#SPFBO : My Fourth Batch of Books : Update

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300 books           10 Judges            1 winner

The 1st of June marked the start of the sixth Self Published Fantasy Blog Off (details here.)  My Introductory post is here.  You can find my first batch of books here and my update here,,my second batch of books and update here and here and my third batch of books plus update. Today I will be providing feedback on my fourth batch of books.

As with previous years I will read a batch of books each month.  I will read at least 30% (or approx 100 pages) and hopefully will choose one or two books from each batch to roll forward and read fully and review before choosing semi finalists and a finalist.  My book list is chosen randomly and the six books I will be reading this month are outlined below. Below are my thoughts with apologies to those authors whose books have been cut:

Rise of the Forgotten Sun (The Sun and the Raven #1) by Jon Monson 

Riseofthe

Rise of The Forgotten Sun gets off to an interesting start. We meet Prince Aydiin who is travelling solo through the desert on a mission that he volunteered for. Aydiin’s uncle has been committing rebellious acts against the Sultan (Aydiin’s father) and Aydiin is hoping to find his uncle and negotiate peace – or at least that’s what he tells his uncle when he finally encounters him. Instead the Prince captures his uncle and plans to execute him immediately. Aydiin’s father however has other ideas and commands the Prince to return the rebel to the capital for trial and this is when things go wrong.

The Prince has come into possession of a strange gold coin that seems to be a map of the stars directing the bearer to a legendary tower in the heart of the Soulless Desert – nobody who enters the Soulless Desert returns but Aydiin isn’t deterred and he persuades his friend Barrick to accompany him on a treasure hunt. Of course this means deferring his trip back to the capital with his prisoner until he returns. – what could possibly go wrong.

Well, the two eventually find the tower, in spite of difficulty along the way and they discover a magical stone that seems to be absorbed (or transferred into Aydiin’s body) upon his touch. Finally, returning to the capital with their prisoner the train they are travelling on is ambushed and Aydiin’s uncle escapes leaving the Prince to face the wrath of the Sultan.

I found this an entertaining read to the point at which I broke off, it certainly has plenty going on and a fairly consistently rigorous pace. There is almost an Arabian Nights feel to the setting with plenty of imaginative elements thrown in such as intelligent and loyal dinosaurs (well one at least so far), gadgets that make me think steampunk and elements such as trains and guns and items of clothing such as Bowler Hats, which make me place this as a maybe 19th century read (could be very wrong with that guess though).

This very much has a fun style adventure feel at the moment although given the chapters I concluded on I think things are set to change dramatically.

In terms of criticisms. There is a lightness about this, a lack of the sort of detail that sometimes I want and notice when it’s not there. Some of the situations Aydiin finds himself in felt too easily resolved and lacked tension or a real sense of threat. But, as I already said, I think this could be a fun, over the top, fast paced adventure that will appeal to others.

Conclusion : Cut

The Child of Silence (The Burning Orbit Book 1) by Joseph O. Doran

Childof

This is going to be quick. I started The Child of Silence and cannot deny my immediate impressions were not favourable in spite of an interesting premise. The writing felt a little bloated and it was slowing down my reading. But, I also can’t deny that as I continued to my allocated cut off point I was becoming hooked as things started to take off and so I’ve decided to continue with this one and see if it continues to work it’s magic on me.

Conclusion : roll forward

Trial of Thorns (Wicked Fae #1) by Stacey Trombley

Trial

I have to say that I’m also really enjoying Trial of Thorns at the moment so I’m going to continue reading for now.

Conclusion : roll forward

Emma and the Minotaur (World of Light, #1) by Jon Herrera

Emma

Emma and the Minotaur is (I think – but please correct me if I’m wrong) a MG story about a young girl who goes on a quest with a friend to find the truth about people who are going missing.

To the point I finished reading I found this an enjoyable story (with a couple of slight reservations).

Emma is a spirited young girl with an active imagination about magicians and aliens. Her father is a professor and she seems to take after him in terms of intelligence. Emma takes a liking to a sad young boy at school who is always alone and decides early on that she’s going to befriend him. It turns out that the young boy is sad because his father has gone missing. The two decide to embark on a quest that involves a relentless search of the neighbouring forest.

