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The Serpent King

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Member Reviews

I think it's fair to say that this is a book that drops you straight in at the deep end, especially if you have not read the three books in The Whale Road Chronicles that come before, like myself, as it begins with a bloody night raid by the Wolf Coats. 

Who are the Wolf Coats I hear you ask? Well, this is something I also asked myself, since I had no prior knowledge of the characters that make up this tight little band of warriors, but it wasn't long before I had a pretty good idea who they were - and was sure that I would want them on my side in a fight. Led by the tough Ulrich, the Wolf Coats are an intriguing collection of tough-as-you-like warriors, hailing from a selection of Norse homelands, but they also include the Moor, Surt, all the way from Al-Andalus (Spain to you and me) and a Norse-Irish princess, Affreca, who is very handy with a bow.

At the start of this adventure, Einar Unsson, newly sworn in as a Wolf Coat, is on a quest for revenge against those involved in his mother's death, which brings him up against his own father, and Princess Affreca finds herself offered both a throne and an arranged marriage, neither of which she is keen to accept - and of course, the rest of the gang are along for the blood-thirsty ride, tied together by a combination of fierce loyalty and firm friendship that gets you right in the feels.

And what a ride it is, dear readers! Tim Hodkinson weaves a bit of glorious Norse saga magic in these pages with a twisty plot of murderous machinations on all sides around Einar and Affreca, which takes you on a journey around the North Sea all the way to Iceland, and back again. Throughout, there is an authentically gritty feel for the brutality of the times, the clash of cultures, and the never ending game of thrones at play, with allegiances shifting as the various kings and jarls rise and fall. There are more savage battles than you can poke a rune stick at, all described in full colour by Hodkinson, which makes them beautifully cinematic; a cracking climax that takes place in Iceland as all hell breaks loose around the combatants; and a delicious ending that hooks you into the next adventure, which I cannot wait to read.

Being book four of the series did make me feel that I was playing catch-up at the start, but the Wolf Coat members and their destinies are so compelling that I was soon pulled right into the sweeping tale by the force of their personalities, the relationships between them and the trials they faced. There are enough details about what has come before to make the story flow well, and I did not feel at a loss at all, so you can read this as a standalone if you are so inclined.

This is a hugely entertaining read, beautifully written, with great characters and full of period detail that will appeal to the fans of well-crafted historical fiction - if you love writers like Bernard Cornwell this will definitely be your bag too. I cannot believe that Tim Hodkinson has gone under my radar for so long, because this book was completely my cup of tea, and I loved it so much that I will be going back to read the first three books very soon!
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BLURB
The fight for vengeance has no victors…
AD 936
The great warrior, Einar Unnsson, wants revenge. His mother’s assassin has stolen her severed head and Einar is hungry for his blood. Only one thing holds him back. He is a newly sworn in Wolf Coat, and must accompany them on their latest quest.
The Wolf Coats are a band of fearsome bloodthirsty warriors, who roam the seas, killing any enemies who get in their way. Now they’re determined to destroy their biggest enemy, King Eirik, as he attempts to take the throne of Norway.
Yet, for Einar, the urge to return to Iceland is growing every day. Only there, in his homeland, can he avenge his mother and salve his grief. But what Einar doesn’t know is that this is where an old enemy lurks, and his thirst for vengeance equals Einar’s…
REVIEW
At the risk of sounding blown away, let me say this: I was blown away by this episode of The Whale Road Chronicles. In fact there are a few characters who are also blown away, but I can say naught about that. Einar is Hel bent on revenge against Thorfinn Skull Cleaver, and this sets off an amazing array of activity. That’s one of the things that fuels this tale, there’s a lot going on from a lot of different sources. Never a dull moment in this one my peeps and fellow readers. Crisp action, the gamut of emotions, entertaining dialogue, and a host of interesting characters from kings to thralls worshipping Christ in the bowels of the earth make this a hard to put down tale. Looking forward to more from Einar. 5 ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
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I have followed Einar’s adventures since the very first book, Odin’s Game, two years ago; and each book gets better and better. The Serpent King is the fourth and latest book in the Whale Road Chronicles and, most definitely, the best story in the series so far. We follow the adventures of Einar and his friends, the Wolf Coats, from Norway to Orkney, with a few stops in between, on a dual mission of rescue and revenge.

