The Dragon Republic

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 06 Aug 2019

Member Reviews

This is amazing book that you will want to devour as much as book one the poppy war. The author unspools tis novels plot slowly, and never passes up the chance to make it tenser.  The action is furious, bloody, unrelenting but is delivered extremely well.  The monsters in this novels are familiar as it contains some of the darkest parts of china history.  The dragon republic should doubtless prove to be a sizzling success.  I am dying for book 3 next year.
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I really enjoyed a great many things about this book. Characters were fleshed out and the plot was well spaced. Some of the secondary storylines could've used a bit more page space but all in all an enjoyable read!
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What can I say about this book that hasn't already been said?  I'm absolutely living for every parallel to Titus Andronicus I can find because I'm That Shakespeare Freak who likes analysing the hell out of that play.  

But I'm also living for the parallel between Rin and Nezha - the morality behind what we should do when gifted with immense power.  Rin's been beaten bloody by hers, had the responsibility of entire civilizations on her shoulders because of hers, and has been told over and over that she doesn't have the luxury of being impartial.  

Nezha, on the other hand, has been beaten down in a way that others can't see.  He shoves his powers and pain into a bottle to hold into his chest until he dies.  (Fuck yeah John Mulaney reference.)  And not because he sees how powers like this affect Rin - because he does see it, sees the internal struggle that's going to haunt her until she dies - but because he doesn't want to lose the rest of himself into them.  He doesn't want to just become another shaman, to be used as a pawn in someone else's war.  He wants to fight, and do it on his own terms, knowing that by keeping himself weak in that aspect he can still retain his agency.

I'm excited to see where book 3 goes.  Beyond excited, even.
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Unfortunately I had to DNF this book around 30% of the way through. The writing was just as good as the first book, but I was struggling to stay engaged and I decided I could not stick through the lengthy tome all the way to the end. It was trending towards a 3-star review so I will rate it as such.
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I was provided with an ARC of this title from Netgalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review. 

Biggest takeaway for me? Rin is a character I can like again. By the conclusion of The Poppy War I detested her for her callous self-absorption. Rin is a completely different heroine in The Dragon Republic. Her self-absorption is still there - but it's overshadowed by her courage and sacrifice. Rin's power tore a gaping hole in the world that she's determined to seal or purge. 

Insidious, manipulative alliances and catastrophic revelations about the core motivations of characters I thought I had deciphered lured me into a starless vortex. By the end of the book I wasn't even trying to steer. I was just aimless, helmless and teetering on the edge of the precipice.

I cannot wait for Book Three!
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The Dragon Republic was another one of my more highly anticipated sequels of the year and while it was a good story, it just didn’t rock my socks the way the first book did. The Poppy War kind of checked all my “boxes” – it had a school setting, a coming of age/growing into your own theme, plenty of action and magic, and dang, it went full on grimdark in the latter half. In short, I loved it. The Dragon Republic picks up not long after those events and Rin is really struggling with the death of Altan, her new role as leader of the Cike, and a crippling opium addiction. Oh yeah, she’s also an enemy of the state and the Empress would love to have her head on a pike. 

Rin is honestly a bit of a deplorable character this time around. She has so many weaknesses, she won’t step up to the plate and truly lead the Cike, and they’re just sort of adrift with a vague suicide mission in mind. I do appreciate the fact that the author went a different direction than many others and gave Rin these weaknesses she has to deal with rather than being a total awesome-at-everything Mary Sue. Rin isn’t really a likable character either and she’s trying to drive wedges into every relationship she has and spends most of the book trying to find someone who will tell her what to do and take responsibility for the brunt of her actions. In this respect it’s pretty unique in the fantasy genre. Surprisingly, despite all this her friends are still there for her and are trying to drag her out of the mire of her own making.

