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Saturday, February 28, 2004

Suzanne's Recent Reads -- Cerulean Sins & Assassins of Tamurin
Cerulean Sins

I liked some of CERULEAN SINS very much (more sex with Jean-Claude than in recent books ;-) Hamilton is another author who, at the beginning of her last few books, seems to start out with all the right moves and then kind of bogs down from there. I liked Anita's recognition that she needs to come to grips with her hangups, and I see the growth in her character as a positive. Also, I don't mind gratuitous sex; I say, bring it on!!--Suzanne

Assassins of Tamurin

S.D. Tower's THE ASSASSINS OF TAMURIN just didn't do it for me. I am usually left cold by fantasy set in alternative Asian cultures, perhaps because they seem too formal and mannered to me. This was no exception. I did like the fable-like opening scenes of Lale's exceptional childhood, and was expecting great things. Unfortunately, I didn't feel much connection with the character of the adult Lale. Also, there were no secondary characters fleshed out and made real; they all seemed cardboard. I was, however, interested enough to read it all the way through, and I can see how an opposite opinion could be extended on this one.--Suzanne

--CERULEAN SINS at Amazon
--ASSASSINS OF TAMURIN at Amazon

Posted by Preeti [Link]



Thursday, February 26, 2004

Viking Children's editor Sharyn November has the following to say about Sharon Shinn's May 2004 release THE SAFE-KEEPERS SECRET:
"SAFE-KEEPER has strong romantic threads running all the way through it, so I think that readers of her other work would enjoy it, but it doesn't have that Romance Between Two People that, say, ARCHANGEL has. I think it's really satisfying, though."
November has already signed up the sequel, THE TRUTH-TELLER'S TALE, for 2005.

THE SAFE-KEEPER'S SECRET is now available for preorder through Amazon.
[more]

Posted by rebekah @ 01:28 PM ET [Link]



Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Carol Berg's SON OF AVONAR -- Suzanne's review
Son of Avonar

This is the first book in a new trilogy by Berg. It's written in first person, and it dovetails the current impoverished exile of Seri, a noblewoman, with flashbacks of her painful past, when 10 years earlier her beloved husband was tortured and killed by the rulers of the land as a sorcerer and her newborn child taken from her and murdered. (Seri is a 35-year-old woman--as with PALADIN OF SOULS, I like having a mature woman protagonist.)

The book's plot starts moving when a naked man rushes out of the forest and attacks her. She saves him from capture by evil forces and finds that he can't speak and is amnesiac. After hiding and helping the man, Seri learns something of his past and his quest, and along with companions, sets out with D'Nathiel just ahead of more than one evil faction on the hunt for them.

Seri is uncomfortably drawn to D'Nathiel, and is also uncomfortable because it seems she has lessons that he must learn and only she can teach. As the group of companions flees from many dangers along the road, Seri must face her past and learn some lessons herself.

Though the first book of a trilogy, this book does have a story arc that stands alone. But there is not yet a happy-ever-after for a romance that has an interesting twist to it. We evidently have to wait for that payoff.

It's a well-told adventure that I think most of you will enjoy. I got a bit tired of the flashbacks to Seri's former life, but there's a reason for them that will become apparent into the story. I give this one a recommend, and will definitely want to read the next in the trilogy.--Suzanne

--See also SONG OF THE BEAST
--SON OF AVONAR at Amazon

Posted by Preeti [Link]



Monday, February 23, 2004

IRRESISTIBLE FORCES -- Preeti's Opinion & Poll

I had thought, approaching reading this anthology, that I'd immediately dive into Lois McMaster Bujold's "Winterfair Gifts." But my mood veered towards wanting to read Jo Beverley instead, which ended up being a good choice. [...] I liked the worldbuilding, the quietly heroic male lead, and the evocation of the difficult sacrifices of WWII.

Next up was Jennifer Roberson's Robin and Marian tale, "Shadows in the Wood," where the couple meet Merlin and manage to finish a job left undone in Merlin's time. It was nice seeing a married couple in love. [...]

I was finally ready for Miles! Except it turns out the story was told from Armsman Roic's point of view. We see Miles' wedding preparation through the eyes of a household guard who is still a bit unsure of his place there. Many familiar characters from previous Vorkosigan books arrive as wedding guests. Roic becomes drawn to one of them and together they're instrumental in foiling a plot against Miles. "Winterfair Gifts" was my favorite story. I was completely engaged. It was terrific, with heart, wit, and insight.