The Serpent King is set in the mid-10th century, when Aethelstan, grandson of Alfred the Great, is attempting to unite England and extend his borders north into Scotland. He has made allies with the Norwegian Christian, Hakon, formerly king of York and now questing to dethrone his brother, King Eirik Bloody Axe of Norway. Einar and the band of Wolf Coats are drawn into the political in-fighting and rivalries, despite their attempts to stay aloof from the machinations of the ambitious rulers around them. Einar has his own quest, for revenge against his father for the murder of his mother. The hatred between father and son is visceral and the backbone behind this series of books. Einar and his father, Thorfinn, Jarl of Orkney, are on a collision course to a day of reckoning.

The Serpent King is a fast-paced, wonderfully visual adventure, set in a time when a man could make or break his fortune simply by the decision of who to back in the constant power struggle between England, Norway and Ireland. Tim Hodkinson weaves a tale that will have you hooked from the beginning, its many twists and turns leaving you mesmerised and reading ‘just one more chapter’ until the early hours.

Tim Hodkinson is fabulous at building the tension in a story and keeping it going to the very end of the book. There are so many twists and turns that the reader is kept on their toes. Just when you think Einar and his companions are going to come out on top, another spanner is thrown in the works! So to speak. The tension is palpable – to the very end.

The characters, both the heroes and their enemies, are wonderfully colourful and have developed over the past two years. Einar and his companions have become a fighting team that relies on each other, not just in battle, but in the friendships and trust that has developed through their adventures. Where they were once a disparate group of individuals, they are now a coherent fighting team, able to rely on each others’ skills and judgements to get them through the various battle and plots they are faced with.

The Serpent King is full of clashes – of swords, personalities and even the gods. The battle scenes are wonderfully frenetic, with the reader feeling every sword thrust or the impact of axe on shield. If you have a love of Viking adventures, the clash of cultures and political machinations that accompanied the changing alliances as England, Norway, Ireland and Scotland were developing their identities during the 10th century, this is definitely a series for you to sink your teeth into.

This is a fabulous adventure, from the first page to the last, and not to be missed!
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My word, what a ride!

Thrown in at the deep end right at the beginning, I had barely time to take a breath. Immediately, we found ourselves in the action – an attack by the Wolf Coats, a select group of highly trained warriors. 

I've not read the previous books in The Whale Road Chronicles (something I’ll have to rectify soon!), so I wasn't familiar with the characters. However, you quickly get to know them all, with all their mannerisms, individual character and foibles.

Einar is on a quest for revenge. His mother was murdered by henchmen sent by his father, Thorfinn of Orkney, and he is keen to recover her stolen head, to give her spirit peace it craves. But first, he has to follow the Wolf Coat leader, Ulrich, a savvy old fighter. Until he seizes a chance he can't miss...

Einar reminded me of a young Uhtred from The Last Kingdom. Headstrong, unwilling to follow orders when his personal choices are telling him to do his own thing, and a penchant for getting himself into trouble. His actions made me laugh out loud a few times, even though the plot is rather serious. As it is, a subtle sense of humour lightens up the tone at times. 

And what a gripping plot it is! Tim Hodkinson doesn't make it easy for his characters. The Wolf Coats escape one tricky situation, only to fall into another, and they are forced to shift their loyalty along the way. Old enemies join new ones, including a former Wolf Coat who turns against them. 

I quickly grew to like the Wolf Coats, and I can't wait to read more of their adventures. Each man has a clearly-defined character, as has the only woman warrior in the group, Affreca, who is faced by a challenge thrown at her by her own brother, the King of Dublin. The group splits to ensure lives are saved, but it almost cost them dearly.