The plot this time around was still good, though it didn’t capture me the way The Poppy War did. As I mentioned, so much of the story focuses on Rin getting her act together (a semblance of togetherness anyway) and finding a new person to tell her what to do. This leads her to the Dragon Warlord Vaisra who has designs on creating democracy (OR DOES HE??) but he’s forged a perilous alliance with the Hesperians to accomplish his goals. Things remain quite dark in this installment, as the provinces are now at war amongst themselves and against the Mughanese soldiers that still wander about. There are some really fantastic battle scenes with lots of main characters in peril! SO THRILLING.

Overall, like, I know deep down on an intellectual level this was a really good book – well written, a poignant examination of Rin’s inner turmoil and all that, but I still didn’t love it, hence my rating. I would recommend the audiobook version because the performance was excellent, though it did take me a little longer to get through the book than it would have if I had read the physical copy since I can only grab an hour here and there to listen.
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I finished The Dragon Republic over a month ago and I'm still torn on how to properly write a review for it.. To say I love these characters would be an understatement. They are carved into my soul for the rest of my life.

Rebecca Kuang is a mastermind and I can only dream of being as brilliant of a writer as she is. This world and characters, the events that take place, all the political plot lines.. It is all SO AMAZING.

Please read all the trigger warnings for this series and then if it sounds like a book you can handle then join me in loving it! 
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An engaging follow up to The Poppy Wars. I liked how the characters were developed further through the action making this a middle book that was purposeful and necessary. (No dreaded second book slump here). Still dark but not nearly as much as the first one.
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I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

The second book in the Poppy War trilogy, my review for the first book can be found  here. This book starts not long from where the first book ended. The war is over, the Muganese have been soundly defeated, and an uprising against the Empire is starting. Rin has changed over the course of the first book and when we see her now, she's broken. She has fallen into an opium addiction after the mental, emotional, and physical trauma from war without actual resources needed to get better. While there's a lot of plot and world building here, ostensibly, the second book is about trauma and grief after living through something horrible. It's about the cycle of abuse that people fall into because it's the only thing they know. It's about putting trust in the wrong people because of desperation and fear. It's about the consequences of war for not just the people making it happen, but the people who get caught in it. And surprisingly, this book also has a lot about the ideological differences between the East and West, and also a touch of the "white man's burden" mindset.

The Dragon Warlord, Yin Vaisra, is leading a rebellion against the Empress. In his eyes, the time for the empire is over and it's time for Democracy to have a chance. The different war lords are taking sides, and outside forces are coming in as well. It's a grimdark fantasy and [author:R.F. Kuang|16820001] has held back nothing in terms of how awful war is. There's graphic depictions of rape and death but it never feels gratuitous. The world is incredibly well fleshed out (perhaps made easier by borrowing so many things from the real world) and has been expanded significantly in this book. The characters are also well flesh out, each one with a voice and purpose that makes sense. Even if the reader doesn't necessarily agree with decisions that characters are making, it's very understandable as to why each choice was made.

Like the previous book, Kuang incorporates a lot of Chinese history in the book. The most obvious example is the battle that takes place in Red Cliff. Anyone familiar with the actual Battle of Red Cliff will recognize the strategies used and could figure out the outcome of the battle. There's also the Hesperians, (hesperia is Latin for western land) with blue eyes and light hair, who come to the aid of Vaisra with the promise of future aid in the form of guns and ship but also have missionaries on hand for converting people, and lots of opium. The mix of modern Chinese history with ancient Chinese history and Chinese mythology and then blended together is very well done. Though I do wonder if there are topics that are off limits. With her willingness to hit the big events of Chinese history, would she also be willing to have something like the Great Leap Forward or the Cultural Revolution? Because based on the other events that she's incorporated into the series, not including those would seem like a glaring omission. Or would the author take the risk of having Nikara actually becoming a democracy at the end? I can't wait to read the third book and find out.
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A worthy followup to The Poppy War, the Dragon Republic delivers on the promise of unflinching trauma and action, with characters suffering at the expense. 