As I mentioned above this is a good, easy to read, well written story that managed to pique my curiosity. Emma can be a little over zealous sometimes but I put that down to her age and intelligence – she is always coming up with ‘plans’ and they’re not always the most appropriate.

In terms of criticisms – the only thing that gave me a few misgivings was that there were a few occasions where Emma’s recklessness made me wonder whether she was setting a good example for younger readers reading her story – I realise that probably sounds a bit odd but, for example, on one occasion she goes into the forest alone at night, even though she’s been told not to do so – simply because it’s a short cut. On another few occasions both Emma and her friend leave the school premises at lunch time. It just made me worry a little. There’s also the usual trope of the missing parents – this seems to be something that I find is heavily relied upon in fiction and it feels a little overused.

On the whole, little issues aside, I thought this was a good adventure story that seems to have a lot of promise.

Conclusion : Cut

Calico Thunder Rides Again by T.A. Hernandez

Calico

Calico Thunder Rides Again has really impressed me so far. I’ve already read just over half so I won’t be reviewing it at this point.

Conclusion : roll forward

Shifter Shadows by Anthony Stevens

Shifter

Shifter Shadows is another book that surprised me and I found myself enjoying it to the extent that I read over and above what I originally intended. This is an unusual story. As the book begins we go way back when, following a tribe of native Americans – I will just say that my knowledge here is sketchy so I’m not going to elaborate on what period this may have come from – although early parts of the story show the tribe living in caves and also there is mention of cave drawings. I really enjoyed this aspect of the story, it was really interesting seeing the people, their interactions and the way that some of them connected to a spirit animal that allowed them to borrow it’s form and shape shift. These earlier chapters obviously provide the background to the supernatural elements and show how history progressed with settlers, etc.

We then jump forward to a modern day setting and make the acquaintance of a number of different people and their stories as they become aware or awaken – to their own abilities – and these storylines eventually come together.

I’m not going to elaborate on all the characters. We are introduced to quite a few, quite a lot of young people coming into their new abilities and finding the limitations of what they can and can’t do. At the same time there is a background feel that things are escalating somehow, and that these shapeshifters are about to be revealed (although I’m not sure if that is the case or not). At the same time there is a serial killer storyline that demonstrates a couple of things – that there are bad people everywhere and that the shifters ‘police’ their own – otherwise their secret won’t last for long.

In terms of criticisms. Some of the jumps in the story felt a little abrupt. In the earlier parts reading from one chapter to the next the timeline would jump forward many years at a time. Regarding the more modern day storyline, there are a lot of people introduced in fairly short order, I didn’t find this a problem although I sometimes felt that the relationships were a little too quickly formed and the Otherkin (shifters) were maybe a little too trusting in some respects – which felt a little wrong given the secrets they must keep.

Slight criticisms aside, I enjoyed reading this and would like to return to the story after the competition to see how things unfold and write a fuller review.

Conclusion : Cut

#SPFBO 6 – Saturday Snapshots : Excerpt – Calico Thunder Rides Again by T.A. Hernandez

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300 books           10 Judges            1 winner

The 1st of June marked the start of the sixth Self Published Fantasy Blog Off (details here.)  Whilst the competition is taking part I’d like to post excerpts from some of the books that have entered the contest.  If you’d like to make use of this space to post a teaser to entice readers then let me know in the comments (and, if you’ve made contact but I’ve not replied, please try me again, I missed a whole bunch of comments that went into spam).

Today’s teaser comes from one of the books in my fourth batch : Calico Thunder Rides Again by T.A. Hernandez:

** Excerpt **

The spotlight fell on the announcer in the center ring. His magically-amplified voice boomed through the tent like thunder. “Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, for our final performance this evening, Strickland’s Circus is proud to present a thrilling spectacle unlike any you’ve seen before.” He paused for a few moments as if to let the audience soak in his words. “Everyone give a warm welcome to the fearless queen of the center ring and her extraordinary winged beasts. I present to you, Grace Hawkins!”