The highlight of the novel for me is a fight, man to man, to the death, set against a most spectacular background, which – thanks to the author's incredible, visual description – was easy to imagine. A real heart-stopper moment! But I won't reveal any more of it. Readers will have to discover the scene themselves.

The Serpent King is a fast-paced, gripping historical adventure set in the rough world of northern Europe in the first half of the 10th century. The plot pulls you along and barely gives you time to breathe. I usually don't like using the word ’unputdownable’, but in this case, it is spot on. 

When's the next instalment due??

I thoroughly enjoyed reading The Serpent King, and I shall be looking to catch up with the other books in the series.
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Wow, this is such an exciting and action packed adventure! Einar, is a newly sworn in member of the Wolf Coats, a group of elite warriors under the leadership of Ulrich. While the Wolf Coats have a mission to rescue a prisoner, Einar wants to get his revenge on those who killed his mother and stole her severed head. But as a member of the Wolf Coats he must learn to control the rage within himself and wait for his revenge.

I hadn't read any of the previous books in the Whale Road Chronicles series before beginning this one, so I wasn't sure if it would be difficult to get into this, but I have to say that after getting to know the characters in the first few chapters I have thoroughly enjoyed it and am so keen to read the previous books now to see what has happend before. The book works well as a standalone, as the author does fill in the gaps of what has happened previously, although I do still think that this book will be enjoyed more if you know some of the characters and their situations first, as it did take me a few chapters to really get into this story.

While Einar wants revenge for his mother's death, the Wolf Coats have their own missions to follow. The book is filled with an amazing and exciting plot with lots of things happening in several diferent locations. Although it took me a bit of time to get into the story, to understand who all the characters were and the different enemies and allies that existed, it wasn't too long before I was totally engrossed in the tale and keen to see what happened next. Although as part of the Wolf Coats Einar must quell his thirst for revenge, an opportunity soon arises and I enjoyed what happens when Einar, and the others, head for Thorfinn's Jarls Gard. The story switches between different locations and shows what is happening with different sets of characters. I just love how this made the whole book feel like I was watching a movie and there is so much happening, with lots of exciting battles, along with some funny and sadder moments too.

A lot of the action happens on the sea and it's the first time I've read a book that focused a lot on things happening at sea as well as on land. I loved the story as a whole and the individual things happening to all of the characters. The banter between the Wolf Coats was fun and things are interesting when the characters first arrive in Orkney. I enjoyed what happened and how it seems that many of the things happening in this book seem to tie in with previous books and back stories of the characters, and despite not reading any previous books it was so easy to follow. I like how interesting the story became and how it showed the different faiths, both Norse and Christian and how they worshipped. The story was just so interesting with so many different things happening and so well written that I just ended up feeling so invested in all of the characters, including some of the more minor ones like Bricriu. I like what happens with him, his wife and some of the thralls in this book, and the many things that end up happening in Jarls Gard, especially towards the end.

A lot happens with Einar and also with Affreca in this book too and I like how things go with Einar's story and what happens in the last chapters. There are some exciting and interesting moments earlier on too, espeically when something happens with Affreca, and I found myself laughing a little with something that happens with Einar and Surt too, though I don't want to give away what it is!

The book has some gory violence in it, some descriptions of blood, and the way characters are killed make for some gruesome reading although it does feel like it fits in with the Viking way of life, despite being a bit gory to read in places. There are a few uses of the f swear words as well but it's mainly the descriptions of some of the violence and things that happen (like the severed head) that might be difficult for some more sensitive readers. The story is a really exciting one and although at the start of reading this I didn't even know anything about Einar and the band of Wolf Coats, by the end I was so engrossed in the story I just didn't want it to end. The ending is a brilliant one, satisfying and also surprising. It hints that there could be yet another book in the series which I do hope there will be as I want to see what happens next with Einar and the others. And now I've read this book I'm keen to read the first three in the series to see exactly how Einar and the others met and ended up in the situation they're in.

