Category: Urban Fantasy

Shadow Kin by M.J. Scott

(Cover picture courtesy of Goodreads.)

Welcome to the Half-Light City.

Imagine a city divided. On one side, the Night World, ruled by the Blood Lords and the Beast Kind. On the other, the elusive Fae and the humans, protected by their steadfast mages. A city held together by nothing more than a treaty-and even then, just barely…

I was born of a Fae mother, but I had no place amongst her kind. They called me “soulless.” An abomination. Perhaps they’re right…I’m a wraith, a shadow who slips between worlds. I was given into the service of a Blood Lord who raised me to be his most feared assassin. Still, I’m nothing more than a slave to my master, and to the need that only he can fulfill…

Then he orders me to kill Simon DuCaine, a powerful sunmage. In the blaze of his magic, my own disappears. Instead of seeking revenge, Simon shows me mercy. He wants to free me. But that’s one thing my master and his kind will never allow.

And even if I thought I could trust Simon, stepping from the shadow into the light isn’t as simple as it sounds…

I was a little apprehensive in the beginning of Shadow Kin simply because I’m very familiar with the whole ‘assassin falls in love with his/her mark’ trope.  However, I loved M.J. Scott’s take on this old trope because of course nothing is simple in the Half-Light City.

One of the things I really liked about Shadow Kin is the world-building.  There are four factions: vampires, werewolves, humans and the Fae.  There is a sort of tense peace between the four races but there’s a lot of compromise.  The most horrific compromise is the fact that any human who goes to the Night World chasing vampires is lost to humanity and their remaining family have little recourse if their loved one goes missing or becomes blood-locked.  (Blood-locking is when a human drinks vampire blood and becomes addicted to it, eventually going mad.)  And of course since the Fae are vulnerable to iron, they also limit the total supply of iron for the entire city.  Werewolves don’t seem to do much except fight with the vampires and fight each other for dominance.  It’s obviously a lot more complicated than this but that’s the beauty of this book: the world-building is excellent and M.J. Scott is a good enough writer that she can play with the political tensions while still focusing on the interpersonal conflicts.

Of course my favourite part of the book has to be the characters.  Lily is a woman that doesn’t belong anywhere: the Fae don’t want her because she’s a wraith and she’ll never truly belong with the vampires even though she does Lucius’ dirty work.  She’s been manipulated and used for her whole life so when she tries to kill Simon, fails and then he offers to hep her escape Lucius she obviously doesn’t believe him.  I can’t really blame her because I certainly wouldn’t in her situation.  But Simon is one of those few people that is entirely sincere in his desire to help people; it’s almost a fault with him.  He and Lily make an odd couple but their romance is very sweet.  It’s not easy and even the caring Simon can act like a total jerk (particularly in the last quarter of the book) but that just makes it more realistic.

The plot is fast-paced if a little predictable.  Well, mostly predictable—there was a major surprise regarding Lily’s powers at the end of the novel.  Still, the creative world-building, well-developed characters and sweet romance more than make up for a little predictability.  In addition to that, the ending resolves the main plot while leaving so much more for Scott to explore in the rest of the series.  Shadow Kin is a good start to the Half-Light City series and I can’t wait to read more.

I give this book 4/5 stars.

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Novella: Wings of Hope by Pippa DaCosta

Wings of Hope by Pippa DaCosta

(Cover picture courtesy of Goodreads.)

“I am his muse. But not for long…”

When Mammon, the Prince of Greed, ‘acquires’ a half-blood slave known as ‘Muse’ for three nights, and bespells her with tales of a world where people live like kings and queens among towers of steel and glass, the seed of hope takes root in Muse’s soul. But hope, for a half-human half-demon creature like her, is a dangerous thing. Especially when that tentative hope springs from the honeyed words of a Prince of Hell. What is Mammon’s price for freedom?

Meanwhile Da’mean, her ruthless owner, would rather see her dead, than free. She belongs to him. She is his muse. And no beast will take her from him.

The world of the elemental demons is harsh and violent. Muse’s kin are merciless, blood-hungry beasts, but little do they know, Muse has something far more dangerous coiled inside her, desperate for a taste of freedom.

Her humanity.