He dragged out the vowels of the name as the crowd broke into applause. A young woman in a short red dress with glittering gold accents entered the ring. Contrary to the popular bobbed style of the times, her long hair flowed free behind her like a dark cape. She flashed a radiant smile at the audience and raised both hands in a wave, then turned around and signaled to the four black-clad men standing just at the edge of the lit area. They stepped forward into the light, and a wave of gasps rippled through the crowd.

Harvey sucked in a breath of his own and watched in awe as two griffins and a dragon were led into the ring. An actual dragon! He hadn’t seen a dragon in any circus for decades, much less one as magnificent as this. The beast’s body was roughly the size of one of the elephants that had performed earlier in the night, though with her tail and long neck, she was considerably longer and not quite as bulky. Orange, brown, and cream-colored scales covered her entire body, and each of her toes ended in a giant, hooked claw that could tear a man open in seconds. Thick ropes—presumably enchanted—bound her wings at her sides to keep her from flying off, but Harvey could imagine how powerful and majestic they might be spread out to their full span.

He looked down at his companion. The boy was equally mesmerized, if perhaps for other reasons besides sheer enjoyment of the spectacle. Harvey could practically see the cogs turning in his mind, plotting, scheming. It made him nauseous, but he shook the feeling off as he again turned his attention to the center ring.

The trainer ran the beautiful creatures through a series of increasingly-complex tricks. The griffins leapfrogged over each other in an almost complete circle around the ring, then took turns flying through a metal hoop the dragon held in its jaws. When they weren’t performing some trick, they stood regally, eagle eyes surveying the crowd like predators considering their next meal. Their cat-like tails lashed back and forth, and occasionally, they tucked their heads to preen the feathers on their chests and wings.

The trainer placed three metal stools in the center of the ring and directed each beast to stand on one. The center stool looked much too small for the dragon to perch on, but she somehow managed to balance there with ease. All three animals then stood up on their hind legs and clawed at the air before them as if to catch the applause of the delighted crowd.

Harvey smiled in spite of himself. Such magnificent creatures. Seeing a dragon this close made the whole night worthwhile. Or it would have, were it not for his unfortunate part in the events that were sure to come.

***ends***

Here’s a link to the book’s Amazon page

A link to the author’s page is here.

And, finally, here’s the description for the book plus the cover:

CalicoLadies and gentlemen, boys and girls, welcome to the Most Fantastic Show on Earth…

Three years ago, the Ban changed everything, outlawing certain forms of magic and bringing about the rise of powerful crime syndicates. Now, speakeasies in every city sell illegal charms and jinxes, and bootleggers traffic restricted potion ingredients across the country. But even in this changing world, the magic of the circus still acts as a wondrous escape and provides entertainment for all.​

Jake Strickland owns one such circus, inherited after an accident ended his career as a rodeo dragon rider. He also inherited the circus’ financial troubles, but since the show became his, he’s slowly managed to turn it into a profitable business once more. Or at least, that’s what he thought.

When a dangerous mobster comes to collect an old debt, Jake resorts to desperate measures to get the money before a strict deadline. With lives and livelihoods at stake, he battles the clock, his responsibilities to the circus, and a longstanding personal grudge that has festered for years. Can he pay back the mob before it’s too late?

 

My thanks to the author for submitting an excerpt.

If any other entrants would like to post an excerpt let me know in the comments 😀

 

#SPFBO 6 – Cover love (6)

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300 books           10 Judges            1 winner

The 1st of June marked the start of the sixth Self Published Fantasy Blog Off (details here.)  My Introductory post is here.  This year I’m aiming to shine a little bit of focus on some of the books either through posting excerpts to act as teasers for potential readers or through posting some of the covers and highlighting the book that way (not just for my own books but other entries).  The invitation is open to all authors from the competition – if you’d like to post an excerpt then give me a shout in the comments (also, if you’ve contacted me recently and I’ve not responded please give me a shout, I’ve noticed recently that a lot of my comments have gone straight to Spam or Pending so I may have overlooked something.

As part of the competition there is a cover contest.  The details can be found here.

So, this week’s chosen SPFBO covers – and, call me fickle, but I must say I would be immediately drawn to all of these – do you have a favourite?

