Cover Image: The Maleficent Seven

The Maleficent Seven

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Member Reviews

Oh, I loved this one!

It's bawdy and raucous and violent and funny and everything.

All the characters lived and breathed and the world building was so well done!   The book is just pure fun from the first chapter to the last.

I loved every page of this and just wanted more, more, more!

*ARC provided via Net Galley
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Thanks #netgalley and #angryrobot for the eARC of #themaleficentseven by Cameron Johnston

40 years after The Black Harren abandons her army on the eve of battle, a new evil arises that only the six villainous captains she spurned have a hope of defeating.

This is Suicide Squad meets Joe Ambercrombie. The first 25% is recruitment of the six and the last 75% is war. It’s very plot driven so if you’re looking for a deep character dive you won’t find that here but if you like grim dark/war fantasy I think you’ll absolutely love this. It’s fast paced, exciting, unique, darkly humorous and has all the morally grey/villainous characters you could ask for.  Side note: The narrator is fabulous, every voice is very distinct, if you like audiobooks.

⚠️ adult content note: heavy violence and language, no sexual content
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A fantastic, out-of-the-box, mad, and ridiculously fun novel by Cameron Johnston, <i>The Maleficent Seven</i> is a great dive into that wonderful final battle/end-of-the-world trope with one rather significant change... there are <b>no heroes</b>. Instead we have something far better/worse: Black Herran, a dreaded demonologist and war general, and her former captains: 

- Amogg: Legendary Orc warrior who has been missing a good old-fashioned bloodbath
- Jerak Hayden: A deranged alchemist with a penchant for human experimentation
- Lorimer Felle: A vampire lord who needs to save his people
- Maeven: A powerful (and pissed off) necromancer, searching for her lost siblings.
- Tiarnach: A drunken god-of-war who has lost those he cares about most
- Verena: Queen of the pirates (and a grandma that you <i>should not mess with</i>)

From the get-go this book was pure entertainment. The characters were super diverse, and all of them ("heroes" and "villains" alike) had rich backgrounds and motives. There was certainly no love lost (on either side), and even at the best of times you knew that it was only a matter of time before someone got stabbed in the back. 

The story was fast paced, violent, and at times completely over the top... in all the best ways. I was also pretty surprised by the amount of laugh-out-loud hilarity included in the book, for some great "palate cleansers" when things were getting a bit <i>too</i> heavy. Whilst the book is certainly not for the faint of heart, I found it super enjoyable and would highly recommend. 

<b>Trigger warnings:</b> Murder, animal abuse, torture, mutilation, human experimentation, ritualistic killing, cannibalism, extreme violence, gore, nudity, PTSD, religious fanaticism... and possibly more I've forgotten.
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I finished this book about a month ago and I am STILL thinking about it. It is really a story that gets under your skin and stays there. 

Full of villains as main characters and morally grey choices I enjoyed this book as it was so different from what I am used to reading. So many plots twists and turns that you need to sit down while reading! Such an entertaining book.
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DNF @ 63%
So, when I came across The Maleficent Seven I was filled with absolute certainty that it would be amazing. For sure it's gonna be one of my favorite books of the year. Unfortunately, it turned out not to be the right book for me for one big reason.

First off, this story starts off with Black Herran at the height of her power. She’s literally hours away from utter victory, but she suddenly decides that everything is meaningless and slips off into the night to make a new life for herself and her unborn child. She spends four decades hiding out in a dinky little town, raising her family, being a respected member of the community, and even watching her grandchildren grow. Things would have carried on much the same, but the Lucent empire is on the doorstep of the dinky town of Tarnbrooke so she reaches out to her old acquaintances. She gathers her six captains - a necromancer, a vampire, a war demigod, an orcish warrior, a pirate queen, and an alchemist - to help defend her town.

