The Hippogriff Awards – 2018

This entry of The Hippogriff Awards focuses on my favorite books in which the versions I read were published in 2018. Below are my Top 5 favorite books of that year, and then my awards, with an explanation of the reasoning behind each choice.

HIPPOGRIFF’S TOP 5 BOOKS OF 2018

Traitor GodSenlinAscends1. tie: The Traitor God – Cameron Johnston, and Senlin Ascends – Josiah Bancroft

grey bastards3.The Grey Bastards – Jonathon French

silver sorceress4. The Silver Sorceress – Alec Hutson

Port_of_Shadows_Cover5. Port of Shadows – Glen Cook

This was a difficult choice and I agonized for a few days between who should get first place and who should come in second. Senlin Ascends had a classic feel and was full of wondrous moments; The Traitor God was an action-packed thrill-ride. Different styles for each, but both were amazing – there’s really no right or wrong answer here, in my opinion. Hence a tie for Book of the Year between the two.

AWARDS

Best Plot: Senlin Ascends
A brilliant, amazing story not only carried by strong characterization, but also the wonderful plot of Thomas Senlin searching for his wife in a strange place.

Best Plot Twist: The Grey Bastards
Without giving away any spoilers, I’ll simply say that the story careened in directions I didn’t see coming, but the biggest involved a character that was pretending to be something she wasn’t.

Best Emotional Moment: The Grey Bastards
The loss of a supporting character was a very sad moment…while it was not an enjoyable moment, it was the best in terms of soliciting an emotional response from me.

Best Action Sequence: The Traitor God
There are several amazing sequences here to choose from…but the best is probably the battle for the city near the end of the book.

Best Hero/Heroine: Senlin Ascends (Thomas Senlin)
I picked Senlin because of the courage, ingenuity and resilience he displays as he moves through the Tower. Edrin Walker from The Traitor God was a very, very close second due to his dark and complex depth of character.

Best Supporting Character: The Silver Sorceress (Jan)
I really enjoyed learning more about Jan’s backstory.

Best Villain: The Traitor God
Revealing the villains of The Traitor God would spoil the story. You’ll just have to take my word for it when I say that they were pretty awesome.

Best Setting: Senlin Ascends
The Tower of Babel is an incredibly imaginative setting. The different levels of the Tower, the steampunk-like features, airships, mysterious power sources – it was all very intriguing.

Best Worldbuilding: The Silver Sorceress
Alec Hutson’s world continues to be a joy to discover.

Best Names/Languages: The Silver Sorceress
There’s not much separating The Silver Sorceress from the other entries, but it is enough to take this award.

Best Magic Item: The Traitor God (Lust, the War Machine)
The gigantic metal statue that is really a magical war machine is one of the best magic items ever conceived.

Best Magic System: The Traitor God
Cameron Johnston’s system seemed to be the most coherent and logical of all the entries.

Best Evil Creature/Monster/Beast: The Traitor God (Magash Mora)
The Cthulu-inspired creature was pretty amazing.

Best Non-human race: The Grey Bastards (half-orcs)
The book revolves around a half-orc society, and Jonathon French has put a lot of time and thought into developing the culture that it seems totally believable.

Best Ending: The Traitor God
A massive battle featuring a gigantic, building-swallowing Cthulu-like creature, giant magical war machines, a magical dagger, and a couple of big reveals make this an easy choice for me.

Best Cover: The Traitor God
Jan Weßbecher’s cover is incredible!

That completes my awards for 2018…

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The Hippogriff Awards – 2016

This entry of The Hippogriff Awards focuses on my favorite books published in 2016. Below are my Top 5 favorite books of that year, and then my awards, with an explanation of the reasoning behind each choice.

 

HIPPOGRIFF’S TOP 5 BOOKS OF 2016

shadow what was lost

1. The Shadow of What Was Lost – James Islington

crimson queen

2. The Crimson Queen – Alec Hutson

black shriving

3. The Black Shriving – Phil Tucker

path of flames

4. The Path of Flames – Phil Tucker

bands of mourning

5. The Bands of Mourning – Brandon Sanderson

 

AWARDS

Best Plot: The Shadow of What Was Lost
I really enjoyed multiple aspects of this story, including time travel, the Shadows, world-building, strong characterization, trying to figure out who is really the bad guy…the story captured my top spot for the year.

