Cover Image: Assassin's Creed Valhalla: Geirmund's Saga

Assassin's Creed Valhalla: Geirmund's Saga

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Member Reviews

I was a bit skeptic all of this book at first, but after reading it I was quite pleased with the storyline and my assumptions were way off base (I know as a reader you should go into a book with no assumptions, but alas, I am flawed). My obsession with Norse mythology was very satisfied by this story, and I would happily read more!
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When Aconyte first put out an Assassin’s Creed novel – Geirmund’s Saga, by Matthew J Kirby- last year, I let it pass me by – I had a vague recollection of possibly having played a demo of one of the earliest titles in the Assassin’s Creed series many years ago now, but certainly never got properly into the series, or developed any real awareness of the lore.

My resolve was tested again in 2021, with the announcement of Aconyte’s second Assassin’s Creed novel, The Ming Storm. The promise of a kung-fu novel along with some fantastic cover art was enough to suck me in, and – despite a few interruptions for illness – I ended up reading both stories over the course of a few weeks. Today I’m going to take a closer look at both of them.

The Ming Storm by Yan Leisheng is a bit of a departure for Aconyte, in a few ways. For one thing, I believe it’s the first time that they’ve published a book which is a translation, as The Ming Storm was originally published in Chinese. It was also originally a 2019 release, which seems to make it the oldest story that they have put out so far.

If you’ve ever read a Chinese Wuxia novel before, then the linguistic stylings of The Ming Storm will probably be fairly familiar to you, but compared with a western novel (even a western novel in a pseudo-far-eastern setting like Legend of the 5 Rings), it can be quite jarring. The narrative voice will often digress into philosophical musings and lore-dumps about Kung-Fu, Buddhism and Confucian Philosophy, whilst the actual prose remains strangely plain, verging on sterile. The principle of “show don’t tell” seems to be absent much of the time, so whilst you will be told that a particular character is hot-tempered, foolish, cunning etc, the reader is largely left to take the narrator’s word for it, rather than being shown much to embed the perception.

Shao Jun, the main character, is an interesting enough figure: a former imperial concubine, trained as a member of the brotherhood of assassins, she finds herself largely isolated, unsure who is friend and who is foe, as she struggles to readjust to life in China after a period in Europe, and seeks revenge for many fallen comrades. Likewise, the principle antagonist is interestingly drawn, with complex emotions and motivations, but the conviction that the main thing we need to know about a character is what philosophical school they follow makes it hard to get much of a feeling for any of the supporting figures.

As well as spending a lot of time on philosophical asides, The Ming Storm leans very heavily into the Assassin’s Creed aspect of things – for the uninitiated, you basically need to know that long before the first human civilisations, there were a highly advanced group called the Isu, and since their demise, there have been two rival groups who retained an awareness of them: The Brotherhood of Assassins (generally the protagonists of the stories and games) and the nefarious worshippers of the Isu who go by various names at various times, but are most notorious (at least in Europe) as The Templars. These groups seem to have been fighting each other for the entirety of human history, and they show a lot of interest in various Isu McGuffins of the tech-so-advanced-it-seems-like-magic variety. Shao Jun (Assassin) has come into possession of one of these boxes, but has no real idea what it is. She has returned to China after a period in Europe, looking for revenge on the “Eight Tigers,” (who just happen to be the local Isu worshippers), and whose leader is set on getting his hands on the box.

Overall, The Ming Storm is a bit of a slow read: it has been translated not once, but twice (Chinese to French, French to English), and if there was much poetry or lyricism to the writing in the first place, it largely seems to have been lost along the way. Add to that the very distinctive Chinese style for a Wuxia novel, and the end result is something that can feel quite awkward to a western reader. Combined with how heavily the book delved into the Assassin’s Creed lore, I found the overall result relatively inaccessible.

By contrast, Geirmund’s Saga is a much easier read. Despite being fairly lengthy, it clips along at a good pace, and the eponymous hero gets plenty of opportunity for character development, even if those around him are forced to make do with a little less.