This really is a brilliant book and perfect for anyone who loves historical fiction, especially set in the Viking era. It's such an exciting story, so gripping and interesting that I couldn't stop turning the pages to see what happened. I've been fascinated by Viking stories and mythology for a long time which is why I probably enjoyed this book all the more, set in that time period, but it's just such a fun and interesting and exciting novel that I think anyone with an interest in historical stories in general will enjoy it! It's best as part of the series but works really well as a standalone too! It's a book that really kept me glued to the pages and it's one I'd recommend.
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The Serpent King by Tim Hodkinson is the fourth instalment in The Whale Road Chronicles, reuniting readers with Einar and the rest of the Wolf Coats.

It is an energetic and fast-paced jaunt through the sea kingdoms of Norway, the Scottish islands, and Iceland, and although we don't go to Ireland, it's never far from the characters' thoughts.

I love this series because the author twists his story through the 'known facts' of the time period. I know what's coming, and many others will also know what's coming in future books, but the joy is in how we get there.

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for my review copy.
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I was reading this book and something was nagging at the back of my mind and after a bit I started thinking that this could a cloak&dagger adventure set in the X century and the Wolf Coats somehow reminded me of the Four Musketeer by Dumas.
I know that the context is different, that the characters are different but there’s something in their friendship and loyalty that reminded me of this classic story.
I read The Wolf Hunt and loved the fast-paced story and the characters.
This is the new instalment in this series and it’s another excellent and gripping story.
There’s plenty of action; it’s gripping, gory, fast pace and a lot of fun to read.
It’s an excellent example of an action&adventure historical fiction that mixes fiction and history creating a compelling and tightly knitted plot. There are revenge, friendship, political intrigue and war.
The historical background is well researched, Tim Hodkinson knows the historical details and how people were living during X century.
His world building is well developed and interesting, the characters are fleshed out and you cannot help rooting for them while you turn pages as fast as you can.
Even if it can be read as a standalone it’s better to read the previous books as it will give you more details and a better understanding of what is happening.
I strongly recommend if you want to read a very entertaining and compelling story.
Many thanks to Head of Zeus and Netgalley for this ARC, all opinions are mine.
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Although I haven’t read any of the previous books in the series – Odin’s Game, The Raven Banner, and The Wolf Hunt – I was quickly plunged into the heat of the action, much like those onboard the ship sailing through storm-tossed seas featured in the opening chapter.

For readers like myself new to the series, or for those simply in need of a memory jogger, the author provides details of key events from the previous books. I quickly got to know Einar and the other members of the Wolf Coats and I liked the fact they are a diverse bunch. I also learned the difference between a Wolf Coat and a berserker. Apparently a Wolf Coat has learned to control and focus the ‘divine rage’ of Odin whereas a berserker is merely an ‘undisciplined raging maniac’. I suspect the distinction may prove irrelevant if faced with one or more of either group! Another interesting thing I learned from the book was that being a ‘viking’ was more a way of life than being part of any particular race or nation.

I confess it took me slightly longer to get my head around the rival kings, jarls and nobles who feature in the book, particularly given the ever shifting allegiances. The observation, ‘In the game of statecraft today’s ally can become tomorrow’s enemy’ is quickly revealed to be all to true. Perhaps not surprising when you have figures with names such as Eirik Bloody Axe or Thorfinn the Skull Cleaver, and who have no compunction about bumping off members of their own families, let alone their enemies.

What certainly comes across is that this was a lawless time when most things were settled at the point of a blade – or worse. There are some great set piece scenes such as a sea battle between rival ships, an oar walking contest and a particularly eventful feast.

The extent of the author’s research and knowledge of the period really comes through in the authentic detail of everything from weaponry to social and religious customs. However, this detail is subtly woven into the story without leaving you feeling as if you’re reading a history text book – not that many of those would contain as much blood-letting as The Serpent King does.

The pace is fast, moving from one adventure to another with the clash of weapons and the thud of bodies hitting the ground a frequent backdrop to events. Starting in Norway, all (sea) roads then lead to Orkney and the stronghold of the aforementioned Thorfinn. Later the journey takes in other Scottish islands and Iceland, Einar’s homeland.

