Cover Image: Pillar of Ash

Pillar of Ash

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thank you to netgalley for the advanced reading copy. I really enjoyed this and will be getting copies for my shop.

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This is the fourth and final part of what I still think of as the Hall of Smoke sequence, the first part of which introduced us to the formidable warrior priestess Hessa. Subsequent volumes followed the world-changing events which she triggered - indeed I should say worlds-changing events, as gods and goddesses were overthrown, empires clashed and ancient truths uncovered.

Now, as we reach the Fourth Pillar upholding HM Long's world, Hessa steps back and the action focusses on Yske, her daughter. Yske is very unlike Hessa: she considers herself a healer, not a fighter, and has no wish to leave her comfortable hut on the mountain and seek excitement. A bit of a Bilbo Baggins, perhaps, she nevertheless joins a company of adventurers travelling East - mainly, it seems, to look after her brother, Berin rather than from any desire to travel.

Unlike in previous books, the quest is driven this time more by curiosity than by crisis as rumours of a great Tree circulate, and also of something stirring in the Unmade space beyond the world. The East of the Hall of Smoke worlds is little visited: it proves to contain unknown peoples, monsters and, of course, mysteries. And while Yske, Berin and the others didn't travel to confront a great peril, it seems that one is heading for their world - and it has its roots in the strange powers and spirits that Hessa knows so well.

I enjoyed this book, though I have to say that I enjoyed the second half most. An avowed non-warrior is a difficult fit in the Eangen culture of fighters, and for most of the first part of the book Yske's distinctly not at ease, out of place in the somewhat martial company and tending to get the blame when anything goes wrong. Several times I felt she might have been justified in just telling them to **** off, and going back home - after all she only joined the expedition because she was asked, because of what she could contribute as a healer, yet here she is being continually cold-shouldered and devalued because she's not a fighter.

All this changes once... well I can't say exactly what, can I, that would be spoilery, but I will just say that Yske has strengths, knowledge and resourcefulness (and alliances!) that she is able to reach for when things get really tough. It was especially pleasing that, while there is plenty of combat in the book, most of the important action is about building alliances, negotiating, and bringing together unlikely forces against a common threat. Yske proves to excel at all those things and it's great to see how, once she has some freedom of action, she reframes the challenges that face the party to skew away from combat.

In showing what happens next, Long completes the picture that's been building right from the start of Hall of Smoke, a picture which - it's now clear - still had significant gaps. The result is a satisfying conclusion to the whole sequence, adding balance and wholeness to this series of books.

A good end to this series, a series which has never been less than great fun.

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All of the books in this series have been good and solid works of Norse inspired fantasy, but this final installment is by far my favourite. I really enjoyed the simplicity of the quest narrative and thought the camaraderie between the core group of people was really well explored. I thought the sibling bond between Yske and Berrin was great and I also enjoyed the character arc Yske went on. I thought the plot transitioned very well between a quest into a battle for the realm and overall, was really pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this concluding book. I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.

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Pillar of Ash is the most fitting conclusion to the Four Pillars series by HM Long. This multigenerational saga began in Hall of Smoke with Hessa the legendary warrior priestess, and ends with her daughter Yske who has dedicated her life to healing others.

Although Pillar of Ash can be read as a standalone novel, I recommend reading the entire series because you will get so much more from reading each of the books in the Hall of Smoke world. Exploring themes like family and sibling relationships, friendship and self-discovery, each of the protagonists’ arcs unfold beautifully on the page. I really enjoyed exploring Yske’s story as a figure who doesn’t want to fight and refuses from an early age to follow in her mother and twin brother’s footsteps. Her inner turmoil and reluctance to be like her mother is a cornerstone of this book, once which Hannah teases out superbly.

Prepare for epic battles, terrifying creatures and monsters, petulant gods and the ultimate fight between the gods and humans.

