#EnterTheFantastic | Enter the realms of “The Gifted and the Cursed” – through the first novel “Kings and Daemons” by Marcus Lee

Posted Saturday, 15 August, 2020 by jorielov , , , 1 Comment

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Acquired Book By: During my 3rd Year of co-hosting @WyrdAndWonder, I was able to participate on my first blog tour with Storytellers on Tour which was featuring the author Brianna Sugalski on her “Disenchanted” blog tour. What I appreciated about Storytellers on Tour is their dedication to Indie Authors of Speculative Literature and their ability to find authors who are telling stories in Fantasy which intrigue me to read. Fantasy has been a challenging genre for me to explore even a bit moreso than Science Fiction – which is why I feel blessed to be on their blogger team. Whilst some of their tours I might seek out a book to consider for review, I also actively enjoy hosting creative content using book photography and/or featuring their authors in conversation (ie. interviews) or giving them the breadth of joy to write a guest post based on a topic of my choosing. Overall, Storytellers on Tour are dedicated to creating community and for championing those of us who are choosing to share our readerly lives each day we bring content to our book blogs. 

I received a complimentary copy of “Kings and Daemons” direct from the author Marcus Lee in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.

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What drew my eye into this Fantasy series:

I am constantly intrigued and surprised by where my fantastical wanderings take me,.. as generally speaking it is quite rare I will feel motivated to read a darker Fantasy novel but there are exceptions to this rule as I am sure other readers have exceptions to their bookish wanderings as well. Likewise, a new subniche of Fantasy I have discovered over the recent year is *Fantasy Romance!* courtesy of reading my first story by H.L. Burke!

For a reader whose grown passionate about reading Romance – from Contemporary to Historical to Suspense – it is a wonderment to me how I somehow have *missed!* this other niche inside a genre I have loved reading since I was seventeen! The premise round “Kings and Daemons” is what first allured me into the novel – how a complete unknown in this world could reconcile their destinies after a person in power sought to destroy them. Who wouldn’t want to read about an unsung heroine and her ability to free her people from the destructive influence of a King?

It was not lost on me the spelling of the word demon and what this alternative spelling is pointing out in reference. This stems back to a lot of conversations I had in high school with my best friend who was as passionate about Fantasy as I had been about Science Fiction. It led to a lot of interesting conversations and discussions – something I hadn’t seen until I became a book blogger and realised there was this whole bookish community who were doing the same thing about the topics they enjoyed talking about themselves. I normally might have taken a right turn on reading this novel – yet there was just ‘something’ about it that spoke to me and I dove in head first. As you’ll see on my review I had many surprising takeaways and a reading experience I had hoped to receive but was wickedly delighted by having experienced.

One quick note to readers who might seek this out – I’d say this is Cosy Horror intermixed with High Fantasy with a cutting thread of Sword & Sorcery. 

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Notation on Cover Art: I love the art of book covers which give you an honest impression or gateway into the world you’re about to enter and “Kings and Daemons” is doing exactly that with this lushly vibrant cover art which truly gives you a keen sense about Maya and how she would appear if you were to meet her yourself. I loved everything about the design – from the choices in colours to the layout – original artwork like this one on Fantasy novels was something I have always cherished and celebrated! Especially if you look closely at what is being highlighted in this portrait of Maya – specifically look at her feet and then compare that to what is behind her and you’ll see how much she effects her world. 

#EnterTheFantastic | Enter the realms of “The Gifted and the Cursed” – through the first novel “Kings and Daemons” by Marcus LeeKings and Daemons
Subtitle: The Gifted and the Cursed (Book One)
by Marcus Lee
Source: Author via Storytellers on Tour

A tale of conquest, dark kings, and daemonic heroes. A spellbinding story that will enchant you with its plot of ambition, love, betrayal, sacrifice and redemption.

Over fifty years have passed since Daleth the seemingly immortal Witch-King and his army conquered the Ember Kingdom.
Now, with the once fertile lands and its enslaved people dying around him, the Witch-King, driven by his insatiable thirst for eternal youth, prepares his forces to march on the prosperous neighbouring Freestates. It will be the beginnings of a conquest that could destroy nations, bringing death and destruction on an unimaginable scale.