Best Plot Twist: The Shadow of What Was Lost
Great plot twists regarding Caedon, Wirr’s father, and Taeris Sarr.

Best Emotional Moment: The Path of Flames
As I said in my review: “There is a scene near the end between Wyland and Asho that is fantastic and hit home for me…sometimes all you need is for one person to believe in you in order to become something greater. I loved it.

Best Action Sequence: The Bands of Mourning
Sometimes the action sequences can be hard to follow, but a battle on a train, a warehouse firefight and a mountain fortress conflict were all superb.

Best Hero/Heroine: The Shadow of What Was Lost (Asha)
Asha was easily my top choice as her character evolves from an innocent girl to a brave young woman who becomes key to the plot. Iskra in The Black Shriving is very deserving of runner-up status.

Best Supporting Character: The Bands of Mourning (Steris)
Once again, to cite my review: “Every scene featuring Steris (and there are a lot more of them here) is among the best in the book.

Best Villain: The Black Shriving (demon lord)
The demon lord creature was like something out of a video game – truly evil, powerful and very nasty.

Best Setting: The Black Shriving
From the flying city of Stardakr to the Black Gate, from the courts of the Agerasterians to the cave of the Medusa, The Black Shriving is loaded with imaginative settings.

Best Worldbuilding: The Crimson Queen
Although The Shadow of What Was Lost makes this close, I thought the worldbuilding in The Crimson Queen was excellent.

Best Names/Languages: The Shadow of What Was Lost
The Shadow of What Was Lost doesn’t stand out as much as it should in this category, but it is still the best of this year’s bunch.

Best Magic Item: The Path of Flames (circlet)
When Tharok puts on the circlet, he becomes something completely different. The circlet plays a much bigger role in The Black Shriving (which is chock full of awesome items), but it is the introduction of the circlet that in my opinion had the biggest impact.

Best Magic System: The Bands of Mourning
After constantly being overshadow in my previous awards by Jim Hines’ Libriomancer system, Sanderson’s Allomancy gets its due and takes this year’s award.

Best Evil Creature/Monster/Beast: The Path of Flames (demon)
While I’ve certainly had my fill of demons over the years, Tucker’s menacing, 30 foot tall faceless demon certainly captivated me. Hutson’s temple spiders in The Crimson Queen get an honorable mention.

Best Non-human race: The Bands of Mourning (Kandra)
Although more prominent in previous Mistborn installments, the Kandra MeLaan is fun and clever.

Best Ending: The Crimson Queen
An epic battle that leaves many characters battered, and an ancient evil unleashed, is my choice for best ending.

Best Cover: The Crimson Queen
Although I liked the cover of the original release, the re-designed cover art of The Crimson Queen earns it top honors, with the beautiful simplicity of The Shadow of What Was Lost coming in second place.

 

The 2018 awards are up next…

 

The Hippogriff Awards – 2013

This entry of Hippogriff Awards focus on my favorite books published in 2013. Below are my Top 5 favorite books of that year, and then my awards, with an explanation of the reasoning behind each choice.

HIPPOGRIFF’S TOP 5 BOOKS OF 2013

codex born

1. Codex Born – Jim C. Hines

rose and thorn

2. The Rose and the Thorn – Michael J. Sullivan

house of blades

3. House of Blades – Will Wight

memoryoflight

4. A Memory of Light – Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson

slither

5. Slither – Joseph Delaney

 

AWARDS

Best Plot: The Rose and the Thorn
Since I’m reading the prequels before original trilogy, my absence of any knowledge of subsequent events, combined with multiple plot threads and unpredictability makes this my choice for best plot.

Best Plot Twist: House of Blades
The clever twists that Wight reveals at the end of the book not only fits some missing pieces into place, but also took the story in a direction I wasn’t expecting.

Best Emotional Moment: A Memory of Light
To quote my review: “There were moments of intense grief. After finishing page 795, I had to stop reading as the tears just kept rolling down my face. A character who I had grown to love as my favorite was gone.” It doesn’t get more emotional than that.

Best Action Sequence: Codex Born
Despite its slow start, Codex Born has multiple, crazy action sequences that astound. Take your pick…

Best Hero/Heroine: The Rose and the Thorn (Rueben)
I consider Rueben more of the main character in this story, and thus he earns my vote for being such a non-traditional protagonist. Slither the Kobalos was a close second.

