The Twisted Tree

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 10 Jan 2019

Member Reviews

A well written 'young adult' book I can see equally appealing to both teens and adults. It had a skilful build from teen contemporary fiction to horror with a lovely dash of norse mythology (and also reminded me a bit of a couple of scenes from the film 'Pan's Labyrinth') . Despite already reading about four books before this with a strong nordic flavour I still really enjoyed this and would read further novels by Rachel Burge. 

(ARC provided by publisher via NetGalley)
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The Twisted Tree is super short, but it’s such a good book. Creepy in all the right way. I felt that there’s an almost poetical prose, and I couldn’t get enough. I loved the writing style so much, I could picture the world, see the darkness, feel the cold… Everything I want to feel when getting lost in a world similar to our own.

I liked the characters, mostly. The MC, Martha, irritated me once or twice, but that’s probably due to my age, and not Rachel’s writing. I found she could be a little bratty is all. My biggest issue with this book, being short the ‘romance’ was rushed. I found it a little forced and don’t feel it added anything to the plot.

I liked the inclusion of the native language, and the fact that Martha only knows some, but enough to get by, having spent summers there in the past. It made her feel that little bit more realistic, that she didn’t suddenly know a language she’d only needed to know bits of previously.

The plot was interesting, and followed a few tropes, but Rachel did it in such a way it worked.

I really enjoyed this book and have given it 4/5 stars.
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I received a free ebook version of this from Netgalley. Thankyou to both the publisher and Netgalley for allowing me to read this. My review is still honest!

I have mixed feelings about this one. It's impressive for a debut novel, and something different, but it does have it's issues. I'm not actually going to provide a synopsis for this one as 1. It's a complex little book to summarise, and 2.I think this works way better with no prior knowledge, but in short, it's a YA horror/fantasy/thriller/paranormal set in remote Norway with a mysterious family history and a really creepy old tree.
I think where this book really excels is in the creepy elements. Burge really has a gift for atmosphere and creating a scene which you can visualise so fully. I would love to see a pure horror novel from her actually, as few authors can scare and give me chills as much as this one did. I liked the incorporation of mythology, particularly aspects that I hadn't seen included in a book before. I enjoyed the character development that the main character went through, as she learned to be happy with herself, and I liked that a romance wasn't the reason that she did so. It was a cute little romance too, with a different love interest. I think that's overall what I can say about this-it was different. It's a YA book that feels set apart from a lot of the ones I've read lately.
On a negative note, I think that this book could have been more engaging. It was a little hard to get into, and I only actually finished this on my second attempt. These issues did diminish as the book went on, but it was a slow beginning for such a short book. I was also disappointed that right at the very end, we're talking 95% in, some plot twists were thrown in and weren't resolved by the end, with no sequel being confirmed. It felt unnecessary and inconsistent.
On the whole though, I'm impressed with this for a debut author and will check out more of Burge's work.
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Unfortunately I felt like although book had potential I did not personally like the execution of it. I felt the book was slow paced, none of the characters were interesting and the romance was cringe. I did like bit linking to the main character's ancestry/mythical part however I felt it was kind of pushed to the side to focus on the romance.
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A fantastically different and incredibly well-written book. Rachel Burge has a real talent for writing and capturing the moment, making you want to keep on reading. This book definitely had me saying "just one more page" and "just one more chapter" multiple times. I can't wait to see what she does next!
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Wow this book was so genuinely creepy and spooktastic it was very nearly a five star read for me. I loved the mix of ghost story, monster in the woods and Norse mythology. It had everything I look for when I want to scare myself witless. The writing was wonderful, atmospheric and full of tension and suspense. The one and only thing that let it down for me was that ending. It wasn't bad, it just didn't live up to the expectations the author had built up in me.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with an advance copy. All thoughts are my own.
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Excellent Teen/YA Nordic thriller with more than a thread of Norse Mythology

After an accident where she lost an eye, Martha has discovered that she can ‘understand’ things about people just by touching their clothing . Emotions and thoughts entwined into their fabric. A gift or a curse? 