Will Einar achieve the vengeance he seeks? You’ll have to read the book to find out. What’s certain is that The Serpent King will appeal to those who like their historical fiction fast-paced and with plenty of full-on action.
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The Serpent King is the fourth instalment in Tim Hodkinson‘s The Whale Road Chronicles series, in which Einar Unnsson, wants revenge for his mother’s death – but he’s a Wolf Coat, and must go with them on their latest quest. Following them on their adventure to gain vengeance and save the day we travel from Norway to Orkney with some pit stops on the way. Set against the backdrop of the mid-10th century, the Wolf Coats are drawn into battles that they agreed to refrain from when Alfred the Great’s grandson Athelstan makes it his mission to unite England and create territorial change by extending the border further north into Scotland. As the big players, both allies of Athelstan’s and enemies, make their move after seeing the political machinations and uproar this could bring, Einar and his crew are inexplicably drawn like a moth to a flame. Meanwhile, Einar also has his personal vendetta to consider; how to achieve vengeance against his father for the brutal murder of his mother. 

He hates his father, Thorfinn, Jarl of Orkney, with a passion for taking his mother’s life and the feeling seems distinctly mutual. Judgement day might just be about to arrive. Who will live to tell the tale? This is a compulsive, atmospheric and history-loaded epic from start to finish, and as you expect with one of Hodkinson's novels the detail is intricate and historically accurate. It moves at a rapid-fire pace with extraordinarily vivid battle scenes throughout and with wonderful evocation of time and place to bring alive the Middle Ages. There's action, drama and bloody violence galore as you become immersed in the day to day run-ins of the idiosyncratic individuals who people the book. It's a time of huge friction between England, Ireland and Norway who are all striving for the upper hand. Twist upon captivating twist stun you into turning the pages ever more frantically with the tension ratcheted up all the way to the climax. Highly recommended.
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As a fan of George R R Martin, Bernard Cornwell and James Wilde, The Serpent King gave me an opportunity to discover yet another author of historical fiction.
 I really enjoyed this first outing with Einar and Ulrich and the elite band he leads: the Wolf Coats. The writing is descriptive but not to the extent the reader gets bogged down with detail.  It’s a gripping read which totally held my interest as these two central characters continue to follow their destinies.  Scenes are sometimes bloody and graphic but reflect the brutal times these people lived in.  
 Although The Serpent King can be read as a standalone, it did spike my interest as to what had happened in the previous three books of the series.  After finishing this, the fourth episode in the Whale Road Chronicles, I am keen to read the other three.  It seems I have found yet another author of historical fiction to add to my ’must read’  list.

I would like to thank Netgalley and Aria for an ARC of The Serpent King in exchange for an honest review.
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This review contains minor spoilers. You read at your own risk.

This is one of the most epic, blockbuster, historical fiction novels I have ever read. A tightly paced story, the well-written characterization made me feel for many, if not, most of the characters. This novel has everything a blockbuster movie would have had: Epic action sequences, visions of the Gods, gore, and sacrifice, love and loss, revenge and chaos, and Viking longships sailing into maelstroms. To summarise, this story is all about Einar, the son of Jarl Thorfinn, who is trying to find his way to kill his father for horrifically murdering his mother through the use of a bastard warrior trained in the dark arts named Vakir. 

This world that is full of Celtic Warriors, Gaels, Scots, Irish, Norse warriors is a huge play. Let's keep it at that. And Einar is traveling with a group of warriors that are well, trying to navigate their way from the murky world of Viking Politics. Ulfrich, the leader of this group, is perhaps one of the cleverest leaders even if he does not command sizeable power now. Was he a Roman, he would have been one of the most competent Generals or even an Emperor. I think a General would suit his position. He's the type of man you can rely upon in war but beware of his intentions. Ulfrich is more cunning than he's made out to be, and he's that hard warrior with a soft-warrior type, whom you'll soon find, grows an attachment to Einar in more ways than you can imagine. Then there's Skar, who's boisterous, loud, and cheery, Affreca, the carefree daughter of one of the Viking Kings of Ireland, proud and strong, resilient and wanting to have an adventure before she eventually settles down. There are a ton more characters in this novel that are excellently written. Oh, and Atli. The guy is Loki reborn, except a much more cruel version of Loki than anything else. 

