The Kingmaking (Pendragon's Banner Series #1)

( 135 )

Overview

A novel of Arthur as he really was.

In the first book of this exciting trilogy, author Helen Hollick brings to life Arthur Pendragon as he really might have been. Leaving behind the fairy-tale element of Merlin's magic and the improbable existence of Lancelot, Hollick instead transports the reader to the early years of Britain circa 455 AD and tells the Arthurian legend in a solid and believable way.

For one, Arthur does not pull a sword from a...

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The Kingmaking (Pendragon's Banner Series #1)

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Overview

A novel of Arthur as he really was.

In the first book of this exciting trilogy, author Helen Hollick brings to life Arthur Pendragon as he really might have been. Leaving behind the fairy-tale element of Merlin's magic and the improbable existence of Lancelot, Hollick instead transports the reader to the early years of Britain circa 455 AD and tells the Arthurian legend in a solid and believable way.

For one, Arthur does not pull a sword from a stone using superhuman strength; rather, he is named heir to Britain (if he can win it from the tyrant Vortigern) while standing near a "hallowed stone, the symbol of a warrior's strength and the chieftain's right of leadership." Later, a sword won in battle signals his place as Britain's King.

This is a story of harsh battles, secret treasonous plots, and the life-threatening politics of the dark ages of early Britain. Intertwined through it all is the often-tested love of Arthur and Gwenhwyfar (Guinevere in Welsh - her name as it really would have been) as they struggle to survive and conquer to see Pendragon become King.

"If only all historical fiction could be this good."
Historical Novels Review

"Helen Hollick has it all. She tells a great story, gets her history right and writes consistently readable books."
Bernard Cornwell

"Hollick joggles a cast of characters and a bloody, tangled plot with great skill."
Publishers Weekly

In the vein of Marion Zimmer Bradley and Sharon Kay Penman comes an exciting new talent with a gripping and imaginative retelling of the classic story of King Arthur. In this first installment, Arthur and Gwenhwyfar become pawns in a political triangle and Arthur is forced to choose between his kingship and the woman he loves.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In this first volume of what promises to be a monumental historical trilogy, rookie British author Hollick depicts Arthur's rise from A.D. 450, when he was a 15-year-old boy of hidden parentage, to A.D. 457, when he took his place as the King Arthur of legend. The story combines private emotions and public statecraft as marriages, alliances and enemies are made and unmade to suit the politics of the era. Hollick mixes elements from fifth-century history, myth, early romances, contemporary fantasy and other novels about Arthur, adding her own inventions for good measure. The treatment of Gwenhwyfar and her love for Arthur (depicted here as star-crossed even without Lancelot's help) is especially vivid. Though the novel contains no supernatural aspects, with its exotic setting, passionate characters and epic battles and intrigue, it still should appeal to the fantasy fans to whom most Arthurian adventures are addressed. The language, too, is influenced by genre fantasy, especially in its dramatic descriptions and reliance on archaisms; but this big-hearted novel's historical speculations alone should make it of interest to the non-fantasy reader as well. (Nov.)
Library Journal
As the rightful son of Uthr Pendragon, Arthur dreams of uniting the warring kings of Britain. Gwenhwyfar's hope, as the only daughter of Cuncedda, the Lion Lord of Gwynedd, is to join Arthur's cause. Hollick's first novel re-creates the uneasy political climate of fifth-century Britain, a land suffering under the rule of the tyrant Vortigern. Stripped of its medieval trappings, the story of Arthur's rise loses none of its legendary power. Most libraries will want to add this well-researched, skillfully constructed trilogy opener to their collections.
Roland Green
Making her debut, a new and promising author inaugurates an Arthurian trilogy, Pendragon's Banner, with an account of Arthur's youth and early manhood, periods even more open to speculation than the rest of his career. She covers Arthur's learning of war and intrigue and his relationships with his father, the young Guinevere, and scores of others--some historical, some legendary, and some creations of Hollick's fertile imagination. She gives Arthur a taste for wine, women, and song, and also a slight lack of scruples (the influence of modern psychology shows here), thereby cutting her work out for herself when she has to transform him into a hero-king in the coming books. Meanwhile, however, she has begun with a readable story on a subject with an established audience of enormous size.
From the Publisher
"I found Helen Hollick's more realistic approach to this beloved legend refreshing and eye-opening.
" - Library Queue

"If you are looking for an engaging read with great characters and plot, plenty of backstabbing and a dash of romance, you will enjoy this book. " - The Bookworm

"Lots of darkness, fighting, betrayal and war...all the great elements of historical fiction." - My Friend Amy

"It is a journey filled with blood and battles, love and redemption, and so many other things that make up a great novel. I mean this is historical fiction at its' best and I was entranced.
" - Sam's Book Blog

"Hollick's writing is smooth and beautiful. She seamlessly transports her readers back to the Dark Ages.