Best Supporting Character: Codex Born (Lena)
Once again, to cite my review, “This review by the Little Red Reviewer explains far better than I could why Lena is one of the most complex characters ever written, and is really the star of the show here.

Best Villain: House of Blades (Overlord Malachai)
For a villain with depth, I turn to this quote in my review: “Overlord Malachai is described as vain and lazy, and his methods for obtaining sacrifices are unnecessarily brutal. Yet he loves his family, and in the face of death thinks of the future of the kingdom and how Simon will be an asset.

Best Setting: A Memory of Light
After 13 Wheel of Time books, the setting of the Last Battle in the 14th book is incredible.

Best Worldbuilding: A Memory of Light
Jordan’s world, despite its flaws, is simply amazing.

Best Names/Languages: Slither
This award easily goes to Delaney’s imaginative culture of the Kobalos.

Best Magic Item: Slither (Kangadon)
It was pretty cool to read about Kangadon, the Lance That Cannot Be Broken, forged by Olkie, the four-armed, brass-toothed god of the Kobalos.

Best Magic System: Codex Born
Just like Libriomancer, Hines’ magic system is probably the greatest ever created, and in Codex Born he even introduced a new form of it.

Best Evil Creature/Monster/Beast: Slither (Haggenbrood)
This was a close call between the Haggenbrood, the grotesque, three part creature with a hive mind that Slither is forced to fight in arena combat, and the various Dungeons and Dragons creatures (not to mention Frankenstein’s Monster!) running rampant in Codex Born, but I gave a slight edge to Delaney’s wild imagination.

Best Non-human race: Slither (Kobalos)
Delaney’s Kobalos are incredibly detailed and he explores their entire culture. Wight’s race called the Nye, a group of oriental/anime-inspired cloaked beings that train people on swordfighting, was simply awesome, but the depth devoted to the Kobalos just barely beats the Nye for this award.

Best Ending: The Rose and the Thorn
The bittersweet ending, to quote my review, and from which the book derives its title: “from out of bad can come good, but the cost incurred is not forgotten.

Best Cover: A Memory of Light
I was tempted to pick Codex Born for the depiction of Lena on the cover, but in the end it’s tough to vote against Michael Whelan.

Note: this year, only 2016 and 2018 awards will follow, as I don’t yet have enough entries for 2014, 2015 and 2017…

The Hippogriff Awards – 2012 and Earlier

The first Hippogriff Awards go to my favorite books published from many years ago through 2012. The reason 2012 is the cutoff is that 2013 is when I really started reviewing a higher volume of books on site, including new releases. So rather than a Top 5, which is what I will be using for the following years, this early category will have a Top 20 due to the number of years it encompasses. So below are my Top 20 favorite books, with a little blurb under each one to explain why it appears on this list, and then my awards.

TOP 20 BOOKS UP THROUGH 2012

nine princes new

1. Nine Princes in Amber by Roger Zelazny
Though not the first fantasy novel I read, as I mentioned in my review of this book, no other book had such an influence on me as this one did. The mystery behind Corwin’s accident, the concepts of moving through shadow along with the Trumps and the Pattern, the quips, the fast pace – it all blended so well. It’s not without flaws, but the book is so damn good, who cares? There’s a reason why Zelazny was nominated for 14 Nebula awards (winning 3) and 14 Hugo awards (winning 6).

vanishing tower

2. The Vanishing Tower – Michael Moorcock
Right behind Zelazny’s influence on me were Moorock’s sword and sorcery tales of the albino with the black soul-sucking sword. This was the first book I was able to find in the series, and I admit it was the Michael Whelan cover that drew me in. Although Stormbringer or the Corum books are superior in content, this is the book that hooked me into Moorcock’s Multiverse, so that’s why it appears here.

black company

3. The Black Company – Glen Cook
My classic review of The Black Company says it all. The military connection, the wit and sarcasm, the battles between Goblin and One-Eye…there’s nothing else like it. Indeed, the inspiration for many of today’s writers of grimdark originates from this book. Say what you will about the books that follow…there is no question that the original The Black Company is an amazing piece of fiction that I hold in high regard.

