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The Witching Hour (Mayfair Witches Series #1)

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Overview

Demonstrating once again her gift for spellbinding stoyrtelling, Anne Rice makes real a family of witches--a family given to poetry and incest, to murder and philsophy, a family that is itself haunted by a powerful, dangerous and seductive being.
"Unfolds like a poisonous lotus blossom redolent with luxurious evil."
THE LOS ANGELES TIMES

The blockbuster that spent three months on the New York Times...

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The Witching Hour (Mayfair Witches Series #1)

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Overview

Demonstrating once again her gift for spellbinding stoyrtelling, Anne Rice makes real a family of witches--a family given to poetry and incest, to murder and philsophy, a family that is itself haunted by a powerful, dangerous and seductive being.
"Unfolds like a poisonous lotus blossom redolent with luxurious evil."
THE LOS ANGELES TIMES

The blockbuster that spent three months on the New York Times bestseller list is now in trade paper format. The Witching Hour reveals Anne Rice at her most sensual and accessible, in a grand saga as much about love as alchemy, family secrets as the occult. "(A) huge, sprawling tale of horror."--Patrick McGrath, The New York Times Book Review.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
``We watch and we are always here'' is the motto of the Talamasca, a saintly group with extrasensory powers which has for centuries chronicled the lives of the Mayfairs--a dynasty of witches that brought down a shower of flames in 17th-century Scotland, fled to the plantations of Haiti and on to the New World, where they settled in the haunted city of New Orleans. Rice ( The Queen of the Damned ) plumbs a rich vein of witchcraft lore, conjuring in her overheated, florid prose the decayed antebellum mansion where incest rules, dolls are made of human bone and hair, and violent storms sweep the skies each time a witch dies and the power passes on. Newly annointed is Rowan Mayfair, a brilliant California neurosurgeon kept in ignorance of her heritage by her adoptive parents. She returns to the fold after bringing back Michael Curry from the dead; he, too, has unwanted extrasensory gifts and, like Rowan and the 12 Mayfairs before her, has beheld Lasher: devil, seducer, spirit. Now Lasher wants to come through to this world forever and Rowan is the Mayfair who can open the door. This massive tome repeatedly slows, then speeds when Rice casts off the Talamasca's pretentious, scholarly tones and goes for the jugular with morbid delights, sexually charged passages and wicked, wild tragedy.
Library Journal
Well known for her vampire trilogy, Rice now turns to witches. Here she tells the story of the prominent and wealthy Mayfair family who, for five centuries, has cavorted with a supernatural entity that has brought them both great bounty as well as abject misery. Neurosurgeon Rowan Mayfair inherits the family fortune, along with the sinister attentions of this entity. When Rowan saves the life of Michael Curry their fates become entwined, and together they seek to understand and destroy the terrible force that holds her family in its power. Helping them in this dangerous task is occult investigator Aaron Lightner, introduced to readers in Rice's The Queen of the Damned ( LJ 10/1/88). Although a bit long-winded at times, this is still a compelling novel. The author's powerful writing and strong imagery keep the reader enthralled. -- Patricia Altner, Dept. of Defense Lib., Bolling Air Force Base, Washington, D.C.
Library Journal
Well known for her vampire trilogy, Rice now turns to witches. Here she tells the story of the prominent and wealthy Mayfair family who, for five centuries, has cavorted with a supernatural entity that has brought them both great bounty as well as abject misery. Neurosurgeon Rowan Mayfair inherits the family fortune, along with the sinister attentions of this entity. When Rowan saves the life of Michael Curry their fates become entwined, and together they seek to understand and destroy the terrible force that holds her family in its power. Helping them in this dangerous task is occult investigator Aaron Lightner, introduced to readers in Rice's The Queen of the Damned ( LJ 10/1/88). Although a bit long-winded at times, this is still a compelling novel. The author's powerful writing and strong imagery keep the reader enthralled. -- Patricia Altner, Dept. of Defense Lib., Bolling Air Force Base, Washington, D.C.
School Library Journal
YA-- Rowan Mayfair, a brilliant California neurosurgeon who was taken from her mother at birth and raised by an aunt in California, does not know that there has been a powerful witch in her family in each generation for the past five centuries. She returns to the family's antebellum mansion in New Orleans after bringing back Michael Curry from the dead. He, too, has unwanted extrasensory gifts and is integrally tied to the Mayfair witches, having grown up in New Orleans. As Rowan and Michael's fates become intertwined, they seek to understand and destroy the terrible force that holds its power over the family. The ending leaves open the possibility of a sequel. While this 900+ page thriller tends to drag when Rice tells the story through the scholarly documents of the Talamasca, a group of scholars who have for centuries studied and chronicled happenings of the occult, her powerful imagery and detailed witchcraft history keep readers going. When she returns to the present, the novel surges to the end with morbid delights, sexually charged passages, and wicked tragedy. Several characters who are central to the story are not completely developed, and there is no genealogical chart to help sort out family members. These minor criticisms aside, this is a fascinating story with depth and detail. Rice's many fans will keep it circulating.--Barbara A. Lynn, Topeka, KS
Rita Mae Brown
The Witching Hour unfolds like a poisonous locus blossom redolent with luxurious evil....She writes with dramatic power....Rice thoroughly enjoys herself as she slides through seventeenth-century France, ascetic plantations of Port-au-Prince, the pain of the Civil War South, and the seeming "normalcy" of today's San Francisco and New Orleans.
— The Los Angeles Times
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780345384461
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 3/28/1993
  • Series: Mayfair Witches Series , #1
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 1056
  • Sales rank: 50,757
  • Product dimensions: 4.19 (w) x 6.88 (h) x 1.42 (d)