Then on to Mary Jo Putney's "The Alchemical Marriage," which had an intriguing beginning--a weather mage is imprisoned in the Tower of London of a fantasy Elizabethan England--but made me wince at the obviousness of the romance. [...]

Catherine Asaro's story, "Stained Glass Heart," was about young love and coming of age. [...]

Stover's inclusion in the anthology was puzzling [...] Her story didn't work for me as a romance, fantasy, or comedy. It's a variation on the familiar story of an angel who has to help his ex on earth move on before he can advance in heaven.

Bujold and Beverley were the standouts for me, but I thought the anthology as a whole well worth the time. Those of you who don't have inherent objections to reading short stories or novellas may agree.--Preeti

--More Irresistible Forces
--Another Vyrl story by Catherine Asaro:
The Quantum Rose (novella) and
The Quantum Rose (novel)

***


Have you read the anthology IRRESISTIBLE FORCES? Which was your favorite story?
-----
Winterfair Gifts (LMB) 28 44%
The Alchemical Marriage (MJP) 3 5%
Stained Glass Heart (CA) 22 35%
Skin Deep (DS) 2 3%
The Trouble with Heroes (JB) 6 10%
Shadows in the Wood (JR) 2 3%
-----
Total votes: 63
Start date: 02/25/04
End date: 03/12/04

Posted by Preeti [Link]



Sunday, February 22, 2004

RomSF Market News
New Romance magazine Arabella recently discussed new and upcoming Romantic SF imprints in their What's Hot! column. (The magazine is in print format but does offer some material for free online.)

Some highlights--

  • Mary Theresa Hussey from Harlequin's Luna says:
    "We are currently looking at stories with an 'urban fantasy' setting—that is a contemporary world-feel, but with more than just a psychic ability or one unusual character. The fantasy elements must be part of the whole world and with a consistent world-view. Or historical settings—Sarah Zettel’s novel, IN CAMELOT'S SHADOW, has Camelot, Arthur and also evil sorcerers and spells."
    As for stories with traditional paranormal elements such as ghosts, angels, or time travel, Hussey says:
    "At this point, those paranormal elements would seem too romantic and not big enough. We would be more interested in otherworldly creatures, quests and uncovering good and evil. We do have an upcoming story with angels, (SERAPHIM by Michele Hauf) but as it reflects how Lucifer is living in the 1400s and causing chaos and the heroine must kill him and his minions, it’s not quite a usual paranormal theme!"
    --> For more on Luna, see our recent feature article, "A Look at Luna".

  • Anna Genoese from Tor Paranormal is quoted:
    "Right now we’re looking at launching in late 2004, with a shapeshifter book by Constance O’Day Flannery. She’s mostly known for writing time travel novels, so this is a big (and very welcome) departure for her and I’m really excited about it. I also have a science fiction romance by Susan Kearney, who does a lot of work with Harlequin. Patricia Simpson has come out of temporary retirement and is writing a series based around a deck of tarot cards."

  • While not specifically Romantic SF, the Silhouette Bombshell line mentioned near the top of the Arabella article also sounds like it could be fun. The editors are seeking action adventure novels with strong heroines who save the day, plus a romantic subplot. The line is launching in 2004 and one RomSF author who is already signed up is Doranna Durgin. Who knows what direction this imprint will take - the editors say they are "open to sci-fi and paranormal elements" too.


    Posted by rebekah [Link]



    Saturday, February 21, 2004

    Danielle's Recent Reads -- LMB and ACK
    Curse of Chalion
    <-- check out at Amazon

    I thought CURSE OF CHALION was quintessential Bujold: strong plot, wonderful characters, large dollops of political intrigue. The self-deprecating hero was especially charming and the romance, while low-key, is believable and sweet. What little you see of Ista and her tragic past in this book is very intriguing and I'm really looking forward to seeing more of her in PALADIN OF SOULS (altho Preeti, I think, found it rather blah?).