After reading the first book in The Veil series, I found out I could get a free copy of this prequel novella, Wings of Hope, through signing up for DaCosta’s newsletter.  Obviously I did and got this novella for free.  I devoured it in less than half an hour.

Muse here is a very different character.  She’s terrified of her master, who heaps every sort of abuse possible on her young body.  At the same time, she’s very stubborn and refuses to unleash her demon side when Da’mean provokes her to anger.  She doesn’t always win when it comes to controlling her demon side but she desperately tries.  That’s when Mammon strides in and changes everything.

Let’s get one thing straight: Mammon isn’t doing this out of the good of his heart and Muse knows this.  She’s constantly looking for an angle with him as he tells her of Earth and humanity, painting a happier picture than she could have ever imagined on her own.  Mammon is, first and foremost, a demon and when Muse gets into trouble, he’ll do some things to protect her but he’s not going to go out of his way to be the hero.  That makes for an interesting dynamic in their relationship in the beginning and you can sort of see that dynamic later in the first full length book of the series, Beyond the Veil.

The pace is quite fast as this is a novella but it does have quite a bit of character development packed into those few pages.  Muse goes from terrified, abused creature to a human being that longs for so much more out of life, even if it costs her everything.  She’s not the Muse that readers will recognize from the rest of the series but her characterization here explains a lot of her trust issues in the main series.  Despite that, you don’t even need to read the series first.  This can be read as a standalone novella to give you a taste of Pippa DaCosta’s writing style and I’d highly recommend it for The Veil series fans and people who have never read her work before.  Wings of Hope gives us a great feel for how much Muse has really come, what sort of a man (demon?) Mammon is and a bit of a clearer picture of the netherworld, something Muse mentions only in passing.

Basically, whether or not you’ve read the main series before reading this prequel novella, you’re going to love it.  There’s great world-building, character development and pacing jammed into these 58 pages.  I highly recommend giving it a try.

I give this novella 5/5 stars.

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Beyond the Veil by Pippa DaCosta

Beyond the Veil by Pippa DaCosta

(Cover picture courtesy of Goodreads.)

“They say I’m half a demon, but I like to think of myself as half human, especially as the demons want me dead.”

Charlie Henderson is living a lie. Her real name is Muse and her attempt at a normal life is about to go up in smoke.

When a half-demon assassin walks into her life, leaving a trail of destruction in his wake, Muse must return to the one man she hoped never to see again and ask for help. The Prince of Greed isn’t known for his charity. The price is high and the cost could tear her apart.

Trapped between the malevolent intentions of a Prince of Hell, an assassin with ulterior motives and her bloodthirsty demon-kin, Muse must embrace the lure of chaos at her core; the demon inside her, in order to survive.

If your ex is the Prince of Greed, you’d better be ready to raise hell.

[Full disclosure: I requested and received a free ebook through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.]

I’d only read one of Pippa DaCosta’s other books, City of Fae, before trying out Beyond the Veil.  City of Fae was a book I absolutely loved in part because of the many, many plot twists and surprises.  Beyond the Veil is very similar in that regard: I had no idea what to expect next.  In urban fantasy, that’s kind of a rare luxury and I absolutely treasured it in this book.

Muse is a half-demon that was born in the netherworld and sold into slavery, as is the normal treatment for ‘half-breeds’ if their demon parent does not have them killed.  She spent years being abused before Akil, one of the seven princes of Hell, rescued her for his own reasons and began a relationship of sorts with her.  Then, five years ago she left him to try to live life as a human.  Fast forwardto the present day and things aren’t necessarily working out the best in that regard, especially when the half-demon Stefan walks into her life.  Poor Muse is then forced back into a world where she really can’t trust anyone—particularly anyone who says they’re trying to save her.  And yet she learns and grows despite the hidden motivations of those around her.  She finally becomes stronger and learns to deal with the demon side she has been so afraid of for years.

Muse is of course a fascinating character in her own right but even the secondary charcters in Beyond the Veil are well developed.  Akil certainly is a compelling character; he’s a more terrifying, smarter version of your stereotypical bad boy.  Stefan seems to be a rather horrible character before Muse really gets to know him and learns about his horrific past.  And Nica, Akil’s secretary, has motivations and secrets all of her own despite being completely human and working for a powerful demon who has a penchant for killing liars.  I’m oversimplifying here but I can’t go into detail without spoiling some of the great surprises DaCosta worked into the narrative.  Needless to say, you’ll appreciate the character development that went into all of the characters, not just Muse.