The ease with which the reader can immerse themselves into this world is a testament to Hannah’s writing and her world -building ability. I don’t want to give anything away but I couldn’t think of a better way for Hannah to sew together the series and give a fitting end to the predominantly female protagonists who she’s created in these books.

I’m genuinely sad to see these characters go as they have grown on me since I started to read the series in 2021. But I am so excited to see what worlds Hannah conjures up next (check out her The Winter Sea series if you’re looking for swashbuckling adventure and magic).

Thanks to NetGalley and Titan Books for the arc. Hannah’s books will always have a place on my shelves and I’m looking forward to rereading them again soon. Pillar of Ash is out now. 5 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

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This book was a struggle to even put down. H. M. Long's prose is engaging, flowing and captivating in a way that leads a reader (me that is) to not even look up until it's well into the early hours of the morning. Let me tell you, my love for H.M Long's books will never fail. What a journey this has been. This is the final installment, and I wept.

First two books followed Hessa, an Eang warrior who set out to kill false gods.
Third book followed Thray, Hessa’s adopted niece as she journeyed to north to find her origins.
Fourth book follows Hessa’s twins Yske and Berin.

Ending the series by following Hessa's twins was a brilliant conclusion. The book is told in Yske’s point of view and the reader follows as she struggles with the consequences of her healing powers. Her patients aren’t always grateful and the reader is left wondering why she bothers. Berin especially is so annoying that only a sister could love him enough to travel to the edge of the world for him.

I loved seeing all of the stories interlock with each other and how the main characters of each book all come together. And while this is not a romance, it was nice to see a glimpse of it with Yske and Isik. I also want to say how impressive it is to create a series where every single book is seen as a standalone and where it actually works.

Overall, I greatly enjoyed this book. It made me so happy to see characters from previous titles make an appearance and was a wonderful finalé to all these separate stories taking place in the same world. I am sad that this world is saying goodbye.

Congratulations to H. M. Long for a wonderful book and series, and thank you for providing an adventure that will be hard to forget.

Thank you NetGalley and Titan Books for an opportunity to read Pillar of Ash as an advanced reader copy.

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Any time I come across an H.M. Long book, I immediately jump to snatch it as fast as possible. This series in particular has been a favorite of mine for a while, so when I saw it available I grabbed it as soon as I could. I love the storylines and characters involved, and I loved this addition to the series just as much. I can't wait to read more from Long. Eagerly anticipating her next release!

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I loved Pillar of Ash! The characters are so well developed and the writing is wonderful. This was a great addition to the Hall of Smoke/The Four Pillars series. I have loved watching the characters develop and am looking forward to the rest of the series!

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4,5/5 this was borderline perfection to me!

The characters were very well developed, the setting was more than stunning, the relationships went deep and evolved during the course of action. The world building alone had me within pages which is remarkable considering that I did not read the other installments of this series.

Yske was a great protagonist, a very strong, independent and clever protagonist. She luckily had nothing in common with the "not like other girls" trope but was her very own woman with distinct doubts and problems - and I loved her for that.

I think, i will definitely pick up the rest of the books!

Finally, we have another brilliant Viking fantasy!

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Pillar of Ash is the fourth book in The Four Pillars fantasy series. It used to be Hall of Smoke series, but for this final book they’ve changed the series name for some reason. It’s a Norsk inspired fantasy world according to the author, though not in such an obvious way that readers would easily recognize the inspiration. I took it to be a mix of Native American, Asian and Roman cultures; mostly tribal with direct interaction with gods, and one large empire in constant war with them.

First two books followed Hessa, an Eang warrior who set out to kill false gods. Third book followed Thray, Hessa’s adopted niece as she journeyed to north to find her origins. Fourth book follows Hessa’s twins Yske and Berin.

Yske is a healer who has learned her trade with Aita, a former goddess of healing. She’s partaken in the secrets of the Hall of Smoke and received godlike features herself. When her excitable twin informs her that he’ll form an expedition party to search the edge of the world, she goes with him to keep everyone safe. As a parting gift, Aita gives her the ability to miraculously heal almost every wound. But it comes with a great cost.