    THE SILVER KISS, by Annette Curtis Klause, was also great. Lovely prose, that very occasionally tips over into the purple variety, and a unique story about a girl who attracts the attention of a vampire while she's dealing with the terminal illness of her mother. I found myself crying at the end (of course, absolutely anything makes me cry these days, including TV commercials).--Danielle

    See also ACK's Blood and Chocolate

    Posted by Preeti [Link]



    Wednesday, February 18, 2004

    SEDUCED BY MOONLIGHT -- Linda's review
    Seduced by Moonlight

    <-- check out at Amazon

    I just finished Laurell K. Hamiliton's SEDUCED BY MOONLIGHT, and I recommend it too. While it didn't appeal to me on a juvenile fantasy level as it did Preeti (too sexual for me to even think juvenile anything for the book <g>), I do agree about the draw of Merry's harem and their many color variations. And there certainly is the fantasy of just imagining being with some of these hunks, although my imagination can't quite go far enough to include the huge (and growing) number of her guards. <g> It's all I can do to try to keep track of who's who!! Where does Merry get all that...energy? I don't seem to have a problem with this like I would in any other book, thanks to LKH providing reasons: Merry's Unseelie sexual appetite and her very scary Queen's manipulations.

    Frankly I was half afraid that it was only going to be a book about interchanging sexual partners, but it included the politics and diplomacy of the Goblins, a certain magical object appearing and affecting Merry's powers, and showing the growing power in Merry and those around her. And we had lots of action at the end. No bloodless fights here.

    I continue to be amazed at LKH's imagination and look forward to the next. Though I can't imagine her every settling on one man after being with all these men!!--Linda


    Book 1 A Kiss of Shadows
    Book 2 A Caress of Twilight
    Book 3 Seduced by Moonlight

    Posted by Preeti [Link]



    Tuesday, February 17, 2004

    THE CHARMED SPHERE by Catherine Asaro--Lynn's review

    check out at Amazon -->

    I recommend THE CHARMED SPHERE, by Catherine Asaro, but it ended up being less than the sum of its parts for me. There were a lot of loose ends, inconsistencies, and characters behaving stupidly in order to advance the plot. The story ended up feeling both generic and cobbled together.

    Our first heroine is Chime, who is your typical fantasy mage, i.e., she is the most powerful ever seen, yada, yada. This means that she must marry the heir apparent to the kingdom, Muller. Muller has been masquerading as a fop because of feelings of guilt and unworth, but he is really a master swordsman. Their progression is fairly nicely done.

    Then the second heroine appears. Iris is "blocked" but turns out to really be the most powerful mage once her power is freed, displacing Chime. Oops, this means Iris will have to marry Muller, except...a prince who was thought to be dead is really alive. Jarid has been blind, deaf, and mute since he was six years old, when his dying mother saved his life from an ambush at great cost. Iris cures him, and now maybe he's the most powerful mage. Since Jarid is more directly in the line of succession, he displaces Muller.

    After all this, we have pairings of Chime-Muller and Iris-Jarid, so all should be happy, happy. But, no, we have outside dangers...and an evil villain. And guess what, Muller is a powerful mage, too, but totally out of control and can only work with damaged/flawed shapes. He doesn't want anyone to know.

    Damaged guys, rescuing women. Bah.

    [...] THE CHARMED SPHERE needed another complete revision pass and a strong editorial intervention to say "fix this and this and this" (or else it had one but needed another.) Also, I had no sense of depth. That is, the history had no more depth than the parts needed for the story. It didn't feel real in its own context.

    All that said, if I never had to read a book worse than this one, I'd be very very happy. If read as a series of short stories, there is some great writing in some of the parts. But don't expect consistency from the characters. For example, I almost felt that some of the parts that were Iris's had originally been written for Chime.

    In summary, the characters and setting were sometimes cardboard, but the artwork on that cardboard is of high quality; overall, the book is well worth reading.--Lynn

    The Charmed Sphere review page
    Or, visit our Luna feature page

    Posted by Preeti [Link]



    Monday, February 16, 2004

    JW's Recent Reads--Anne Bishop, romantic SF anthology
     <-- check out at amazon

