Annalisa's Reviews > Fire

Fire by Kristin Cashore
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's review
Feb 08, 2010

did not like it
bookshelves: fantasy, cover
Recommended for: If you liked Graceling, you'll probably like this
Read from February 06 to 07, 2010

Granted, I went into this book annoyed with Cashore's anti-marriage, pro-casual-sex message in Graceling, but the book never got interesting enough to overcome those messages. Okay, I didn't finish it, but if 222 pages into it, I'm bored and nearly shaking with rage at Cashore for using a YA story as a thinly veiled piece of propaganda, I doubt the end of the book will redeem itself. This isn't even YA, it's adult high fantasy, but these days publishers market everything as YA, and so it's sold and read as YA where Cashore forces her stories around some unhealthy and harmful messages instead of letting her characters and story grow organically.

This world full of monsters so beautiful people throw themselves at the monsters in lust and the monsters can control everyone's mind to make them do whatever they want was not a world I wanted to believe in. Plus, Fire is way too much like Katsa, but less interesting, more whiny, and the whole society more promiscuous. The book is congested with: friends with benefits (incidentally an 17-year-old with a guy several years older than her whom she doesn't even like and knows he's sleeping with every other girl in the country), a whole society sleeping around and fathering illegitimate children all over the place, lots of uncontrolled lust, people and animals throwing themselves at Katsa Fire because she's on her period, rape (from all that uncontrolled lust), murder, that whole village plunder and destroy stuff, and the happy mention of her father saying that just because Katsa Fire is beautiful he would never act out on that lust because he loves her, so throw a little incest into the mix. I don't know of a single, healthy relationship in the whole book, at least the part I got through. And the very worst of all of this is these things have nothing to do with the storyline.

The story was so slow developing and the characters one-dimensional that never gained my sympathy. So I'm making up my own ending, which I've hidden under a spoiler tag since apparently it's pretty closer: (view spoiler) It doesn't really matter to me. The characters and story didn't grab my attention; it's the messages that did.
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Reading Progress

02/06 "Not really excited about this book, but I hear it's better than Graceling. Let's see if Cashore redeems herself." 5 comments
02/08 page 222
48.16% "Blah. I gave it a good shot. I'm done."
02/01 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-50 of 89) (89 new)

message 1: by Melanie (new)

Melanie I LOVE your review. I don't intend on reading any of these books but I love your take on the author and her messages and totally agree that YA doesn't seem to mean anything anymore.

Amethyst ummm.. wow... you must really hate it.. haha. i was thinking of reading it, but not so sure anymore...

message 3: by Annalisa (last edited Apr 07, 2010 02:23PM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Annalisa Amethyst,
I didn't hate it as much as dislike it. I actually initially gave it a 2, but then decided that if I couldn't finish a book, it deserves a 1.

message 4: by Annalisa (last edited Apr 07, 2010 02:30PM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Annalisa Izzy,
Sorry that disappoints you. I just couldn't get into it and Cashore's messages bothered me. It was a disappointment to me after Graceling which I did enjoy. I saw that you liked Archer. I didn't read the end of the story, but he didn't seem very sympathetic to me in the beginning. In fact, I couldn't stand him. Does he get better?

While I agree with what Izzy says, I do often read several reviews and get an overall feel for a book. That's the whole point of the site. I think your reaction to this book will depend on your reaction to Graceling. If you had a problem with the messages, you'll have a problem here (and they're worse). If you really liked Graceling, you'll probably really like Fire, most people do.

Amethyst ok thanks.. well i guess i have a while to think cause. i got a friend who lives in Sydney, and he looked in the four biggest books stores (there two stories high), and he said he couldn't find a copy anywhere... so i guess i'll have to wait a couple more months until it reaches Sydney.

message 6: by I am Bastet (new) - added it

I am Bastet Hahaha omg, did you know how the book ended when you wrote this? Because if you didn't, your powers of prediction are AMAZING!! (Or perhaps it was just a really linear and predictable plot :-P)

Love the review; totally agree with everything, especially the period thing. That was superfluous and tmi gross. Because periods aren't bad enough on their own.