There are intricate plots, stories of heroism and I felt as if I had stepped right back into the past, and saw the story of an epic tale that had been lost to history thousands of years ago. It was a story also, of the villains that live in this world. Thorfinn, that couldn't give a damn about his sons or family, his prestige and honor being nothing more than the pride of his existence. He runs a powerful system of spies and is wanting to rule most of England, including Ireland. It's more ironic, that the Kings of Ireland, England, and Norway are all playing a massive game here. The Viking world was true, in the sense, a grim-dark world. I know we use the term in fantasy books, but the Viking religion itself is truly fascinating. I discovered more elements of Ancient Britonnic Mythology, Irish Mythology, all rolled into one. Were this novel to be more super-natural in one sense, everything would make so much sense.  Bascially, this story is a game of wits being played by none other than Odin himself. It is said that Odin keeps the jarls and Kings fighting so that he can have enough warriors to face at the end of Ragnarok. Sowing chaos. Sowing misdeed. Sowing hate. I truly enjoyed every aspect of this novel, and Tim here made so many good ideas: each aspect of the mythology fits exactly well with the writing. Each aspect of the mythology does not feel like an info-dump or too much heavy worldbuilding. It is nice, precise, and well put in. The prose is wonderful. 

This novel has so much in it, you would be amazed at what happens here. I thoroughly recommend this. 10/10.
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The adventure continues ......

This is a bloody brilliant series! And can I say that when we ever get to the end, I will be starting from the very beginning in a self-indulgent binge session.

My full review will appear @ Melisende's Library on June 14th as part of the blog tour for this - book four - of the Whale Road Chronicles.
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The fourth title in the Whale Road Chronicles by Tim Hodkinson while i HIGHLY suggest you purchase the first three and enjoy the entire story, Mr. Hodkinson does a fantastic job of catching the reader up, rather that's because of the gap between novels or you picked this book up as a stand alone. 

Once again the author's knowledge of the subject really shines through his stories, without leaving you feeling tired, confused or as if you've read a text book. He masterfully weaves the historical fact into a wonderfully exciting work of fiction. As always 5 stars for Mr. Hodkinson, I just wish I didn't have to wait for the next title!

If you've read this title and found yourself wanting more, please go check out the author's other works, they're all fantastic and you'll devour them in no time!
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I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for a fair review.

I admit, when I requested <i>The Serpent King</i> I failed to notice it is the fourth in a series of novels set in the Viking Era. Ordinarily I would never start a series anywhere but at the beginning but fortunately this turned out not to be a problem. Without using great globs of exposition, Hodkingson fills the reader in on any essential details while keeping the tale running at a breakneck pace.

Einar Thorfinnsson is a young, driven man who was had the fortune to join a pack of Wolf Coats, fierce warriors committed to Odin and to their leader, Ulrich. From the moment we land in their sleek vessel, driving through a storm-tossed night, the pace never falters and we travel from one dangerous venture to another, from Norway to the Orkneys, to the Scottish Isles, and finally to Iceland as Einar pursues his destiny and Ulrich leads the wolves to glory. And gore. Lots and lots of gore.

Hodkinson clearly knows his history, not only of the great leaders of the North in the last days of the 10th Century, but of common folk, of seamanship and battle skills. The writing reminds me very much of the best of the Pulp Era in the 1930s--in the very best sense--adventure that grabs the reader by the throat and hangs on without mercy, page after page.

Be certain I'm going to seek out the three novels of the Whale Road Chronicles that precede <i>The Serpent King</i> and whatever tales may follow.
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I found this to be a good read with an interesting plot and well developed characters. The book contained great action scenes and should keep you entertained till the end.

Thank you to #NetGalley for the ARC in exchange for my honest review.
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