Eric Allen's Reviews > The Unremembered

The Unremembered by Peter Orullian
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Jun 04, 2015

did not like it
Read from September 13, 2011 to June 03, 2015

The Unremembered
By Peter Orullian

***My review of the "Author's Definitive Edition" of this book is in the first comment below***

A Review by Eric Allen

I was at a book signing to have Brandon Sanderson sign some of my books of his and there was a second author there signing named Peter Orullian. Everyone was lining up for Brandon, and like two people had Peter sign anything. He was sitting there for an hour or so just messing around with his phone looking rather bored and really hopeful anytime anyone stepped near him. He looked so let down when people looked like they were coming toward him and then veered away to something else. So I guiltily picked up a copy of his book from the shelf that had been set out for the people standing in line to have Brandon sign their books and I read the first chapter while I was waiting. It was actually pretty good. It grabbed me. And so I decided that I'd buy it, and have the author sign it for me there. Looking back, I wonder if the fact that there were very few people wanting him to sign their books wasn't indicative of a little more than the fact that he is a lesser known author than Brandon Sanderson.

***Disclaimer*** I did not read this book in its entirety. I only read half before I gave up on it. As people on Goodreads tend to get rather snippy with people who don't finish the book before blasting it, let me say that these are mere observations on the half of the book that I did read that prevented me from enjoying it. It is not a review of the book in its entirety, only an explanation of why I didn't like it and stopped reading it. If you have a problem with that, I invite you to get over yourself, grow up, and go whine about it to someone who cares, which, if you couldn't tell, is not me. If that doesn't work, and you absolutely HAVE to make your opinion known to me, at least be civil in doing so. I am getting rather sick of people throwing temper tantrums when I try to explain why a book was so bad I couldn't even finish it. Thank you.***Disclaimer***

Over the last year I have tried to read this book, and I have only managed to get halfway through. Every time I pick it up, I just can't make myself read much more than a few pages. It's not that the book is badly written. In fact, I'd say that the prose is rather good for an author's first novel. It's not perfect, but it's really not that bad on the writing side of things for an author's first book. There are other issues with the book, mostly on the story side of things that have put me off of completing it. As of now, unfortunately I think I'm going to have to just toss in the towel on The Unremembered and call it quits.

The Unremembered is about a young man by the name of Tahn, a hunter with no memory of his younger life. We've all heard this story before. He lives in the middle of nowhere, and suddenly a stern wizzardly fellow shows up, tells him he's in danger and has to leave, yada yada yada. Cue the Lord of the Rings fanfare.

I've thought long and hard about why I just can't get into this book. It's based on a story archetype that I greatly enjoy. Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, The Wheel of Time, all of these follow the same archetype and I love them all. So why not this one? I've narrowed it down to three major problems, and a couple of minor ones, that I have with this book, and all of them are on the story side of things. The writing is actually not bad, it's just that the story is so lacking in these three major areas. As I so often find myself explaining to fans of Patrick Rothfuss when they freak out over my not liking his second book, being able to write, and being able to tell a story are two COMPLETELY different things. Being a storyteller takes BOTH of these things, and when you've got only one of them, your book is going to suck. With fiction, a well written book with no story is not a very good book, and a great story badly written isn't a very good book either. To be a good writer, you need to both be able to tell a good story, and tell it well. And frankly, this just isn't a very good story because of how soul-crushingly generic it is. If this book had only suffered from one of those big problems I had, or maybe even two, I think I'd have been able to get through it, but all three made it just impossible for me to care much about reading further. Maybe if there were an audiobook version and I didn't actually have to expend the effort to read it myself I could finish it, but there is none, unfortunately.