Then, when a peasant huntress whose rare gift was concealed from birth is exposed, it sets in motion a chain of events that could alter the destiny of generations to come.

Genres: Cosy Horror, Dark Fantasy, Epic Fantasy, Fantasy Fiction, High Fantasy, Sword and Sorcery


Places to find the book:

Add to LibraryThing

ISBN: 979-8646561931

Published by Self Published

on 26th May, 2020

Format: Trade Paperback

Pages: 414

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The Gifted and the Cursed Trilogy:

Kings & Daemons (book one)

Tristan’s Folly (book two)

The End of Dreams (book three)

This is a Self-Published novel and series!

Converse via: #Fantasy, #EpicFantasy or #HeoricFantasy or #SwordAndSorcery
as well as #storytellersontour #  & #EnterTheFantastic as #JorieReads

About Marcus Lee

Writing hasn’t always been a serious hobby for me … but it has always been there, lurking in the shadows, serving me well when called upon.

As I look back over the years, I realise I was guilty of writing many short stories, as well as poetry, and I’d like to think, that even if they were never intended to be published, they were nonetheless warmly received by the intended recipients.

Then in 2019, I was inspired to write not just a short story, or poetry, but a book. Then, suddenly, one book turned into a trilogy and a labour of love, and it was a love I wanted to share with the world.

So, here we are. The pandemic that put my career in sport on hold also gave me the opportunity to lavish time on my alternative hobby, or if demand dictates my new career.

However, only you, the reader, will decide whether this trilogy, which is still a work in progress, will be the first of many. I genuinely hope so.

Who knows, now these creatives juices are flowing, I might just keep on writing anyway.

Epic fantasy has been my favourite genre since I first read The Odyssey and The Illiad as a seven-year-old. Now it’s my turn to see if I can bring another world to life in the imagination of others.

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a notation about the world within this series:

When it was revealled that the King in this world [the Ember Kingdom] is afflicted with the same delusions of Voldermort I nearly smirked because it explained why I was feeling so dearly comfortable in this world! Whenever you can find a bit of familiarity in a new world your exploring in Fantasy it helps you align more closely to the current timeline of the story you’re reading. However, I think I honestly prefer the way Lee was tackling this in his world moreso than in the other world because this was presented in such an interesting vein of interest. It was matter of fact but it also was telling – of a person who had darkened himself to the dark arts and no longer had any semblance of remorse due to their greed. You can reach that insight faster in The Gifted and the Cursed series because the villain of this world is not hiding in shadows or tucked away from sight. He’s visible and his motives are equally transparent.

The violence that is in the Ember Kingdom is what is expected as Lee has done a good job of navigating the reader through those sections and passages with a lot of foreshadowing. If you’re familiar with Voldermort and the world in which he lived you won’t be gobsmacked by what you find inside this novel but I would admit, the scenes that Lee has constructed are also what I’d consider Horror Lite – meaning, their quite horrifying on one side and able to be read and put aside on the other. If you’re a reader whose familiar with vampires you will have no issues at all reading this story. Though to be truthful if you use my own reading sensibilities as a barometer – if I can read and take out the good out of this world of darkness anyone can as well.

I had to do a bit of research online as I had forgotten my long lost conversations in high school with my best friend when we had discussed daemons vs demons. One instance I had forgotten is that they are more likely to inhabit a person with psychic abilities than someone without them but what I couldn’t decipher is where the vampirism comes into play? As that it is the best way to describe their worst character trait and yet it is how they survive (if you consider it surviving). It was this trait of theirs which did push the envelope a bit for me in certain places of the plot but thankfully Lee glossed over those bits and kept them tamer than he could have bless his heart!

my review of kings and daemons:

As you first alight inside the Ember Kingdom you are greeted by such a terrible reckoning of the high fatality rate which has afflicted the women in this world. For a couple who knew what was coming the day their daughter was bourne it was not bringing them the luxury of happiness (by her birth) but rather the pain of the loss which was imminent. Except to say if that had happened this story would not have a fierce warrior as a heroine as even in infancy. Maya had a special awareness about the world as she intuited pain and understood healing. The lengths in which her parents went to keep this secreted from others in their world points to a harder look at what any parent would do to defend and protect their child. You feel emotionally rooted in these opening scenes to where you want to stand in solidarity with this family and also become one of the guardians of Maya to ensure she is allowed to grow in this loving environment of her family without outside influences which might seek to separate her from her parents.

