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T O P I C    R E V I E W
gylippus Posted - 15 Mar 2019 : 01:57:33
So, I finally started my own thread. I am reading Forgotten Realms novels mostly in order, but it just depends on what strikes my interest at any given point in time.

I just finished 'Crypt of the Shadowking' by Mark Anthony, the 6th book in the Harper series.

First off, wow! I really, really enjoyed this book. It was a joy to read and never felt like a chore, like some of the other books I have slogged through. Apparently, this is Mark Anthony's first book as sole author and he did a fantastic job. The characters are memorable and the plot has a few layers that make it more than a point A to B book.

Caledan - He is the main character, a former harper and a bard. I kind of got a Han Solo vibe from him, but he was different enough to keep my interest. On the other hand, I always thought bards could cast spells. Yes, he does some shadow magic at the end, but he doesn't cast anything else the entire book. According to the wiki he is a level 9 bard (2e). So what makes him a bard and not just a fighter that plays an instrument?

Mari - The love interest, but also an independent character with her own personality. I like the fact she is not the 'traditional' beauty or damsel in distress.

Tyveris - Definitely one of my favorite characters. It is cool to see a Tabaxi from Chult in the book. Although I really got more of a feeling he was like a Samoan rather than a slender native of Chult. It was nice to see a mix of a monk/priest with a warrior. I also couldn't help but think of Cadderly, since he is also a disciple of Oghma.

Ferret - His character was a bit of a stereotype, but he sacrificed himself for the party and was very noble in the end.

The only small complaint I have is that the shadevar seemed very much like a Nazgul. I couldn't help but think how the Nazgul couldn't follow Frodo into Rivendell because Glorfindel caused the river to magically sweep them away. There was a very similar scene in the book, when they cross a river to flee the shadevar. Still, it is a minor quibble with an otherwise great book.

I think there is a sequel to this book so now I have to go find it on eBay. Plus, it would be interesting to know if there is more material that covers shadow magic.
25   L A T E S T    R E P L I E S    (Newest First)
Seravin Posted - 19 Aug 2019 : 22:38:43
quote:
Originally posted by gylippus

Seravin,

I haven't read Once Around the Realms yet. Escape from Undermountain is just the worst FR book I have read, and I have only read around 30 at this point, so I still have quite a ways to go!



Ahh gotcha! I very much recommend Once Around the Realms!! It will give your reviews a bottom level rating scale, and also stars your 2 faves Volo and Passeopout. It's the tale of how they meet!
CorellonsDevout Posted - 19 Aug 2019 : 16:52:38
Thankfully, there are plenty of good FR books out there, too lol.
gylippus Posted - 19 Aug 2019 : 11:55:17
Seravin,

I haven't read Once Around the Realms yet. Escape from Undermountain is just the worst FR book I have read, and I have only read around 30 at this point, so I still have quite a ways to go!
Seravin Posted - 19 Aug 2019 : 11:12:41
quote:
Originally posted by gylippus

Finished reading Escape from Undermountain by Mark Anthony

It is hard to believe this book was written by the same author as Curse of the Shadowmage. In all respects it is a huge step backward.

I knew I was in trouble when I picked it up and looked at the cover. The art looks like Glenn Danzig from the Misfits. I turned it over and read the back. So this entire book is in one dungeon? That does not sound promising and it isn't.

The plot is easy to sum up. A noble, Darien, hires Artek to go into a dungeon under Waterdeep called Undermountain to 'rescue' a lost lord named Corin. He has 48 hrs to rescue the lord or a magical tattoo on his arm will kill him.

The title and plot read like a themed ride from a roller coaster park and the book is about the same. It is one long dungeon crawl. That is it. Artek meets some people, they enter a room, stuff happens, they escape to the next room, repeat. That is the whole book.

Artek has a silly name and at no point does Mark Anthony really convince me of his character. Supposedley he is a famous rogue but he doesn't seem smart enough or ruthless enough. He meets up with a mage named ... wait, I already forgot her name ... wow ... I just finished reading the book last night and I forgot her name. That tells you something. Anyway, she seems just like Mari from Shadowmage. She isn't pretty but still interesting in a non-pretty way.