Firstly: the humor. Peter Orullian is not funny, AT ALL, but he frequently tries to be. I consider myself to be a comedic writer. My night job is writing comedic reviews on awful books for a magazine. Comedy is sometimes very hard to write, because humor is subjective, and very dependent upon the person who is reading it, rather than the one writing it. The humor in this book is more than just bad or unfunny, it's insulting. Every single comedic moment in this book is extraordinarily low brow and sophomoric to the point that I actually felt that my intelligence was being insulted while reading it. The jokes and events I think were meant to be played for comedy are just so dumb. I mean, we're talking stuff as crude and low as excrement gags and fart and erection jokes here. The majority of this crap is perpetrated by the character Sutter, whom I wish would die horribly, painfully, and over the space of many weeks. These are things that even the lowest common denominator would find pathetic and offensive to their intelligence. Not even babies would laugh at this crap. And yet he continually tries to cram this garbage down our throats throughout the book like he thinks we're being entertained by it. I found myself cringing, rolling my eyes in disgust, and honestly feeling rather insulted by the majority of the humor in this book. This book was written for adults. I am an adult. I tend to be insulted when I am not treated like one, and Orullian did not treat me like one. I do not find humor mostly based around bodily functions to be entertaining in the slightest bit. The first thing about writing comedy, Pete, is to know your audience, and in this you completely failed. The typical person that would pick this book up is not going to be entertained by fart and erection jokes. We're going to be insulted and abhorred by them instead. Epic Fantasy book series, in my experience, draw a classier breed of nerd. The type of nerd that tends to think such low humor is not only not funny, but horribly offensive to their intelligence. This sort of humor might fly with the sort of people who think Jeff Foxworthy or Larry the Cable Guy are funny, but those are two COMPLETELY different demographics that do not typically mix well. You see what I'm getting at here? Peter Orullian does not seem to know who he is writing for. His story is geared toward fantasy nerds like me, and his humor is geared toward rednecks and children. You're a big boy now Pete, writing big boy stories, time to grow up.

Secondly: flashy things that happen for no reason and to no discernible purpose. There are a lot of instances in this book where things just sort of happen. It's not explained WHY they happen, or HOW they happen. They just sort of do. Let me give you an example. A character named Braethan is handed a sword. For no discernible reason he gets sucked into darkness, fights against it, and finds the light. Okay... why? What made that happen? Why did it happen? What purpose did it serve? It completely lacks a context within the story, and therefore any meaning whatsoever to the reader. The only reason I can come up for it is that the author thought it would be cool for the character to grapple with his inner darkness for no apparent reason upon being handed a sword, so he did. The half of the book that I read is FULL of instances like that. Things just happen, to no point or purpose, simply because the author thought they would be cool, or because the plot says so. I mean, sure, it would be cool if they lived in a world where random crap just happened every now and then, adding an edge of danger and foreboding, with the characters always on their toes, never knowing what will happen to them and when. Robert Jordan did an EXCELLENT job of incorporating this sort of thing into his Wheel of Time series. The reason it works there and not here, is because it is an explained event in The Wheel of Time. We are TOLD that these random things are happening for a SPECIFIC reason, and that they can happen at any time, in any place, and will be drawn to the three main characters because of who and what they are. For something like that to work, YOU HAVE TO BUILD IT, AND HOW IT IS SUPPOSED TO WORK, INTO THE STORY AND LET THE READERS KNOW ABOUT IT AHEAD OF TIME!!! When things just happen for no apparent reason, it makes the writer look lazy. If the events of your book are so boring that you have to toss in random things like this just to spice it up, maybe it's time to go back to the drawing board and look at what you can do with the story itself to make it more interesting rather than tossing in random, plot serving garbage to add false tension to scenes that are otherwise a little dull. If you, as a writer, do not feel the need to explain how your own world works to the reader, and set the rules ahead of time, events like the one I used as an example here become confusing, meaningless, and completely lose any coolness factor they might have otherwise had. If there's one thing I hate in a book, it's lazy storytelling and let me tell you, Pete, you're about as lazy a storyteller as they come.

