Sunday, January 25, 2015

A Memory of Light by Robert Jordan: Week 2

If you haven't read the book, or the whole series, why not join in and read along with the rest of us? This week the links to the other posts can be found at the bottom of this post.

This week we read through to the end of Chapter 7.

1. Pevara and Androl have done some mutual Bonding, which seems to have created a rather uniquely intimate link between the two. Do you think that the other Aes Sedai / Asha’man pairs could create something similar, or do we have an example of mushy, romantic specialness in this case? Have you been surprised by the Red’s ability to work with male Channelers, or do you think that she is unusual for her Ajah?

I am rather surprised that none of the other pairs have tried this, although I suspect that everyone thinks that it is a one-way thing and so have not even made an attempt. I guess that it could be rather uncomfortable having that sort of link, especially for those who have never had even a Warder before, but it would be exceptionally useful. I can only imagine how excited the Greens and Browns will be when they find out . . . though for very different reasons! :D

I suppose it is possible that their Bond will prove to be unique, just like Androl’s Talent for Gateways, and I do detect a kind of strange romance developing between these two. However, they are both wonderfully pragmatic, so I think we should be spared from too many longing glances and vomit-inducing baby talk.

As with Silviana, I have been pleasantly surprised by Pevara. She has proven to be remarkably adaptable, especially considering her great age. It has been good to see a staunch Red behave with good sense and show that they are not all just frothing man-haters. I hope that she is more representative of the Ajah than some of the other Reds that we have encountered, but I suspect that the removal of the Blacks within its ranks will have culled most of the worst lunatics. 

2. I was beginning to worry that Aviendha’s quadruplets would need to be the product of some sort of bizarre ‘virgin’ birth scenario, but now there is at least a biological chance that they could be created in the normal way! Yay! Do you really think that it was necessary for her to use sexytimes as a way to persuade Rand to grant her a boon? Were you disappointed or relieved not to have more details of what was obviously a rather extended night of baby-making?

I could not help noticing that Bair did not suggest that Aviendha NOT have sexytimes with Rand and, therefore, avoid the conception of the quads: that would have certainly altered the future pretty dramatically! We all knew that this scene had to happen sooner or later, but I was rather glad that it had a practical and business-like feel rather than a prolonged series of mushy exchanges and coyness. Of course, Aviendha is hardly the blushing virgin type and I did snort out loud when she was so blunt about what was going to happen next. I liked the response of the Maidens, though I was rather glad that we did not have to hear them cheering on the happy couple for the rest of the night! :D

3. Apparently, being Turned to the Dark Side does not improve your intellect very much. Do you think that we will ever see a truly intelligent Darkfriend? Did the sequence with Dobser make you more hopeful of Androl and his party surviving against Taim’s attack?

It does seem to be a prerequisite for evil that you have to be somewhat stupid, although you would think that the Dark One would be a little more choosy about his minions given all the eons that he has tried to seize control of the world. Of course, he might be equally dumb and so incapable of understanding why he keeps losing! :D

I enjoyed the elegant way that Emarin / Algarin exploited Dobser’s personality: it showed a remarkable understanding of human nature and was a nice change from the more usual violence. It makes me wonder how much of the original person remains within these Turned individuals and, therefore, how truly ‘evil’ they now are. Whilst Taim is likely to be surrounded by his most trusted men, who were quite happy to be evil even without being Turned, it makes me hope that some of the others might hesitate before blasting Androl into oblivion, which might give a slight chance at survival. I find it unlikely that Androl will simply be killed at this point, but I am not quite sure how he will defeat Taim with the Dreamspike in position.

4. Rand is beginning to manifest some startling new powers and can now manipulate the Dream more successfully than Moridin. Do you think this will cause the Nae’blis to alter his plans and be more aggressive in his pursuit of Rand? It seems that Lanfear is managing to somehow slip away from his control via the mindtrap: or was that all staged for Rand’s benefit?