    I've read most of the stories in IRRESISTIBLE FORCES. The Stover one didn't interest me (didn't read it), and the Jennifer Roberson one didn't do much for me either. I loved the Bujold story (but would someone who wasn't a fan/reader get much out of it?), and quite enjoyed the Putney and Beverley stories (although would've preferred more relationship and less world-building). Also enjoyed the Asaro, but two sweet teenagers simply lack the sparks of her more memorable pairings.--JW

    check out at amazon -->

    I also finished the Tir Alainn trilogy by Anne Bishop: PILLARS OF THE WORLD, SHADOWS AND LIGHT, and THE HOUSE OF GAIAN. Liked it, didn't love it. I think this is mainly because it didn't focus on any one character or couple enough, particularly after the first book. And in the first book, much more attention is paid to the relationship with the "wrong" guy than the one the heroine ends up with. He feels like an afterthought.--JW

    Posted by Preeti [Link]



    Sunday, February 15, 2004

    SEDUCED BY MOONLIGHT by LKH--Shelley and Preeti's take
    Seduced by Moonlight

    check out at Amazon -->

    I loved LKH'S new Meredith Gentry novel but have a few reservations about recommending it. SEDUCED BY MOONLIGHT is really engrossing, has lots of action, and sets the stage beautifully for future books. What it does not have is a mystery or other plot that is finished in this one novel. This novel was about developing Merry's powers and having her deal with her aunt's court. It set the stage for her having to deal with both the court of her uncle and of the goblins in the next book (or books). There's lots of interesing stuff if you have been following the story so far, but this is not a book that works as a stand alone in any sense. You really do have to read the others to know what is going on. That sounds like an odd kvetch about a series, but some books you can read out of order and still get it and then go back and fill yourself in--with this one, not so much.

    That said, SEDUCED BY MOONLIGHT kept me up until 3 a.m. following the action. There was lots of excitement, lots of sex, lots of magic. For me it was a fun read, and I am looking forward to the new installment.--Shelley

    ***

    This really appealed to me on a juvenile fantasy level. When I was a girl, I'd long for all the magical princess, and pony, and any other fantasy theme dolls, and long for them in every color and configuration the toymaker offered. Once I had some, my friends and I would make up imaginary stories for the toys where all became boyfriend and girlfriend.

    The appeasement of these childhood longings pretty much sum up the appeal of Merry and her harem of cool and/or pretty boys (each in his own unique configuration of eye/hair/body color and superpower, lovingly described), with the added adult kick of sex and violence and gore, often inter-mingled. There isn't much for higher-level brain function to enjoy in this story, but it's a quick, fun read that played to my juvenile doll-playing, comic-book reading worldview of fantasy and power.--Preeti

    Book 1 A Kiss of Shadows
    Book 2 A Caress of Twilight
    Book 3 Seduced by Moonlight

    Posted by Preeti [Link]



    Saturday, February 14, 2004

    ALPHABET OF THORN by Patricia A. McKillip

    check out at Amazon -->

    I was surprised that I loved ALPHABET OF THORN. Patricia McKillip's books had gotten increasingly, I'd say, surreal. Despite their brevity, the stories were heavily steeped in myth and evoked dreamlike images. As a consequence, I found them difficult to access or to remember. [...] What snagged my interest again? The dust jacket mentioned that the the heroine, the 16-year-old orphan Nepenthe, spends her life translating books in the royal library, and I've always liked young, bookish heroines.

    The nearby school of mages wants the librarians to translate a book filled with words that look like thorns. Nepenthe is sent to meet the student mage, Bourne, who'll pass the book along. In that meeting she is struck by two enchantments: she is figuratively bewitched by Bourne and more literally by the book, a book that speaks her secret name and compels her to solve its mystery.

    The translation of the thorn-filled book chronicles an obsessive, secret 3000-year-old love story between a warrior-king and a mage, Axis and Kane, who are also known as the Emperor of Night and the Hooded One. Their story is intermixed with that of the present day cast of characters: Nepenthe and Bourne, and the 14-year-old newly-crowned Queen of Raine and her ancient advisor Vevay. There are threats to the young and unsure queen's rule; she's been warned by magical means that that the gravest danger to the land comes from thorns. You can see where the past and present collide, yes?