From her home in London, she sets off to visit her grandmother in Norway who may be able to help. However, she is dead and now Martha is all alone in a shack in Norway, or is she? 

I requested this book in error, but I’m grateful for the mistake.This is a terrific Teen/YA ghost story full of scares, twists and the supernatural.

I’m a sucker for Norse mythology and it runs throughout the book without dominating it. For full enjoyment it does help to have some knowledge of the Norse myths, but it's not essential. 

Martha is a brilliant character. Full of teenage angst but also having to deal with disfigurement, the loss of a loved one and something evil lurking in the dark. Oh and, of course, young love. 

While she attempts to find herself amongst all this, she finds that with the death of her grandmother, she now has the burden of maintaining the legendary Norse Tree of Life, 'Yggdrasil'.
Accompanying her in this task is a teenage boy called Stig, who is found taking shelter in her dead Grandmothers cabin. A lovely relationship blossoms between the two of them, but you are never sure if Stig is all he appears to be, as they fight the evil all around them unleashed from the Tree.

I thought that the idea of a magical ability which made Martha able to see a person's past, and reveal their different emotions, by simply touching items of their clothing, was inspired.

The threat is dark and menacing and made very real. There are some really quite unsettling moments to send a shiver down your spine. The setting, on a small snow filled island off Norway, adds to a moody, suitably creepy, tense atmosphere.

The end of the book was a little rushed and perhaps a little predictable, but didn’t detract from this being an excellent read. 
Fast paced, tense and eerie. A proper page turner which I read in a couple of sittings. 
Highly recommended for a nice, quick, spooky read.
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Martha can read people's emotions just by touching their clothes. She has been able to since the accident, where she became blind in one eye. To find out how to deal with her ability she decides to visit her grandmother in Norway, where the accident took place. But her grandmother is dead & someone else is living in her house!

I really like how Martha's ability is described and the straight to the point conversational writing, with great picturesque flourishes. This story has you continuously guessing with its eerie intrigue and keeps you turning the pages. Evenly paced, there is no rush to the narrative, creating the spooky atmosphere as promised. With that menacing twisted tree in the middle of it all and elements of a dark myth/fairy tale.

A sense of foreboding envelopes you as things get weirder and weirder. But there is also cute feels from Martha and some of her encounters. When it needs to be suspenseful though, boy does it deliver.

I do believe the ending was a bit abrupt, but I still enjoyed the book.

Quite original with its Norwegian backdrop and elements of Nordic mythology, a tale that makes you wonder about the existence of fate.
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The Twisted Tree is about a girl named Martha who after an accident loses an eye, but gains the ability to read people's clothing. In trying to find to find out more she decides to go to visit her grandmother in Norway who she hopes will explain more. I thought the concept of reading the emotions of people by touching their clothes was fascinating, and unusual. the characters are well rounded and the Norwegian mythology weaved into the story was interesting and at times very creepy. I really liked the history of the women in the family and how it was up to the women to be strong and supportive of each other. I found myself continually questioning whether I trusted Stig and wasn't quite sure what to make of him, until the book came to an end. Overall I enjoyed the way the Norwegian winter landscape was described and the Norwegian folklore, as well as the strong bond between women, but I only wish that there was more of an explanation about the ability of touching clothes, and about Hel and the underworld, and maybe less romance between the characters that seemed to happen quite quickly.
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This is by far the creepiest book I've read in a while and it caught me off guard, I wasn't expecting it to be so paranormal but it was an extremely chilling read. The atmosphere was written so well and I regretted having this as my night-time read! It also features a lot of Norse mythology which was fun. Watching the relationship between Martha and the boy in the cabin 'Stig' evolve was really nice but it kept the thought in the back of my mind whether he could really be trusted or not, seeing as we don't really know him.