It’s not an easy journey and Yske’s skills are often needed. The final task waits at the edge of the world. She needs to revive a near immortal who has been resting in ice for several years, someone who has personal meaning for her. But if she does it, she’ll launch the end of the world.

The book is told in Yske’s point of view and the reader follows as she struggles with the consequences of her healing powers. Her patients aren’t always grateful and the reader is left wondering why she bothers. Berin especially is so annoying that only a sister could love him enough to travel to the edge of the world for him.

In hindsight, nothing really happens in the book until the party reaches their destination. There are creatures to fight and a journey to endure. But something is constantly going on, so it doesn’t matter. The entire plot happens in the last third of the book. There’s a great build-up to the world ending—and then it’s dealt with a literal deus ex machina solution that Yske has no part in. She and the reader are left to watch it from the side.

Thinking of the series as a whole, none of the follow-ups rose to the brilliance of the first book. Thray and Yske didn’t have Hessa’s trauma and rage that propelled her to journey to kill the false gods. Yske’s motivation for following her brother wasn’t compelling, and although she grew to be an interesting character, she relied too much on her godly gift to be a similar underdog facing the gods as her mother was.

Nevertheless, the book was a good conclusion to the series. Things were nicely tied up and this reader is satisfied. Still, there’s a lot to explore in the world yet, so if the author decides to continue, I’ll definitely read more.

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"Pillar of Ash" by H.M.Long is the final instalment of the 'Hall of Smoke' series. In this book, the story follows Yske, the daughter of Hessa, who was the main character for the first two books.

Like the previous 'Hall of Smoke' books this one is not a direct sequel and in many ways can act as a standalone book, but the reader will get a lot more from it if they have already read the previous books.

Like the previous books, I enjoyed this story immensely! I really love and admire Long's ability to offer a fast-paced, deeply personal writing style that never has a dull moment.

Unlike the previous main characters in this series, Yske is not a natural fighter and adventurer. She is a healer and a dedicated pacifist, which immediately contrasts with the dangers of her journey. Her personal arc to only heal and avoid conflict is one of the main threads of the book, and Yske is tested throughout the story. It is really interesting and unique to have a fantasy book from the point of view of someone who not only doesn't know how to fight but has a deep, traumatic dislike towards violence. It is refreshingly modern.

Another theme that is lovingly explored in this book is family relationships, and especially siblings. Yske's resolution to fulfil this journey stems from her sisterly love towards her twin, Berin, who is much more the stereotypical fantasy hero. I really loved the swap and how it was Yske's healing and self sacrificial power that brought the book to a close, instead of the traditional fantasy trope of the hero warrior. Their relationship also grows, reflecting within it Yske's controversial place in her mainly warrior society. Berin's approach to his sister changes as he realises her value beyond his own love for her, and he also matures watching her. There is a lot he can learn from his twin about life.

Unlike the previous books in the series, in "Pillar of Ash," there is a stronger romantic subelement. I began shipping Yske and Isik from their first interaction. I really adored that this wasn't a relationship that just began but a rekindling of an older quietened flame. It was slow and real and never the focus of Yske's life. It was, though, always important.

Overall, I greatly enjoyed this book. It had many cameos from previous books and was a wonderful finalé to all these separate stories taking place in the same world. I am sad that this world is saying goodbye. I will always hold a tiny hope that as the years pass, Long might want to give us one more story in this world.

Like others, I would also comp this series with Skyrim and, even if we never get another book, maybe someone in a game studio will read these stories and make an RPG game where more details of this world will come out.

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Usually, final books in a fantasy series are the epic conclusion where all plotlines end and characters meet their fates. One of the reasons I’ve been so impressed by HM Long’s Hall of Smoke series is we have a very different and for me really interesting approach. We’ve had a set of stories set in the same fantasy world but shifts characters, times, and locations so each instalment is an epic in their own right but the consequences of each tale affect the other. In the final book Pillar of Ash these tales link loosely to a new final epic tale that can be seen as a fine conclusion and just possibly a sign of what could be in the future.