Geirmund is a “Dane” (technically from modern-day Norway) who is fed up with home, and joins a large invading fleet bound for England. Not surprisingly for anyone who has read this type of story before, he proves to be remarkably good at the whole business of waging war, and despite some notable set-backs, soon acquires a reputation for himself, and a growing band of followers.

The twist that moves this story into the Assassin’s Creed universe, is a magic amulet that Geirmund receives then loses, which is used to re-frame the whole story of the near-fall of Wessex in the 870s, taking the role of an unknown object referenced in a key Anglo-Danish treaty, and made the reason for the rise of a prominent Danish king. There were also a few allusions to other characters having a much bigger involvement with the whole Isu side of things (including one who has her own grapic novel series elsewhere), but it’s done gently enough that you could easily miss it if you weren’t looking closely for it. Whilst there might be some hardcore Assassin’s Creed fans out there for whom this fairly light engagement with the lore would feel like a let down, personally, I thought that it made for a much smoother experience overall: a good Anglo-Danish story with some interesting twists, that put me in mind of Bernard Cornwell (although without needing to put the main character through quite such an exhausting repeated cycle of triumph and fall as poor old Uhtred).

As an interesting aside, Geirmund Heljarskinn (Hel-hide in this novel) is a real historical figure, albeit one about whom not a lot seems to be known with much certainty. He definitely came from Norway, as this story tells, was the son of a Norwegian King and his Siberian wife, and was noted often for the dark complexion that his maternal ancestry gave him. The little information we do have about Geirmund’s life comes somewhat later, when he became a very successful setter on Iceland, as well as spending time in Ireland. This foray into the Anglo-Danish battle for the fate of Wessex seems to be an entirely fictitious creation for the purpose of this story, but was well-done, ending with a “well, you always wondered what he got up to in his youth, didn’t you” sort of conclusion.

Overall then, as much as the premise appealed to me, and as much as I feel I ought to like it, The Ming Storm fell a bit flat for me – it’s not badly written, and feels like it fits well into the traditional style for Wuxia novels, but between that styling and the inevitable problem of translations inevitably feeling a bit clunky, it just wasn’t that enjoyable. I’ll be sticking to Rokugan in future for my far-eastern style fantasy. Call me a philistine, but I find it more enjoyable when I can get the flavour of the setting, but with a written-style that’s more obviously intended for a Western audience.

Geirmund’s Saga was definitely more of a success: it leaned less heavily on the Assassin’s Creed specific elements of the story (a key McGuffin notwithstanding) and works well as simple Viking/Wessex historical fiction, with the fantastical element being a much more subtle flavouring.

If you’re an Assassin’s Creed fan, and particularly if you’ve been after more of Shao Jun’s story, then both are still worth a read, but if you’re a more casual reader and only want to give one of these new offerings a try, then I’d definitely recommend Geirmund’s Saga as the way to go.
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“‘Show me a man who is never afraid, and I’ll show you a fool.’”

ASSASSIN’S CREED VALHALLA: GEIRMUND’S SAGA by Matthew J Kirby—’Introducing Assassin’s Creed Valhalla Geirmund’s Saga sets the scene for Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla, the latest game in the world-conquering series by Ubisoft.’ 

I read somewhere there may be an expansion pack letting players play on either side. 


‘Mid-9th Century CE. The Viking attacks and invasions are shattering England’s kingdoms. Born into a royal lineage of Norwegian kings, Geirmund Hel-hide sets out for an adventure to prove his worth as a Viking and a warrior. A perilous journey across the sea brings him into contact with a being out of myth and grants him a mysterious ring that promises both great power and bitter betrayal.’

Where or where to begin with this review,’ she mutters to herself as she resists the urge to set aside this tablet and plunge headfirst into the world of Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla on my daughters PS4. 

Having never played the game, I asked her to acquaint me with the storyline within, which doesn’t appear to be in line with this book—a fact that did not put me off of reading it, either. 

As a huge fan of the show VIKINGS and Norse Mythology, my Norwegian lineage on me Pops side (both my kids are over six feet tall and tower over me), I could not wait to read this book! 