Everything about this story indicated that I would love it - villains turning hero, redemption arcs, epic battles, etc. I just didn’t like the characters! I wanted to so badly, but there was nary an emotional connection in sight. Ultimately, I didn’t care what happened to any of them and none of the apparently sad/triumphant/tense moments gave me one iota of feels. I couldn't get to the "suspension of belief" point and too many things just didn't add up or make sense. Why should any of these people join together? They all hate each other, they're villains, and there no profit! I was turning pages by rote and after forcing myself to pick it back up a few times I decided it was time to call it quits. I've sat on this for nearly a month now, so my feelings have cooled and I'm struggling to remember more specific details of what I disliked because I've read about 10 other books since then.

Perhaps it was simply a case of the wrong book at the wrong time because I’m in the minority when it comes to not liking The Maleficent Seven. I see tons of 4 and 5 star reviews, so if this sounds like something you’d like then please do check it out!
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Very interesting concept with amazingly grey characters that are/were once the actual bad guys when they tried to take over the world. Black Herran summons all her dread generals to once again fight but this time to save their world from an even greater evil. Each of the generals have their own issues and vices. They are also all 40 years older than their heyday, some with deteriorating powers. My favourites are Amogg the Orc leader, and Tiannorch - the former War God. 

The author takes us through a wild ride as all these terrible people put aside their egos and evil machinations to serve the better good (for the most part). Because they are evil, there’s still lots of back stabbing and plotting, plus all the one-upping each other, which makes for great hijinks, and suspense in some parts. There is a small element of story feeding in then writing, where the author tells you what is going to happen rather than shows you, which makes for some predictability in the storyline but it is still very enjoyable. 

The epilogues open up the possibility of future books, which would be great as I really enjoyed being in this world. 4/5 stars.
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I have been meaning to check this author out for a while. I have obviously been missing out! I loved this book!

This book is bloody, action-packed, and humorous. It has it all. I usually prefer more world building, but this story was great as is. The characters are horrible and amazing at the same time. I loved/hated them all!

I will be waiting impatiently for the next one. In the meantime, I definitely need to read the other books out by this author.
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A light easy read with dark and gruesome content - highly enjoyable though the attempts at humor fell a little flat for me. 

I'll definitely be checking out more of the author's work.
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Wow! This book is CRAZY! It's unpredictable, gruesome, and bloody.

It's being pitch as "Kings of the Wyld smooshed together with Suicide Squad into a glorious, gory, sweary melee". I can't comment on the Kings of the Wyld aspect yet since I haven't read it 🙈 BUT def agree on Suicide Squad! The blunt, bloodier and funnier version. It's not for the faint heart. There are some scenes that even made me say ewww coz boy, that's just disgusting 🤭

𝑻𝒉𝒆 𝑴𝒂𝒍𝒆𝒇𝒊𝒄𝒆𝒏𝒕 𝑺𝒆𝒗𝒆𝒏 is filled with imaginative and diverse cast of characters. There's a demonologist, a necromancer, a pirate queen, a vampire, a God of War past his prime, a vicious orc, and a mad alchemist. All of them have distinct voices and multi-faceted. The characterization is well done. They are villains who did despicable things yet I still root for them. 

Overall, 𝑻𝒉𝒆 𝑴𝒂𝒍𝒆𝒇𝒊𝒄𝒆𝒏𝒕 𝑺𝒆𝒗𝒆𝒏 is an unputdownable and entertaining read. I highly recommend The Maleficent Seven if you like fast paced, action-packed, rich in culture, and wicked characters!

Thank you so much Angry Robot Books and Netgalley for the DRC. All thoughts and opinions are mine.
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This was so bloody and so gruesome…and yet I could not stop reading! Is thing going to be a series? Because it really should be, I want more!

An epic adventure filled with pirates, sorcerers, demons, and monsters, a real diverse and imaginative cast. Our protagonists are NOT the heroes, far from it, they are morally corrupt and totally evil in some cases, broken and tormented, but united against one powerful foe.