" - So Many Precious Books, So Little Time

"I liked the depiction of the characters daily lives in a down to earth way, the familiar family dramas such as sibling rivalry and the conflicts between paganism, Christianity and the monarchy. " - Susan's Art and Words

"The writing in these books is engaging and occasionally funny. " - We Be Reading

From Barnes & Noble
Determined tofulfill his destiny by becoming king and marrying the feisty, beautiful Gwenhwyfar, Arthur Pendragon is put to the test when he and Gwen become pawns in a political triangle and he must choose between his kingship and the woman he loves.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312135331
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 9/1/1995
  • Series: Pendragon's Banner Series , #1
  • Pages: 608

Meet the Author

Helen Hollick lives in London, England with her husband, daughter, and a variety of pets, which include several horses, cats, and two dogs. She has two major interests: Roman/Saxon Britain and the Golden Age of Piracy—the early eighteenth century. Her particular pleasure is researching the facts behind the small glimpses of history and bringing the characters behind those facts to full and glorious life. She has an Honours Diploma in Early Medieval History and is co-scriptwriter for the movie project 1066.

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Read an Excerpt

Excerpt from Chapter One

He was ten and five years of age and, for the first time in his life, experiencing the exhilaration of the open sea and, for this short while, the novelty of leisure. The boy, with a grin fixed as wide as a new moon, folded his arms on the rail and leaned forward to watch the churn of foam boiling about the ship's bows. Salt spray spattered his face, tingling against skin that bore the faintest trace of manhood about the upper lip and chin. The sharp, sea-tang smell burst up his nostrils like a cast spear to his brain and hammered behind his eye sockets. He tossed his head high, back, bracing his body with his hands against the leap and plunge of the deck, and laughed with the pure energy of unequalled pleasure.

His eye sought the furl of the Dragon Banner flying proud from the masthead. He twisted his body to see it better—a snake-like tubular shape, curling and writhing with a life of its own. Streamers shrieked with the passing of the wind, and the head flashed gold in a display of fire sparked by the caught rays of the sun. Ah, but it was good to be out in the open! Out on the sea, heading for Britain with Uthr Pendragon's war host!

A sister ship, the same as this great war-beast, save that she flew no dragon, plunged into the cleft of a tossing wave, thrust herself forward, gallantly keeping pace. The boy waved to men on board, grinning the wider to receive a brief flung acknowledgement.

Then he saw Morgause watching him, standing as straight and stiff as the single mast.

A fine-bred lady, Morgause, with the figure of a goddess and the vanity of an empress. She held her cloak tight around her shoulders, her slender fingers clasping a rose-coloured silk veil that held her sun-gold hair in place against the ripping wind.

If the ship was the perfection of sail, then she, to look upon, was surely the perfection of woman. Venus, Uthr called her in the intimacy of their lovers' bed. Perfection to the naked eye, often marred when examined close by a flaw within—hers the arrogance and cruelty that came with high ambition.

The boy's pleasure faded as fast as a tossed stone sinks below the surface of a calm pond. Why did the Lord Uthr need bring her? Why her and not his wife— although she could be as bad, with her constant praying to God and perpetual muttered litanies. An invading army was no place for a woman, not even for the mistress of the man who considered himself to be Britain's rightful king.

Her eyes—cold, calculating, ice-blue eyes—bore into him; evil eyes that never smiled except at the indulgence of her own twisted pleasures. His right hand was behind his back; he made the protective sign against evil, knew she was aware he made that sign. Strange, from tales he had always assumed witches to be ugly, dark creatures, not having the beautiful fair skin of Morgause.

He tried again to feel the joy of the ship but the excitement had faded, lost under this shadow of her foreboding. Instead, the lad ducked below deck and made his way to where Uthr's soldiers squatted playing dice or board and counter games. He was safe from her down here—she would not come where the men lodged—although it was so much better to be out there, in the air and sunlight…

Lord Uthr, called the Pendragon, approached Morgause from behind and wrapped his great oak-branch arms around her slender waist. She stiffened and pulled away from him, not caring at this moment for intimacy.