There is a certain part in the story that sets all hell loose and left me truly shocked and scared to continue reading (in a good way). The only criticism I have is that towards the end the writing seemed a bit messy and I found it hard to keep up with what was happening as it was so fast paced. Overall I would definitely recommend, especially to fans of YA horror/thrillers and Norse mythology. This was also a debut book which makes it that more impressive! I can't wait to read more by Rachel Burge in the future.
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This was an interesting book - part mythology, part ghost story, part romance. All parts were done very well, and integrated perfectly. The writing style was suitably mysterious when needed, with the details dished out gradually and with just the right pace. The characters and dialogue were realistic and believable, despite the magical aspects. Even the magical seemed like it could be entirely real. A very good read.
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Atmospheric, creepy and ultimately predictable, The Twisted Tree is like microwave mac and cheese--it does the trick just as you know it will, but it's not going to yield anything new. 

Rachel Burge's debut is hardly the first supernatural thriller to draw on mythology. Better books have taken inspiration from the larger-than-life figures of tradition, especially the Norse tradition, whose grim tales make for effective dark suspense. That said, The Twisted Tree weaves connections between lonely English teenager Martha and the old tales adeptly enough to keep average YA readers engaged.

The setting is chosen well and utilised to chilling effect. As you'd expect, the story takes place on a bleak island in the middle of nowhere, perfect for the ghosts to come out and play. At first I didn't realise Skjebne wasn't a real member of the Lofoten Islands, but created to carry the same name as the Old Norse for fate. An interesting detail with more than a touch of foreshadowing.

Martha's gift for psychometry through clothing I found quite original as far as superpowers go. By the end you'll have a primer on all the types of textile commonly found in clothing and the information she can read through them. Cashmere, for example, transmits a direct dose of its owner's emotions, while silk exposes their deceit.

Less original was the unnecessary romance subplot. I thought for a while that Rachel Bruge might go in the direction of making the love interest, whose name I can't actually remember (that tells you all you need to know about him), the villain. Sadly, the truth was much more boring, and we're left with another pitiable victim of instalove.

Overall, The Twisted Tree is a novella-sized read that gets the job done. Here's your quick supernatural fix. If you liked The Sacrifice Box or The Hazel Wood, this could be worth checking out.
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Martha has an unusual ability where she can read people from touching their clothes, as if their memories and emotions have been absorbed into the material. Her mother believes it is nonsense. In order to fully understand her ability, she sets off to visit her grandmother. When she gets there she discovers that Mormor is dead and she is left with so many unanswered questions. Strange and paranormal events start happening, and she realises her strange abilities are just the beginning.

It took me forever to read The Twisted Tree and not because I wasn’t enjoying it and not because it was a bad book (it isn’t!) but because I was in a huge reading slump which has lasted over a month. Despite this, I did enjoy reading The Twisted Tree and I enjoyed revisiting it for a little while when my mood fancied/allowed it.

I loved the Norse mythology aspect. It was really interesting as I’m not very knowledgeable on the topic but really loved the Norns and the creature and the Queen of the Underworld. I also really enjoyed the blend of the mythology and the thriller/supernatural aspect.

The Twisted Tree was well written, not because it was in-your-face-scary but it had this really great subtle eerie vibe to it, and the snowy Norweigan setting really added to that. That, and the mythology, is what kept fetching me back to it despite the horrible slump I was in. I did enjoy Martha as a character, but she wasn’t really the highlight of the book for me. The romance was also not my favourite part but far from terrible! Overall, I did really enjoy the story and the mythology.
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So, I'd heard a lot about this book leading up to its release and I was really excited to be given a copy by the publisher and NetGalley to review, so thank you! I was incredibly excited for a spooky tale set in Norway, and the timing of the release (and my subsequent reading of it) in winter was absolutely perfect. Ostensibly, this book had everything that I loved and would possibly want from a creepy, thrilling, mythology-based read. In fact, I was so prepared to be so terribly freaked out that I didn't even let myself read it at night. Unfortunately, I didn't find it that enthralling or that chilling... instead, I found it a combination of disquieting, confusing, and disappointingly underdeveloped. 