Stand out silliness: At one point they find a ship near an underground river. It is not just any ship, but a fully rigged schooner. They speculate pirates must have sailed the ship into a cave and up the river and then died. Okay, I am not an expert in sailing but the idea of sailing a ship underground with very little wind UP a river is ridiculous. They go down rapids many times so the ship had to come up the rapids.

Towards the end they get into a room by defeating a magical chess game. That is about the most tired trope you can imagine. J.K. Rowling used one also in the first Harry Potter book. Ugh. I remember playing online MUDS back in the 1990s and one of the stock zones was a giant chess board.

Anyway, the book might be the worst FR book I have read so far. It is pointless and dull. The characters never grow on you, and the plot is silly. If I put this book next to Azure Bonds it is like putting a paint by numbers picture on the wall near the Mona Lisa. Yes, I am exaggerating a bit but you get the idea. Avoid at all costs.



Haha I think this book isn't great, but it was far from the worst Realms book. I mean, you have read Once Around the Realms, right?!

The plot could have been epic, and the first scene is chilling with the new adventurers getting slaughtered and eaten alive by rats..while the lone survivor makes it back to the Portal only to be cut down because he doesn't pay the toll. Really an epic opening, and a massive dungeon crawl in Undermountain could have been a great book. But this was just very juvenile, and poorly done. The characters were just not so good, although for some reason I did like the skull and the gargoyle :)

It reminded me of a bad video game made into a novel, if that makes sense? Oh..that reminds me, the Baldur's Gate novels are also much worse than this book.

gylippus Posted - 16 Aug 2019 : 00:21:39
Finished reading The Mage in the Iron Mask by Brian Thomsen.

First impression: I read the title and looked at the cover and thought, "Hmmmm a book based on a moderately crappy movie inspired by Alexander Duma's characters and a french legend." But I thought that maybe, just maybe the author deviated from the movie a bit or had compelling characters that would make me care. Thus, I began reading.

The book turned out to be exactly what I thought it was. The book followed the film pretty close. The old king had twins, but he had to hide one, blah blah blah. Let me take this moment to complain. Forgotten Realms is a vast world with amazing settings and unlimited potential for characters and truly interesting plots. There are all sorts of magical items and intrigue. With that being said, why can't TSR write books with great plots? Someone in the editing office should have said, "Yea, that has been done before, come back with a better idea." To me, this just boils down to money. They decided to churn out books as fast as possible with little oversight and this is what we get.

The characters in the book are moderately annoying. Volo could have been a GREAT character. I like the idea of Volo and Passepout, but I don't like the result. First, do we have to refer to Volo as the Great Traveller constantly? Secondly, their antics never really hit the mark. It felt like the author was really trying to make them funny, but it didn't work. I never laughed out loud one time reading this book, which is odd, because it is written to be more humorous than most other FR books.

Chesslyn was a miss for me as well. A beautfiul and deadly Harper, fine, but why does she hook up with Volo?

The best character in the book is Honor. He was written well, but even he got tiring eventually.

The book also doesn't flow well. There are disjointed segments that don't fit together. At one point it says Passepout is kicked out of an Inn and walks down to the sea to find Rassendyll washed up on the shore and then faints. Awhile later Rickman reports to Selfaril and says Passepout was press ganged onto a ship and then pushed overboard. Wait? I didn't read that at all. Maybe I missed that part but I don't think so. Moving forward, Rassendyll escapes from the sewers and swims to the surface. He almost drowns but clings onto Passepout (who is unconscious) and makes it to shore. Whoever was editing that entire segment should have been fired. It makes no sense.

The book isn't as bad as Escape from Undermountain, but it was a big miss for me. Next up Crusade. Time to finish the Horselords trilogy.
Wooly Rupert Posted - 11 Aug 2019 : 16:08:10
That was one I really didn't like, particularly because of the way Halaster was depicted running Undermountain.

I don't remember much else about it, honestly...
gylippus Posted - 11 Aug 2019 : 11:47:28
Finished reading Escape from Undermountain by Mark Anthony

It is hard to believe this book was written by the same author as Curse of the Shadowmage. In all respects it is a huge step backward.

I knew I was in trouble when I picked it up and looked at the cover. The art looks like Glenn Danzig from the Misfits. I turned it over and read the back. So this entire book is in one dungeon? That does not sound promising and it isn't.