Annalisa Isis,
No, I didn't know how the book ended. I did skim a little of the scenes with Fire and Brigan to see if their relationship was enough for me to keep reading. But I guessed right? :) I had to think about it for a few minutes to make sure I got everyone in there, but it seemed like the most logical. And yes, periods are bad enough on their own. Have you seen Rosemary's Baby? When she's talking about her period it was such a turn off. Why put that in the movie? But then it ended up being important to know when she would be ovulating and therefore get pregnant, but I say, if you can avoid mentioning your cycles, it's always a good idea to keep it out.

message 8: by I am Bastet (new) - added it

I am Bastet Haha yes, you were right. There's a showdown with Leck, and Archer is killed there (though it's before Fire shows up--Archer goes after Leck alone because of his testosterone) and of course Fire and Brigan start sleeping together.

Ariel Archer is a slut, but Fire isn't. She only is with two guys in the book, and "dates" them one at a time.

Annalisa I didn't get the impression that Fire "dated" Archer. She didn't allow him to get close to her, only to sleep with her, and then she was constantly pushing him away and upset that he assumed there was any sort of relationship with him.

message 11: by Kym (new) - rated it 1 star

Kym K so I really liked Graceling and was all excited to read Fire....til I realized there were totally different characters!!! So I've tried to read it and have just been frustrated and haven't gotten into it. So I check on here to see if anyone had read it. And thank you Annalisa for the thoughts! For one, I was going to totally make fun of you for reading into the first one so much (the sex thing didn't bother me for whatever reason) but second, I'm guessing you have this second one pegged well enough that I'm probably gonna stop reading. I'll give it another night and see where it goes, but I always love to read your reviews! It's such good entertainment:)

Annalisa You were going to make fun of me? I'm shocked :). I've actually read a lot of other reviews that agree with me about the sex relationship in Graceling. I still think she has an agenda (which is too bad because I think she can writer).

message 13: by Kym (new) - rated it 1 star

Kym I can see your point but it didn't come off that way to me when I read it so when I read your review I just laughed. So yes, I was going to mock you! I'll be interested to see what she does with book #3. And now that I have your accurate predictions of Fire, I'll be right up with the story for #3!

message 14: by Lydia.kathryn34 (new)

Lydia.kathryn34 I had the exact same reaction to Graceling. After she and Po make love in the forest, I slammed the book shut and almost screamed. Their affair is so gratuitous. Im a fantasy junky, so overall, i really enjoyed it; however, the message that being lovers is ok to maintain one's independence is completely ridiculous.
I had already bought the book before i had the chance to read reviews on it. I wanted to find out if there was going to be more sex in this book, if so, i wasn't going to read it. Your review convinced me to return Fire to the bookstore. Thank you for sparing me.

Annalisa Oh, yeah. If Graceling bothered you that much, I wouldn't mess with Fire. It's definitely worse in that respect.

Maxine Amethyst wrote: "ummm.. wow... you must really hate it.. haha. i was thinking of reading it, but not so sure anymore..."

You have to read it!, this person dosen't know what she's talking about, it is one of my favorite books!

message 17: by Courtney (last edited Nov 21, 2010 10:18PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Courtney I totally respect your opinion on this book, but I must very much disagree. I think perhaps you neglected the fact of how real this book tends to be - if you haven't noticed, there are illegitimate children floating around all over ruling families in the past. And because it's there doesn't mean that Kristin Cashore condones it. However, since I don't know her I cannot verify this. And another bone I have to (hopefully politely pick) is that Fire could not be any more different from Katsa. She doesn't fight for one, but, most of all, the one thing she truly wants is children. And she can't. Of all the things she wants most in the world, she is deprived of it. She is mature enough to ensure that she can never mother a child because monster humans are too easily corruptable. This is one of Fire's greatest sturggles in the book - Katsa, conversely, never wanted children or marriage. About Cansrel and the hint of incest, yes it was there. But it was ONE SENTENCE, and it was only him warning her that even her father could be overtaken by her beauty. This is yet another building reminder of how difficult it is for Fire to be so beautiful (which, I must add to other readers, she does not like being). She is so beautiful that even her own monster father is susceptible to her face. How hard would that be?