The premise is that Martha, having suffered from a horrible accident involving a tree at her grandmother's house in a remote area of Norway, has been blinded in one eye... and has gained, subsequently, the ability to "read" the clothing of the people around her. When her Mormor (grandmother) ceases communication with her after this accident and Martha realises that her mother has been burning her grandmother's correspondence, she sets out for this remote little isle to get answers for herself-- and that brings us to the very beginning of the story, with Martha at the airport, running for her flight and arriving at her grandmother's house, to hear the news that her grandmother is dead and to find a strange boy sleeping in the house. There are things-- terrible, threatening things-- in the darkness outside and the isolation of the snow and distance and she strikes up an alliance with Stig, the strange boy, who had simply been looking for a place to run away to after problems in his own life. Martha finds a trunk of her own family's history left to her in her grandmother's house, along with a spinning wheel that moves itself, and the directives to make sure to water the old twisted tree out on the outskirts of the property-- the tree where Martha ended up injured in the first place. The dead rise, the safety of the world is threatened, and myths and gods come to life. 

Things I Loved:
- The idea of clothing reading was super cool to me-- I love sewing and crafty stuff and the whole idea that different types of cloth would have different compositions or personalities was fantastic. 
- Norse mythology was well-integrated. From the immediate Odin reference (Martha and her eye and Odin the All-Father, One-Eyed) in the premise to the stuff that comes out more gradually, I think the way it was incorporated was well done. 
- Martha read like a teenage girl who had been through a lot. A lot of times, modern teenage voices in a modern world read like worldly and experienced 30 year olds, so it was refreshing to see someone unsure of herself and so consistent in her narrative voice.

Things I Liked:
- The aesthetic of Norway + winter + snowstorms + dead rising was all great, especially in the middle of a light snow storm while I was reading it, was really cool. I think it fit the vibe of the cover and really struck a cool note.
- It was a quick read. I think it took me about two hours total (with interruptions) to blow through it. 
- Stig and his mystery seemed like a neat twist and gave their immediate relationship a bit more to question. He was just a really interesting character, though I found him wildly inconsistent (...not in a good, intriguing way) at times. 

Things I Didn't Like:
- [POSSIBLE SPOILERS AHEAD]-
- The back and forth of the relationship with Stig was really, really bizarre at the end of the book. I get that there's inconsistency and we're supposed to be confused and left wondering about the real motivations and whatnot as readers, but to me, it was the last ten pages of a book and I had whiplash from all the back and forth that Martha had in those last few pages. "Nah, he's a great guy, I swear mom!" to "Actually he's possibly a wanted man with a split personality coat" was a bit much for me... and I love conflicted/morally grey characters.
- It *was* creepy at times for sure-- and then the paragraph would end and there would be a moment that shattered that nicely built illusion of skin-tingling terror. Example (of my own hyperbolic response, not from the book): "This is a sentence that is chilling and hair-raising and I'm talking about the dead rising and there's this gnarled tree and I'm possibly hallucinating shadows that are ghosts and these are my words. IT WAS SCARY." See, I was scared *before* the paragraph ended with the description of being told it was scary. The curling nails around doors and blowing out candles to keep hidden from the risen dead IS SCARY. There were too many moments were legitimately creepy bits of writing were ruined by a moment of unnecessary intervention and the vibe was ruined. I finished this book at 1am and immediately went to sleep.... and I have the world's most overactive imagination. 
- The scene with Hel at the end was SO FRUSTRATING. I love Norse mythology. Hel is incredible and her invocation in the story was literally a high point for me. I found Martha's literal descent to challenge Hel so exciting and reiminiscent of the story of Ishtar and I was ALL IN. And then she gets there and it's literally the most anti-climatic interaction ever. It was the first time I've ever been disappointed in a representation of ANYTHING involving Hel-- and I've been legitimately obsessed with her since I studied Norse mythology as a 16 year old and did my senior art project of "a self portrait in the image of the goddess Hel." 
- It felt like the story didn't take its time. It was a quick read, which was great, but this story could have been an epic.
- I can't speak to this very much as a person with sight, but as a disabled person, I found the trope of "person endures an injury that renders them "disfigured/disabled" and as a result gets superpowers" to be super problematic, especially in this case. Even as a reference to Odin and gaining knowledge through taking out his own eye, and even giving the character credit for being *allowed* to feel however she wants after going through her experience (feeling insecure/less than/unstable/ugly).... it was done in a way that was just a bit cringe-worthy to me.