I got the distinct impression that Moridin was seriously shocked and worried by Rand’s new control, which suggests that he has now surpassed the Nae’blis in power and skill. This places Moridin in a difficult position, because he would ideally want to remove Rand as quickly as possible, but I believe that the Dark One still wants the Dragon kept alive, presumably with the intention of trying to sway him to the Dark Side. I guess that Moridin is also worried about being replaced as Nae’blis, but is too fearful to act against explicit instructions. Poor guy: he must have terrible ulcers! :D

Again, Moridin seemed surprised by this news and I suspect that Lanfear might regret her attempts to circumvent his control. Unless he is remarkably good at play-acting, I doubt that her actions were staged because they took place in the Dream and we know that she has a reputation for being extremely skilled in manipulating Tel’aran’rhiod. I was very pleased to learn that Rand was pretty much ignoring her plea for help because she cannot die soon enough for me.

5. And, yay verily, there will be much politicking and arguing and then Moiraine will appear and quote the Prophecy, thus creating peace and harmony amongst the leaders of the World. Did anyone else expect her to wink at Perrin in a conspiratorial way as she walked past him? Do you think that the new and improved Dragon’s Peace will hold and also stop the future we saw in Aviendha’s visions? Who do you think Rand expected Roedran to be?

I have to admit that I was a little frustrated by this section of the reading. I think that I can safely say that I have had more than enough of political intrigue in this series and so I was rather hoping that someone would simply knock all their heads together and make them play nice. After all, they were busy worrying about what might possibly happen if they managed to avoid the END OF THE WORLD!!!!! Arghhh!???!???!!!!!

I loved Moiraine’s return and they way that she simply walked in and seized control of the entire debate. I DID expect her to wink at Perrin, though that might simply be because Ian McKellen does that to Aragorn when he returns as Gandalf the White. She was rather awesome though, and I did almost come close to cheering at one point! :D

It seems as if the new, and hastily rewritten, Peace Treaty might just work. The Aiel become the independent, unbiased policemen of the New Order, which is really just a continuation of the role that they have fulfilled so far, whilst the whole thing is null and void if Tuon cannot be convinced to accept it. I was a little confused about what exactly was supposed to happen to the lands that the Seanchan have already captured: were they excluded from the borders that Rand had assigned to all the rulers present or not? I am still concerned about how Rand will get Tuon’s agreement, but at least he has everyone else working together.

This confused me at first, but then I realized that he expected Roedran to be Demandred, who has been so conspicuously absent from everything so far. This makes me even more convinced that I was correct to suspect that he has taken control of Shara, which is the only nation that we have not truly encountered yet. We know that Lews Therin expects Demandred to have sought out a great army to lead and that is the only one left to be revealed. I predict that it will be very nasty when it arrives, presumably through a huge Gateway.

6. Great Trees and a singing Ogier army, then Gateways bringing aid to Lan’s final charge. Discuss, with specific dimensions for the size of your grin and/or the number of tears shed! :D

It is so good to finally have Loial back: I have missed my favorite bibliophile! :D

We did have a tiny hint about the Ogier when Elayne, I think it was, thought about the Stedding nearby. I presume that there is also a Waygate there and that is how the Ogier arrived so suddenly. I have to admit to grinning like a lunatic when the Great Trees were revealed and the soft sound of singing. Then we had Elder Haman, Loial’s mum being grumpy and Loial himself being all happy and coy about being a married man. Sigh!

This week was certainly packed with images reticent of the Lord of the Rings, and I could not help thinking of the Rohirrim charging across the Field of Pelennor. I loved the image of the Gateways opening and cavalry charging straight through towards the Trollocs. All it needed was some giant eagles to make me perfectly happy! :D

7. Mat is off in Ebou Dar doing something mysterious. Can we hope that he is trying to talk some sense into Tuon? Will he accept the Horn from Faile or run away screaming?

As it stands now, I find it hard to predict how he or Rand will be able to convince Tuon that she is wrong-headed in her thinking about the world. I know that it has to happen, and that she must eventually sign the Peace Treaty, but I cannot foresee what leverage they will use to alter her perspective. We know that she has been told that she could learn to Channel, but her view of the marath’damane has not been altered, and that could be a major problem if she is to cooperate with any of the other forces who will all deploy Channelers in some form or another. The Seanchan’s entry into the Last Battle needs to be as a trusted ally, not as someone that the others need to guard against, so this will need to be resolved and I doubt that even Mat has enough charm to simply talk her around.