If you’re a fan of the show and/or Norse history, then you will know who Ragnar Lodbrok is and his many sons (Björn Ironside—My Heart!).


Sorry, I was thinking about one of the last episodes of VIKINGS.


As mentioned above, the book is set in the Mid-9th Century CE, wherein Ragnar’s son, Halfdan, is King of Northumbria, and Hjörr Halfsson, King of Avaldsnes, is father to Geirmund Hjörrsson, the lead character in this book whose life this story is centered around. 
The book started really well, though a slow burn; immediately pulled me in and eager to see how this saga would unfold as we follow Geirmund on his journey to England, which is somewhat similar to that of Ragnar’s—an aspect of the narrative that has me on this fence with this book? 

Possibly. That, and I wish the Kirby fleshed-out scenes a little more. 

Overall, not a fan favorite, but a book I recommend.

Thank you, NetGalley and Simon & Schuster Inc., for loaning me an eGalley of ASSASSIN’S CREED VALHALLA: GEIRMUND’S SAGA in the request for an honest review.
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*Thank you to Netgalley, the publisher, and the author for providing me with an early copy in exchange for an honest review.*

3.5 stars

Summary: A man seeks treasure and land, so, like any sensible person, he goes to a foreign country to take others’ possessions. 

I have not played this Assassin’s Creed game but I have played three of the earlier ones, so I am familiar with the basic lore. 

	The story is simple: Geirmund is dissatisfied with his life as a second son and joins the raiders who’ve set their sights on conquering England. He forms a band of warriors and together they travel all over the foreign terrain in search of silver, land, and battles.

	One thing I really like is that the slow pace didn’t bore me. Twenty percent passes before they even reach England and I still enjoyed it. The author’s very good at making a nothingburger plot quite engaging. 

	Since the plot is straightforward, the problems have nowhere to hide. It’s missing depth, meaning and those extra bits that transform it from a sequence of events, to a lush, full story. It’s one quest in the grand scheme and instead of standing strong on its own, it highlights the fact that all the important action and information is unfolding elsewhere. That’s not to say nothing happens; plenty of action plays across the pages. But because this is an Assassin’s Creed inspired book, I think it’s the wrong type of action.

	I know the games have changed a lot since I played them, but what made them cool was the sneaking, climbing, stabbing, intriguing and sense of camaraderie. I saw Assassin’s Creed in this book’s title and immediately had those expectations, which were subsequently assassinated from a haystack (that’s a game reference). 


	The Assassins aren’t really in this book. The protagonist of the game does make a few cameos, as well as other characters and locations, but I thought Geirmund would become an Assassin and he doesn’t. He isn’t even aware of their existence. If you don’t capitalize on the biggest aspect of a franchise, why bother? Maybe the author was restricted on what he could write, but if he was, why would they tell him to ignore the best part? It’s such a missed opportunity. 

	What about the rest of it?

	Geirmund is what you’d imagine a Viking protagonist to be. He’s a bit reckless and a battle lover, but with a strong sense of honor that prevents him from being too crazy. He doesn’t needlessly kill and he looks out for his gang. And yet he lacks that spark of individuality and memorability that is vital in main characters. He does his part but I’m sure he could’ve been better. 

	Since his gang is constantly traveling, we’re not given much time to get to know them and Geirmund even comments that he doesn’t really know some of them. But what is shown is precisely what I expected. They’re warriors, they’re loyal, they go scouting, they dream of Valhalla and they love a good meal. However, it’s great when expectations are expertly subverted. I wish that were the case here. As it stand, I feel slightly bad about criticizing such wonderful displays of loyalty.

	I’ve previously talked about simplistic prose and how words like “was,” “had” and “would have” are stagnant and can be cut to create better sentences. I’ve also mentioned that simple prose can still make a good reading experience. This is one of those cases. There’s nothing outwardly special in how this story is told and yet it didn’t lose my attention. The description is decent too. 

	There isn’t much dialogue, but when they do talk it doesn’t sound modern, which I like. 

	Not every historical fiction book needs a map, but if the characters are always traveling and giving direction, as they are in this book, there should be a map.