And, on the contrary, I found the characters beckoning my sympathy constantly. Fire is quite immature at seventeen, but oh she grows. She goes from secluded and sleeping with Archer (something I do no agree on) so she doesn't have to be alone to a mature individal. She has had virtually no companionship and a life of distrust among very many for simply existing. And then she has the trauma of Leck and Archer to go through. She is so scared of letting herself reach another person again. I felt for her greatly. I'll admit I had a lot of trouble with sympathy for Cansrel, Roen, Brocker and Nax, but for their children I was compassionate. They were all given the war of their parents and had to sort it out somehow.

And he didn't *suddenly* love Fire. He hated her so deeply because of her father, but then when he found out that she, herself, killed Cansrel, he began to lighten up. And talked to her. She did many things to gain his trust - the raptor incident among them. It was not as quick as you suggest, I must point out.

I don't think you really gave the book a chance it all or really tried to know the characters. So what if this book is more about character than plot. That's OK, too, you understand. And about all the sleeping around, I can't exactly agree with that. I didn't particularly like that, but it's not as if sex dominated this book. Yes, there were many references to archer's lust, but it was what cause Fire to turn away from. AKA, it was deemed bad behavior. And about Fire and Brigan, well I just let it go, because things are a little different in the Dells. And as long as I didn't have to endure a five page scene, I was fine. I think their sexual exploits took up about one page in the entire book. Hardly as bad as all that.

So, hopefully I didn't offend you with my opinions on your opinions. I think you should really reread the book and try to understand the characters here.

Best wishes!

Annalisa Courtneh,
Don't worry. You didn't offend me. When I have more time, I'll come back and counter some of your points. Thanks for your comment though. I like a good debate.

message 19: by Annalisa (last edited Jan 08, 2011 11:01AM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Annalisa Dang those holidays and my iPhone. I hadn't realized it'd been so long since I've been on a real computer.

First off, about the characters being similar. While they do have different defining characteristics, even opposite as you pointed out, what I take issue with is that at the core they have the same hangups and Cashore sets them on a path to the same lifestyle choices. They are the opposite sides of the same coin (Cashore's hangups). When I read her characters, I can't help but see too much of her controlling them with her own personalities and the anti-traditional marriage and family messages she wants to convey. That is what I take issue with.

I didn't miss how real the book tends to be; that is part of the issue I have with her twisting traditional society values. If she wanted to set her book up in some futuristic setting it would have made more sense, but medieval it doesn't. Illegitimate children were an embarrassment, something to be hidden and disavowed, because society didn't condone sex out of marriage. I know my comment makes it sound like I'm shocked that the royal family would have illegitimate children, but I know it's quite common. It's the acceptance of sex outside the bounds of marriage in a medieval society that bothers me.

I'm sure life was difficult for Fire, I got that she hated being beautiful, but I couldn't sympathize with her as a character. She was so tough and closed off and emotionally unavailable and whiny about her condition I struggled to find something to like about her (some of that core character similarities that was too much like Katsa). The book starts off with her relationship with Archer, sleeping with him but then being annoyed that he wants to be close to her, and while I disliked Archer more than Fire, the way she treated him irked me. It was an uphill battle at that point for her to redeem herself as a sympathetic character and, for me, she wasn't likable enough to do so.

The comment about her father may have been one sentence, but it was still in the book and somewhat disgusting to think about and I didn't think it appropriate to include in a YA novel. Then again, I don't think this is YA, and Cashore may have never intended it be sold as so, but everything these days gets categorized as YA because that is what's selling. I'd be a lot more tolerant of content in adult fantasy than YA fantasy, but adult fantasy doesn't sell.

What I read in Brigan's character was hatred one scene and then the obvious romantic interest the next. The getting over hatred was a little too quickly. I'm okay with books that tend more to character development than plot, I actually prefer them, but I think this book works more as a plot book. Or maybe it's that I didn't like the characters so I didn't care to read about their development.

I know the tone of my review is antagonist, and I probably didn't give the book a fair chance (I took out my anger on what Cashore did to Katsa's character out on Fire), but when I see the same patterns taking shape in Fire's story, I couldn't stand to see another promising story get lost in the messages Cashore seems bent on including in her novels. The sexual exploits may not take up most of the scenes, but I think they control the themes of the book. The story acts more as a vehicle for Cashore to display the type of heroines she thinks girls should have in literature. And I'm not a fan of Cashore's heroines as role models: tough to the point of dismissal of everything feminine, emotionally unavailable, open sexually, almost angry feminist (don't get me wrong, I'm a total feminist, but I'm not for the dismissal of women who want to be soft and feminine and chose career over family), etc.