There was a very specific mention of Mat being bound to the Horn until he died, which makes me wonder of we will see a rather neat switch up ahead. Mat nearly died in Rhuidean when the Finn hung him from that tree, but he definitely died in the siege of Caemlyn, along with Aviendha. Surely this means that the Horn is now free to be used by someone else, so Mat’s like of enthusiasm about using it will be somewhat irrelevant. I suspect that he would use it if the situation warranted it, because I see him taking over from Elayne as the general in charge of the military attacks against the Forces of Darkness. After all, he IS possibly the greatest captain ever to exist in Randland and Elayne is bound to have a pregnancy issue at some point. Just saying! :D

Sunday, January 18, 2015

A Memory of Light by Robert Jordan: Week 1

If you haven't read the book, or the whole series, why not join in and read along with the rest of us? This week the links to the other posts can be found at the bottom of this post.

This week we read through to the end of Chapter 1.

1. We get a terribly interesting chapter from Isam's POV in the Town below Thakandar. So many things we could talk about here, including the pointy-toothed Aiel. What stood out to you? What did you think? What do you want to know more about?

I guess that the thing that stood out the most for me was my incredulity that any child could have survived in such a terrible place: I suppose that it is hardly surprising that he might be a little ‘unbalanced’ by his experiences. I have a horrible suspicion that we have heard Isam’s name somewhere before, but I am at a loss to remember where exactly. I assume that he is originally from one of the Borderlands, otherwise he would be unlikely to have reached the Town, I just hope that he is not Lan’s evil twin brother.

The Samma N’Sei seem as massively unpleasant as we had already suspected, but seeing them run and hide from the groups of thirteen channelers and Myrddraal makes me even more worried. Isam thinks of them as being Turned, and the description is remarkably similar to what we are seeing in the Black Tower, so it seems that I was right to think that they are the male channelers that wandered into the Blight. This would also explain the references to the Talentless, who are treated as disposable and are presumably the non-channelers who end up in the Town. It also explains why they would instinctively fear the groups of Myrddraal and channelers that must be the Turning squads. Whilst it is partly comforting to see that they did not choose to become evil, it only makes them even more dangerous because we now know that the Shadow has a useful army of psychopathic killer Aiel asha’man.  

I was a little confused about his new mistress. It seems that it was not Moghedien, as we had a section from her POV later in the Prologue, nor was it the newly hideous Graendal. That suggests that it was Lanfear/Cyandane in disguise, but she is supposed to be controlled by Moridin, and he does not want Rand dead . . . However, it certainly fits in with her latest pleas for Rand to help her, or am I just getting very suspicious? :D

2. Talmanes becomes a freaking hero in his own right. Will Nynaeve's healing be enough to save him? What did you think of his antics against the trollocs in Camelyn?

If Nynaeve cannot save him then he has no hope, however he did seem pretty much dead when she approached him. I hope that he pulls through, just so that he can berate Mat on leaving him to become a hero when all he wanted to do was smoke his pipe and relax! :D

I found the sections from his perspective very entertaining, especially the sequence when he threw himself the Myrddraal and laughed at its shock. He was almost channeling his inner Mat by that point, and it was interesting to see how much he has been altered by his time in the Band. I was rather hoping that he would knock some sense into Guybon, who was being a bit of a whiny girl whilst the city fell into ruins around his ears, though he finally saw the sense in abandoning the palace and trying to save the dragons.

I noticed that Olver was conspicuous by his absence: I was rather worried that he would pop up at some point to place himself in peril!

3. Leilwin offers her services to Egwene. What do you think will come of this? Will Egwene be accepting of a Seanchan servant?

We know that Egwene had a Dream where she was saved by a Seanchan woman with a sword: it seems very likely that Leilwin will prove to be that savior. However, I could understand if Egwene were a little reluctant to have a Seanchan warrior near her after the attack on the Tower and the Bloodknives. Hopefully, she will see the potential for fulfilling that Dream and accept Leilwin’s protection: I am sure that Nynaeve will eventually agree that she is trustworthy.

4. Bair goes to Rhuidean after hearing Aviendha's account. Do you think she'll see what Aviendha saw, or something different? Do you think she was wise to send herself?

I suspect that she will see something very similar. Fear of this future would be much more likely to destroy the Aiel than even the knowledge of their origins, which explains the rule about not entering the Pillars for a second time. If the visions were more random, I doubt that the rule would exist.