If you're after a quick winter read, this might be the book for you. If you love Norse mythology, this could be a nice read to pick up. If you like some creepy tropes and want to scare yourself, then this might be an option. But for me, it fell flat in a lot of different areas, leaving me overall a bit "meh" about the whole thing. I would give it 2.5/5 stars.
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~ I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review ~ 

Gripping me right from the very beginning, this book was one of the rare stories that kept me reading into the early hours of the morning; I just could not put it down.

Suspenseful and atmospheric, this creepy tale centres itself around Martha, a young teen with an odd ability – she can sense people’s emotions just by touching their clothes. She longs to understand why she can do such a bizarre thing, and believes her grandmother may be able to assist her with all her unanswered questions, so sets off on a journey to Norway. However, things go from strange to downright scary once she arrives…

Nordic mythology is not something I had personally seen in literature before, so I found it refreshing. It made it such an original storyline, ultimately meaning you couldn’t predict what would happen next, adding to the thrill factor. The pacing was quick so often kept you on your toes, and although obviously the more exciting aspects of books are the action scenes, even the ‘calm before the storm’ moments were interesting to read.

Martha was such a fascinating character; after being left partially blind due to an accident she finds herself cursed with the power to see people’s secrets and emotions through touching their clothes. She truly is a complex character, believing that she is some sort of monster who could never be loved, and you honestly feel for her. There is a visible shift in her personality, and this growth is so lovely to witness, as she changes from this vulnerable girl to a brave, badass main character.

Genuinely enjoyed this book, looking forward to a potential sequel.
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The Twisted Tree was an atmospheric winter read, isolating the teenage protagonist on a remote Norwegian island as horrors stalk in the frozen woods around her. The story is slow burning and carries a very eerie feel, starting with the portentous final request of a dying old woman and slowly weaving a ghost story deeply rooted in Norse mythology. While I felt that the author could have done a little more to introduce the reader to some of the mythological characters referenced in the tale, for someone who is already a fan of these legends it builds into a creepy and atmospheric tale.

By the half-way point, I found that I was utterly hooked by Martha's tale. I was desperate to learn what the significance of the tree was, what had caused Martha to fall, if Stig was entirely on the level and what the "wolf" that had been sighted in the woods really was. The isolated setting subtly fit the mood of the tale, creating a world that seemed bright and homely when Martha's Mormor was alive but became harsh and unforgiving while she grieved. Martha's narrative lacks descriptions but is very easy to follow, carrying the right amount of angst to make her sympathetic without being irritating.

Yet, as the story reached its final act, I did feel that it lost something. Without spoiling too much, I felt that the ending was a bit too neat. While it wasn't entirely sunshine and roses, it was no where near as bleak as the opening chapter made it sound. Perhaps it was just a little rushed, tying up most of the loose ends very quickly with no real ramifications for Martha's family allowing the tree to be damaged.

Yet, despite my gripes, it is hard for me to fault the personal level that the story operated on. Beneath the ghost story, it was a tale of female empowerment. While male characters in The Twisted Tree are largely formed, the female ones are strong. We see glimpses of Martha's family going back for generations and, in her darkest hour, it is from their stories that Martha draws power.

Although Martha begins the story feeling withdrawn due to her perceived deformity, she gradually learns throughout the course of the book that her life is what she makes it. Through a common ground that she shares with a certain mythological character, she learns that it's up to her to write her own story and that no person's fate is entirely set in stone. I personally loved this message and think that it will certainly resonate with young female readers.