To keep herself removed from her own society she had become a forager of whom was allowed to be gone long hours of the day and return at dusk. The hardest part to understand about Maya’s life as she was growing out of girlhood into womanhood is the loss of her mother which was never fully resolved and the fact that in order to be alive she had to mask her truer nature as much as  her true identity. Even the ways in which she presented herself was the illusion her parents had chosen for her rather than the most ideal situation to continue for such a long time without drawing notice to oneself. You feel for Maya because she is not allowed to live authentically nor is she allowed any of the common courtesy you’d expect a child and young woman would be granted – such as conversation, friendship and being one with her own community. She was living a full step removed from this community and you had to wonder – what were they afraid of? What threat did her birthright and gift afford her that others afeared? Those are the thoughts going through my mind as I entered into the initial chapters and tried to muse about what could have happened in this world to have such a locked mindset which heavily prejudiced itself against each other.

There is such a humbling and honest scene involving Maya and the awakening she had with her gift – it is tender and sweet, with the innocence of how new birth and a re-genesis of the organic healing from within her can affect the natural environs she touches with her presence. It involved a rose and it is how this particular flower found its new roots under Maya’s tenderness of care and the thoughtfulness of how she helped a plant heal itself was truly a remarkable passage in the opening pages of Kings and Daemons! She is someone who can cause a transfiguration of growth – from the point of decay to the celebration of rebirth and it is beautifully written to give you this founding sense of what her gift means to her as a person (as it renews her own spirit to use it and cultivate it) and how that gift translates into the world in which she lives.

Taran by contrast is an interesting bloke in this world who is also harbouring a secret of his own about the innate gift he has developed first out of fight or flight circumstances and secondly out of his own instincts which have served him well. His own childhood had its own challenges wherein where Maya was folded into a loving home life despite the concerns of her parents that others might discover her truer nature – Taran was blighted with a childhood wherein his art of defence and skill to deflect his father’s domestic violence against himself and his mother was a defining part of his younger years. Yet despite what they had against them both Taran and Maya shared the will to not just survive but to survive with their gifts aiding their efforts.

Whilst reading Taran’s entrance into the story, I must admit, part of me wondered if this bloke could run out of luck because he enjoyed living on the edge of society. He might not have chosen this life for himself as that was a consequence of his father’s domestic abuse (which personally felt like an injustice of its own) but it was a life he had carved out of the embers of his former life and it had enabled him with enough to survive on in a world that was unwelcome to both change and strangers. As a wanderer you could say Taran would immediately connect with Maya because she wanders in a different way than he does in her own community. Each of them self-exiled away from both prying eyes and the framework of their societies.

I was truly bewitched and enchanted by how Lee has writ this novel – you feel so dearly rooted to both Maya and Taran whilst your reading that you can barely notice anything else in your own world after you’ve entered theirs! So much so, when Maya was being pursued by a hunger-mad pack of wolves it brought me back instantly to seeing The Neverending Story for the first time as a child and the terrifying moment where Atreyu has to defend himself against a wolf. Not since that cinematic moment have I found another writer whose writ such a harrowing account of predator vs prey when it involves a wild animal and a human. You are on the very edge of your seat as you want to encourage Maya as she flees for her life but then, at that moment where both instinct and hope seem lost – it is a battle of will to turn the pages and see what happened!

When Lee reveals another layer of Taran’s gift in that tavern it gave an interesting new spin on telepathy and how that skill set has more power behind the talent than what can be readily surmised by what telepathy can reveal to the person who has the gift. It was an interesting exercise about how sometimes the best way to diffuse a situation is not by taking the straight path towards that end but by taking a secondary option which has an even fuller response than the first action might have had itself! I loved how Lee balanced both the truths of this world he’s built – wherein the people are both war hungry and violently motivated to do the bidding of their King whilst at the same time, there are opposing forces coming into play from such unsuspecting warriors that it illuminates how sometimes heroes and heroines are not found where you think they are but they have the most incredible story to be told.