My only criticism about Bair going herself is that she has no way to return quickly because she cannot form Gateways. This seems a little silly, but perhaps she quickly arranged a return trip with Aviendha using a note or something else that we missed! :D

I was intrigued by Bair’s comment about Nakomi feeling like a very old name.

5. Evil Mofo Meeting! Taim is raised to the level of Chosen and Moghedien is commanded to "help" Demandred. What disasters do you see arising from these decisions, if any.

What a surprise: Taim is a Very Bad Man!

I suppose that we needed confirmation of his evilness, but it was hardly a shock. Now, if they had revealed Loial as the next Chosen I would have probably swallowed my tongue! :D

I am even more firmly convinced that Demandred is working in Shara, the lands beyond the Aiel Waste. He is obviously not at work in Randland or Seanchan, so that does not leave many options unless there is yet another giant land that we have not yet heard about. I can only hope that Moghedien will ‘help’ him by being a totally incompetent nuisance and ruin all his plans. Unfortunately, I doubt that she will be allowed to be that useless without being killed, so I predict a very unpleasant surprise for everyone when Demandred arrives with a massive army of unknown forces. Unless, of course, Jain Farstrider suddenly returns to share his knowledge of the Shara . . .

I do not think that Demandred is responsible for the attack on Caemlyn: Rand’s thoughts about this possibility seem like a red herring to me.

6. What do you think of Egwene's argument about when to break the Seals? Is she right?

I can see the logic in what she is saying, and I am glad that she has accepted that the Seals do need to be broken eventually. Once she and Rand finally have a chat, I am pretty certain that they will be able to come to an agreement. I am not quite sure what needs to happen before everyone is ready for the Dark One to be released, but destroying most of his evil forces beforehand seems like a pretty sensible idea. After all, we know that they will have the ‘surprise’ attacks from the evil Asha’man and Demandred’s army to deal with before they even worry about the Big Bad.

7. Rand says it is the last night of peace they will know before the end, and on the morrow he will meet with every leader of the known world to forge an alliance. Predictions?

I hope to goodness that he manages to beat some common sense into everyone. I am a little concerned that either the Shadow or the Seanchan will use this gathering as an opportunity for an attack: the opportunity to remove a lot of the Light’s leadership in one move could be rather tempting. I presume that Aviendha’s arrival means two things become possible. Firstly, she will be able to alter events in order to avoid the future that she saw in her visions and hopefully save the Aiel from becoming a bunch of grumpy war-mongers. Also, she does rather need to have sexytimes with Rand, otherwise those quadruplets are going to be rather difficult to create! :D

I do not see how the Seanchan will be part of the peace treaty that Aviendha foresaw, unless Rand somehow gets Tuon to the meeting as well, but perhaps he plans to add an amendment to the bottom without anyone noticing. I am also wondering where the Ogier have got to: surely Loial persuaded them to join the fight and not run off to another world . . .

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Towers of Midnight by Robert Jordan: Week 8

If you haven't read the book, or the whole series, why not join in and read along with the rest of us? This week the links to the other posts can be found at the bottom of this post.

This week we read through to the end of the book.

1. Aviendha’s visions finally show us the decision that will place the Aiel upon their path to destruction. That first step seems so logical, so will she be able to persuade the Wise Ones to avoid it when only she has seen this future? Can you see any way that Randland can avoid being overwhelmed by the Seanchan, even if the Aiel try to preserve the Dragon’s Peace?

This plays into some of the things that the mysterious Nakomi hinted at a couple of weeks ago: what exactly should the Aiel do once they have fulfilled their destiny of supporting the Dragon? I hope that Aviendha’s warning will prove convincing enough to stop this future from happening because it was rather depressing to see the Aiel losing their honor and resorting to warfare as a way to recapture some sort of purpose. Of course, we do not know if all Wise Ones see these future visions if they enter the columns for a second time, so the others might be persuaded by a quick trip to Rhuidean.

In some ways, I find this aspect of the visions more worrying and also more difficult to avoid. Given what we know of Tuon’s thinking, it seems highly unlikely that the Empire will maintain a treaty that allows any channelers to remain free. So far she seems to be ignoring the Asha’man but I expect her to notice their potential very soon and start moving against the Black Tower. I wonder if someone could provoke her into realizing that she really is marath’damane herself and, therefore, show her that not all channelers are dangerous animals that need to be leashed. Somehow I find it difficult to believe that she will ever change her mind, no matter the consequences to her personally.