Meet the Author

Anne Rice
ANNE RICE is the author of thirty-two books. She lives in Palm Desert, California.
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    1. Also Known As:
      A. N. Roquelaure, Anne Rampling
    2. Hometown:
      Palm Desert, California
    1. Date of Birth:
      October 4, 1941
    2. Place of Birth:
      New Orleans, Louisiana
    1. Education:
      B.A., San Francisco State University, 1964; M.A., 1971
    2. Website:

Read an Excerpt

The doctor woke up afraid. He had been dreaming of the old house in New Orleans again. He had seen the woman in the rocker. He'd seen the man with the brown eyes.

And even now in this quiet hotel room above New York City he felt the old alarming disorientation. He'd been talking again with the brown-eyed man. Yes, help her. No, this is just a dream. I want to get out of it.

The doctor sat up in bed. No sound but the faint roar of the air conditioner. Why was he thinking about it tonight in a hotel room at the Parker Meridien? For a moment he couldn't shake the feeling of the old house. He saw the woman again--her bent head, her vacant stare. He could almost hear the hum of the insects against the screen in the old porch. And the brown-eyed man was speaking without moving his lips. A waxen dummy infused with life--

No, stop it.

He got out of bed and padded silently across the carpeted floor until he stood in front of the sheer white curtains, peering out at black sooty rooftops and dim neon signs flickering against brick walls. The early morning light showed behind the clouds above the dull concrete façade opposite. No debilitating heat here. No drowsing scent of roses, of gardenias.

Gradually his head cleared.

He thought of the Englishman at the bar in the lobby again. That's what had brought it all back--the Englishman remarking to the bartender than he'd just come from New Orleans, and that certainly was a haunted city. The Englishman, an affable man, a true Old World gentleman it seemed, in a narrow seersucker suit with a gold watch chain fixed to his vest pocket. Where did one see that kind of man these days?--a man with the sharp melodious inflection of a British stage actor, and brilliant, ageless blue eyes.

The doctor had turned to him and said: "Yes, you're right about New Orleans, you certainly are. I saw a ghost myself in New Orleans, and not very long ago--" Then he had stopped, embarrassed. He had stared at the melted bourbon before him, the sharp refraction of light in the base of the crystal glass.

Hum of flies in summer; smell of medicine. That much Thorazine? Could there be some mistake?

But the Englishman had been respectfully curious. He'd invited the doctor to join him for dinner, said he collected such tales. For a moment, the doctor had been tempted. There was a lull in the convention, and he liked this man, felt an immediate trust in him. And the lobby of the Parker Meridien was a nice cheerful place, full of light, movement, people. So far away from that gloomy New Orleans corner, from the sad old city festering with secrets in its perpetual Caribbean heat.