Pros: 
--While the first book in this series saw a dramatic shift in tone from part to part as Rin grew and learned and was thrust into war, this sequel picks up that mantle and runs with it. Much like other military fantasies, this book focused on the manuevering and politics of the world that our main character previously wasn't aware of. 
--Rin's PTSD after the events of the first book is visceral and believable. 
-- We learn much more about the limits and range of the magic system, something that was just hinted at before. I'm excited to see how it gets puts to use in the finale.

Cons:
-- Character development. After the bordering on instalove in the first book, I was hoping to see more on-page development of Rin's relationships with her crew. But sadly we still see little of it. We're left to imply that after spending months fighting and training with each other, that suddenly equates to intense emotional attachment. I understand why it was necessary to have it in, to make the betrayal have more weight, but I wish I saw the work put in to prove it to me.
-- Murphy's Law of everything that can go wrong will, and it will happen to Rin. After the first book, I understood how Kuang wanted to put her character through the ringer, but now it seems like the trauma is just *happening* to Rin, without her having a say in any of it. It's stripping her of her agency and it got a bit tiring after one brutalization after another.
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Beautifully written sequel that is equally as good as (or better) than “The Poppy Wars.”  I love the balance of character development and gut-wrenching dilemmas on justice, revenge, retribution, humanity, and war. It’s a book that both entertains and provokes thought. Highly recommended.
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Review will go live on my blog on 09/30/19

The Poppy War is over.  Rin made sure of that when she used the full power of the Phoenix goddess to destroy the home island of the Mugenese Federation, killing their emperor and throwing their army into disarray.  But the end of the war didn't bring a happy ending. Betrayed by the Vipress, the shamanic Empress of Nikara, Rin and her fellow Cike members are on the run.  But a glimmer of hope appears on the horizon.  The Dragon Warlord plans to unite the southern territories and overthrow the Empress, and he wants Rin and her compatriots to help him do it.  Plagued by guilt, trauma, and a burning desire for revenge, Rin agrees, content finally have an outlet for her anger and grief. But with the arrival of allies from a foreign land, Rin realizes that the path to revenge might not be cut and dry.  She's always been a soldier, but can she always trust those who are giving the commands?

THE DRAGON REPUBLIC is an engrossing tale of power and responsibility, focused on very flawed people who nonetheless have your undivided attention.  Kuang has created characters that you can utterly empathize with as they struggle to survive in a brutal world. Rin is once again the heart of the story, and she's faltering under the immensity of being a power player on the world stage.  Where in THE POPPY WAR, Rin was concerned with clawing her way into a prestigious school and proving she belonged there, Rin now has to prove that she belongs at the table with the generals deciding the fate of her country.  Except, Rin isn't sure she wants to be there.  The guilt of destroying an entire island nation weighs heavily, and she'd rather avoid responsibility for her actions by letting someone else point her in a direction. Rin's arc is one of learning whether or not she has it in her to be a true leader, to accept consequences and decide if she should act on behalf of herself or others. 

Even when she's trying to just go with the flow, Kuang threads the needle of never making Rin seem like a passive character.  This book is full of momentum, stakes and deadlines, the tension of not knowing where the enemy will strike next or if you even stand a chance against them.  Rin is constantly lashing out, not just physically, but verbally.  Never one to say silent, she is constantly challenging her leaders, demanding answers.  Sure, she can be petty and whiny at times, but that doesn't mean she's wrong in the questions she's asking.  Rin gets particularly fractious with the son of the Dragon Lord, a young man she doesn't think is stepping up to the plate when he has the chance; he, in turn, doesn't think she is willing to make the sacrifices that war demands. 

But perhaps most compelling moment is when Rin finally encounters the Vipress.  When villains make the argument to the hero that "we're the same, you and me," it often comes across as a clichéd piece of dialogue you can easily dismiss.  But in this instance, the author has done such a fantastic job of writing flawed, three-dimensional characters, I actually paused and considered the argument.  Rin isn't perfect, she's incredibly human, and what might be justifiable to her is incredibly callous to another. 