Embered

Wrack

Legends

#SPFBO : My Fourth Batch of Books

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300 books           10 Judges            1 winner

The 1st of June marked the start of the sixth Self Published Fantasy Blog Off (details here.)  My Introductory post is here.  You can find my first batch of books here and my update here, and my second batch of books and update here and here.  I’ve now read and updated my third batch of books and also provided an update and today I will be outlining the fourth set of books that I will be reading.

As with previous years I will read a batch of books each month.  I will read at least 30% and hopefully will choose one or two books from each batch to roll forward and read fully and review before choosing semi finalists and a finalist.  My book list is chosen randomly and the six books I will be reading this month are outlined below:

 

Rise of the Forgotten Sun (The Sun and the Raven #1) by Jon Monson 

RiseoftheAll I ever wanted was to see the world and maybe discover an ancient civilization or two. A life of scholarly solitude and adventure was more than enough for me. I never wanted to play politics. I never wanted to get married. I most certainly never dreamed of becoming a god.

Yet when I ventured into the depths of the Soulless Desert, I found… something- a power so ancient it has been forgotten by mankind. That day unleashed a chain of events that, once started, cannot be stopped.

It is the Rise of the Forgotten Sun.

It is the beginning of the end.

Author Info

Website:http://www.JonMonson.com/

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The Child of Silence (The Burning Orbit Book 1) by Joseph O. Doran

ChildofYou’ve never met a hero like this before.

Born severely disabled, Aiata dal’Pelferta has spent her life despised by her own people simply for who she is. Worse still, she is the youngest daughter of the Empress, making her an Imperial embarrassment. Unable to talk, move or let anyone know she is a thinking, feeling person, she spends her days observing – and learning – from those around her.

Everything changes when she finally discovers a way to communicate and is plunged into the dangers of the Imperial court. With the magic of Songthrust, Aiata’s people can force others to their will, however they are ill-prepared for a popular revolt within their own borders – a revolt that Aiata is dragged into. Abused by her family and surrounded by danger, Aiata will learn that her intellect – not her magic – is her greatest asset, as she fights to save her home from the ravages of civil war.

Yet while all eyes are on the war at home, a far greater threat looms in the dark of the night sky.

Author Info Twitter

 

Trial of Thorns (Wicked Fae #1) by Stacey Trombley

TrialIn a ruthless competition of blood and magic, attraction to the enemy may be the biggest weakness of all.

I am Caelynn of the Shadow Court, banished to the human realm for killing a fae prince in my youth. But when I learn my homeland is in peril, I strike a bargain.

The Trial of Thorns will decide a champion to save the realm from a terrible plague, and secure the winner fame and fortune. I could care less about the money or notoriety–I’m playing for freedom. If I win, I will earn a full pardon. And I intend to win.

But I don’t account for Reveln being one of my opponents. We’ve got…history. And ten years later, he’s even hotter than I remember. Oh, right, he also hates me.

Only one of us can win, and Rev will do everything in his power to make sure I don’t make it out of the trials alive.

Because ten years ago, I killed his brother.

And Reveln never forgets.

Author Info

Website : http://www.StaceyTrombley.com

 

Emma and the Minotaur (World of Light, #1) by Jon Herrera

EmmaAll stories are true.

In the forests of Saint Martin, a great power has awakened. Whispers abound of a monster who lurks in the dark as more and more of the city’s residents go missing.

Emma Wilkins is eleven years old and lives on Belle Street. Early in the school year, Emma befriends a boy whose father has disappeared. Together, they embark on a mission to find him. Awaiting Emma in the shadows of Glenridge Forest is a world of magic, secrets, and creatures of legend returning from exile.

During her adventure, Emma discovers the truth behind a power greater still. One who watches and waits, preparing for the day when the world is ready for his return

Emma and the Minotaur is a modern-day fairy tale. It is a love letter to innocence, magic, and fantasy.

Author Info Twitter

Website: http://www.jonherrera.ca

 

Calico Thunder Rides Again by T.A. Hernandez

CalicoLadies and gentlemen, boys and girls, welcome to the Most Fantastic Show on Earth…

Three years ago, the Ban changed everything, outlawing certain forms of magic and bringing about the rise of powerful crime syndicates. Now, speakeasies in every city sell illegal charms and jinxes, and bootleggers traffic restricted potion ingredients across the country. But even in this changing world, the magic of the circus still acts as a wondrous escape and provides entertainment for all.​

Jake Strickland owns one such circus, inherited after an accident ended his career as a rodeo dragon rider. He also inherited the circus’ financial troubles, but since the show became his, he’s slowly managed to turn it into a profitable business once more. Or at least, that’s what he thought.

