name?” or “Who was Hunt’s former lover?”
Fans also swarmed over a prediction table, where they were invited to jot down predictions for the plot of the new book. Conjectures about Maas’s novel ranged from sweet messages, like “Queen Aelin arrives” — to sad predictions that “Hunt dies :(” One reader got even more creative with the hilarious note, “Nesta gets a glock.”
While all of these activities entertained partygoers, it seemed as if simply talking about Maas in person was the most exciting part of the night. Throughout the evening, fans chatted amongst the shelves of the bookstore, connecting over their shared love for Maas’s fantastical worlds. Some had used social media to find out about the event, while others had been guided to the store by Maas’s website.
Maas’s release seems to have connected readers from across New England. Many of the customers traveled over an hour to attend the event, and some even crossed state lines.
Once the clock began to inch closer to midnight, the store’s patrons eagerly lined up before piles of tightly wrapped book boxes. A countdown began at fifteen seconds to midnight and the chant reverberated outside the store.
“I could hear the countdown outside,” said Anthony J. Malysz ’25, who was passing by the store at the time.
When midnight struck at last, fans descended upon the tables lined with Maas’s gold-and-black book. Store employees took photos of fans hugging and holding up the novel, and some patrons immediately sat down to devour the first chapters.
Reminiscent of the “Harry Potter” midnight releases of the 2000s, the Harvard Book Store’s midnight party allowed fans to connect over a shared passion for friendship and fiction. While the books are fantastical on their own, a different sort of magic — supported by a love of reading — permeated the Harvard Book Store on Jan. 29.
—Staff writer Hannah E. Gadway can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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