I hate it when an author gets in the way of a story, and when I so strongly disagree with those messages, it makes it all that much worse. I think Cashore shows a lot of promise as an author, but I will never read another one of her books.

message 20: by I am Bastet (last edited Jan 08, 2011 01:36PM) (new) - added it

I am Bastet I hate it when an author gets in the way of a story

I so get where you're coming from on that statement. I think Cashore's agenda just comes out too much in these books - and I'm like you, I'm a huge feminist, and it really takes a lot for me to get irritated at a feminist message. But I think by being so intense about it, Cashore is actually making it a harder message to listen to. I especially take issue with the way she keeps her characters from having children. With Katsa, it's easy for people to dismiss because she's so immature and angry and bitchy so of course, why would she want kids. And then with Fire it's the total opposite: OMG I WANT KIDS SO BAD. There's no real consideration of what it does to a normal woman's life - not a monster's life and not a closed off bitch's life. Because it is a big responsibility that's often almost completely shouldered by women, especially in a society set up like the one in these books.

That was my very long-winded way of saying I agree with you, Annalisa!

message 21: by Mika (new)

Mika i dont get why people get so mad when she decides not to have children, she is making desisions for the better of other people not for herself. i thought it was an amazing book

message 22: by I am Bastet (new) - added it

I am Bastet Allison - It's the way the point is presented. I'm a woman who has decided not to have kids, and I get shit from people ALL the time. In Graceling, Katsa is so defensive about it that people don't see it as a valid life choice because she's so hard-hearted. In Fire, it's less a problem, but I thought it was just weird for Cashore to make two characters who were so vastly opposite in their opinions about it. I wish instead of making it so that Fire just COULD NOT have kids without creating a monster monster, she had explored why not having kids is a viable life choice and deserves to be respected. She has the power to make this point of view more well known, but I'm disappointed in how she did it.

message 23: by Annalisa (last edited Jan 13, 2011 10:34PM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Annalisa Isis, I love that from someone who has made that choice, you get that the way Cashore presents it is weird.

There's this undercurrent about it, a hangup, a defense of her life. I don't care if Cashore's characters have kids or not, what I don't like is the force of it when it doesn't always fit the story or the character. In the beginning it fit Katsa so it worked, but her character development should have led her away from some of these convictions and it didn't. I didn't finish Fire's story, but there was something forced about her character all along that rubbed me the wrong way. If it fit, it wouldn't really be as big of an issue to people because the decision would flow from the plot, not from Cashore's hidden agenda.

message 24: by I am Bastet (last edited Jan 13, 2011 11:05PM) (new) - added it

I am Bastet Yes, exactly. What I wanted from Katsa, if for her whole life she still decided not to have children, was an evolution of her understanding of her own choice. What would have really made it work would have been if she'd thought about the responsibility and what it means to change your romantic relationship that way. As with most of Katsa's personality, had she been a little less prickly and hard to relate to, all these things would have seemed natural and would have been easier for everyone to consider. The more I think about it, the more I get frustrated because the potential for a positive message from the agenda is possible, but it just wasn't fulfilled.

The other thing is that it's only ever an immediate choice. While it's unlikely I'll change my mind about kids, I am also aware that people change and circumstances change. Me circa right now doesn't believe it will happen. Who knows what me ten years from now will want or think or have--and that's also something Katsa didn't have. She didn't consider the possibility that SHE might change, which makes me feel like she was holding onto those ideals about her independence and her life so hard because she wasn't capable of admitting she might change.

Shaelah hahahahahaha you hit the nail on the head!!! Totally transparent author agenda, harping on about the same stuff as the last book only slower and less interesting, ridiculous relationships, polarity of the idea of a strong female being either manly or femme fatale, lack of consequences for choices and extreme consequences for others, woe-is-me attitudes, combined with an INTERESTING PREMISE that could have been drawn in so much more of an interesting manner, which actually makes the fact that the book sucked even MORE irritating.