When a dangerous mobster comes to collect an old debt, Jake resorts to desperate measures to get the money before a strict deadline. With lives and livelihoods at stake, he battles the clock, his responsibilities to the circus, and a longstanding personal grudge that has festered for years. Can he pay back the mob before it’s too late?

Author Info Twitter

Website: http://www.tahernandez.com

 

Shifter Shadows by Anthony Stevens

ShifterFrom the dawn of prehistory to an apocalyptic day after tomorrow, shifters and their friends have been in the background of every historical event. Shapechangers, healers, hunters, shamans, and great leaders, have always been around. We recognize the legendary ones, but must always keep in mind that Gomer is a good dog.

Author Info

Website:http://www.anthonystevens.co.uk/

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Once again, good luck to everyone.  If you’d like to visit my blog for a guest post, excerpt, etc, then leave me a note in the comments (and, if you’ve already left me a comment and I haven’t responded please give me a nudge).

#SPFBO : My Third Batch of Books : Update

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300 books           10 Judges            1 winner

The 1st of June marked the start of the sixth Self Published Fantasy Blog Off (details here.)  My Introductory post is here.  You can find my first batch of books here and my update here, and my second batch of books and update here and here.

As with previous years I’m hoping to read a batch of books each month.  I will read at least 30% and hopefully will choose one or two books from each batch to roll forward and read fully and review before choosing semi finalists and a finalist.  My book list is chosen randomly and the six books I will be reading this month are outlined below:

 

Spitting Image by Patrick LeClerc

Spitting

Okay, I will start this on an unusual note.  Patrick Le Clerc had a finalist in last year’s competition with Out of Nowhere – a book about a paramedic known as Sean Danet who appears to be immortal.  So, I was slightly puzzled to see another entry with the same character because that seems to be like a second book in series – although it doesn’t appear that way on GRs so I wanted to give it the benefit of the doubt.  To be fair, I think this could easily be read as a standalone without reading Out of Nowhere.

Sean is immortal.  He’s lived for many, many years.  He’s been a soldier and now a paramedic – a job that allows him to make a difference using his healing abilities without anyone noticing his existence.  As the story begins we are given an introduction to Sean, whilst he’s out on a night shift.  Returning home Sean is paid a surprise visit from his girlfriend Sarah, and this happens again the following day and whilst these surprise visits are very welcome something feels slightly wrong. Initially, Sean is worried that Sarah is losing interest, a thought that chills him as he finally feels like he’s met someone that he’d like to stick around for and get to know better, but, as it happens, more sinister powers are at play and both Sean and Sarah are in danger.

I read my allocated 30% of this one.  It’s a very easy read and this is an author that can be engaging without doubt.  He gets off to a good start, although maybe a little slower than I would expect given the length of the book.  I think that his main character relies heavily on sarcasm and self deprecation and this maybe sometimes doesn’t come across as clearly as it might.

All in all, this was entertaining enough up to my cut off point but it didn’t quite grab my attention as much as I would have liked.

Conclusion : Cut

 

The Usurper (Brutal Saga #0.50) by James Alderdice

Usurper

I’m not reviewing The Usurper at this point because I enjoyed what I read so far and would like to carry it forward and continue reading. I will make a decision at a later date as to whether or not this will be a semi-finalist.

Conclusion : rolled forward

 

Night Warrior by Jordan J. Scavone

Night

Night Warrior is a really good concept, portal fantasy in reverse if you will.  Instead of the central character being sucked into a fantasy world the exact opposite happens and characters from that fantasy world are pulled into our modern one.  What makes this additionally strange is that all the characters appear to have been created by Viranda’s imagination when writing a new book.