The story’s is so original! It’s like suicide squad but 10 times more darker, funnier, and grisly. I am really surprised by how much I loved this book! Most of its content is a big turn off for me but somehow Cameron Johnston has just made a gripping read that uses certain elements in just the right way! I made so many sound effects while reading this: from laughing, to gasping, to sniffling, to gagging.

I was entirely hooked and engrossed. It has violence, language, gross bodily descriptions, highly immoral characters, and hilarious banter, makes up for one crazy action-filled ride!
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Rating 4.5/5

A bloody brilliant standalone and a wonderful dark fantasy homage to Kurosawa.

There’s no real need to set the premise of The Maleficent Seven since it’s in the title. Most people will be at least familiar with the seven samurai trope (unless they have been living under a rock the last seventy years). What makes Johnston’s take on one of storytelling’s most compelling tropes so good and work so well is that his seven heroes are the vilest, most twisted and downright evilest crew of bastards you can imagine. Like some fantasy Suicide Squad. 

Characterisation is integral to a good story and I’m delighted to say that Johnston nailed it here. Each character felt multi-faceted and unique, including their villainous tendencies, inner conflicts, perceptions of things (and people), and even the way they literally speak. Black Herran is a worthy successor to the wise strategist Kambei and gun-slinging Chris Adams (I can just imagine them giving her that famous Robert Redford nod). A natural fear-inducing leader with an eye for the long game, her goal of stopping the fanatical fire-wielding Lucent Empire may seem suicidal but the old demonologist has a few tricks (and demons) up her sleeve. 

If I were to pick a favourite character, I’d be doing the book a disservice since they are all appealing in their own way. Lorimer is a scary guy that makes even the bravest of souls piss themselves. He may have a habit of eating people but he is an absolute gentleman, with a very honourable code. Amogg is a big orc with a big axe and a very big tendency to cut straight to the point. She feels like a distant cousin to Warhammer’s Grimgor Ironhide, and even has a Grimgor moment that had me cheering and laughing my arse off. Tiarnach is just plain hilarious and the heart and soul of the party, stealing the show whenever he appears on page. Maeven is perhaps the most conflicting of characters and I was constantly torn between rooting for her and wanting someone to do her in. Either way, I was still completely invested in her personal story. Then there is Jerak. I developed a weird admiration for the mad alchemist's creativity but at the same time developed such a deep passionate hatred for him. Each character triggered a strong reaction from me, which shows how good Johnston is at characterisation. 

The Maleficent Seven follows a similar three act structure to that of the source of its inspiration. Johnston wastes no time in getting the ball rolling, setting the stakes early on and sending readers off to round up the old gang. Part of the fun is meeting each character for the first time and seeing how they react to each other. There is an awful lot of bad blood between them but two things quickly become clear: Black Herran is still the boss and everyone hates Jerak. The second act involves preparing the defences and the vanguard assault, with the third act delivering an explosive and satisfying finale. It is a simple but very effective structure and Johnston has plenty of surprises in store of readers. I read the book in three sittings across three days. 

I do have a couple of criticisms, the primary one being Johnston’s decision to use a mix of third person limited and omniscient. Personally, I prefer the former over the latter. Most of the head-hopping happens during the action, which is fine, but I believe a consistent focus on a single character would have served these scenes better. Also, some of the humour felt a little forced, making the dialogue for a number of scenes early on seem wooden. One particular scene that comes to mind is when we first meet Amogg. Out of all the character introductions, hers had the least natural flow. 

Minor criticisms aside, The Maleficent Seven was such a fun read which I recommend to any reader looking for a standalone dark fantasy story full of humour, fast-paced action and horrible heroes. It is a wonderful homage to Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai and John Sturges’ Magnificent Seven, so if you are a fan of them, then you will enjoy this. I am aware that Johnston has no current plan to write a sequel and I am OK with that. Nonetheless, I would happily read an origin story or two if he ever decided he wanted to expand this world. I will be on a look out for what Johnston has planned next and intend to check out some of his previous work too. 