The plot is easy to sum up. A noble, Darien, hires Artek to go into a dungeon under Waterdeep called Undermountain to 'rescue' a lost lord named Corin. He has 48 hrs to rescue the lord or a magical tattoo on his arm will kill him.

The title and plot read like a themed ride from a roller coaster park and the book is about the same. It is one long dungeon crawl. That is it. Artek meets some people, they enter a room, stuff happens, they escape to the next room, repeat. That is the whole book.

Artek has a silly name and at no point does Mark Anthony really convince me of his character. Supposedley he is a famous rogue but he doesn't seem smart enough or ruthless enough. He meets up with a mage named ... wait, I already forgot her name ... wow ... I just finished reading the book last night and I forgot her name. That tells you something. Anyway, she seems just like Mari from Shadowmage. She isn't pretty but still interesting in a non-pretty way.

Stand out silliness: At one point they find a ship near an underground river. It is not just any ship, but a fully rigged schooner. They speculate pirates must have sailed the ship into a cave and up the river and then died. Okay, I am not an expert in sailing but the idea of sailing a ship underground with very little wind UP a river is ridiculous. They go down rapids many times so the ship had to come up the rapids.

Towards the end they get into a room by defeating a magical chess game. That is about the most tired trope you can imagine. J.K. Rowling used one also in the first Harry Potter book. Ugh. I remember playing online MUDS back in the 1990s and one of the stock zones was a giant chess board.

Anyway, the book might be the worst FR book I have read so far. It is pointless and dull. The characters never grow on you, and the plot is silly. If I put this book next to Azure Bonds it is like putting a paint by numbers picture on the wall near the Mona Lisa. Yes, I am exaggerating a bit but you get the idea. Avoid at all costs.
gylippus Posted - 09 Aug 2019 : 13:01:18
quote:
Originally posted by Wooly Rupert

quote:
Originally posted by gylippus

This is the first book I have read by Victor Milan snip



He wrote a couple of BattleTech novels, back in the day, before they destroyed the setting with the Jihad. His books -- like many shared setting books -- were better than some of the others in the setting, and not as good as others. The main thing I remember about the books is that something just didn't quite click for me. I had no real issues with them, but for some reason, when I read them, there was something about them that I couldn't put my finger on, but that was enough to keep me from truly enjoying them. It was like there was some necessary thing that was missing.



I felt about the same way. Rather than truly enjoying the last fifty pages I found myself reading them as fast as possible just to get the book done.
Wooly Rupert Posted - 09 Aug 2019 : 03:53:52
quote:
Originally posted by gylippus

This is the first book I have read by Victor Milan snip



He wrote a couple of BattleTech novels, back in the day, before they destroyed the setting with the Jihad. His books -- like many shared setting books -- were better than some of the others in the setting, and not as good as others. The main thing I remember about the books is that something just didn't quite click for me. I had no real issues with them, but for some reason, when I read them, there was something about them that I couldn't put my finger on, but that was enough to keep me from truly enjoying them. It was like there was some necessary thing that was missing.
gylippus Posted - 08 Aug 2019 : 19:29:49
Just finished War in Tethyr

Judging from previous posts Viking and myself may be the only people who have ever read this book.

This is the first book I have read by Victor Milan and my overall judgment is that it is pretty decent, about on the same level as King Pinch. However, I found some of the writing a little uneven. There are points where the story doesn't transition as well as it should and points where the pace lags. The dialogue is fine, although the author uses a few words that I wouldn't really expect people to use that often.

The author name drops a lot of other books. He references Maztica, the Tuigan, the Avatar trilogy, and at the end there is a blurb about Alias. The characters are pretty good. Zaranda is a strong female protagonist and he characterizes her well. I found Stillhawk to be very stereotypical, but his relationship with Shield of Innocence was interesting. Shield of Innocence is a half/orc paladin. Although I found his character refreshing I wish there was a little more backstory as to why he was a paladin.

Farlorn is a bard and he is actually written as a bard. I have read about other 'bard' characters but Farlorn actually uses his skills to get into the Baron's castle. Plus, that was a laugh out loud scene when he rides up on 'Zizzy' the wonder horse.