    I love all the magical elements in the story. Nothing is truly new; McKillip relies on myth and folklore for her imagery. Among the many familiar elements, there are girls disguised as boys, secret legacies, ancient slumbering kings, magical castles and woods, ensnaring brambles, and a king who reminded me of Alexander the Great. It all comes together in a truly magical fairy tale that achieves depth and becomes emotionally engaging mainly through the page-turning saga of Axis and Kane. Love and obligation play a strong part in the eventual resolution of the story, which ends on a poignant, uplifting, satisfying note. A definite recommend.--Preeti

    ALPHABET OF THORN review page

    Posted by Preeti [Link]



    Thursday, February 12, 2004

    Reversal of plans for Michelle Sagara West

    According to a post by West on her newsgroup, she's "pushed back the writing of BLACK GAUNTLET and
    hardcover publication, and [is] now writing HOUSE WAR, which [her] editor at DAW -always- maintained should be the next book." The reasons for the change are mostly writerly -- HOUSE WAR kept intruding on her efforts to write anything else. I'm sure, though, that West was influenced by the deluge of emails that essentially asked: "Loved the Sun Sword series, but... what happens to Jewel?"

    HOUSE WAR revolves around two major events: The building of the Den in its early years, and the war for the House. This will mean some delay in any publication, though, since she was already several hundred pages into BLACK GAUNTLET and will need to start fresh with HOUSE WAR. But since she's now writing the book that she _wanted_ be writing, perhaps it won't be that much of a delay.

    Posted by rebekah [Link]



    Wednesday, February 11, 2004

    Mercedes Lackey's THE FAIRY GODMOTHER--Lynn's review

    check out at Amazon -->

    Mercedes Lackey's THE FAIRY GODMOTHER takes place in generic fantasyland but is deliberately recursive and self-referential in its exploration of magic and plot. This would have been fabulous if Lackey had pulled it off completely, but it is still pretty darn good.

    Our heroine is in a conventional Cinderella tale (exactly precisely) but there is no suitable prince, so she ends up as a Fairy Godmother herself. "Tradition" is a/the source of magic and will continue to push individuals to fit patterns in a fairly-acknowledged creepy way. She rescues one of the typical "three princes on a quest" and turns him into a donkey, and he learns his lesson. But she resists falling in love and being pushed by tradition back into one happily ever after. Together they manage to move to a new paradigm, though, one where he and she become co-magic workers doing interesting fun stuff. In the process they rescue his brother's beloved and fix assorted outside evil.

    This story is fun, partly because it "knows" it is a fairy tale and pushes against the boundaries. What it lacks is any of the depths of Lackey's THE FIRE ROSE or any of the other Elementals books. The setting is "fairy tale land" and it never quite goes beyond it, although the characterization is much more competent and consistent than in Catherine Asaro's THE CHARMED SPHERE, the other Luna book I've read so far. But in spite of being recursive in a way that a literary author might envy, the characters are out of central casting with only a light gloss of personality. Just to be clear, though, I liked the book.--Lynn

    More FAIRY GODMOTHER
    Or, visit our Luna feature page

    Posted by Preeti [Link]



    Monday, February 9, 2004

    Rachel Caine's ILL WIND--Linda's report
    Ill Wind<-- check out at Amazon

    I enjoyed this book a lot and agree with all Shelley said about it. First person POV isn't my favorite type of narration, but it didn't take me long to get past that hurdle. ILL WIND is intriguing right from the beginning with its different take on the weather and elements and how they affect the world. A storm has never felt so menacing!

    Most of the world lives innocent of knowing that the only thing keeping people alive are the wardens that keep the elements (fire, water, etc) under control. Joanne is on the run. She's wanted for murder, but if the other wardens knew the full story, it would be the end of her. She needs help fast and hopes an old friend, the strongest of all wardens, will be able to save her. (At one point she's in Pittsburgh with a storm following her. I felt sure she should have been heading for Erie. With our weather, it would have been perfect for her.)

    So, on the run she is, in her faithful Mustang (I got a kick out of her attachment to it), chased both by her fellow wardens and storms made by an unknown enemy. The book was fast paced with a neat take on the use of djinns and had some surprises in store, especially at the end. I'm really interested in seeing what Caine has in store for the next book! Oh, and I enjoyed the romance in it a lot too!--Linda

    [read more on ILL WIND...]