As I said, the plot is incredibly fast paced but it’s also very unpredictable.  There are lots of twists that I didn’t see coming, despite being quite familiar with the urban fantasy genre.  Thankfully Pippa DaCosta once again departs from the expected formula and that makes the story all the more enjoyable.  Trust me when I say that things are almost never what they seem when it comes to her writing.  She’s also created such a rich, well-developed fantasy world that even if the plot were boring, Beyond the Veil would still be a very enjoyable book.  It’s nice to see someone depart from the typical Heaven and Hell version of demons and make them more terrifying than they usually are because of it.

If you love great characters, so many plot twists you’ll be guessing until the end and some incredible world-building, you’ll love Beyond the Veil as much as I did.  I can’t wait to read the next book in the series.

I give this book 5/5 stars.

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Sins of the Warrior by Linda Poitevin

Sins of the Warrior by Linda Poitevin

(Cover picture courtesy of Goodreads.)

Heaven and Hell are at war

The clock is ticking

Homicide detective Alexandra Jarvis’s niece is missing and pregnant with Lucifer’s child, her sister has descended into madness, and the human race has begun a relentless spiral toward self-destruction that Alex is desperate to stop. Now Michael, the Archangel she holds responsible for Earth’s plight, has returned—and he’s demanding her help to track a missing god.

Heaven is losing

Fighting for the very survival of his own realm—and that of humanity—Michael’s only chance to defeat Hell lies in returning Heaven’s long-lost daughter to her throne before it’s too late. But first he’ll have to convince Alex to help him—and to keep her out of Seth’s clutches long enough for her to do so.

There can be no right choices

In a desperate bid to save both their worlds, Alex and Michael must put aside their animosity and find a way to work together in the face of increasingly impossible decisions…and unimaginable sacrifices.

[Full disclosure: I received a free ebook from the author in exchange for an honest review.]

One of the things I’ve found in a lot of books is that if the main character’s ‘soulmate’ dies, they come back by some miracle or were never actually dead in the first place.  But oddly enough, the Grigori Legacy doesn’t play with those rules as it’s not the sort of book to have a cut-and-dry good versus evil plot.  It definitely doesn’t follow the conventions of the urban fantasy genre and despite missing the ‘soulmate’ in question, I personally wouldn’t have it any other way.

Sins of the Warrior is the darkest book yet in a series of quite dark books.  Alex has to make some awful choices: does she pursue the daughter of God as asked by Michael in order to balance Seth’s power or does she try to focus on saving humanity, starting with her niece who has only days to live?  It’s a brutal push-and-pull dynamic and Alex has to make absolutely unthinkable decisions.  I can’t go into much detail without spoiling some of the shocking twists, but needless to say she has to choose between a) saving humanity in exchange for a possible eternity in Hell if Seth nabs her and b) letting the angels and the Fallen battle it out without her so she can save her niece from certain death.  Again, if you’ve read the previous two books it’s not that hard to predict what Alex chooses, especially given her current state of mind.

The thing I love about Linda Poitevin’s Grigori Legacy is that despite the whole Heaven and Hell existing thing, there is no clear good and evil.  Her God (a woman, no less) is a benevolent creator who gave people free will but arguably takes it a little too far when it comes to not monitoring what Lucifer plots in Hell because she loves him so much.  Her Heaven is one where angels had free will before the fall but had it give it up (along with their soulmates) afterward because God couldn’t bear more of her angels defecting to Lucifer.  Poitevin’s God isn’t one who is cruel or overly nice; she simply is.  And she has flaws of her own, just like her creations.  These are some fascinating characterizations that I’m sure will be very controversial among certain sects but they’re refreshing nevertheless.