Al of this drama is playing against a backdrop of impending colonization.  In this book, we meet the Hesperians, a white-coded nation showing up to see if the Asian-inspired Nikara can be "civilized."  They offer tantalizing aid to the fledgling Dragon Republic, but demand they prove themselves worthy of that aid first. It makes for rash decision making and boxes characters into corners and explores the kind of leaders who would be tempted by such offers in the first place.   There have been more works of fiction lately examining the act of colonization from the perspective of those being colonized, and it's an important look at how degrading it is to rely on help from those who don't even view you as human.

But lest you think THE DRAGON REPUBLIC waxes too philosophical, never fear, there's plenty of war and action to be had in these pages.  The days of school are done, and now it's time for naval battles and warring shamans.  From the opening pages, when Rin leads her fellow shamanic Cike compatriots on a strike mission, Kuang keeps the action coming, while never losing sight of the horror of war and the thousands that die while leaders squabble.  All of this is to put Rin through the grinder once again, so that by the end, she knows unequivocally where she belongs and what comes next.  And that decision should make her enemies tremble.
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I love, love, love this world, and this book did not disappoint. I don't know how but Kuangs delivery was just as good as the first book! The world building, magic system and character development keeps evolving into so much more drawing you in and not letting you go.
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3.5 stars. This was an entertaining, satisfying follow up to THE POPPY WAR. It does everything a good sequel should do: expand the world and mythology, escalate the stakes, and set up the next installment. The action and battle sequences are just as good as in the first book, the new characters are just as compelling as the old, and Kuang maintains her break-neck pacing. However, some of the world/history expansion got muddled and murky for me and stopped making sense, particularly the Hesperian/Mugen history. It felt sloppy and forced, like it was being cobbled together in the moment, and as Kuang sets the Hesperians up to be bigger villains than the Mugenese (despite there being barely any mention of Hesperia in the first book), she fails to make them interesting in the same way the Mugenese fail to be interesting, like the nameless evil orcs from LOTR. I'll still read the final book, but I'm less excited for it than I was for this one, hence the rounding down.
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TWs: violence (so much, though not as bad as The Poppy War), classism, racism, rape (discussion of it and attempted rape), drug use and addiction, death, maiming

These are most definitely NOT all of the trigger warnings, though these are ones I’ve recorded. Please look into more complete lists of trigger warnings so you can decide if this book is for you.

“Brace yourself,” Fonda Lee says in her blurb for this book. And she’s right. The Dragon Republic goes all out from page 1, pushing the boundaries of its world further and introducing more major players – along with the return of some familiar ones. Secrets and betrayals abound in this book, making it not only as brutal as The Poppy War, but many times more heartbreaking.

*There are spoilers for The Poppy War ahead. Proceed with caution.*

"I just don't want the world to break you."

The book begins with Rin and Altan’s crew on the run, still reeling from the events from the last book. Rin especially is worse for wear. She’s grieving for the people she’s lost, and the Phoenix refuses to leave her alone. But when a person she thought dead shows up, she gets drawn back into a war for the future of Nikan. Only this one isn’t against enemies outside her country, it’s against enemies within. A still-recovering Nikan is being torn apart by civil war right after it barely survived the Third Poppy War.

Once again, Rin’s characterization was phenomenal. You can see the toll her actions have taken on her – how what she did at the end of The Poppy War haunts her. She looks for absolution, she doesn’t want to feel its weight on her shoulders, she doesn’t want to take responsibility for it. But there is no excusing her actions – she won a war, yes, but at a terrible cost, and she has to learn to live with it. She’s not the same girl she was in The Poppy War – she’s committed atrocities beyond comprehension, much less forgiveness – but she’s still determined and breathing, which says so much, after everything’s she’s been through.

Rin’s actions in The Poppy War have consequences beyond her conscience though. She is addicted to opium, to the point where she dreads sobriety. And this book handles her opium addiction very well, and very realistically. I’ve heard many reviewers mention this, but I’ll say it again: her battle against her opium addiction is given the attention and development it deserves. The book takes care in showing how it affects her, and does so in a very respectful manner, which is all we can ask for.