Maxine I think you people have to stop compairing Fire to Graceling and just look at Fire like it is it's own book and not the same thing as Graceling. Then you will see how amazing it is.

message 27: by Angie (new)

Angie I really appreciate your review. I am often appalled by the content of YA fiction. I appreciate getting a head's up from you!

message 28: by Jayme (new)

Jayme I have a question for anyone who has read this book. I have thus far (review based, I'll admit) decided not to read this book. I'm turned off by the descriptions of sex and relationships in these books by Cashore as the former seems to be enshrined and the latter greatly diminished. However the thing that made me shudder while reading through these reviews was, in fact, that the Fire character made herself barren to prevent the continuation of her race.
To end one's own people based off of two examples: yourself and one other? That notion actually makes me nauseous.

It is the exercise of violent control over who knows how many futures. In short, it is genocide, made all the worse for it is done to one’s own people. Perhaps I am too tribal for the premise of this book. This book is about individuals, and I cannot see myself as so drastically disconnected to my own blood-kin, past or future.

If I understand correctly, this book is partially about the inherent dangers of one's own nature, and how one chooses to employ that nature (i.e. for good or for evil). Can't that be said of all people, not just fantastical ones?

If I had children I would run the risk of raising hellions or angels. It is a risk of humanity, for goodness’ sake. All the more risky where intelligence, education, skill and charisma are present. As a great writer once said, the better a creature can be, the worse it can also be. They could become life-saving leaders or despicable tyrants. And the Fire character, for fear I suppose, has cut off that vein entirely. Have I misunderstood this? Am I the only person whom this bothers?

message 29: by I am Bastet (new) - added it

I am Bastet Did you peek? Your spoiler was RIDICULOUSLY accurate.

message 30: by Jayme (new)

Jayme No, I just read a LOT of reviews for this book, because I was fascinated by the dicussion it spurred. Lots of them had spoilers.

Victoria Parkins I completely agree with you!!! Fire was too much like Karta, and it took me a month to finish this book, i t was really boring!!!

Julianne I loved the book, but now that i've read the comments there are some major flaws. i don't think Fire should have made herself barren for the reasons that she chose. the book is an example on how parents and heritage and stuff don't matter and shouldnt affect ur person, but Fire became barren because she doesnt want more Cansrels. as long as the kids are raised in a good environment that sort of thing shouldnt happen. i think this contradicts one of Cashore's messages.

Rebecca I think you're going a bit overboard with this, but I can see why you don't like Fire. One point I absolutely do not agree with you on is that you say it should be adult fantasy. It's not that sexually explicit. I didn't find many of that things you disagreed with creepy at all. (I liked your alternate ending, even though it doesn't fit the characters at all after the first 223 pages.)

message 34: by I am Bastet (new) - added it

I am Bastet Really? Her alternate ending is almost exactly what happens in the actual book!

Spider the Doof Warrior I did stop reading that.
She mentioned her period waaaaaaaaay too much. Girls get them, but we don't need to hear about it every few pages. There's a reason for no periods period I guess.

message 36: by Amy (new) - rated it 5 stars

Amy I just don't understand why there cannot be references to sex in young adult literature. There were no explicit, graphic scenes a la pornography in this book.

Do people actually think that teenagers don't know about sex?

Spider the Doof Warrior No, they are actually supposed to wait until they're married. THEN they get told about sex. That means no television, no music about sex, no movies about sex and no watching nature where that sort of thing goes on all the time right before your eyes.

Kura2025 I too was a little weirded out by all the references to her period.

Nadine I agree w/ ur review. This is one boring book. The prologue started out great. By the time I reached middle w/ nothing happening except the constant whining of the heroine, I got so disappointed. It's like having sex w/out orga*ming. Such a disappointment.