2. Elayne takes the Sun Throne without bloodshed. Were you impressed by her method of uniting the two countries or do you think that it will offer her enemies a neat way to gain power? Will she ever beat the Daes Dae’mar out of the Cairhienien nobility?

One thing I have learnt from this series is that I am woefully useless at politics! I was as clueless as Birgitte during this section and so I was very impressed by how it all worked out in the end. Whilst I can see how the unification of the nations offers an amazing prize to Elayne’s enemies, I would also hope that the improved stability might make the general populace much less likely to support the nobles’ political maneuvering. It certainly seems that the vast majority of normal folk were happy to see her arrive in the city to take the Throne. Plus, as she pointed out to Birgitte, Elayne knows who her enemies are, so she can keep a close eye on them and hopefully work against their personal ambition.

Whilst it would be very nice to see the end of the Game of Houses, I suspect that it would take either a massively traumatic event or many generations of stability to remove it from Cairhienien society. Perhaps, if enough of the leading nobles happen to die in the Last Battle Elayne will see a slight reduction, but I would expect lesser nobles to rush to fill the power gap, which will probably make the situation worse. I am just very glad that I do not have to deal with it! :D

3. It seems that I was wrong for wanting Rand to deal with the Borderlanders earlier. Do you feel as if this plotline has reached a satisfying resolution or do you think that the Borderlanders should have been keeping a watch on the Blight instead? Where do you expect Rand to send them next: to their respective homes or to Tarwin’s Gap?

As I read this encounter I almost felt as if Mr Sanderson was saying “See! There WAS a really good reason why we didn’t deal with this earlier!” I have to believe that plenty of people had complained about Rand ignoring this very obvious problem, so it was good to see that an earlier resolution might have been a disaster. This did not make it any less frustrating that the Borderlanders were cooling their heels in the South rather than doing their job and watching the Blight. I can understand why they felt the need to check Rand’s identity, but their actions have allowed the Shadow to rampage through a lot of their defenses and kill an awful lot of people.

4. Both Pevara and Androl have detected people who have undergone mysterious changes. I guess that we all think that Taim is responsible, but do we have any idea of what has actually happened to them? I was a little unsure of Javindhra: has she undergone a similar transformation to Tarna, or does she have some other reason for wanting to stay in the Black Tower?

It seems that both Tarna and Mezar have been changed or broken in some way. The descriptions of their changed eyes and smiles suggest that they have both been subjected to the same process, although I am unsure of what that might be. However, I am positive that Taim is responsible: perhaps it is some form of Compulsion.

At first I thought that Javindhra must have also been ‘possessed’ or whatever it is that has happened to the other two, but Pevara does not describe the same physical changes in her appearance. I find it very difficult to trust any of the Reds, with the exception of Silviana, so I wonder if she is a Darkfriend.

5. Foxes and Snakes and blindings, oh my! The Tower of Ghenjei certainly took its toll on our heroes, but at least Thom and Moiraine are happy now! This section was so jammed with action, revelations and fulfilled prophecies: did you manage to follow it all or were you a little overwhelmed? It seems that the second red doorway, in the Stone of Tear, has also been destroyed: do you think that Finn will finally stop receiving visitors now?

Good grief: that was intense!

I was a little disappointed with this section. As we approached the end of the book I was becoming increasingly convinced that we would end with our heroes still within the Tower. The cover made me fairly certain that they would begin their rescue mission, but I could not see how the entire thing could possibly fit into such a small section of writing. This is one of the few sections that I felt was rushed and could have used a slightly less break-neck pace. Whilst I appreciated the breathless excitement of their race against the Foxes, I would have liked a little more description or just a chance to catch my breath! However, I was thoroughly impressed by how it drew together so many prophecies and experiences from the earlier books: it emphasized how much thought went into the whole story arc even right back at the beginning of the series.

I am trying to think of an event that could have destroyed the second doorway, but I am at a loss at the moment. As Mat was stood over it, I did wonder if its destroyed state was actually an illusion and that it was still functional. Of course, by that stage it was difficult to trust that anything was actually as it seemed. It would be very satisfying to believe that the Finn are now deprived of their source of highly enjoyable emotions, but I am pretty certain that they will get their ‘fix’ some way or another.