"You ought not let the boy do as he pleases, Uthr," she said. "Give him leave to take holiday and he will be fit for nought when it comes to returning to duties."

Uthr laughed, a deep bear-growl rumble. "He's just a lad. Leave him."

Morgause made no answer. She had no intention of letting the boy run wild, unchecked and undisciplined. Why Uthr had brought him she had no idea. He was nurtured as foster son by Uthr's brother—but a war host was no place for a boy who, in truth, was no more than the bastard brat of a long-dead servant girl. Uthr found the boy to his liking, but to her mind he was a lazy, roughedged, insolent whelp who needed regular beating to remind him of his place. Common gossip favoured the foster father, Ectha, as the brat's unknown sire— although there had been some who had whispered of it being Uthr himself. He had the more likely reputation, would once have rutted with any whore available. A smile slithered across Morgause's lips, so carefully painted with vegetable dye. Not now. Now, he lay only with Morgause, youngest sister to his God-possessed wife.

"They say, below decks," Uthr said, nibbling at her ear—she attempted to brush him aside—"I have brought you with the intention of finding you a suitable husband." He ignored her flailing hand. "Shall I do that, my pretty one? When I have lopped the tyrant Vortigern's head from his noble shoulders and placed myself as King of all Britain, shall I wed you to some noble lord?" He swivelled her around, aimed a large wet kiss at her lips, smudging the red colouring. "Or shall I set aside my wife Ygrainne and wed you myself? Queen Morgause. It has a nice ring!"

She would have felt pleased had she known him to be serious. But Uthr was always jesting, always making fun of her aspirations. Curtly she answered, "My lord will do with me as he may please."

"Ha!" Uthr laughed again. "At this moment it pleases me to stand here on this swaying deck and kiss you." He glanced around. "It would please me even more had I a tankard of wine in my free hand! Where's the boy got to?"

Morgause said nothing, glanced instead at the wake foaming behind the speeding ship. Happen Providence would supply a discreet chance to tip the brat overboard before they reached Britain?

Instead, Fortuna followed the boy. Showing herself in the guise of squalling rain and a blustering westerly wind, she came stamping over the horizon with the dawn. Uthr's soldiers, landmen not seafarers, huddled below deck groaning as their stomachs heaved up to their throats. The Less Britain sailors scurried regardless, taking a reef into the square sail and jibing close to the wind. Thunder was brewing, would be upon them before mid-morning. For the boy, the storm was thrilling. To his delight, he found himself and Uthr the only passengers braving the deck.

Weather-seasoned sailors grinned at him as they scuttled about, great waves of spray soaking their clothes to the skin, the wind beating in their faces and snarling through the Dragon Banner overhead. Uthr ruffled the lad's hair, sharing his wild exhilaration.

"Is a battle like this?" the boy asked, eyes wide as a silver salver, salt-encrusted hands gripping the ropes along the rails. "Is it as exciting?"

Uthr laughed, making a hasty grab at his cloak that swirled in a gust of mauling wind. "Aye, lad. Danger breeds a sharpness that courses through your blood as hot as a man's lust for a beautiful woman." He watched fascinated as lightning lit the blue-black sky from horizon to horizon. "Always," he shouted through the following roar of thunder, "be aware. Keep your head, your sense. When you throw a spear, throw your soul with it. Let your sword be one with your arm." He made accompanying gestures, casting an imaginary spear, cleaving the air with a sword. "Keep tight control, boy. You will feel fear; fear pumps your blood the faster, but let not the fright touch your face. Keep it close, tucked well behind the shield of calm expression." He put his arm around the lad's shoulders and declared with a gusted laugh, "The same applies to handling women." He grinned. "The secret there, lad, is to let them think they hold control!"

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Table of Contents

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 135 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(49)

4 Star

(35)

3 Star

(31)

2 Star

(7)

1 Star

(13)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 136 Customer Reviews
  • Posted March 6, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Read about King Arthur without all the make believe magic!

    First sentence: He was ten and five years of age and, for the first time in his life, experiencing the exhilaration of the open sea and, for this short while, the novelty of leisure.