I received an approved ARC from the publisher, Angry Robot Books, through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
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Grimdark is not generally my genre...mostly bc I didn't even know it existed which is 100% a failing on me bc this feels a lot like the darker comics (The Boys, Preacher) mixed in with some Suicide Squad vibes so it's got great commercial appeal. I'm glad I got the chance to read it (and oh the gore) bc I wouldn't have picked it up otherwise and that'd have been my loss!
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Unless something extraordinary happens, The Maleficent Seven will be in my top 3 books of the year! It wasn't what I expected but that just added to the enjoyment.

The Maleficent Seven is set in a pretty brutal world. Black Herran was a dread demonologist, and the most ruthless general in all Essoran. She assembled the six most fearsome warriors to captain her armies: a necromancer, a vampire lord, a demigod, an orcish war leader, a pirate queen, and a twisted alchemist. Together they brought the whole continent to its knees, until the day she abandoned her army on the eve of total victory. Now 40 years later, Black Herran must bring her former captains back together for one final stand in the small town of Tarnbrooke where she's been hiding out.

You may look at the types of captains Black Herran has and think that those don't sound like good people, and you'd be right. You're essentially cheering on the bad guys because there are bad guys and then there are even worse bad guys. I've always been a fan of dark characters - I love Luke Skywalker (who doesn't?) but I'm all for the Empire and Darth Vader. So reading characters that are brutal in nature and will do anything to win isn't new to me, yet there was something about this that makes it all different and it's that there are even worse people. You want them to win, not just because they're cool and sometimes funny, but because it's quite clear that they're just wanting to save the world from worse people.

The characters are well fleshed out and surprisingly endearing - Tiranach is an exceptional character who is referred to as the god of war and seems to get more vibrant and younger the more he fights, even though he doesn't know that his problems for the past 40 years is a complete lack of war. Lorimer the vampire lord is also so well written that even though he's a monster you can't help by like him. Both characters were hilarious in their own way, but also quite savage in nature.

Every character was captivating in their own way, even side characters like Penny who is just a normal human that comes into play during the second half of the books, and it just made me want to keep reading and meeting more people because it never felt over-crowded. Just don't get too attached to characters. There's death, lots of death.

The pacing of the story is superb. It's all go from the beginning and even in its slower moments there's still plenty to keep you going and entertained - and the slower moments aren't that slow, just a change of pace to keep things interesting.

The only thing I'd have liked to see a bit more of is from The Falcon Prince. You get a little bit, but a bit more would have been nice in selling how deranged he was. A chapter of two from his perspective would have been great. It's not needed but it would have been nice.

If lots of gore and bad language isn't your thing, then best to avoid this. But if you don't mind that and want characters that you'll love with non-stop action (the final quarter (final third?) is just pure action) and a captivating story then this is a book to read. It's a standalone novel that concludes everything nicely, with some prologues tieing up loose ends. It's not often that you finish a book and can't think of any negative, but here we are. I loved it and even though I read a digital copy thanks to NetGalley, a physical copy is definitely needed for my shelves.

Rating: 5/5
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This is kind of like an evil character-based D&D campaign. There are loose reasons for these characters to hang together, but a lot of backstabbing happens too. It actually feels a lot like fanfic. The plot is very predictable and there wasn't much actual story driving anything forward.

The pace is fast; we spend the first third or so of the book collecting our evil characters together. Then the rest of the book is spent on a huge, long, epic battle. There is some character development early on and there is some effort to kind of humanize these evil characters. However, it quickly degenerates into a long, gruesome series of battles that feel a bit shallow. The book is decently written but there are so many battle scenes that don't have a lot of impact on the overall story, that I found myself skimming portions. I also did notice some editing errors and typos throughout (bowls was used in place of bowels, etc). So, the editing here could have been better.