Many of the tales have had Hessa a fierce warrior priest who as the tale unwinds finds the gods she worshipped are truly not worthy. A war between gods, the major powers of the land have all led to a new paradigm. Imagine a slightly changed Roman and Viking empire learning to live around each other. Now gods live with humans but no longer quite worshipped as they once were. That’s left a mark this is a world of magic, monsters, legends and adventures. Hess is older now and this instalment has as the lead her children primarily the healer Yske and her more warrior focused brother Berin. A story has appeared of something no one can believe something being seen in the less well-known eastern edge of the world – a barrier no one can cross or live in. Berin sees a chance for glory but knows a dangerous route needs a healer and begs Yske to join his group. They find a journey filled with dangers, one where the very roots of the gods and magic that live in the world will have severe consequences not just for Yske but the fate of the entire world.

I really loved meeting Yske – we have been in this series and in many fantasy novels focused on warriors but here we have the concept of a healer. Indeed, Yske has memories of the battles her mother was in and has very much decided she will not fight. It’s a role that is necessary but not one in her world that carries all respect. She feels that Hessa isn’t always on her side and as she joins the group, she finds herself undermined. But Yske is very determined, she is smart and knows how to use her knowledge and build alliances. It is her determination that shines through. An event happens that bestows great power on Yske but it has an immense and unpleasant price. This cost she pays makes her a key player in the story but Long makes us feel the pain and agony this causes her. By the end we know Yske really well and it’s a reminder what a hero is can be a much broader concept than just who has the best sword. While this is a quest its also about Yske working out her own role and dynamic in the world and addressing some long-standing issues in her family

In terms of plot, we find in the forests of the East that there are some forgotten figures and creatures from the past lying in wait. I will say they’re creepy, rather indestructible, and not something I’ve seen before but they feel a clear threat throughout. Which makes that we find there is a larger threat even more powerful in the final sections of the book. Here the three previous stories start to combine – the stakes of the world come into play a d through Yske’s actions it will take all the major powers to stop it. Fans of the series will see many familiar faces and the culmination of the storyline about the Gods. Long has always written great action sequences but this really ramps the epic dimension of gods, warriors, monsters and magic all clashing – impressively the result is not looking clear cut. It’s a beautiful endgame to the story and just hints what could happen in the future if Long ever decides to return to this world.

Filled with interesting relationships, family dynamics, action and great moments of horror and romance this is a fine culmination to a great series that ahs regularly impressed me over the years. Long is very much established as one of the most interesting epic fantasy writers of the 2020s and I’m looking forward what new tales there are to come! Highly recommended!

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The conclusion to H.M. Long’s the Four Pillars quartet, Pillar of Ash provides a high-energy adventure story—one that also holds up as a standalone.

I enjoyed Yske as a main character very much. Although she doesn’t seem to “fit” in her warrior-driven environment, her actions radiated inner strength as much as her thoughts belied her self-doubt. Her relationship with her brother reveals more of this tension, though it is not lacking in love at all. I admit that I occasionally struggled to connect each ensemble member’s behavior to their name, but they all still felt three-dimensional; deaths and injuries felt raw and urgent even if I wasn’t entirely connected to the character.

The mythology is also pleasantly complex, and the finer details do not need to be understood to grasp to appreciate the full worldbuilding. As not-quite-human and not-quite-immortal, Yske and her brother undertake a quest integral to the final war with the gods. There is the Waking World, the High Halls, and the Unmade beyond them, a great tree and a Great Bear, and magic that demands great sacrifice.

Pillar of Ash is an epic, satisfying conclusion to a saga spanning history, fate, and the very threads that weave the world together.

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I read an eARC of this book so thank you to the author, the publisher and Net Galley.