fellowship of the ring

4. Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring – J. R. R. Tolkien
When I was 15, I spent the summer with my uncle, who invited me to read his copy of The Hobbit. Up to that point I had read books involving Narnia, Nihm, Prydain, and A Wrinkle in Time – which were considered to be Young Adult. The Hobbit bridged the gap between YA and adult reading, and it does appear later on this list, but it is The Fellowship of the Ring that I find the most appealing of Tolkien’s works. Not only was it incredibly imaginative and immersive, it was also my first “adult” novel, the most challenging book I had ever read at that point in my brief life. The more serious tone, the grave stakes, the world-building, the mystery of Strider and Ringwraiths, Moria, the Balrog, betrayal…all these factors helped to transform me into a more serious reader. Its importance cannot be overstated…without The Fellowship of the Ring, this blog, and my love of fantasy fiction, may never have existed.

The-wise-mans-fear

5. The Wise Man’s Fear – Patrick Rothfuss
Although this book does quite a bit of meandering, in spite of that it makes my Top 5. As I stated in my review that appears on this site, when a book of this quality stumbles, it is still far superior to most everything else in fantasy. The Wise Man’s Fear is one of the best books I’ve ever read.

sword of shannara

6. The Sword of Shannara – Terry Brooks
The main complaint about The Sword of Shannara is that it’s derivative of The Lord of Rings – but it was meant to be! Many people know the story of how Lester Del Ray wanted Terry Brooks to write something similar to Tolkien’s works, and Brooks nailed it. I tackled this book not long after finishing The Lord of the Rings, and absolutely loved it. Although it was more shallow, as it did not have Tolkien’s penchant for linguistics and intricate world-building, it nonetheless won me over with tension, the mysterious figure of Allanon, spider gnomes, hints of ruined technology, the Skull Kingdom, and the Druid castle Paranor. Not to mention the awesome Hildebrandt illustrations. For me it continued the momentum I had built up in reading The Lord of the Rings and made it sustainable.

two towers

7. The Two Towers – J. R. R. Tolkien
The Two Towers is proof that “middle book syndrome” is not always applicable. From the lonely journey of Frodo and Sam into Mordor, to the Ents tearing down Orthanc, to the epic battle at Helm’s Deep, this book is crucial in bridging the events to the cornerstones of the trilogy. I like it more than The Return of the King, since that novel, despite being excellent, spins it wheels a bit too much, although there is an awful lot of walking, running, and fighting in The Two Towers. But it is still wondrous…and don’t forget Smeagol and Shelob!

elfstones of shannara

8. The Elfstones of Shannara – Terry Brooks
Here Brooks proved he could do more than make derivative stories…he could actually come up with his own ideas, and they were pretty good! It also established Brooks as a master of the “hero’s quest”, which almost all of his books use as a plot device. One of the great things about The Elfstones of Shannara was actually not realized until the next novel, Wishsong of Shannara, when the cost of Wil Ohmsford’s use of magic is fully revealed. It is the ending of The Elfstones of Shannara, however – more heartbreaking than The Sword of Shannara – that left me thinking that Brooks was not afraid to emotionally devastate his characters, which I thought was pretty brave.

stone of tears

9. Stone of Tears – Terry Goodkind
Despite a clumsy writing style, repetitiveness, a controversial use of sex and violence, and a preachy, monotonous feel prevalent in Goodkind’s later books, I absolutely loved Stone of Tears. A number of fantastic elements – the slyph, sorcerer’s sand, Mriswrath capes – and constant tension – make this an outstanding read for me.

libriomancer

10. Libriomancer – Jim C. Hines
You can find a review of Libriomancer here on my site, in which I explain how it completely captivated me, and as a result it has earned a spot in my Top 10. I wish I had thought of it.

return of the king

11. The Return of the King – J. R. R. Tolkien
Although I love this book, and it should occupy a spot in my Top 10, it has a bit too much of “spinning its wheels” as I mentioned above. Frodo and Sam take a long time to infiltrate Mordor, and the siege of Gondor makes up the rest of the book. It is epic but suffers from serious pacing issues. Still, the bittersweet ending caps a stellar book, as well as one of the greatest series ever written.