I know I would have screamed myself if I had had an experience such as Maya! Her entire being was awakening now – innate gifts left untapped were suddenly percolating to the surface and one in particular was taking her breath away for how it alarmingly drew her too close to enemy lines but left a twitch of curiosity in her mind about what she had observed. This was her first experience with dreamscaping (and/or astral projection) wherein she went straight to the heart of power in this world and surprised herself by what she had found! I was worried instinctively for her because curiosity can be healthy but when it comes to darker arts and those in power who seek undo harm on their people – you can never be too cautious!

The character who I would have felt would have been the clear-cut antagonist for this story (Rakan) had much more to him than meets the eye. Yes his back-story tells a difficult story of survival and an equally hard to swallow path he took towards vigilante justice but when you see him showing mercy when it wasn’t asked of him and how his own perception of his life had become altered through the intervention of another – you saw that the lines between good and evil are more blurred than they are easily defined. A credit to Lee for spinning the script in front of us and surprising us by such a clever twist in the plot!

This is a cautionary tale about what you seek out and what is sought can become a worse nightmare than the reason behind why you sought what you did. In this instance there is an unleashing of demonic daemons which have a profound effect on both the King and the men who serve under him to the point that whomever they were in their former lives became erased by this exchange because the daemons in this world which were drawn from the gates of darkness itself were not benign but rather insidiously evil. Their own influence on these men provided their own solitary horrors and the only escape was through death. Death is both a penalty and a release of torture in the Ember Kingdom – it is widely used as the number act of punishment for whomever steps out of line as the magistrate herein is known as an overseer and trust me, that is not someone you want to cross! Why this King and his followers chose to seek such a dark entity to bring such a soulless and deathly pallor to cover this world thick and through is beyond me! You would have thought they might have come up with a better solution to their troubles but they instead went straight for the answer which was worse than any living nightmare they could have imagined!

I grieved before even Maya could grieve herself – of how challenging it was now for her to process the limitations of her gift and what her gift truly was about to give others who had forsaken her since she was a child. If nothing else – Lee had writ into her story a small churning of redemption when observers of her newfound fate realised something imperative – if what they witnessed was an act of healing how was that suddenly wrong and a measure of the dark arts? It was like her act of selflessness was a proving of a point within her community that not everything led to believe is true and sometimes the truth is muddled by what it is disguised as by others who are in power.

Similar to traditional stories of Sword and Sorcery plots Kings and Daemons leans heavy on the action sequencing and the repetitive fighting which ends in a bloodbath. The only difference is Lee has tempered the violent showdowns and only every now and then leads into a scene or passage I felt was a bit too much for me personally and I could have had those moments more glossed over than described. The fuller truth of it is that this is a war hungry world – everyone finds a reason to fight and if death is the end result so the better. It is a hard world to live in as a reader because of how its painted black with all the darkness erasing all the Light – a leftover effect of the daemons presence in the hearts of certain men and the insanity of behaviour on behalf of the Witch-King who has become overtaken by the worst of the daemons living in the Ember Kingdom.

In the midst of all of this a small revelation is revealled which points to the sequel – Tristian’s Folly is a place and a point of reference in Kings and Daemons. What is worth mentioning more is that the dark arts in this story are co-dependent on a tangible object and whomever has this object let’s just say they are no longer themselves. It is an interesting approach to showcasing how the mind of men can become turned and twisted into a version of themselves they do not recognise as becoming altered. It is a full spin on brainwashing but also of possession which also plays an equally strong role in this story.

Again, I could have had quite a few small battles excluded from the journey Maya and Taran were taking towards the Witch-King because it soon became a bit too repetitive for me to constantly see people swinging swords or stabbing with daggers and all round was nothing but death and the dead stacked in a reckless act of violent outrage. And, that too is also a keen aspect of the novel – as Dark Fantasy illuminates the darker variants of ourselves and our souls – keeping to that theme, Lee has used different techniques to showcase how darkness can overtake the mind, the body and the soul to where it is a maddening fight to find freedom from under that kind of influence and that is at the heart of where we first enter into this series. These people are fighting for not just the right to live and the will to live but they are fighting a battle against an enemy they cannot even fathom being real.