However, I was not entirely onboard with her rather hurried relationship with Stig. They fall in love shockingly quickly, despite the fact that he is a complete stranger and Martha is grieving. The novel also left some aspects of Stig's backstory a little open and I personally would have liked some more closure. It does not feel as though this is the start of the series and I'm left feeling a little uncertain about how to feel about him.

Anyhow, I think that about covers it. While The Twisted Tree is not perfect, it is an atmospheric tale with a strong message. It is certainly going to stay with me for a long time.
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The Twisted Tree is a very thrilling combination of family secrets, love and nordic myths. I really liked the description of the tree and its various beings. Also, the very twisted family story is very captivating. Great wintry read!
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3.5 stars

Ever since the day Martha fell from the tree outside her grandmother's house, she has been blind in one eye. Martha may have lost part of her sight, but she gained the ability to feel someone's emotions and see their memories by touching their clothes.
Wanting answers about her new ability, Martha travels to Norway to see her grandmother, Mormor. 
Instead, Martha discovers that Mormor is dead and a strange boy is living in her house. To make things worse a creature is roaming the woods . . .

The Twisted Tree was a creepy, atmospheric read. 
Martha was a likeable protagonist and I thought her power was an interesting one.
I felt sorry for Stig and I couldn't decide whether to trust him or not.
The plot was intriguing and held my attention, but there were a couple of things that bugged me.
I liked the Norse mythology that was included.
The setting really added to the creepiness.
The writing style was easy to follow and I thought the author did a good job of making scenes tense.

Overall this was an enjoyable, spooky read.
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The Twisted Tree is a quick, dark read that had me hooked from beginning to end!

The characters are interesting and believable and I could feel the cold beauty of the setting in stark contrast to the cosy warmth of Mormor’s cabin.

It is the plot that really entranced me though: a compelling blend of modern YA adventure/romance with Norse mythology, some classic horror elements and a distinct Gothic flavour. I love how Martha’s injury is both modern, in her concern about how boys react to it, and steeped in the mythology around which the tale is woven.

The horror elements are more psychological than gory, with shadows and symbolism everywhere, and the very primitive dreads of death and darkness which have obsessed humanity since stories began.

Highly recommended for older teens upwards, and personally one of my favourites so far this year! My only criticism is that I need to know what happened with the mysterious Nina and so have everything crossed that a sequel is forthcoming soon!


I close my eyes and instantly I’m back in hospital: waking up to blackness. Just remembering the feel of the bandages on my face makes me shudder. Maybe it was the shock, but after I came round, I couldn’t stop shivering. Mum draped her jacket around my shoulders and then… even now I can’t explain. Something wrenched apart inside me, as if a gust of wind had banged a door open. I saw myself under the tree, my blonde hair caked with blood, and then I felt a rush of emotion: fear mixed with guilt and love. Feelings that I knew weren’t mine.
At first I was convinced I must have imagined it – until it happened again. After the operation they weren’t sure how much of my sight had been saved. When the doctor unfurled the bandages from my eyes, his jacket sleeve brushed my cheek. As soon as the material touched me, I saw an image of a bearded man in a reflection of a hearse window, his face pale and drawn. The man’s father had died and left everything to his new wife. My heart twisted with jealousy. I could almost taste the bitterness he felt. The doctor removed the last of my bandages and I blinked in disbelief – he was the man I had seen.

– Rachel Burge, The Twisted Tree

Review by Steph Warren of Bookshine and Readbows blog
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The Twisted Tree was a good read. It was super atmospheric and I really did enjoy Rachel Burge’s writing style. I loved the unique twists on usual mythology YA books and it managed to get a lot of interesting story into few pages. I would recommend it those who enjoy suspensive writing and new takes on mythology.

However, I felt it was a lot shorter than it should have been and when those few pages are focused on a fledgeling relationship that seems kind of pointless and still leaves loads of questions to answer, it does feel like aspects of the story are missing.
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