Overall this had promise and if you are looking for an evil-based battle-driven fantasy book, this isn't a bad one. It does lack character development and the intense battle scenes are so numerous they start to feel repetitive. In the end, I didn't have any attachment to anyone and was mostly just ready to move on to a different book.
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People, I FREAKING LOVED this book!!!! It’s fun on a bun! Well, like the first third of the book is fun, then we definitely get into the grimdark aspect of things. But I enjoyed that just as much. I love a “found family“ story, but this ain’t it – everyone here hates everyone else and is just biding their time until they can try and kill them 😆. Heads up, the battle scenes are definitely gory and gruesome, but I’m not sure what else you would expect with this cast of characters (Jerak the alchemist in particular is completely psychotic and deranged). My favorite character by far was foul-mouthed Tiarnach the war god, although Amogg the orc was also fantastic (and let’s not forget Red Penny). And I really appreciated that half of the badass warriors were female. Yes Amogg, females have arms and legs and can fight too! Oh, and if you’re one of those weirdos who doesn’t read epilogues in books, DO NOT skip them in this one! 

Thank you to NetGalley & Angry Robot for this advanced reader copy. All opinions expressed in this review are my own.
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Great action, strong characters, mesmerizing plot. The world building was dynamic and creative. Cameron Johnston writes beautiful action sequences and knows how to develop characters you want to read more about. This was a really fun read.
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As you grow older you start to realise that people are not black and white, but shades of grey. The nicest people can do terrible things and even bad people can sometimes be good. This argument is hard to use with the likes of Demonologists, Necromancers, Mad Scientists and Vampires. What type of evil must they be facing to be considered on the side of good? Cameron Johnston will tell you in The Maleficent Seven. 

Forty years ago, Black Herran was on the precipice of an all-out victory that would see her rule all lands. Her army consisted of the worst people and creatures the world had to offer. Rather than see her supreme victory to an end, she vanished, leaving her captains to fight among one another and lose. For decades Black Herran hid and raised a family, but a new threat has arisen that needs her old skillset and her old captains. Will they return to the General that betrayed them and can they work long enough together without killing one another? 

The premise behind Maleficent is an excellent one – a fantasy novel told from the perspective of the mad, the bad and the ugly. The prologue paints exactly the type of person Black Herran is and her captains. These are not nice people. They would gladly walk over the corpses of thousands to get what they want. This can make them hard to like, so what is so bad, that these people look good? 

This is the element that Johnston needed to get right for the book to work. The answer is the Lucent Empire and their Falcon Prince. They are spreading the word of their powerful Goddess across all lands and will kill anyone that is a non-believer. Their slaughter and cruelty are on par with what Black Herran has done in the past, but it lacks humanity. The Maleficent Seven may be bad, but that is because they are flawed beings with complex desires. The Lucent Empire just seems like a heartless killing machine. 

It is the relationships between the various captains that make the book tick. There is a faded War God who is drunk most of the time who has a complex relationship with an Orc leader who would see them fight to the death. The Vampire and the Necromancer do not get along and no one trusts Black Herran. As for the mad Alchemist, they would all see him dead as he is truly the vilest. Rounding off the lot is a Pirate Queen who is only helping to protect her own clan. All of them are distrustful of one another, but Johnston cleverly creates reasons why they would all be involved and willing to work together one last time. 

The book is in two major sections: the gathering of the captains, and the battle. For the first third of the book, we learn who each of the captains is and learn about their motivations. This holds the reader in good stead for the latter part of the book as there is a major siege. The back and forth covers many chapters and to keep the reader’s interest Johnston sprinkles in character moments. The siege is not just about the carnage, but also about who will live and who will die. By this point we care.  

The battle itself is also very well written, I enjoy a good historic fiction novel and the battle in Maleficent reminded me of the work of Bernard Cornwell and I do not say that lightly as Cornwell is an expert in battle writing. There is a sense of pacing as the Lucent attacks are forced back and then regathered. Rather than repeating the same pattern, Johnston assures that each skirmish is different. Each of the captains is given the chance to show their bloody skill set. 