	Another thing: several Norse words are included. I like that the author doesn’t stop the story to explain them, because obviously the characters know the words. But then it’s kinda like you’re supposed to already know what these words mean or take the time to research them. Neither of those apply to me, so I appreciate that I could mostly infer their meaning. 

	As this is an “Assassin’s Creed” book, you may be wondering if you have to play the game to understand it. I’m sure you’d get more out of it if you’d seen the characters, locations and knew the big plot, but it’s still possible to follow it without that context. Actually, if you’ve seen the tv show The Last Kingdom, you’d have a lot of fun with this. I love that show and I recognized several things in here because I’d heard it there first. 

	I’m not mad at what I read; I’m disappointed that it is so far from what Assassin’s Creed used to be. If you want a Viking story, this isn’t a bad choice. But The Last Kingdom is better.
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I was instantly hooked!  The world-building and character development were great.  I felt like I was on an epic journey with Geirmund and his war-band.  The battle scenes were descriptive for the action and energy, but not overly gory.

I am a fan of the Assassin's Creed franchise, but I'm not able to play the games because of a physical disability.  Geirmund's Saga let me be immersed in the world and I loved it.  You don't need to know the Assassin's Creed games to enjoy it.  I highly recommend Geirmund's Saga to Assassin's Creed fans, but also fans of the Vikings era.

Thank you to NetGalley and Aconyte Books for the ARC in exchange for my honest review.
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Something I have never really explored before is the world of the Assassins Creed books. As a huge fan of the games, though I haven't played the last three that have come out, I couldn't wait to get my hands on this story, because I just thought there's no way I couldn't like it, right? It's part of the franchise! I have to love it. And even though it wasn't exactly what I was expecting, I did thoroughly enjoy it. A mighty tale of Vikings, war, and of course the wins and losses of life, I couldn't get enough.

Following a man named Geirmund, I really feel like we get to see him grow throughout the years depicted in this story, first as a young man, and by the end he's a strong and charismatic warrior. He knows what he wants, and even though it may be difficult or scary to get it, he's willing to put everything he has up to fate, and power through it. Whatever happens at the end is meant to happen, and he's perfectly fine with that. He's very brave, I guess is what I'm trying to say here. Beginning with a battle between a pack of wolves with his twin brother, he's determined to bring him home to heal after being badly wounded. Though many people judge him for saving his twin's life, he knows it was the right thing to do, and he's not going to feel bad about that. That being said, however, he wants a different life for himself than his father, and he's willing to give up everything he knows to get that life.

I really loved the lore that was put into this book, though I didn't know about hardly any of it, I liked getting to know even a sneak peek about it. That being said, I did have quite a lot of difficulty with the words I didn't recognize. I felt like I couldn't fully immerse myself into the book because of that, but it was still an epic read. It was full of blood and battles and bravery. What more could you ask for from a book about Vikings? I feel proud to have known Geirmund even just for this book, and I'm sure it's something I'll think about for a while after finishing it. I also really enjoyed the mix of worlds, Pagan and Christian, and learning the differences. I thought that the characters were really lifelike, though old world, and the environment they lived in was very easy to imagine, which is something I always appreciate. I had a hard time picturing the characters, however. 

Overall, I did enjoy this book. I'm able to look past the things that I didn't love about it, because I did have a good time reading it. I'm just saying that if you're not completely versed in Viking history and culture that things might be a little confusing for you, like they were for me. If you're looking for an epic tale of a man's life from son to warrior king, than this is something you should check out. Just don't expect it to be like a typical Assassin's creed game, with the sneaking around and the wrist blade and the missing finger, and most of all with the aliens. This is just an epic tale of Vikings battling and looting and killing, and taking over new areas by whatever means necessary. 

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I have never played the video game Assassin's Creed so I can't say if this book is true to it but I did find it a good historical fiction book on its own.
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Received a free copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

A historical fiction novel focusing on Geirmund, a brave and stubborn Viking warrior that is trying to find his own destiny. No previous understanding of the Assassin's Creed games are required to read this novel, nor does one need to be expertly versed in history to read it. I think it does help to at least have played the game beforehand so you can picture some of the characters easier.