crystal cave

12. The Crystal Cave – Mary Stewart
Clearly I am fascinated with first person narratives, and this coming-of-age story is no different. Told from the perspective of a young Merlin in what feels like a fantasy blended with historical events during the collapse of the Roman Empire and the Saxon invasion of Britain, this was absolutely my favorite book of the trilogy. Stewart would go on to write two other books after the initial series was complete, but of the five in total, this is the book that made the biggest impression on me.

assassin's apprentice

13. Assassin’s Apprentice – Robin Hobb
This was the first book in which I remember reading about assassins long before it became trendy to write about assassins. However, although there is a fair amount of abuse and darkness, this story isn’t really grimdark…strong characterizations and relationships, along with a certain wolf, give this book a lighter feel and make it an outstanding story, and of course it’s told in my favorite perspective – first person.

hobbit

14. The Hobbit – J. R. R. Tolkien
Is it really surprising how many Tolkien books are on this list? Although there are some who detest Tolkien, he had a big influence on my imagination. As I mentioned above in The Fellowship of the Ring entry, The Hobbit is important to me as a gateway book, transitioning from a young adult reading level to that of an adult, as I completed The Hobbit, and wanting more, immediately tackled The Fellowship of the Ring.

way of kings

15. The Way of Kings – Brandon Sanderson
It’s been a great year for reading, but this is the only book I read this year, from the given time period, to have made it on to this list. As I said in my review here on the site, there’s something very special about this book that I can’t put my finger on. It’s possible that the sequels will be even better, but I’m glad I finally got past the intimidating page count and immersed myself in this amazing book.

eye of the world

16. The Eye of the World – Robert Jordan
Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series will always be associated with epic sprawl, but it wasn’t always that way. The first book was outstanding with regards to worldbuilding and the development of the main characters, so much so that it became the inspiration for many books from other authors that would come out later. Although I was tempted to put Towers of Midnight on this list, it’s more appropriate to go with the book that started one of the greatest fantasy epics of all time.

one tree

17. The One Tree – Steven R. Donaldson
I still recall the excitement among my friends when this book was released and we rushed out to buy it. The original series was good, but with serious flaws. When The Wounded Land was released, I had greatly anticipated it, and I thought it was an excellent read despite a few issues that held it back. But my friends and I agreed that The One Tree was perhaps Steven Donaldson’s finest work. Incredibly imaginative, and set outside of The Land, with places and creatures only hinted at previously, the book is spectacular. Even the double angst of the two main characters doesn’t manage to derail it.

bones of old ones

18. The Bones of the Old Ones – Howard Andrew Jones
I was tempted to put the first book, The Desert of Souls, in this spot, but The Bones of the Old Ones is so damn good – more epic in scope, outstanding pacing, interesting character developments – that it has to appear on this list.

the-name-of-the-wind

19. The Name of the Wind – Patrick Rothfuss
Rothfuss is one of only four authors that place two or more of their books on this list. I was blown away by The Name of the Wind, so much so that I had set unfair expectations for The Wise Man’s Fear. Though the magic school setting does get a bit tiring, I was still completely captivated by the story.

mistborn

20. Mistborn – Brandon Sanderson
I mentioned above that only four authors have more than one book on this list; Tolkien, Brooks, and Rothfuss are the first three, and Sanderson is the fourth. I found Mistborn to be fascinating mostly due to the magic system, but the excellence of the pacing and story are so good, that when you read the sequels, you notice that they are a little more uneven. Mistborn lays out the first pieces of the puzzle that form the amazing ending of the third book.

 

AWARDS

 

These are my personal choices…your mileage may vary.

Best Plot: The Fellowship of the Ring
A group of distrustful races are going to accompany some little people and carry the greatest magical item ever created into the heart of the enemy’s lands to destroy it? What could go wrong?

Best Plot Twist: Mistborn
I can’t reveal this one without giving away major spoilers, but Sanderson has proved to be very capable at plot twists.

Best Emotional Moment: The Fellowship of the Ring
Of the two candidates here, Boromir’s fate certainly had a huge impact on the story (and has incredibly powerful effect on me every time I watch the film), but it is what happens to Gandalf in Moria that brought forth some powerful emotions during my first read.

Best Action Sequence: Stone of Tears
A couple of candidates emerge here, such as Richard facing off against the Baka Ban Mana blademasters, Mriswraths, and the Sisters of the Dark.