    Posted by Preeti [Link]



    Saturday, February 7, 2004

    Bishop's Black Jewels collection
    book cover

    <-- check out at Amazon

    According to a post by Anne Bishop on the romanticsf yahoogroup, the previously untitled collection of "Black Jewels" stories will be called DREAMS MADE FLESH, with a scheduled publication date of January 2005. Bishop says, "I had a lot of fun with these stories, so I'm really looking forward to sharing them with readers."

    Posted by rebekah [Link]



    Wednesday, February 4, 2004

    News from February 2004 Locus

    The February 2004 issue of Locus Magazine is the annual Year-in-Review issue, looking back at 2003, with reviewers' recommended reading, summaries of the year in book and magazine publishing, and a composite recommended reading list of books and stories.

    Some news:
    --James A. Hetley's contemporary fantasy DRAGON'S EYE sold to Ace.
    --Mary Jo Putney, writing as M.J. Putney, sold two untitled romantic fantasies in her "Guardians" universe to Del Rey.
    --Anne Bishop turned in an untitled fantasy novella collection set in her "Black Jewels Trilogy" universe, to Roc.
    --Carol Berg delivered THE SOUL WEAVER, the final installment in her "Bridge of D'Arnath" trilogy, to Ace.
    --Karen Traviss turned in GETHES, second in the trilogy begun with CITY OF PEARL, to Eos.
    --Alan F. Troop finished THE SEA DRAGON'S DAUGHTER for Roc.
    --Rachel Caine turned in CHILL FACTOR, third in her "Weather Warden" series, to Roc.

    Posted by rebekah [Link]



    Tuesday, February 3, 2004

    Rachel Caine's ILL WIND -- Shelley's report
    Ill Wind<-- check out at Amazon

    I enjoyed ILL WIND quite a bit. It is told in first person, by the heroine. She is a weather warden and her powers are wind and water. She has been accused of killing another weather warden and is on the run.

    ILL WIND was very fast paced and the action was interesting. Although the heroine is desperate, she is not clueless (although a little slow on the uptake once or twice). The weather magic was actually very interesting -- I had not really thought I would find it compelling, but I was pulled in by the descriptions of how she perceived weather.

    It is the beginning of a series, but the book works well on its own and has a definite (if slightly frustrating) romance.--Shelley

    [read more on ILL WIND...]

    Posted by Preeti [Link]



    Sunday, February 1, 2004

    THIEF OF LIVES by Barb & J.C. Hendee
    Thief of Lives

    check out at Amazon -->

    This is the sequel to DHAMPIR, which I had read and enjoyed, albeit with a few quibbles. One of them was that I came to like some of the "evil" vampires that the heroine, Magiere, was out to kill and another was a mysterious benefactor that seemed to be helping but was really manipulating the heroes. So I started this book a bit unsure on how I was going to like it.

    Magiere and the half-elf Leesil are trying to live a normal life in Miisko, running their bar, but things aren't as easy as hoped. Their battle with the vampires may have freed the town of them, but it also left the town in deep financial straits as Leesil had burned down a major warehouse that was owned and run by Rachid, one of the vampires. Now, many jobs are lost and things look bad. When an offer comes in from the town of Bela offering Magiere a huge reward to kill what may be another vampire, she reluctantly accepts...hoping to use it to rebuild the warehouse and pay backtaxes.

    The mysterious benefactor seems to be at it again, manipulating things but not quite so beneficially? And you get hints of his secret agenda. And Ratboy is back and well and has a new family. Once again, you get to know them pretty well. The authors don't make their characters black or white. The vampires can be vicious as their nature but not unthinking monsters like the heroine is led to believe.

    THIEF OF LIVES starts out as good as the Hendees' previous book, but the last half really wows you as you get surprise after surprise: Leesil meets one of his own, and he isn't friendly; we find out more about Welstel; we meet some sages; the heroes try to find out just what vampire killed Count Lanjou's daughter; and even their dog, Chap, offers some surprises! Finally, I'm glad to report the relationship between Magiere and Leesil finally moves forward despite Magiere being afraid to let her feelings show because of her dhampir nature.

    Now I'm really intrigued but will have to wait to find out more in the next book. There is no way it's over. The main vampire conflict gets finished, but there is now unfinished business to attend to that involves Leesil's past and also an object of power. A high recommend on this one, and I'm looking forward to the next.--Linda

    [more on THIEF OF LIVES, more on Book 1, DHAMPIR]

    Posted by Preeti [Link]


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