Grace I went into this book annoyed with Cashore's anti-marriage, pro-casual-sex message in Graceling ...
I don't think Cashore's message was Anit marriage or pro casual sex. I'm always bothered by the notion of women seen as objects to be married off at the first possible chance to make babies and keep house, and I applaud the woman that raises her hand and goes "um...hang on a minute." I felt Katsa was a very strong independent woman that thinks long and hard about who she is and what she wants. I was thrilled that for once we have a strong heroine that's kick ass in her own right. Why does a woman need a man to be complete? As many women who want to marry and have babies, there are those women that don't want that for themselves. I know it's hard to imagine, but there are women born with no desire to have children. *points to self* I don't want to have children. I'd like to get married, but it's not at the top of my to do list. I would rather marry the love of my life at 50, than settle for someone safe at 30. Why is it when people come across such women she's pegged as having some social/ mental defect? And then the independent woman, who has no desire to breed is expected to be celibate forever? O_o`I think not. Katsa's choice to have sex with Po was anything but casual. She thought about it for days. I thought this was a very positive message. I've read too many books with so-called Strong female charters, who once they realize that they're in love with the leading man, they cut straight to sex. She didn't just jump into bed with Po, she really thought hard about it. What it would mean. How it would effect her and her scene of self. She asked herself what she wanted and how her relationship with Po changed what she wanted. I don't know, maybe one day her and Po will marry. But if/when they do, it'll be because she wanted to and not because she's expected to. In the mean time, she's still young. She want's to see the world, have a life, try new things meet new people and fully appreciate her new found freedom.

Deena I read this review before I finished the book and I don't understand it. Archer isn't that much older than Fire...And I don't understand how the book is anti-marriage...? And even if it was, so what?

message 42: by Liz (new) - rated it 2 stars

Liz Ha! My thoughts exactly on the prologue!

message 43: by Dan (new) - added it

Dan whats wrong with the casual sex message it seems a perfectly healthy message to share with young adults to me

message 44: by Stephanie (new) - added it

Stephanie Thanks, I think I got less than 100 pages in and realized it would've been too "desire" focused for me. You've just confirmed why I probably won't go back to this one.

message 45: by Allegra (new)

Allegra thank you for this honest review. I was debating reading this after the messages sent in the first book. I will most definitely NOT be reading this book now.

Patricia Totally agree. I read every word and consider it a waste of precious reading time. Every author has biases, but hers are WAY too blatant.

Lara's cola I wonder if the pro-sex, anti-marriage stance is supposed to reflect girl power and the right to choose. Because a simpler way of doing so would be to let the unfortunate women in the book kick the jerks where the sun don't shine -_-

message 48: by Annalisa (last edited Jun 18, 2012 05:12AM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Annalisa Lara's cola wrote: "let the unfortunate women in the book kick the jerks where the sun don't shine -_- "

Haha :). I'm all about girl power, but it's supposed to be about equality and respect, not about elevating one's wants above some else's (which I think describes Katsa and Po's relationship).

Patricia wrote: "Every author has biases, but hers are WAY too blatant."

I agree. It detracts so much from the story that it becomes the story.

Danny wrote: "whats wrong with the casual sex message it seems a perfectly healthy message to share with young adults to me"

We're going to have to agree to disagree on that one.

Deena wrote: "And I don't understand how the book is anti-marriage...? And even if it was, so what?"

In her stories, Cashore always contrives a way for her characters not to marry because somehow getting married is anti-feminist. She forces her messages on the story when they don't always fit just to hammer them across. A story should be true to the characters, not be heavy-handed with an author's agenda. I think it's damaging to her story and character's growth and personally I think the messages that marriage is something to be disdain and sex doesn't need an emotional attachment are damaging to society.

Lara's cola feels as if every relationship in the book needs to be "unconventional" in some way. It's kind of forced, and definitely distracts readers from the main plotline.

I enjoyed Katsa and Po's pairing, even though the marriage bit seemed kind of unnecessary too (as Annalisa mentioned, the relationship is based on mutual respect and understanding. I wondered how marriage would have destroyed that). Here in Fire, well, almost everyone engages in some sort of illicit affair or criminal behaviour. The Archer-Fire loveline at the start also reminds me of an older guy taking advantage of a younger girl's emotional weakness. Slimy much?! It could have been statutory rape.

I don't think books should be politically correct. However, there is also no reason to portray marriage so negatively as well, especially when it serves no real purpose in the book besides trumpeting the author's own beliefs.

Shosho Maybe she isn't anti marriage per se, she's just anti the particular kind of unequal marriage girls could look forward to in this ancient realm?
Because that's the way I see it. It's better to have no marriage at all than one where you lose your autonomy, and I think that's what would happen with archer?

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