Alex goes through a lot in this book.  With her newly gained immortality that she never wanted and the end of the world looming over her as the Naphilim grow, she’s teetering on the edge of insanity.  Yet she still soldiers through with seemingly no regard for her own welfare in a desperate attempt to save everyone that she can, even if it means working beside those she despises, like Michael.  We also get to see some chapters from Michael’s perspective as he wrestles with keeping Alex sane while knowing if she loses her sanity it may be the kindest thing for her because of what she (and the rest of humanity) faces.  Michael was never a sympathetic character in the first three books but Linda Poitevin does an amazing job with his characterization in this last book.  He too goes through quite a bit by the end of the novel.

Basically, if you’ve read the first three books, you’ll probably love Sins of the Warrior.  I know I did.  You’ll be up reading into the wee hours of the morning much like I was in an attempt to find out how Alex’s story finally does end.

I give this book 5/5 stars.

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City of Fae by Pippa DaCosta

City of Fae by Pippa DaCosta

(Cover picture courtesy of Goodreads.)

From the moment Alina touches London’s hottest fae superstar, breaking one of the laws founded to protect all of her kind, her fate – and the fae – close in.

Below ground, the fae High Queen plots to claim the city as her own and places her pawns, ready for the battle to come. A battle she cannot lose, but for one small problem – Alina. There are four ancient keepers powerful enough to keep the queen in her prison. Three are dead. One remains … And to fight back, Alina risks sacrificing everything she has come to love.

This New Adult urban fantasy is packed with action and suspense and will have you yearning for more forbidden fae romance.

[Full disclosure: I requested and received a free ebook copy through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.]

I’m not really sure what I was expecting when I picked up City of Fae but Pippa DaCosta blew any expectations that existed away.

First we meet Alina, a reporter who has just lost her job.  She’s living in the present day but things are very, very different from what we would expect: the fae have come out to the world.  In fact, they did this a couple of decades ago and they’re basically just a fact of life now.  Everyone knows not to let a fae touch them because they can bespell you but there are always exceptions because some people live to be spelled.  The rule is three touches and you’d better get to therapy to wean yourself off because you’re pretty much guaranteed to be under their control.  So the fae are both dangerous and attractive?  Well, you can guess what many of them do for a living: they go into show business.

And that’s how Alina, a rather ordinary reporter, comes into contact with Sovereign, London’s hottest fae superstar.  Why on earth does she touch him?  Working in the entertainment industry, you’d think she would know better.  She does know better and she does it anyway because Alina is the sort of person that wants to help everyone, no matter how dangerous it might be.  Alina doesn’t have a sort of annoying martyr syndrome but she is a good person and that leads her into an entirely new world of trouble.  That’s in part why her character carries the story so well: she really is an average person in the beginning.  She wants to get a new job, focus on moving on with her life but events don’t seem to let her.  Throughout the story you can really feel her frustration with Sovereign for dragging her into this whole mess but also her undeniable attraction to the man.  He’s handsome and infuriating and can be a jerk but he’s not really that typical YA/NA hot jerk.  The main difference here is that Pippa DaCosta actually does give him depth and we do actually get to see why he’s sort of justified in being such a jerk.  I don’t like many of the romances in NA because they come off as feeling slightly abusive (mentally or physically) but this is one sizzling attraction between two people that evolved into something a little more.

As I’ve hinted at in my opening summary, the world-building here is fantastic.  It’s interesting to see how humans react to the fae since most of them are superstars.  Therefore you have the normal idiotic celebrity worship combined with the really compelling attraction humans have to the fae; it’s not really a good combination for a lot of people.  Pippa DaCosta’s fae are not cuddly, friendly nearly-humans.  They’re vicious and will use humans unashamedly for their own ends.  These are magical creatures hundreds of years old with very little in the way of consciences or morals and DaCosta really does this portrayal well.  You get that odd feeling of awe around the fae but also that sense they’re dangerous throughout the novel.  It’s hard to describe but as a reader you’ll be fairly attracted to them (particularly Sovereign) while at the same time pleading inwardly for Alina to get away from them.  This dual nature of the fae is done incredibly well and my description here really doesn’t do it justice.