But the doctor could not tell his story.

"If you ever change your mind, do call me," the Englishman had said. "My name is Aaron Lightner." He'd given the doctor a card with the name of an organization inscribed on it: "You might say we collect ghost stories--true ones, that is."

                The Talamasca
                We watch
                And we are always here.

It was a curious motto.

Yes, that was what had brought it all back. The Englishman and that peculiar calling card with the European phone numbers, the Englishman who was leaving for the Coast tomorrow to see a California man who had lately drowned and been brought back to life. The doctor had read of that case in the New York papers--one of those characters who suffers clinical death and returns after having seen "the light."

They had talked about the drowned man together, he and the Englishman. "He claims now to have psychic powers, you see," said the Englishman, "and that interests us, of course. Seems he sees images when he touched things with his bare hands. We call it psychometry."

The doctor had been intrigued. He had heard of a few such patients himself, cardiac victims if he rightly recalled, who had come back, claiming to have seen the future. "Near Death Experience." One saw more and more articles about the phenomenon in the journals.

"Yes," Lightner had said, "the best research on the subject has been done by doctors--by cardiologists."

"Wasn't there a film a few years back," the doctor had asked, "about a woman who returned with the power to heal? Strangely affecting."

"You're open-minded on the subject," the Englishman had said with a delighted smile. Are you sure you won't tell me about your ghost? I'd so love to hear it. I'm not flying out till tomorrow, sometime before noon. What I wouldn't give to hear your story!"

No, not that story. Not ever.

Alone now in the shadowy hotel room, the doctor felt fear again. The clock ticked in the long dusty hallway in New Orleans. He heard the shuffle of his patient's feet as the nurse "walked" her. He smelled that smell again of a New Orleans house in the summer, heat and old wood. The man was talking to him--

The doctor had never been inside an antebellum mansion until that spring in New Orleans. And the old house rally did have white fluted columns on the front, though the paint was peeling away. Greek Revival style they called it--a long violet-gray town house on a dark shady corner in the Garden District, its front gate guarded it seemed by two enormous oaks. The iron lace railings were made in a rose pattern and much festooned with vines--purple wisteria, the yellow Virginia creeper, and bougainvillea of a dark, incandescent pink.

He liked to pause on the marble steps and look up at the Doric capitals, wreathed as they were by those drowsy fragrant blossoms. The sun came in thin dusty shafts through the twisting branches. Bees sang in the tangle of brilliant green leaves beneath the peeling cornices. Never mind that it was so somber here, so damp.

Even the approach through the deserted streets seduced him. He walked slowly over cracked and uneven sidewalks of herringbone brick or gray flagstone, under an unbroken archway of oak branches, the light eternally dappled, the sky perpetually veiled in green. Always he paused at the largest tree that had lifted the iron fence with its bulbous roots. He could not have gotten his arms around the trunk of it. It reached all the way from the pavement to the house itself, twisted limbs clawing at the shuttered windows beyond the banisters, leaves enmeshed with the flowering vines.

But the decay here troubled him nevertheless. Spiders wove their tiny intricate webs over the iron lace roses. In places the iron had so rusted that it fell away to powder at the touch. And here and there near the railings, the wood of the porches was rotted right through.

Then there was the old swimming pool far beyond the garden--a great long octagon bounded by the flagstones, which had become a swamp unto itself with its black water and wild irises. The smell alone was frightful. Frogs lived there, frogs you could hear at dusk, singing their grinding, ugly song. Sad to see the little fountain jets up one side and down the other still sending their little arching streams into the muck. He longed to drain it, clean it, scrub the sides with his own hands if he had to. Longed to patch the broken balustrade, and rip the weeds from the overgrown urns.

Even the elderly aunts of his patient--Miss Carl, Miss Millie, and Miss Nancy--had an air of staleness and decay. It wasn't a matter of gray hair or wire-rimmed glasses. It was their manner, and the fragrance of camphor that clung to their clothes.

Once he had wandered into the library and taken a book down from the shelf. Tiny black beetles scurried out of the crevice. Alarmed he had put the book back.

If there had been air-conditioning in the place it might have been different. But the old house was too big for that--or so they had said back then. The ceilings soared fourteen feet overhead. And the sluggish breeze carried with it the scent of mold.