Best Hero/Heroine: The Way of Kings (Kaladin)
You can see my review for an explanation of this. Aragorn or Frodo in The Return of the King are close runners-up, as is Vin in Mistborn and Corwin in Nine Prince in Amber.

Best Supporting Character: Assassin’s Apprentice (Nighteyes)
Sorry everyone. For me, this one’s not even close, despite how much I love Nom the Sandgorgan in The One Tree and Goblin and One-Eye in The Black Company. Either one of Gollum or Sam Gamgee would be another strong choice. I also liked Lena in Libriomancer but she shines much more brightly in the sequel.

Best Villain: The Black Company (Soulcatcher)
Most villains are overly powerful or work behind the scenes. Soulcatcher was a constant, malignant presence in The Black Company, with quirky traits and a creepy personality. The Howler and The Limper are also good candidates. Glen Cook was an absolute genius when it came to creating villains.

Best Setting: The One Tree
How thrilling it was to read a Thomas Covenant story set outside of The Land. Other candidates would be Moria in The Fellowship of the Ring and Buckkeep Castle with all of its secrets in Assassin’s Apprentice, with a nod to Howard Andrew Jones’ medieval middle-eastern setting in The Bones of the Old Ones.

Best Worldbuilding: The Eye of the World
For a perfect example of why, check out this series of brilliant posts by Adam Whitehead over at The Wertzone.

Best Names/Languages: The Fellowship of the Ring
Not even close, folks. A professor of linguistics wins this one going away.

Best Magic Item: The Vanishing Tower (Stormbringer)
A black, soul-sucking sword? Hell yeah! It beats out The One Ring and the Sword of Shannara pretty handily.

Best Magic System: Libriomancer
It was close between this and Sanderson’s intricately detailed Allomancy in Mistborn, but pulling items out of books is simply brilliant.

Best Evil Creature/Monster/Beast: The Fellowship of the Ring (Balrog)
Tolkien is the master of creating bad-ass monsters. Smaug gets a vote as does Shelob and the Ringwraiths, but the Balrog is the best of the bunch.

Best Non-human Race: The Way of Kings (Pardashi)
Sanderson has a knack for creating interesting races. Tolkien’s Ents come very close to taking the top spot, and I’m still debating it.

Best Ending: The Sword of Shannara
Like another entry on this list, describing why I like the ending would be too spoiler-y, so let’s just say I had a big grin on my face by the time I finished the last sentence.

Best Cover: The Vanishing Tower
Michael Whelan – simply the best.

Announcing The 2018 Hippogriff Awards

I’m going to do something this year that I’ve always wanted to do but never followed through on.

I’m going to rank my favorite books, and give my perspective on “the best of” 2018.

I’m calling them the “Hippogriff Awards”, in which I will discuss my favorite books written in 2018 with respect to certain categories, and then choose a winner that I feel is the best of that year’s entries.

I’m also going to do a series of posts that focus on each year of entries I’ve read so far, from 2013 to 2018, with an additional entry for favorites that encompasses all books prior to 2013, since that period was before I started posting here regularly. Executing a format like that is slightly problematic for me, due to the 4 years that I took off from reading. That set me behind on older books that I’m just now catching up to, and with the large queue I’m working through I haven’t read everything that I’d have liked to.

For now, a few of the years will be a bit sparse, until I catch up with more books in the queue. Next year’s “best of” results will probably look a lot different once I get through more books in my “to be read” pile. For those years with several titles that I’ve read, I’m going to choose my favorite five.

The books I’ve read that were published in 2018 (at least in the format I purchased, that is) and are eligible for awards consist of the following:

The Grey Bastards
Port of Shadows
The Traitor God
Senlin Ascends
The Silver Sorceress

That’s only five books, so all of them will appear in my top five of 2018, ranked in order with my favorite in spot #1, my next favorite in spot #2 and so on. The awards will be presented to the book that I feel was the best in each category. There are only 2 books in my TBR pile that were published in 2018 that I haven’t read yet: Arm of the Sphinx and The Disappearance of Winter’s Daughter. It’s a shame they won’t appear in the awards but there really isn’t anything I can do about that right now…once I read the books next year, perhaps I’ll revise the awards.

I’ll be starting with my favorite books prior to 2013, so look for that soon…