The plot is fine. The end felt a little rushed and maybe Milan had too many irons in the fire to really do it justice. I am not sure of the book needed Nyadnar. She is a dragon that made and gave birth to a 'daughter' who is fully human and dragon. To top it off she is a new kind of dragon, a gem dragon. If the book just kept her as a young girl with extraordinary power it may be been one less thread the author had to deal with.

In the end, a decent read. So far the Nobles books have been decent to me. I wouldn't mind seeing a short story with more Zaranda and Chenowyn.
Seravin Posted - 07 Aug 2019 : 08:08:48
I really would Wooly - it is refreshing to see Ed's Chosen written in an intelligent way. And this book, more than any others, gets Thay "right"...old school Zulkir intrigue right. Heartily recommend this one.
Wooly Rupert Posted - 07 Aug 2019 : 03:01:08
quote:
Originally posted by Seravin

And yet the other Nobles book, The Simbul's Gift, is probably one of the best Realms books I've ever read (and in my top 5).



I really need to go back and give that one a try. Between my dislike of some of the earlier books and a back cover blurb that failed to grab my attention, I just never got around to reading that book.

...Which is really ironic, considering that I've bought it at least twice!
Seravin Posted - 06 Aug 2019 : 19:48:35
I definitely respect that some people may like King Pinch..like I said, I didn't have any gripes with it (which is rare for me!) but I just didn't get interested. Just like Wooly (as usual) I felt the same with War in Tethyr and didn't finish that one. And yet the other Nobles book, The Simbul's Gift, is probably one of the best Realms books I've ever read (and in my top 5).
CorellonsDevout Posted - 06 Aug 2019 : 19:31:46
I enjoyed the Finder's Stone books, myself.

In regards to length, I don't know if there is a mandated length or not. Some, like Evermeet: Island of Elves and Cormyr: A Novel are thicker, and some of the newer Drizzt novels are in the 400-page range. But most are in the 300-page range.
gylippus Posted - 06 Aug 2019 : 19:09:54
quote:
Originally posted by Wooly Rupert

quote:
Originally posted by Seravin

I couldn't finish King Pinch..I was totally disinterested in the setting, characters, plot and writing style. I didn't hate it, but I guess worse than making me mad...it made me bored? And that rarely happens with a Realms novel! I guess I just couldn't find a character to really make my own in the book, and when I didn't like anyone and had no interest in Ankapur (it may as well have been set on Mars given how far removed it is) that was all she wrote. I was looking forward to the long caravan journey that far South, but then they cheated and just teleported to the Lake of Steam. Okay then. Sorry again, Shandril...



I wasn't a huge fan of that one, myself. In particular, I recall being bothered by a gang of four people being called a thieves' guild.

War in Tethyr was one I wasn't able to finish.



Both of you make some interesting points, as usual. First, I don't recall them ever being referred to as a guild. I can go back and check but I am pretty certain they are just referred to as a gang, and Pinch is the regulator or leader. The book led me to believe that there are many gangs in Elturel. Now, they may all eventually be in a loose thieves guild, but in the end they are working for themselves.

Seravin, you make a good point about the characters not growing on you. Maybe it is the vernacular they use, which makes it more difficult to understand them. Pinch and his gang are definitely middle of the road characters. They don't have amazing awesome powers. They can't kill thousands of the enemy. They aren't chosen of Deneir. At one point Pinch almost gets killed by a couple of thugs. Maybe it would have helped if we saw more personal redemption for Pinch. He doesn't seem to really come around to the idea that his friends are super important until the last 10 pages.

On the other hand, I do stand by my points that this book is well written compared to many other FR novels. It doesn't have major plot holes and all of the characters actions make sense, unlike other books. For those reasons I put it middle of the road to upper middle of the road so far.
Wooly Rupert Posted - 06 Aug 2019 : 15:26:41
quote:
Originally posted by Seravin

I couldn't finish King Pinch..I was totally disinterested in the setting, characters, plot and writing style. I didn't hate it, but I guess worse than making me mad...it made me bored? And that rarely happens with a Realms novel! I guess I just couldn't find a character to really make my own in the book, and when I didn't like anyone and had no interest in Ankapur (it may as well have been set on Mars given how far removed it is) that was all she wrote. I was looking forward to the long caravan journey that far South, but then they cheated and just teleported to the Lake of Steam. Okay then. Sorry again, Shandril...