Another unintended affect of Rin’s actions was how they’ve suddenly thrusted her into the spotlight. Many people realize just how much raw destructive power Rin has – and that her power makes her a valuable ally to have. The war that breaks out is just as fraught with politics as it is with blood, and Rin finds herself having to navigate an increasingly more complicated political arena, filled with people who want to use her as weapon.

"This was what the balance of power looked like now. People like her waved a hand and millions were crushed within the confines of some elemental disaster, flung off the chessboard of the world like irrelevant pieces." 

The presence of Hesperians also complicates matters further. International politics make their way into Nikan’s civil war, which furthers to broaden the scope of the world, giving it more nuance and depth.

The development of the other characters, besides Rin, is phenomenal as well. The characters have their own motivations and political alliances, their own pasts and decisions to make, and this book really showcases that. Kitay, Altan, even Empress Su Daji, are fleshed out further. And [REDACTED] returns, and his backstory and life are given more attention as well.

Out of all of these character’s arcs, it was Kitay’s that saddened me the most. His character arc from The Poppy War to The Dragon Republic was so heartbreaking because he was – and truthfully still is – the kindest, sweetest person in the book. But this war was not kind to him, and he changed in response. He has so much anger and resentment festering within him, so much that Rin recognizes herself in him…and that change is scary and sad to see.

(I’m also, truthfully, scared for him. Specifically, I’m scared for what Rin may do to him. She said something I found to be a little bit foreboding in this book, and I hope it isn’t foreshadowing anything.)

Altan is…whew.

This book brings so many more facts about Altan to light, and they are not savory. I found him to be terrible but understandable in The Poppy War, but this book shattered every perception I’ve ever had of him and reconstructed him in a way that I can’t look at without feeling disgust. I can’t believe I ever liked him. I mean, he’s still understandable. But he’s beyond redeemable.

The ending of this book ended me. This is the type of ending that will bring you to your knees. It’s as damaging as it is shocking, and it promises pain and bloodshed. There’s a war brewing in the next book, but the conflict that will be at the very center, the one that will hurt your heart, is the one between former friends.

"Fire and water looked so lovely together. It was a pity they destroyed each other by nature." 

This is actually kind of embarrassing, but I saw this quote in my notes while writing this review and I nearly started crying.

Make no mistake, there’s no discernible romance in this book. This book is much too complex for that. (And I definitely don’t ship any of the characters together – there’s only so much you can put another person through before forfeiting a chance of a relationship with them.) But I think…in another life for these characters, it may have been in the cards for them.

I think that in another life, a lot of things would’ve been in the cards for all of the characters.

The Dragon Republic is building this series up to its inevitable conclusion, laying the groundwork for a destructive finale. I can’t see an ending for Rin at this point that will end with her being happy or, at the very least, getting some much-needed peace, but I’m desperately hoping for one. She is an objectively terrible person, yes – but she’s one that has had terrible things done to her, so many, that I can’t help but root for her anyway.