The romance comes along a bit slowly at first and then sort of takes over the last quarter of the novel and it was a bit of a refreshing turning of events due to the anguished bloodshed of the rest of the book. For me, the romance felt like a marriage of convenience – two people who were destined to become a partnership due to circumstances which united them. I believe the romance will strengthen and deepen as time moves forward but for now, I think because of the situations it was more a necessity than true love in the traditional sense.

I have a feeling if the people gain their true freedom from his oppressive rule and by the shadowing of this world by the daemons who only seek to cause wreckage and unrest – I believed this world could become a new mecca of forgiveness, re-genesis of the natural world and a peace unlike this world had known previously. We will have to remain patient to see how it plays out in the next installments but this is a strong foundation and entrance into a new Dark Fantasy world where the grip of darkness is seeking to erase the Light.

A large ensemble cast of characters with their own baggage to carry:

Nearly all of the characters within Kings and Daemons has a back-history of either neglect, abuse or shunning (by either community or family) – in fact, at one point I was hoping perhaps one of the characters might have been spared of this history but I think it owns to the world in which these characters live as we are not entering a world that has a healthy heart right now. This world is on the brink of collapse because the soil and the living environs as well as the food chain is all decaying and dying. There is a malaise over the population as much as there is this fever of necessity for everyone to chase after the same resources due to the limited means in which this world can support itself.

This is a story which unfolds per each character’s journey – meaning you get to spend time with each of them, seeing their own world-view, understanding their own journey and noodling out the connections which unite them in the world itself. This multi-POV styling allows you to learn a greater depth of the world a bit faster than you would if you were confined to one character who had a Quest or a personal journey to undertake throughout the story itself. The story moves like an open window inside a labyrinth of doors wherein each new door you open you are seeing this world from a new pair of optics which grant you more licence into the world and how it is ordered.

Having said that – the main characters to look towards as guides into this world are as follows:

Maya – felt she was the character everyone could relate to the most due to her internal will of hopefulness and the kindness she had within her to see the good in people. She was not tainted by the dark arts but the dark arts have an interest in her which is not known for awhile.

Taran – had a destiny to become interlinked on the same path of Maya and it was his interesting background and gift which proved to have more enlightening moments to be shared further into the story than when they first met.

Astren – he has several secrets of his own and he is the key to understanding the fuller scope of this world and how the spirit walking works.

Rakan – uniquely enough he was the one character I didn’t think could become redeemed or find redemption from the path his life had taken him. Which proves we should never overlook a character when their path has the most growth to be found.

Kalas – the one person who was my least favourite if I were to be honest because I never feel myself warming towards the vile characters in a story or the ones who are questionable in where their alliances lie; I would also consider this character morally grey. Interestingly enough he is the story’s historian and speaks at long lengths about the history of the Ember Kingdom.

Daleth the Witch-King – there are no words to describe him which would due him justice. You have to see his vile self for yourself and take out of his character what you will. I, for one, was awaiting for the day where someone would upset his throne and end his rule.

on the fantastical writing styling of marcus lee:

From the moment you first begin reading Kings and Daemons you feel the immersive experience of entering into a High Fantasy world illuminated by a storyteller who understands how to emotionally grab your attention from page one! You don’t have to wait long to feel a sense of what is happening in this world and how high the stakes are for the people within in it to maintain a sense of silence and silent omission. This isn’t a world for the faint of heart either (due to their extreme childbirth fatality rates) nor is it one that allows you an easy entrance to where you could see yourself living inside it because of the restrictive nature of the citizens who appear to have to watch their every move otherwise someone else will be doing that with high consequences! Lee enables you to disappear into this enchanted and challenging world with the ease of anchouring you into Maya’s self-discovery journey towards believing in her gift and using it to see what she can transform out of the beauty of what her gift provides her and the living environs around her simply through touch or presence. (at least in the beginning – I had a keen sense her gift might be more profoundly expansive lateron)