I wasn't a huge fan of that one, myself. In particular, I recall being bothered by a gang of four people being called a thieves' guild.

War in Tethyr was one I wasn't able to finish.
Seravin Posted - 06 Aug 2019 : 14:39:19
I couldn't finish King Pinch..I was totally disinterested in the setting, characters, plot and writing style. I didn't hate it, but I guess worse than making me mad...it made me bored? And that rarely happens with a Realms novel! I guess I just couldn't find a character to really make my own in the book, and when I didn't like anyone and had no interest in Ankapur (it may as well have been set on Mars given how far removed it is) that was all she wrote. I was looking forward to the long caravan journey that far South, but then they cheated and just teleported to the Lake of Steam. Okay then. Sorry again, Shandril...
gylippus Posted - 06 Aug 2019 : 12:28:12
I am back. Just finished reading King Pinch by David Cook.

King Pinch is the first book in the Nobles series, published in 1995. I stopped reading FR novels by that time and this book and series is entirely new to me. I was also interested to read more David Cook after Horselords.

Actually, I was pleasantly surprised by this book. I enjoyed the characters, the plot, and the writing. This book is a bit of a slower read because David Cook uses a lot of slang terms when Pinch is talking to his gang. It sort of reminds me of thieves in London in the 1800s. Cook does a great job of immersing us in the thieves world and bringing it to life. Plus, this book is set in Ankapur, a new setting to me.

In terms of the plot, it wasn't as predictable as I thought. Cook keeps us guessing. By around page 180 or so you think Pinch is definitely Manerick's son and will be king eventually. After he introduces the cup and dagger plot I thought Pinch would somehow drink out of it at the ceremony and become king. However, Cook throws in the body switch, which I wasn't expecting at all. I would say the ending felt a little rushed. The book could have used an epilogue. It would have been nice to see Pinch a few months later, into his reign, and know what was going on and how his friends were set up.

All in all, this is a solid book. If there was a sequel I would definitely read it.

On a side note, the book is riddled with errors. It has omitted words, misspelled words, and at one point Cook mentions Pinch ripping off his new clothes when Pinch already lost them in a previous scene and had to steal clothes from a laundry. All of this makes me believe this book wasn't edited in the least.

Lastly, this book has no map and no picture of the author. Was this the time TSR was trying to save money and the printing quality suffered? No idea.
Seravin Posted - 05 Aug 2019 : 21:41:14
quote:
This problem with the Empire trilogy, is it because TSR had 3 different writers for each of the books? The inconsistency of them? Maybe that was one of the issues with their novel line, having different writers for sequels, although I think that practice is common with shared world books.


I do think the Empires trilogy suffered from the 3 different authors, for the reasons I put in my thread. Yamun destested spies and really liked honor, but for some reason was all into spies in the 2nd book because it was a different author. He wanted power and conquest...but in the 2nd book he wants revenge only. The 3rd book doesn't focus on the Shou or the Tugian horde as much as it does the Cormyr set making alliances with Sembia and Zhentil Keep, but when it does focus on the characters from the first two books you can't recognize anything set up.

Basically Horselords was a great novel that set up some great characters, and it could have made an epic trilogy if it was written by one author.

On a positive note, I've always throught the events in the Empires novel is a "Realms Shaking Event" done right...something that is epic and major, involves the players of the Realms, leaves a mark and a legacy behind for people to reference for decades later, shows us new areas of the Realms we haven't seen much of before...but then ends and doesn't blow up the moon along the way and we get back to normalcy afterwards.
12swords Posted - 05 Aug 2019 : 16:27:45
Fiction novels, books in general, will always be around, but like you said, people are reading in different formats (mobile, ebooks, etc).

I had a Borders near where I lived for many years, it was a haven for the local homeless. I didn't spend much time there but whenever I was there you'd hardly see anyone at the checkout line. I know it's anecdotal, maybe they had a bunch of sales when I wasn't there, but anytime you have a huge store and like 4 sales per hour, that's not a good combination.