Anyway, I’ll be waiting for the final installment in Rin’s saga of suffering desperately, aggressively rereading books one and two before then. Though I do worry for it. Because since The Poppy War was brutal, and The Dragon Republic was devastating, then the last book can only be heartbreaking.
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This book was a RIDE. An emotional, difficult ride. And I loved it: seeing Rin mess up over and over; it was frustrating and realistic and I appreciated seeing her journey and healing and comeuppance. Just... everything that happened attacked me in some way and I'm not okay??? I may or may not need the third book... ASAP,
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Runin “Rin” Fang is (still) reeling from her actions, which led to the end of the Third Poppy War and victory for the Empire. However, the victory has left Rin feeling hollow due to the deaths of her friends, her teachers, and her comrades. Everything she’d witnessed throughout the war: death, rape, starvation, mutilation, her lack of control as a shaman over a goddess, her addiction to opium, and the betrayal she and her Unit suffered towards the end of the war has left Rin in a depressive state of mind. As a soldier, Rin believes her only purpose lies in seeking revenge against those who betrayed her and the other denizens of the Empire. Lacking support, resources, and leadership skills, Rin leads the 13th Division to fight their remaining enemies. However, Rin and her soldiers are approached by Yin Vaisra—the Dragon Warlord, the Head of the House of Yin, and the father of one of her Sinegard classmates—and, he has a proposition for her: join up with him to form a “democratic” Republic amongst the now disbanded 12 Provinces and he will assist her with her vengeance. Rin—suspecting hidden motives and desiring to remain a soldier—agrees to the Dragon Warlord’s terms. As Rin works with her Unit and the Dragon Province, she is reunited with her former classmates who make their own decisions regarding the civil war that has broken out between the Empire and the Dragon Republic. This time, she has to determine her worth within this latest conflict. In order to do this, Rin develops from soldier to puppet to commander; it is a rough, but essential growth for Rin!

Fans of "The Poppy War," other military fiction, and grimdark will enjoy this sequel. As the world expands, so does the world-building, which is found in the characters and the weapons, which are based on military history and Chinese culture and folklore. It must be mentioned that anyone who couldn’t finish "The Poppy War" and/or are triggered by real life acts of violence should NOT read this book! While not all readers are into military literature, actual events of war, such as rape, is mentioned in this novel. Otherwise, expect another well-written story by R.F. Kuang. 

"The Dragon Republic" is an amazing sequel. The story picks up where "The Poppy War" left off and it is both creative and realistic for the type of grimdark and military fantasy the author is telling the readers. Parts of the plot and the narrative can drag on at times, but they are necessary for the story the author is telling everyone. I can’t wait for the next book, even though I must.
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The Poppy War trilogy continues to pull exactly zero punches as Rin and crew are still reeling from their experiences in Book 1. The promise of a better future comes in the form of a republic founded by Lord Vaisra of the Dragon Province. Left with few options but to see it through, Rin goes on an expedition that goes completely wrong with Empress Daji interfering at every step of the way.

I loved all the new characters and depth of world-building this book brought. The Hesperians are so interesting (even though completely dastardly). The series continues to provide no easy answers as to what better looks like. The political intrigue is top notch, especially since we, the reader, are trying to figure it all out beside Rin. In terms of specific moments, I definitely loved this bit with some dumplings and just how literal the backstabbing was towards the end.

The magic continues to delight and is in no way a distraction from the brutality of civil war that colors these books. It's a hell of a ride, as we have encounters with a wind god, a water god, and Rin's own nemesis—the Phoenix. The rules of how shamanism and magic work in this world are also given a deeper exploration. It is so rich and intricate, told in a prose so elegant and easy-to-follow.

I cannot wait for the final installment, even though the kids are definitely not okay coming out of this harrowing adventure.
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Wow. I loved this even more than The Poppy War, which is saying something.

I can't say too much about this book since it is a sequel, but this trilogy is one of the most bloodthirsty, vengeful series I've ever read, and it is awesome. I seriously cannot wait for the final installment!

Thanks so much to Harper Voyager and NetGalley for the eARC! This review will be posted on Goodreads and to Barnes and Noble's website.
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R.F. Kuang continues to amaze me with her writing abilities! The second installment of this trilogy starts off after the third Poppy War ends, and Rin is racked with guilt. She fights her opioid addiction, battling her internal demons as her lust for vengeance against the Empress Daji shapes her actions. The story spends much of its time inside Rin's head as she struggles to find control of her Phoenix power, just as potent a battleground as those outside it. Eventually, with the help of the Cike and the Dragon Warlord, Rin regains control of her power, and brings the fight to Daji. While I enjoyed the world-building more than some of the characters, and it seems that both sides of this conflict are excessively vicious, as the adage goes: "War is hell." For Rin, it certainly is no different. I can't wait to see where Kuang will take us next, but wherever it is I know it will be spectacular!
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