I must say that this got off to an intriguing start.  We meet Viranda whilst she’s in a spot of bother – she’s badly injured and still carries those injuries and trauma as the story really kicks off.  Viranda wants to be an author and since her ‘accident’ she’s been having unusual and vivid dreams.  She starts to write these down becoming totally immersed in the world she is creating.   Then lightning strikes and the characters from out of Viranda’s book start appearing in her world – which can’t be good given that some of the characters are less than savoury.

As I mentioned, this one had a really good start. I was intrigued by Viranda’s situation as the book began.  Unfortunately, I didn’t enjoy the next section quite as much although it’s still entertaining.  I think the main issues that really struck me were that Viranda is incredibly accepting of a bunch of sword wielding characters turning up in her life – very calm and collected in fact.  The other thing that occurred to me is that in spite of all these fantasy people running around in our modern world there seems to be very little impact other than the events that are circling intently around Viranda.  I realise of course that other things could be happening off page but I would have liked to have a sense of how things were being affected, and I would definitely have liked a little more emotion particularly from Viranda, not to mention some surprise from the fantasy characters at the strange modern world they found themselves in.

On the whole though, this was easy to get on with, I did have niggles but at the end of the day I don’t think I’m the intended audience for this (I think YA?) and my automatic questions and issues got in the way a little.

Conclusion : Cut

 

Jacob’s War by Mark Hood

Jacob's

This is another entry with an intriguing premise and written in a format that I really enjoy that alternates between diary entries made by Jacob Willlams as he fought in the first World War and later update chapters that take place after the war has ended.

It appears that there is a thin divide between our world and that of the supernatural and some of the points of protection are either weak or failing.

Strange creatures are slipping into our world and only the Fae Defence Society stand between them and certain disaster.

I thought the diary chapters were very good where I read up to and liked the tone and style of the writing – there was an innocence to Jacob at the start of the journal that started to wear thin as things progressed and the rose tinted glasses were removed.  In the alternating chapters we jump forward and watch Jacob and his comrades as they prepare for a forthcoming onslaught of unknown beasts.  Unfortunately, I didn’t quite enjoy these chapters as much as the journal entries and I think that’s because the divide was too great for me.  One moment we’re reading about Jacob as he heads out to war, the next we’re watching him wield magic and fight hairy beasts.  In fairness, as you read forward these two points will eventually come together but I think I would have liked a smoother transition somehow.

Conclusion : Cut

 

The Hammer Of The Gods: So You Want To Be A Star (The Druid Trilogy #1) by Andrew Marc Rowe

TheHammer

Well, The Hammer of the Gods was quite a surprise.  I enjoyed where I read up to and will carry this one forward for further reading.  No review at this point and I will make a decision at a later stage as to whether this will be a semi finalist.

Conclusion : rolled forward

 

The Story of Evil – A Hero’s Downfall (#1) by Tony Johnson

Storyof

The Story of Evil certainly got off to a furious start.  We begin with a jousting tournament that goes horribly wrong when evil creatures attack the city.

We then make a fairly quick introduction to three characters as they go from one danger to the next.

Stephen Brightflame is a young man with dreams of becoming a knight.  He’s actually jousting when all the trouble begins.

Ty is Stephen’s brother in arms, he rides a flying beast and so when the attack begins he is immediately drawn into the action.

Kari is a young woman watching the tournament who tries to make it back to the safety of her home but becomes embroiled in a fight with one of the beasts.

I have mixed feelings with this one.  It shows promise but I think it is too ambitious at the start.  I read my allocated 30% and by that time we probably only progressed half a day at most – by which time most of the inhabitants of the city were dead and considerable damage had been caused.

Now, all this action and death is without doubt a good ploy to pull the reader immediately into the story, but, without knowing the characters I felt a strange ambivalence towards their fate.  In fact, the way in which everything was being systematically destroyed I began to wonder if there would be any survivors.

I also had a number of issues that just kept pulling me out of the moment.  There is a definite feeling of over explanation here for some of the really small minutiae, on top of this we have flashbacks by way of background – but they felt a little long winded and out of place when the whole city was under attack and being bombarded with monsters and  flying masonry.   One example is Ty, reflecting on his lack of a solid relationship when he’s plunging through the sky – it just felt out of place.

I don’t mean to sound overly critical,  This does show promise but it didn’t really work for me.

Conclusion : Cut

 

 

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