Maybe Hasbro should contract a really popular fantasy author to write a DnD novel, someone like Sanderson or even Martin. Pay them a big upfront fee, even give them partial ownership of the characters, and then watch the money pour in. Maybe it would help jumpstart a TV show or movie trilogy, leading to even more $$, which would help make the corporate overlords happy.
Wooly Rupert Posted - 05 Aug 2019 : 15:12:55
quote:
Originally posted by CorellonsDevout

I don't think books themselves are necessarily suffering, people are just reading on different formats (like ebooks), which is why brick and mortar stores are in decline. Though it does seem like many people don't enjoy reading as much. I don't think the fiction industry as a whole is going to go down (even if there is a bit of a sales decline). At least, it better not! Lol



Actually, I was reading not too long ago that ebook sales had plateaued at about 30% of book sales.

I think the decline of brick and mortar stores is more due to Amazon and being poorly-run, like Borders... And from what I've seen, that decline has pretty much stabilized.
CorellonsDevout Posted - 05 Aug 2019 : 14:52:41
I don't think books themselves are necessarily suffering, people are just reading on different formats (like ebooks), which is why brick and mortar stores are in decline. Though it does seem like many people don't enjoy reading as much. I don't think the fiction industry as a whole is going to go down (even if there is a bit of a sales decline). At least, it better not! Lol
12swords Posted - 05 Aug 2019 : 04:59:29
quote:
Originally posted by CorellonsDevout

Except the other stores weren't in the suburbs. They were in the same urban location (D&D). We're not saying marketing was the only issue (WotC has made some...different desicions over the years). I just think if they had focused more attention on pushing the novel line as a whole, rather than giving an individual series all the attention, things would be different.

Again, not saying this is the sole factor. There were doubtless fsctors that had little or nothing to do with Drizzt. But I have said my piece. I will stop harping (for now ;) )



Well, I was more trying to imply that Drizzt, not D&D, was the profit center of the novel line and that's why the company focused on it. And the other characters/books (other locations) were fine in their own way and some had really devout fans but ultimately the sales weren't enough to justify continuing in those locations.

Fiction sales for the past 5 years has been in decline. I'm sure even RAS's books haven't been selling as well lately as they were in the 90's and 00's. There aren't as many bookstores as before. People would rather spend their recreational time looking at their phone, reading news and watching videos on FB and YT, than pick up a book and read. All this makes for a very tough sales environment, and throwing money at promotion would increase sales but probably not enough to make up for the increased cost. No company is going to spend a million dollars promoting a novel line only to see it increase revenue by 500k.

This problem with the Empire trilogy, is it because TSR had 3 different writers for each of the books? The inconsistency of them? Maybe that was one of the issues with their novel line, having different writers for sequels, although I think that practice is common with shared world books.
gylippus Posted - 05 Aug 2019 : 00:04:33
quote:
Originally posted by Seravin

Here was my major beef with Dragonwall when I read it:

http://forum.candlekeep.com/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=15398

Basically I thought the plot made no sense in a lot of ways, and I really, really enjoyed Horselords. I found Crusades "okay" mostly because it had familar characters and brought back the missing princess hook plot from the early gold box games and old grey box.





That was a good thread, I read your post and all of the replies. Honestly, your complaints are entirely valid and I didn't even think of them. I was too busy looking at Yamun's motivations to think about Minister Ting's. Although in the back of my head I was thinking, "Why is she betraying the emperor and what does she get out of it?" As you point out, that is never properly answered and makes no sense.

My major point was the idea that Yamun wanted revenge. Yes, he did, but his greatest motivation is power. So it also makes no sense that he would just up and leave Shou Lung after he gets the traitors.

Plus, minister Chu and Kwan didn't look like traitors to me. They didn't tell the emperor what they were doing BUT they wanted to get rid of a possible threat before it was too powerful. The Khadun already told them that Yamun was more than happy to conquer everything so his next logical target after Khazari was Shou Lung. It doesn't take a brain surgeon to figure out that a divided Tuigan nation is much better for the Shou's security and the Silk Road business than a unified Tuigan. Plus, it was obvious from the text that Chu was a loyal minister and just looking out for the best interest of the kingdom.
Seravin Posted - 04 Aug 2019 : 21:47:28
Here was my major beef with Dragonwall when I read it:

http://forum.candlekeep.com/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=15398

Basically I thought the plot made no sense in a lot of ways, and I really, really enjoyed Horselords. I found Crusades "okay" mostly because it had familar characters and brought back the missing princess hook plot from the early gold box games and old grey box.


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