    So begins the book, The Kingmaking by Helen Hollick. We join Arthur at 15 on a ship bound for Caer Arfon and Gwynned - home of Cunneda and his daughter Gwenhwyfar. He has been brought on the voyage by Uthr Pendragon - much to the chagrin of Uthr mistress, Morgause. She cannot understand why Uthr favors the boy. She sees him as the bastard child of one of the servants - being raised as a foster son by Uthr's brother.



    As the story unfolds, Uthr is killed in a battle with Vortigern - fighting to be the rightful King of Britain. Arthur is devastated until Cunneda announces that he - Arthur - is the rightful heir of Uthr Pendragon. His identity had been kept hidden to protect his life from Vortigern.



    When I first picked up this book - I wondered what I had gotten myself into. I was not a big King Arthur fan - and knew little about that era. However, Helen Hollick's book drew me in from the beginning. I loved that she gave the pronunciation of the names and after awhile I found myself reading them "correctly". It gave me a sense of authenticity. The book was not hard to read (like I thought it would be) due to the era, but instead was very engrossing. I even carried it with me to my son's bus stop - and it is a HEAVY book at 563 pages.

    This is the first book of her Pendragon's Banner Trilogy. The other two books are Pendragon's Banner and Shadow of the King!

    26 out of 30 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 28, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Great Read

    The Kingmaking was the perfect antidote for The Queen of Camelot. I had been in the mood for a good Arthurian tale, but The Queen of Camelot left a bad taste in my mouth so I went looking for something to help me rid myself of that sour story. I found it! This interpretation is very different from others I've read. Hollick focuses on a possibly historical warlord that may have inspired the later chivalric mythology. Absent are the wizard Merlyn and the mooning Lancelot but they are not truly missed. Instead we have a very real Arthur and a Guinevere who could, and probably would, have kicked The Queen of Camelot's ass...well, at least slapped her and told her to grow up! Set in the tumultuous years following Rome's abandonment of Britain when the Saxon backed Vortigern ruled The Kingmaking introduces us to the adolescent Guinevere and Arthur. The tale follows them as they mature into adults, fall in love with each other and the dream of a united Britain free of those who would subjugate her , and learn to navigate the tricky politics of their time. The Kingmaking is well written, with vibrant and thoroughly developed characters, exciting action, and excellent exploration of the growing tension between the druids, the "old ways", and the new Christian religion. I will definitely be reading the rest of this trilogy!

    19 out of 21 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 25, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Great Book

    I could not put this book down! Well writen not too many people to keep straight and great story line! Great book!!!

    15 out of 19 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 21, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Another Arthurian saga read...

    I have enjoyed this book from beginning to end. It is engrossing, well written and stands on its own binding as it were among the Arthurian stories out there. This is not a book for those who want to delve into the more mythical/romantic side of the Arthurian legends, no. This is a solid read using creative and historical ideas in an imaginative and realistic way. So many Arthur books lean on the traditional Merlin/Excalibur/Camelot magick to lure in readers, this actually allows readers to ponder the validity of the actual man himself. I enjoyed the license taken with some of the geneology of the characters, mainly the fact that Gwen is the daughter of Cunedda; and especially like the fact that traditional Welsh was used in the book as well. Well worth the read.

    14 out of 14 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 14, 2012

    Enjoyable Non-Magical Retelling

    I've read the greate telling of Arthurian legend by White and Cornwell so I wasn't sure about a yet another story. Really enjoyed this new, non-magical/fantasy spin by Hollick. She says it's a novel but it is written more like historical fiction. This gives it a real fresh perspective.

    Arthur is a fascinating character in this tale as always. But this time we see his a more flawed, and sometimes even evil side to him.

    Story is set in Britain of course, but weaves in Wales and interestingly remnants of the Roman empire. This is what gives it that historical more realistice feel!

    Looking forward to the next book in the trilogy.

    8 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 14, 2012

    The Kingmaking was a disappointment. It is definitely not in th

    The Kingmaking was a disappointment. It is definitely not in the same league as Jack Whyte's, Mary Stewart's or Bernard Cornwell's Authurian legend.

    8 out of 11 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 26, 2013

    Nothing New-Another Uninspired Retelling

    I was not bored until the halfway point of the novel. Here the editor let the writer and reader down by not doing the job. Too long and simply yawnworthy for the last 200 pages. Not in league with other writers in the genre, but again, I feel this is more of an editing failure.