The plot was surprising and that’s definitely in a good way.  There was a huge twist about Alina that I definitely did not see coming but does make sense when you consider the whole plot.  Sovereign himself is not everything as he seems but the difference there is that he actively hides his secrets while Alina doesn’t necessarily do that as well.  In addition to the character twists I really did love the antagonist in the story, the High Queen.  She’s fascinating, at the same time gorgeous and hideous and she’s a woman on a mission.  What that mission is, I’ll leave you to find out when you read the book but let’s just say it isn’t to solve world hunger or poverty or anything as nice as that.

Even if you’re not a person who’s really into the New Adult genre, I think if you’re into fairies or fae as they’re called here, you’ll enjoy City of Fae.  It’s got a sizzling romance, some plot twists that will totally blindside you at first and some excellent world-building.  Will there be a sequel?  I’m not sure because DaCosta resolves the main conflict but leaves some other questions like what Alina will do next open.  So there could be a sequel but the book doesn’t really need one to satisfy you.  Go on and pre-order this book, though!  It releases on May 7.

I give this book 5/5 stars.

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Disposable People by Mia Darien

Disposable People by Mia Darien(Cover picture courtesy of Goodreads.)

Even Adelheid has a dark side…

Detective Vance Johnston has a lot going for him. He’s got good friends, a job he likes, gets to play tiger every now and then, and is getting ready to propose to his long time girlfriend, Sadie Stanton. Things are looking pretty good.

That is until a shocking turn of events sends him into a case at the last minute that threatens not just everything in his life, but his life itself. Thrust into the seedy underbelly of the preternatural organized crime world, Vance is trapped, a prisoner to the entertainment and money of a darkness threatening to undermine Adelheid.

But he’s not alone. Not just in the prison he’s kept in, but on the outside too. He just has to hang on until help comes, but that’s going to be anything but easy as his own beast within is used against him.

[Full disclosure: I obtained a free ebook through the blog tour for the series but was under no obligation to review it.  As always, this review is honest.]

By this fifth book in the Adelheid series, it almost seems like we’ve come full circle.  In the first book, Cameron’s Law we have Sadie’s point of view as she falls in love with Vance and solves a huge mystery related to the hatred of supernaturals.  Now in Disposable People we have Vance’s point of view as he wants to take his relationship with Sadie to the next level when he suddenly is involved in a huge mystery related to the hatred of supernaturals.  Even two years after Cameron’s Law was passed, not all humans are eager to accept the supernatural community as fellow humans.  If you’ve stuck with the series from the beginning you’ll notice that quite a bit has changed in regards to supernatural rights but some things still remain the same.

As with all of the books in the series, Disposable People is an excellent addition to the world of Adelheid.  Not only do we see some of the severe repercussions of supernatural hatred but we also see how some supernaturals are their own worst enemies.  Through Vance’s eyes we see the ugly underworld that exists even in a town like Adelheid that is more accepting of supernaturals than many other towns.  In the first book from Sadie’s point of view we saw some of that underworld but Vance of course gets to see the worst of it when he’s captured and is turned into a gladiator against his will.  The reason behind this sick form of entertainment is interesting but I can’t really discuss it without giving too much away.

Vance is a great main character.  He loves Sadie quite a bit but Sadie is still a little reluctant to commit to him after losing her human husband in the crash that nearly killed her as well as her boyfriend Cameron, the one who inspired Cameron’s Law (the one that gave supernaturals the same rights and protections as humans).  Considering her score is 0-2, you can’t blame her for being a little gun shy but at the same time Vance is willing to wait for her to come around.  They fight a bit and of course that’s when Vance is kidnapped and seemingly vanishes.  While Vance is in the disgusting gladiatorial arena you really see a lot of character growth in him.  He was, of course, a pretty good person before then but you really do see his sympathetic/empathetic side come out in full during the sheer horror of being forced to kill his fellow supernaturals against his will.  All the while, he tries so hard to hold onto his humanity and it’s a testament to the strength of his character that he tries so hard to lessen the pain of everyone else around him.  He’s an amazing character.

The plot is very fast-paced and although you’ll probably be able to guess some of the plot twists, some of them were also pretty shocking.  In hindsight they make sense but while you’re reading the book they can definitely blindside you.  Disposable People seems to start off slowly enough but things heat up pretty quickly and really don’t let up until the end.  It’s a really fast-paced book and you’ll be frantically turning pages by the end, hoping against hope for a happy ending.  And of course, like the other books, the conclusion is satisfying but definitely doesn’t close the door on the world of Adelheid, which still has a lot of stories left to be told.