This is the fourth and final book in a series. This is Norse inspired fantasy with its own unique world, gods and people. Each of the four books does say it can be read standalone and originally I planned to just read the arc of the fourth book. However the series sounded pretty interesting to I decided to read all four books in the space of about three weeks. These are such fast paced books that it was easy to do so! These books are so easy to read, I just flew through them! I can see why the books could be standalone as they all take place several years apart, and books three and four have new main characters. However, I’m glad to have read the full series in order as there are characters and history referenced in the fourth book that were richer experiences from having read the earlier books.

The books aren’t particularly long, but they don’t need to be. The world building and character building are all achieved perfectly in the space the books provide. Because we always follow one protagonist rather than several different view points we really focus on one particular challenge at a moment in that character’s life that they need to overcome.

In the fourth book we follow Yske. She is a healer who, although being the daughter of a famous warrior (the protagonist from the first two books) doesn’t want to fight. Yske wants to protect and preserve life, not take it. She’s treated quite rudely and unfairly by her clan (at one point another character nicknames her ‘Yske the Spineless’.) she chooses to live alone, separate from the rest of her clan. Yet Yske is brave, working hard to heal and protect others, following her brother on a dangerous and seemingly foolish quest to support him. She is quietly determined even in the face of the cruelty of others. While the other books have had main characters who are warriors, this one shows when a different kind of hero is needed.

I really enjoyed the setting of this book, I felt very immersed in this world of warring peoples, where the gods are heavily involved and present in the lives of humans. I have enjoyed this series, it was so easy to read, so fast paced and action packed. The fourth book was a satisfying conclusion that saw the return of some characters from the earlier books, wrapped up open ends scattered through the series, while giving Yske her own distinct journey and opportunity for growth.

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4.5 Stars!
I am sad to see this series in but grateful for the time we got to spend there.

Pillar of Ash is the epic conclusion to the 4-book series, The Four Pillars and like its predecessors, functions as a standalone novel set in the same world as the previous with relation to but not exactly the same characters. Also, like its predecessor, this story was a quest-like story following main character Yske and her twin brother Berin and his crew, to the ends of their world. Yske is a healer (my favorite character trope!) with a distaste for war and violence who finds her principles in continuous conflict with what it takes to survive while on their journey. I loved Yske’s character, finding her growth arc to be relatable as well as purposeful and I also enjoyed the small sprinkle of “impossible love” romance.

As per usual, H.M. Long is a MASTER in delivering us the most vivid and gorgeous settings, this one a winter deep dark forest. Every time I pick up one of her books I feel literally transported into wherever location it takes place in! It has gods and magic, unique mythology and magical creatures, axe-wielding warriors, epic battle scenes, and even a loveable animal companion. I loved Barrow of Winter so much and was elated to see some of my favorite characters from that book show up for cameo’s in this one.

Long story short: I don’t care what H.M. Long writes, I’m gonna read it, and that is a fact!

Thank you NetGalley and Titan Books for an opportunity to read Pillar of Ash as an advanced reader copy.

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I’m going to miss this series. Each one, I start out a little sad that it’s not a direct sequel, and by the end I’m completely in love with the new setting and characters.

This final book in the Four Pillars series features Yske, daughter of Hessa the warrior priestess. I hoarded all those little references to her family, who we got to know in past books. They all make me smile, even Imnir, that grump.

And, surprise, I quickly fell in love with Yske. Confronted with violence at an early age, Yske turned to the goddess of healing to learn how to fix the wounds of others, and to ease the violence within herself. However, martial skill and strength are respected in Eang and the wilds beyond, and when Yske joins her brother’s traveling party, she must reconcile her desire for peace with the brutal nature of survival and the need to protect those she loves.

All of this is twined together with non-stop action, expanded lore of the gods, old friendships and love, and spooky creatures that’d have the traditional barrow skeletons rattling in their boots. The story also dwells on the nature of secrets. Because of her heritage and access to the High Halls, Yske knows more than most mortals. But there are still secrets kept from her, and lies which she knows her mother tells as a form of protection. This limited information gives new sides to falsehoods and truths, and Yske has to consider how much secrecy she can accept alongside trust.