Maleficent is as fantasy novel for fans of the genre who want to read something a little different. It is a fantasy novel, but also has action, comedy, and pace. By focusing on bad people, there is more of a sense of the unexpected. Wheels are working within wheels; betrayals can happen at any point. Even among this sickened group of people, some are worse than others. You know that an alchemist must be awful when you start siding with a flesh tearing vampire.
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The promised Kings of the Wild Suicide Squad mash up was delivered, however it wasn't necessarily a book for me.
Plot and concept are amazing, I really enjoy a good anti-hero storyline, but what killed it in the end was the breakneck speed and some things that didn't make sense for me personally.
After collecting the first few members and all of them arguing for a couple of seconds on why they'd never work for Black Herran again, they do of course. It gets old quickly. Instead of getting more info about our band, there's a lot of killing and ripping people apart repeatedly. I feel this time could've been used better by the author. We already know how badass, strong and evil they are. The trips between locations are very short and I often found myself a bit confused.
I also wasn't a big fan of the dialogue between characters.

BUT. I can see other readers enjoying this, especially if you like fast-paced, action-filled scenes without a massive amount of culture, backgrounds and info dumps.
I do prefer my slow-paced epic fantasy 😅
2.5 out of 5 ⭐
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One of the things that I'm always talking about on my bookstagram is the lack of books with a villain as the main character. Books that follow a hero are a dime a dozen, and although there have been plenty of authors who have kept that trope fresh, after a while it can get a little old. I've always thought that villains were such an untapped resource. Villains follow their own moral (or immoral) code, they commit heinous acts, and more often than not they are selfish megalomaniacs. Why wouldn't you want to read about a character like that?? Villains do things for their own gain, and they follow their own philosophies regarding how to obtain and keep power. It's their subversiveness that makes them interesting, and Cameron Johnston knew that when he wrote The Maleficent Seven. 

In The Maleficent Seven, Johnston introduces us to the demonologist Black Herran and her six captains: Lorimer the vampire lord, Amogg the orc warlord, Maeven the necromancer, Verena the pirate queen, Tiarnach the demigod, and Jerak Hyden the twisted alchemist. Once, they were on the cusp of overtaking their whole continent and putting it into the villainous hands of Black Herran, but at the last minute Herran disappeared and they lost their upper hand. In the power vacuum that followed a new power rose: the Lucent Empire. The Lucent Empire had one goal: convert the entire continent to their new totalitarian, evangelical religion. Now, 40 years later, Black Herran is back, and she needs her captains again so that she can stop the Lucent Empire before it engulfs everyone and everything in its path. The job won't be easy, especially because her captains hate Harren for the way she abandoned them. Each has their own agenda, but only time will tell if they can pull together one last time.

From the very first page of this book, I was in love. Black Herran and her crew were nefarious, filthy, mean, and cruel, but instead of coming off as one-note characters with just one goal, they each came off as nuanced, fully fleshed-out characters. It's easy to take a villain down the mustache-twirling route, especially in a book with 7 of them, but Johnston gave each villain their own motivations and backstories. They were all absolutely horrible people, but they were so well-written that you find yourself rooting for them! One of my main gripes with typical depictions of villains is that the author tries to give them redeeming qualities. Johnston does no such thing. While his villains may have a reason for their actions and may care about certain people enough to want to protect them, they are first and foremost VILLAINS. Their motivations are selfish, and they go about achieving them to the detriment of those around them. And I LIVED for it! 

To me, this book was perfect. The worldbuilding was immersive, and I give it props for being a stand-alone book that adequately introduced the world and magic without it feeling rushed or like it was lacking. My one gripe is that it is in fact a stand-alone! I want more from this world! But the ending wrapped everything up nicely, which is something that can be hard to come by in a stand-alone. I left this book satisfied with the story I'd been told, and really that's all you can really ask for as a reader.
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I am really pleasantly surprised by this! While the summary told me that it would hit most of the tropes and such that I adore, this was a fun ride with some depth that I didn't expect! This was the first book I've read from the author and while the first several chapters threw me off due to the writing style (just a personal preference), I'm glad I stuck with it as this book is a hidden gem! I
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