I give this book 5/5 stars.

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Written All Over Her by Mia Darien

Written All Over Her by Mia Darien(Cover picture courtesy of Goodreads.)

One word can change the story of your life forever.

Abduction. Torture. Surrender.

Eleven months from her adolescence have framed thirty-one years of Detective Nykk Marlowe’s life. Despite the trauma of her past, and the unique physical scars it left her with, she’s built a career as a detective for the Adelheid Police Department.

Her personal life might only consist of caring for her sister and a pet rabbit, but she accepts that.

She accepts that she’ll never be able to be like “normal” people, even the supernatural ones. As long as she can keep the past where it belongs, she’s okay.

But when the body of a teenage girl shows up with the same scars that Nykk sees in the mirror every day, her “okay” life gets turned upside down and she’s forced to confront the past she’s been looking away from for sixteen years.

And when it turns out there’s already more than one victim, the pressure’s on to stop the killer before any more girls are tortured, mutilated, and murdered.

[Full disclosure: I obtained a free ebook through the blog tour for the series but was under no obligation to review it.  As always, this review is honest.]

While I was always intrigued by Dakota from Cameron’s Law, the first book in this series, I wasn’t really all that interested in Detective Marlowe.  Why?  Well, partially because she rather brushed off Sadie and partially because she didn’t really feature as prominently so I didn’t really get to see much of her personality.  Still, the story behind her bizarre scars was interesting enough that I decided I’d try the fourth book in the Adelheid series.

Nykk was actually a pretty good character.  Throughout the story she’s forced to confront her rather painful past as well as look after her sister Ann, who has Down’s Syndrome.  Interspersed with the chapters taking place in the present, we get tantalizing glimpses into Nykk’s story as she relates it to a therapist shortly after her horrific brush with death and torture.  They never really interrupt the flow of the narrative and they’re always clearly marked so they were a great addition to the story rather than a hindrance that slowed down the plot.  Through them we get to see Nykk try to deal with all of the emotions right in the immediate aftermath of the event and in the present chapters we get to see Nykk deal with these resurfacing memories as a grown woman.  As she hunts down the killer who nearly took her own life, she does grow quite a bit as she puts her past behind her and begins to actually live in the present.

The plot was actually pretty fast-paced compared to the relatively slower pace of Cameron’s Law.  The body count is high and I was honestly left puzzling about the identity of the murderer but in hindsight it really does make sense.  There are clues everywhere but you just don’t see them until after the explanation is offered.  The plot slowly builds up to this explanation and the confrontation with the villain; Mia Darien is just relentless in ratcheting up the tension until it’s almost unbearable.  I thought the confrontation with the villain was a little brief but it’s better to err on the side of short instead of going on and on and just generally belaboring the point.  And unlike some other mystery stories, the murderer him/herself made sense and was legitimately terrifying and hard to defeat.  Given how well they operated in tracking down those poor girls and how methodical they were in killing them, it certainly makes sense.

As with the other books in the series, we get to see glimpses of both Sadie and Vance but Nykk really is the main character in every sense.  Her personality really carries the book along at a nice pace and through her we definitely get to see just a little more of the world of Adelheid.  We get exposed to some interesting new creatures that weren’t really talked about in the previous books, we get to see more of summoners and their work and we get to see how politics have progressed (or not) since Cameron’s Law was enacted.  It’s really quite fascinating and realistic, particularly on the political side of things since in Mia Darien’s world supernatural creatures are real and have been granted full citizenship rights.  Let’s just say the bigotry that drove the plot of the first book is far from vanquished by this fourth book.

Even if you haven’t read the three previous books, you can pick up Written All Over Her.  You don’t need to read the previous three to understand the characters, plot or world-building and that’s really the beauty of the Adelheid series.  You can pick up anywhere you like!  I think you’ll get a richer experience if you pick up the first book first and then read in chronological order but you don’t have to if you don’t want to.  So if Written All Over Her has intrigued you at all, go pick it up.  It’s well worth your time.

I give this book 5/5 stars.

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