I have found over the years that I have a deep preference for reading a rather predominate selection of either Indie Published and/or Self Published Speculative Fiction – and this is another example of why – the way I felt dearly connected into the world Lee has built for us and the ways in which he has told this story. Yes, this is a Dark Fantasy novel but it isn’t aggressively dark nor is it aggressively violent. There are bad things happening in this world but he hasn’t taken the shock the reader route with his descriptive narrative and I feel blessed for the experience because I prefer those not to be inclusive with Fantasy. I shy away from explicit violence be as it were and there is something to be said for a Dark Fantasy that has the ability to transport you into its darkly lit world and see what was fuelling the fire of darkness without feeling emotionally taxed in order to gain that understanding by what you’ve read. Sometimes I find stories push me too far over the ledge and with Lee’s writing – it is the absolute reverse, as his prose is gently guiding you forward deeper into this world he’s created and giving you a firm sense of its own reality as you traverse.

One of the best lessons within Kings and Daemons is understanding friends from foes and right from wrong in how it applies to this world. Lee has a wonderful insight for readers of all ages about misconceptions and how we interpret what is happening round us and thereby affecting our actions thereafter to make a pointed look at how perception and reality might not always link arm in arm and that you have to amend how you react in the height of a crisis.

Fantastical Elements:

→ The power to heal and regenerate life from point of illness

→ Telepathy

→ Dreamscaping and/or Astral Travelling

→ (pursuit of) Immortality

In this world, the experience of travelling whilst asleep is known as spirit travelling but they also experience spirit talking which I felt was a very intuitive way of describing both as you truly are one with your spiritual half as you’ve left your physical self behind. It was one of the beautiful aspects of this world and how it was built by Lee.

As you dive into the Ember Kingdom you learn more about these traits and these gifts but they are muddled and clouded a bit by the incessant bloodshed and the power play by the Witch-King to have a control over his people which is influenced by the daemons themselves.

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In case you are enjoying my review for a Self Published Fantasy author this weekend, kindly note that I will be sharing more reviews by Self Published Fantasy authors this coming September as I will be participating in the #SelfPublishedFantasyMonth book blogosphere event wherein everyone is encouraged to both read & review stories on their blog celebrating the Self Pub fantastical worlds they are discovering whilst offering supplemental content as well – from guest features to creative posts and other content each book blogger is developing for their lovely blogs – the cool bit is that you get a special badge after you share your first review! I can’t hardly wait!!

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About jorielov

I am self-educated through local libraries and alternative education opportunities. I am a writer by trade and I cured a ten-year writer’s block by the discovery of Nanowrimo in November 2008. The event changed my life by re-establishing my muse and solidifying my path. Five years later whilst exploring the bookish blogosphere I decided to become a book blogger. I am a champion of wordsmiths who evoke a visceral experience in narrative. I write comprehensive book showcases electing to get into the heart of my reading observations. I dance through genres seeking literary enlightenment and enchantment. Starting in Autumn 2013 I became a blog book tour hostess featuring books and authors. I joined The Classics Club in January 2014 to seek out appreciators of the timeless works of literature whose breadth of scope and voice resonate with us all.

"I write my heart out and own my writing after it has spilt out of the pen." - self quote (Jorie of Jorie Loves A Story)

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Posted Saturday, 15 August, 2020 by jorielov in #EnterTheFantastic, ArchDemons or Demonic Entities, Blog Tour Host, Coming-Of Age, Cosy Horror, Dark Arts (Dark Magic), Dark Fantasy, Debut Author, Debut Novel, Excessive Violence in Literature, Fantasy Fiction, High Fantasy, Horror-Lite, Immortals, Indie Author, Self-Published Author, Storytellers on Tour, Supernatural Creatures & Beings, Sword & Scorcery




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One response to “#EnterTheFantastic | Enter the realms of “The Gifted and the Cursed” – through the first novel “Kings and Daemons” by Marcus Lee

  1. This series sounds right up my alley! I love fantasy, especially when there are potential vampires/daemons and an ensemble cast involved.

    You’re review is so thorough. I loved that you had specific sections for each thing that made this book great/stand out to you.

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