His patient was well cared for, however. That he had to admit. A sweet old black nurse named Viola brought his patient out on the screened porch in the morning and took her in at evening.

"She's no trouble at all, Doctor. Now, you come on, Miss Deirdre, walk for the doctor." Viola would lift her out of the chair and push her patiently step by step.

"I've been with her seven years now, Doctor, she's my sweet girl."

Seven years like that. No wonder the old woman's feet had started to turn in at the ankles, and her arms to draw close to her chest if the nurse didn't force them down into her lap again.

Viola would walk her round and round the long double parlor, past the harp and the Bosendorfer grand layered with dust. Into the long broad dining room with its faded murals of moss-hung oaks and tilled fields.

Slippered feet shuffling on the worn Aubusson carpet. The woman was forty-one years old, yet she looked both ancient and young--a stooped and pale child, untouched by adult worry or passion. Deirdre, did you ever have a lover? Did you ever dance in that parlor?

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 598 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(367)

4 Star

(119)

3 Star

(58)

2 Star

(33)

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(21)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 601 Customer Reviews
  • Posted May 7, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    If you enjoy tedium, you'll LOVE this book...

    As a kid, I grew up reading Anne Rice's Vampire Chronicles, and was always somewhat hesitant to read the Mayfair Witches books because of Rice's love of overly detailed tangents that really don't go anywhere (as was the case with most of "Tale of the Body Thief"). Now, twenty years later, I decided to take the plunge into this tome on my Nook Color.

    Dear God...after all those years, I was right to be hesitant. The first book in the series enters into the realm of being almost unbearable in the second section of the book, and continues on until the third and final section, the vast majority of which actually serves as a lengthy and convoluted "reprinting" of a book within a book, as we read of the ENTIRE history of the Mayfair Witches. Kill...me...now...

    For those of you who enjoy the comfort of a root canal, this book will be a cinch. Even in Nook Book format, it took me three weeks to finish, and that was after skimming over most of the massively boring second section.

    The second book in the series, "Lasher," is actually quite a great deal better in terms of the pacing, though it is reminiscent of "Queen of the Damned" with its cast of thousands. It's a far more enjoyable read than the first book, and serves as less of a cure for my chronic insomnia.

    10 out of 20 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 27, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    No read better than this Anne Rice novel!!

    I cannot praise Anne Rice and this book enough. There is such a volume of literary wealth in Anne Rice's being that I cannot imagine even a small portion of it. With Anne Rice it seems she has lived more than one lifetime with the novels she has written and the subject matter. I have been reading a long, long time and I do not know of another writer that even comes close to Ms Rice. I know she cannot go on forever (and neither can I) but I do hope I live long enough for another series. It is an absolute pleasure to read her writing (actually no matter what it is).

    8 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 5, 2008

    Breathtaking Page-turner

    The Witching Hour is absolutely amazing. I could not put it down. I could barely get myself to do anything else other than find out what happened next. Each page drew me in, increased my heart rate, and intensified my breathing. The family history is extraordinarily compelling. This is my favorite Anne Rice book.

    8 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 19, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    A must-read series

    The Mayfair Witches series books are absolute page-turners from start to finish. You literally feel like you are transported to Louisiana and are walking through all the history with the characters. I have never been so captivated by a book and so disappointed when I was through reading it. However, you can definitely read this book over and over again.

    5 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 20, 2010

    Best of the Best of Rice

    Nothing touches the characters, intensity and suspense in this Rice novel in any of her others. I think this was written at her peak.

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 30, 2010

    A fantastic tale

    This was my favorite of Anne Rice's books. I have read it twice and recommend it to friends. I wish she would continue the story...I'd be first in line (with many others) to buy the next in series

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 15, 2012

    Truly disappointing

    I found this book long and boring

    3 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 28, 2004

    Not The Finest Hour

    Despite the strong and interesting beginning, The Witching Hour was a painful read. I made it to approximately page 500 and realized that I had become very bored. Then I took into consideration that I had roughly 500+ more pages to go. I decided to stop reading it. The story, while very well conceived, became dryly written and immobile. And the amount of detail in this book is quintessentially EXCESSIVE. I have read quite a few reviews that site Rice's writing style as being the flaw with this book. I don't think her style is necessarily a 'flaw', because a few parts are beautifully written. The 'flaw' is that The Witching Hour is profusely detailed and incredibly long. So if you are a patient person and would enjoy a book that is tantamount to an emotional history book about a family of witches, then this is the book for you. However, if you are looking for a concise book of at least reasonable length and momentum, consider yourself forewarned because I do not recommend this book for you.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 20, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    A bewitching, time traveling marvel.