Now, this is *exclusively* a historical fiction novel, I can't quite understand the whole "let's slap an Assassin's Creed label on this book!" idea because....nothing from the present-day parts of the game appear. It's literally just about Gerimund. Eivor, the main character in AC: Vallhalla does appear a couple of times but in pretty small doses. That's about it. 

The action scenes were well written and the atmosphere definitely felt very Viking-like. I'd say the dialogue could be a bit stilted at times, but it's not a huge problem and doesn't take you out of the book. The characters came off a bit flat sometimes, the one priest named John was my favorite because of his dialogue with Geirmund. How does a priest try to convert a Viking? Not very successfully. 

This is a good historical fiction that is true to the brutal Viking lifestyle, but not a great Assassin's Creed novel, if that makes any sense.
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NOTE: I received this as a free copy via Aconyte Books & Ubisoft for an honest review. This is also a SPOILER FREE review.
I love Assassin's Creed. The third entry in the series was my first rated M game, Black Flag's ending always makes me cry, and I've logged countless hours on Odyssey while in College, playing off and on in the world of Greece. I read up on the lore, I imagine future games in the series, and sometimes, I imagine stories that I'd love to one day write in the future. But I had never really taken a dive into the literary adaptations of the games' stories, no matter how bad I'd love to write about an Assassin from any point in history. I think the only time I've ever really done that was when I read a chunk of Matthew J. Kirby's Last Descendants series of YA books, but I only reached a hundred pages into it before I lost it while moving into a new house.
But now, I crack open a book from the same author, and, as a preface - I want, nay, need to go back and read Kirby's earlier works. Assassin's Creed Valhalla: Geirmund's Saga blew it out of the water for me.
Assassin's Creed, for those that don't know, is a game franchise that revolves around a group called "the Assassins," in other cultures, they're called "the Hidden Ones," meanwhile they're facing off against the Templars, who hide in plain sight. As a piece of Historical Science Fiction, some games a player will interact with figures of the past. Assassin's Creed Three, for example, revolved around colonial America, and you met people like Paul Revere and George Washington. This novel is a tie-in to the newest entry in the franchise (at the time of posting), Assassin's Creed: Valhalla, which revolves around the Vikings of yore, landing in England for conquest and power.
Found in this novel is an adjacent story to the game. To die-hard fans of the franchise, this may be seen as a con. For a few years now, Assassin's Creed hasn't really been Assassin's Creed to some. Odyssey received so much flack because it wasn't even revolving around Assassins and Templars, and, seen here in both the game and book, it's all just happening elsewhere. The story follows Geirmund Hel-hide, who doesn't appear in the game. Geirmund's Saga revolves around a quest for identity and is riddled with war as he works to help the Danes in their conquest of England, working to defeat the Saxon king and establish control of new land. There's no real "assassinations," nor is there a "Leap of Faith," or a hidden blade in the standard sense. It is adjacent to Assassin's Creed: Valhalla, which, already, is adjacent to the Assassins.
Something that I love about Assassin's Creed media is its dedication to the time period. I can see that so much research went into this novel that it really should be seen as the saga that it is. Even the references from the game are accurate and in accordance with Assassin's Creed lore. It's a massive bonus that this is, at its heart, a historical fantasy first, and an Assassin's Creed Tie-in Novel second.
I'm feeling unsure if I'd consider this a con, as this allows people that don't really know much about Assassin's Creed to go into it and still get a story full of captivating characters and an enjoyable plot. But, as a diehard fan, I went through thinking "Okay, so is Geirmund going to do this?" In reference to some game-beat, and no, it doesn't happen, or it does happen, but I'd have to go through six degrees of connection to decide on if what happened could really be considered Assassin's Creed related. A murder in the night isn't, to me, an assassination, but it may be to some.
Geirmund's Saga is told from a third-person limited point of view, meaning that we only know of Geirmund's thoughts and what Geirmund is seeing and feeling. I like this. Sometimes, third-person novels will jump to the villain's perspective, revealing every dastardly thing or the whole plot, making it all feel null to me. I'm glad it stuck with the hero.