There are two other themes that I wish had gotten a bit more discussion. First, the discussion of the Miri (aka kind of deities) craving worship. This is brought up as a point of tension between Yske and her Miri friend, who dislikes Yske making sacrifices for “her goddess” and warns that close relationships between humans and Miri will result in one becoming subservient. This issue doesn’t get fully resolved, and I wish there’d been one or two more conversations. The second item is the consequences of a gift Yske receives. By the end, she expects to pay an unknown, terrible cost, but once the final action resolves, this isn’t explained. (Or I just missed it? Not impossible).

I think Temple of No God and Barrow of Winter will always be my favorites, but Pillar of Ash is a strong conclusion to the series.

**Thanks to NetGalley for the ARC**

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I saw this author featured a lot on tiktok last year with her series Dark Water Daughter, so when I saw this I was intrigued. This story follows Yale, who goes on a journey with her brother. I loved that Yske is a healer, in a world where brute force is often preferred. Overall as a series I enjoyed how each book was different and explored a different area. While this is a series, the characters change and can be read as a standalone. I find the author did a good job of explaining what you need to know to understand the world.

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Let me start off saying I had the privilege of getting a digital Arc copy of this book. My review will be honest. I got out of a ten year reading slump last year. I’ve been catching up on many series's lately. That being said, I started reading H.M. long’s Four Pillars books starting two months ago. I listened to the first couple on audiobook and I fell in love with the story. This book is no different. I’m a sucker for a good warrior story. A big thing for me with books is the authors writing style. I need to be able to visualize what I’m reading like a movie. I had no problem doing that with these books. The chapter lengths are perfect too for physical copies. Come on, we all do the “just one more chapter” and before we know it it's 3am. I love Yske. She was a character I was excited to read about. Her character development was great.

Another great book that I still think about even though I finished reading it. Thanks for approving my arc read. It was a fun adventure to read your books. I recommend to anyone that loves epic fantasy and to see different characters in books come together.

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The fourth book in the did not disappoint.

Yske, daughter of Hessa, embarks on a dangerous journey with her brother against her better judgement.

Seen as the weak and feeble healer within her community, she uses this journey to gain the respect of the warriors she is travelling with.

If you like underdogs this read is ideal for you.

Additionally I found this book easier to read than BoW, the previous book if anybody found they had to power through the last one.

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PILLAR OF ASH brings this quartet to a close, the world coming close to being unmade as threads woven through the series conclude.

This is a book about a healer and a pacifist trying to keep those she loves alive in a violent world where not taking up weapons is frowned upon. I liked having a less martially inclined protagonist, one who values healing and nature over brute force. Yske isn't naïve about the world, but determined not to let it force onto her ideals she doesn't want.

This is the book where the series title (new since BARROW OF WINTER), The Four Pillars, really makes sense. I liked seeing the hints dropped come together - and the pillars themselves play a role in the book (though the focus is very much on Yske.) Like BARROW OF WINTER, this book has a new protagonist to follow. The other two protagonists, Hessa and Thray, show up without taking the focus off Yske, which was a nice thread of continuity.

I've enjoyed how each book explores a new part of the ever expanding world. This time, the book heads east to the very edges of the world. There are some pretty unnerving creatures out here (the revenants, *shudders*) which were fun in a creepy way.

I am sad to say goodbye to this series, but it ended in an epic way, bringing together the many characters of the books.

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Pillar of Ash is the fourth and final book in The Four Pillars series. I read the third book last year and since then I read the first two books. This book is an amazing conclusion. I enjoyed the detailed worldbuilding. Although the books can be read as standalone, I would highly recommend reading the first book before reading Pillar of Ash to better understand this fantastic world. Also, we get to catch up with the other characters from previous books too. Overall, I enjoyed this series and look forward to reading more from H.M. Long.

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