    I've always loved Anne Rice novels and I was not disappointed with this one. It was just a little overwhelming at times because there is so much information in this book to have to take in. I don't know how she put together the history of the Mayfair family. It was an amazing history going back to Scotland of the 1600's, generation-by-generation, to present day. The attention to detail of the locations and the characters easily lends to feeling like you are time traveling and experiencing everything in person. After reading this family history, you have a very good understanding of the present day characters and the part they have to play in each others lives. Everything is wonderfully interconnected. A very good read.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 14, 2012

    Boring!

    Too over detailed and melodramatic!

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 14, 2012

    One of the best books I ever read

    I recommend this book all the time. The whole series is excellent

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 16, 2012

    Love it!

    I 1st read this when I was 18, I' m 31 now and its just as good! All 3 books are wonderful. Anne Rice draws a wonder pic of now and the past. You love and hate (sometimes both lol) this family ( and ghost). I have tried to read the vampire books and never really got into them but The Mayfair Witches put a spell on me ;)

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 7, 2012

    The best

    I feel like I'm part of the family

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 5, 2012

    Great series

    I never tire of it. Reading the series for the fifth time.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 8, 2011

    Interesting, but ultimately exhausting

    A long and odd story which seems to be broken, roughly, into three sections: an introductory set-up, a remarkably long and not entirely useful historical explanation, and a choppy, disappointing conclusion. Overall, a bit of a disappointment, except for the wonderfullly atmospheric descriptions of New Orleans and San Francisco.

    Not sure I would recommend it. Sure wouldn't recommend buying it.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 9, 2011

    Good read!

    A little long and slightly slow in the middle (the history) but really well written! Anne Rice at her best!

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 1, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    AWESOME

    I am a huge Anne Rice fan- I have every book she's written. I personally feel this is her best book. The history is very rich and the characters are so well developed it's hard not to become engrossed in it.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 21, 2010

    E-format LONG overdue

    I've loved Rice's Mayfair Witches trilogy since their original release. I've been desperate for electronic versions so I can "downsize" my personal library. I'm ecstatic to see the Mayfair Witches and many of the Vampire Chronicles in ebook format now. Random House has made my Christmas wish come true.

    "The Witching Hour" is an incredibly subtle book. A New Orleans native, Anne Rice spins the novel with a slow-paced, insidious glamor. Seductive and decadent, appalling and terrifying, the saga of this unique family slips off the page and into the psyche. This is a series for readers who love to experience detailed immersion into their reading experience.

    Local color plays a vivid role in setting and atmosphere. I'm a New Orleans local and Rice's description and use of setting is very effective and genuine.

    Is the novel long? Yes. Open-ended? Yes. The pleasure in these books is in experiencing the opulent details and decadent history, not in crossing Point A to Point B.

    I consider the Mayfair Witches Series superior to Rice's more popular Vampire Chronicles in terms of quality and creative content. I've never read anything else quite like them. I recommend these books to anyone who loves good, solid escapist reading within the paranormal genre. Folks interested in New Orleans would also love it.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 4, 2003

    Powerful, Gripping, and erotic. Your entranced completely

    The Witching Hour was a tremendously entertaining read from the enticing and often times disturbing mind of Anne Rice. The first book I ever read by her, it endlessly shocked me with it's ability to terrify, and seduce. Diabolically entertaining, momentous thrills.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 5, 2014

    OMG

    I read a lot and have never read a book as redundant as this. The Mayfair witch history is repeated over and over. I don't know if Rice thinks her readers are stupid or her characters but this could have easily been 500 pages instead of 1,081! Then there's no conclusion so you'll have to read the next two books, so I guess 2,000 more pages. I've read series books but there's a distinct conclusion with each one, not so with these, at least not this one. No more for me.

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