I will say that the character of Geirmund has a really interesting arc, that plays on the ideas of identity, religion, and making one's own path. Everything about Norse beliefs revolve around fate, the Three-Spinners are brought up frequently, if a person dies it is fate that wills it so. Geirmund struggles with this thought, but has faith that the gods will make sure everything goes according to plan in their own weird Aesir way.
England is also a Christian country, so seeing this clash between Norse ideas and Christian doctrine is so intriguing, and it gets explored often throughout the 460 page novel. To Christians, a Norseman is a pagan, sent by the devil to rain hellfire to their holy land of England. To the Danes and Vikings, the Christians are just an obstacle, and their gods want them to overtake this land. I'll admit, going into a book that's a tie-in to a video game, I didn't expect these ideas and I think that shows a fundamental bias to tie-in novels in general, as there's really diamonds in the rough, like this and Matthew Stover's "Revenge of the Sith" novelization.
I will say that while the plot is intriguing and the prose is so poetic and well-told, I think there's parts throughout the book that dragged. Descriptions got to being so in-depth, and I would find myself skimming a little bit of it before catching myself and rereading it. I'm trying to find the balance of this in my writing, and I think you can describe a lot of stuff, but you may also have to hope that the reader's imagination can fill in the blanks. The story isn't saying something like "The Longboat was about 5 meters in length with long overarching wooden carvings," it doesn't get into the nitty gritty like a history book, but it does get really poetic in it's language for something as simple as "It was a torrential downpour of rain."
I'm glad, though, that the dialogue is really intriguing and realistic for the period. It's almost Shakespearean at times in terms of wit. No spoilers, but the ending dialogue is like a hundred guns on the mantelpiece, and just now are they all going off. It was such an amazing payoff of wit. This falls into characters too, which are all pretty great and have their own use. Later on in the story it seems like it may get confusing with how many people join the roster, but it never really felt like it did. The only issue I had was that the names all felt similar to each other. I know, some of these are historical figures like Guthrum, but I'd find myself confusing character names like Skjalgi and Steinolfur with Sidroc and Styrbjorn. Just a lot of names that start with S, and I guess that's hard for me, but maybe it isn't for others.
All-in-all, though, I found Assassin's Creed Valhalla: Geirmund's Saga to be an epic that stands on its own as a captivating story, separate from the AC title. I wonder if Geirmund will show up in the game's future Downloadable Content, as I think some of the things seen here took place after the games ending, but I could be wrong.
If you're a fan of Assassin's Creed, or you're looking for an emotional, theme-filled, Viking Tale, this book is something that I'll wholeheartedly recommend.
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I went into this expecting something better than what I got. While I found the writing decent I could not get myself into the story. I may not have liked this story but I would still reccomend it to a few of my friends.
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As a big fan of the Assassin's Creed video games and having read all the previous books I had to snatch this one up. 

I really enjoyed reading this title, if you don't play the games it's still a fascinating historical fiction novel, and if you do I feel like it will expand on the story and lore for the upcoming game as all the other tie ins have done for previous titles. The characters are well written and the story is exciting and interesting through out. I found myself getting annoyed with some of the characters and endlessly hoping for others. 

This book has gotten me even more excited for the upcoming game, 5 stars, a great read with characters you'll care about and story you'll get sucked in to. 

Thank you to #netgalley, the publisher Aconyte Books and the author Matthew J Kirby, for this fantastic read in exchange for my honest opinion.
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Great book to immerse me in this universe before the video game gets out! The writing was better than I expected and the balanced between historical/action/intrigue is just perfectly achieved! If you like the Assassin Creed franchise or the Viking, or even better, both!, I would recommend you to check this one out!
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Matthew J. Kirby brings the work of Assassin's Creed to entertaining and descriptive life. Perhaps for fans of this shared universe and inspiring to think about the stories behind popular characters and video game culture. Highly entertaining for fans of the game series and those who want an adventure on the page.
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