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 2, 2013

    Thoroughly unlikeable characters and poor writing make this a long slog of a tale

    I thought I would take to a historical fiction about King Arthur and Camelot like a duck to water. Sadly, Arthur is portrayed as an unredeemable misogynist, wife beater, rapist, whore-monger, slave owner, woman and children killer, and an all around egotistical, drunken, hypocritical lout. I completely understand the necessity of a flawed hero, but Arthus is an utter villian! I read some of the other reviews about how refreshingly realistic this King Arthur tale is and, if that is indeed the case, I am truly shocked at the nasty reality behind the fairy tale. I am on page 300 and am unsure if I want to forge ahead with Arthur. I frankly believe it is impossible to turn him into the hero...he belongs in prison after what he did to the slaves at the goldmine. Horrible characterization aside, the writing is extremely clunky and juvenille with the author constantly resorting to telling you how each character feels rather than allowing the reader to infer for himself. If I actually had to pay for this dross, I probably would have given one star, but I awarded an additional star out of sheer relief that my free book Friday option wasn't the Berenstein Bears again.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 30, 2013

    Horrible

    Got this for free friday as i really enjoy arthurian legend, but i am wondering just what the heck i am reading? Arthur as a roman? No excaliber? Arthur marrying someone else??? This tale reeks. I am struggling to finish it in hopes it will improve, but it is extremely boring, and after finding out it is a trilogy, which i despise, i definately can say i will not be wasting money on any sequels. This author ruined the Authur legend for me. She needs to do some research on the Authurian legend, because i truly believe King Authur was not a roman.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 30, 2013

    This horrible book was sold and charged to me by BN without my a

    This horrible book was sold and charged to me by BN without my approval!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 31, 2013

    In reply to: Horrible

    It is painfully clear that you didnt finish the first book at all, or if you have, you didn't pay any attention. Because, nowhere did the author say, or even inply that arthur was roman.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 19, 2014

    Pretty good

    I was not particularly a fan of Arthur or the long war scenes, but I did like Gwenhyfar and thought this was a fairly engaging read overall

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 22, 2014

    Arthur is completely devoid of nobility of character...

    Starts off as an interesting retelling but characters are completely unlikeable! Arthur is completely devoid of nobility of character and Gwenivere while at one moment is hot tempered and feisty, becomes insipid when it comes to Arthur's philandering and lack of loyalty or devotion.... ::::Spoiler.... and what happens when Gwenivere is apparently abducted during a battle? Does Arthur track her down, mourn her loss...or find the nearest warm body to fill in? blah....


    totally disappointed.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 4, 2014

    Sucked

    Sucked

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 20, 2013

    Great story

    A terrific new series based on the King Arthur legend. New characters, some surprizing twists of plot, excellent fiction. I love this series and can't put it down. Highly recommended!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 9, 2013

    Riveting. Complex characters

    I heartily enjoyed this novel as an historical flight of fancy. The author has clearly spent a lot of time researching history and myth, and she effectively weds the two with a story that appeals today. Expect complex character motivations and enjoyable storytelling.

    I do want to note that although the Arthurian motif may appeal to some younger readers, the content may be too graphicly violent, sexually suggestive, or crass for some readers.

    This novel stands well on its own but leaves readers eager for the rest of the series.

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  • Posted December 9, 2013

    Good Reading

    It’s a different version of King’s Arthur and Gwenhyfar. Very interesting and I enjoyed reading it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 18, 2013

    Not recommended

    Although well written and certainly better edited than a lot of Free Friday books, this one left me a little cold. Any book of a series, in my opinion, should stand on its own as a good and complete story. This one was like a 600 page preface to Book Two. I really didn't warm to any of the characters except possibly Gwenhwyfar (Guinevere). The Welsh(?) names were difficult to relate to as well. I think I'll pass on the rest of this series.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 1, 2013

    Like

    Storybook but fun

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 19, 2013

    Just ok

    I didn't enjoy this as much as I had hoped. Although the plot is full and characters fully fleshed out, I found none of the characters, including Arthur, to be people I liked and could identify with. I understand the author intended to create a "real" Arthur, consistent with history, but perhaps the author pushed that concept too far and gave the main characters very few redeeming features; if this is the real Arthur, I am not interested. I will not read the second volume. My preference for an Arthur story is the Mary Stewart trilogy (yes, including the magic).

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