6. So, Noal WAS Jain Farstrider. Were you surprised by this revelation? What did you think of his ‘death’: is he really gone, or trapped like Moiraine? Alternatively, did he die such a hero’s death that he might become bound to the Horn like Birgitte?

I have been saying for some time that I thought that Noal was Jain and not his cousin, so this was more of a nice “Yes, I was right!” moment for me. I was glad that the hints were confirmed because I hate to be left with unanswered questions at the end of a series. When we discussed Mat’s preparations for their trip, I said that I thought it unlikely that they would all survive, and that Noal seemed to be the one in most danger of dying heroically. I was sad to see that my prediction was correct, although there is always the possibility that he has replaced Moiraine as the Finn’s new plaything. After all, we saw human blood but no body . . .

If only a small fraction of the tales about Jain Farstrider are actually true, then I find it very difficult to believe that he does not qualify to be bound to the Horn. We have seen him display some amazing fighting skills, even with his horribly broken fingers. These skills are eerily reminiscent of Birgitte’s instinctive use of the bow and I wonder if he was actually her lover, Gaidal. However, I am not sure if he is ugly enough . . .

7. Olver seems to mirror Mat quite a lot, from his way with serving girls to his ability to beat a game that is supposedly impossible to win. It seems that his nosiness was rather fortuitous, but do you think that Verin’s letter will prove at all useful now that the Trolloc attack has already started? Do you think that she should have left instructions that would have actually made Mat open the letter in time to prepare for the attack?

I had to snigger at Olver’s thoughts about looking after Mat: those two are quite a pair! :D

Argh! Verin’s letter to Mat obviously contained something Very Important, so I have to admit that I was rather frustrated that Mat ignored it for so long. Whilst I assume that she did not know the precise timing of the attack, I do not understand why she did not insist on a much shorter waiting period before Mat was to open it. The news of a Trolloc invasion is hardly something that would be problematic if you got it too early! Perhaps she expected him to rip it open ten seconds after she left, but that shows a sad lack of understanding of Mat’s stubborn refusal to be told what to do.

Now that the attack has begun, her letter could still be useful because it points to the incursion point for the attacking forces. This might allow someone to fight to the Waygate and close it, preventing further Shadowspawn from joining the battle. However, I suspect that the Dragons will be more useful in repelling the screaming Horde and Olver’s nosiness was almost irrelevant as the glowing sky would have caught someone’s attention fairly soon.

8. Evil Aiel with filed teeth!!?!??!? Discuss!


I suppose it was almost inevitable that the Shadow would have its own warped version of Aiel. It would seem that these ones are not massively concerned with honor as they attack a man who is badly injured and apparently unarmed. They show some rather obvious differences from the Aiel we have seen already, even the Shaido. They have dark eyes, which are uncommon amongst the Aiel, they wear red veils, instead of black, and uncover their faces before a kill. All of this makes me wonder of they are under Compulsion or turned in some way similar to the channelers in the Black Tower. We know that all male channelers amongst the Aiel walk off into the Blight once they discover their ability and it is not difficult to imagine that some of them would be captured by Shadowspawn. Along with other Aiel captives, there could be quite a sizeable population sitting in the Blight and sharpening their fangs.

9. Lanfear barges into Rand’s happy place and asks him to help her. I suspect that we were supposed to be surprised that she was still alive, especially after Moiraine’s report of her death at the hands of the Finn, but had you already suspected this? Do you think that Rand will dash off to save her, and, if so, will she finally turn from the Shadow, be a decent person and help the man that she supposedly loves?

Again, I was fairly certain that Lanfear was not dead, but had been reborn as Cyndane. What a shame that she died horribly at the hands of the Finn . . . my heart bleeds for her! :D

I really hope that Rand ignores her cries for help, mainly because I do not trust her as far as I could spit her. We know that she is manipulative and deceitful, and that she was considered very skillful in Tel’aran’rhiod, all of which makes it almost impossible for me to imagine her having an epiphany and turning to the Light. Considering how much time she has spent telling everyone about her love for Lews Therin, she has been one of the most dangerous of the Forsaken to Rand personally, and I am quite sure that she is still scheming against Moridin, even though she is controlled by the mindtrap. If she does prove herself to be a hero in the Last Battle, I will eat my hat! :D

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