Thirdly: Generic to a disgusting degree. This is the biggest problem that this book has. It's just so generic. The front cover should have been plain white with a bar code on it and the words "Generic Fantasy Adventure" underneath in boring, blocky letters. Every story has already been told. It's just a fact of life. It is very rare that a truly original story comes along. The really good writers are the ones that can take a story we've read a thousand times before, and make it interesting enough by putting a new spin on it, or by having such great and entertaining characters acting out the familiar events, that we actually want to read that same old story again. They take the old, and mix it with something new. A new idea. A new gimmick. A crazy new character. Witty and entertaining humor. ANYTHING to make it stand out in ANY way. Peter Orullian failed to do so. This book feels sooooo generic. There's nothing new here. These characters are cardboard cutout stereotypes. I haven't even finished the book and I can tell you exactly how it ends, because I've read this exact same story a thousand times before. The world is pretty cool, I'll give him that, but the characters are so dull and uninteresting, and he doesn't even TRY to toss in any new twists or turns to spice things up. It's just the same old story, following the same old formula, with tired old character archetypes that have nothing new to give. I realize how difficult it can be to come up with something new, or to put your own shine on something that's been around for ages like the story of this book. I'm an aspiring novelist myself, and I know how hard it can be to be original. But, there are authors out there that do it every day. Is it so much to ask that someone who is writing books for a living actually put some real imagination into the story he's telling rather than following the exact same storyline of 90% of the fantasy books out there without a single new twist or turn? Kudos to Peter Orullian for finding a publisher willing to go with something this tired and generic, but that doesn't change the fact that it IS tired and generic, without a single new twist or turn to grab my attention and make me want to read further.

Now for the minor issues I had with the book. The characters of your book should be likable. They should be people that the reader wants to cheer for, and see how they will overcome opposition. Even bad guys can be made likeable by a writer with enough talent by making them sympathetic to the reader. And that is the key word here. Sympathetic. There isn't a single sympathetic character in the entire half of the book that I read. I don't care about any of them. I don't sympathize about any of them. I don't care if they live or die. I don't care if they succeed in whatever mission the author still hadn't gotten around to telling the readers about yet, even over halfway through the entire damn novel. Why? Because not a one of the characters is even remotely likeable to me. Every character in this entire book is a complete douchebag with no redeeming qualities whatsoever. It is very, very hard to care about a character you want to punch in the face every time he opens his mouth. Your protagonists should be people that the reader identifies with, feels like they share something in common with, and wants to be more like. No one wants to be more like a complete asshole. No one wants to be a smart ass whose goal in life is to come up with the next great fart joke, and frequently attack his best friend with physical violence because hey, that's how guys are, right? Yeah... WRONG! Not to this extent anyway. No one wants to be bland, boring, and irrelevant to the world around them.

Peter Orullian told the wrong story. Perhaps he should have repeated Tahn's mantra to himself before beginning on this book, because the story he told was not the one he should have. The story that he SHOULD have told was about the outcast God in the first chapter. That was both highly interesting and rather original. Instead, he went for the bland, boring, generic mediocrity of retelling the exact same story everyone has already heard a thousand times, without even trying to put his own spin on things. He must have the greatest agent on earth to have actually sold this book to a publisher. It's not exceptionally well written, and it is sooooo generic. I mean, for a first novel it's not horribly written, but there is vast room for improvement here, and the story just isn't there.

Oh, and for the record, it is not the life's ambition of every woman on earth to have children. In my experience, most women have other goals in mind, even after having children. Several of my female friends didn't ever want children at all for various, rather understandable reasons, and it was only after they accidentally ended up with one or two that they found any joy in being a mom. Motherhood is a good and noble purpose in life, without our mothers, none of us would be here, and there is nothing wrong with any woman aspiring toward it. My own mother raised four children all while working a full time job and I respect the hell out of her for doing it. However, the implication that it is the only thing that women truly want out of life, as Orullian seems to believe, seems rather insulting and condescending. I would like to quote my friend Karen on the subject. "Women and men are different, but we are also much the same as well. Like men, women have hopes, dreams, aspirations for the future, etc, and like men, those hopes, dreams, aspirations for the future, etc, rarely include children until children waltz into the picture and firmly wreck all of those hopes, dreams, aspirations for the future, etc. The suggestion that all I want out of life is to squeeze out a few babies and content myself with raising them is pretty insulting. Sure, I may have kids one day, probably sooner rather than later, but until then, they're the furthest thing from my mind and desires. Any man that sincerely believes otherwise clearly doesn't know the first thing about women, and certainly shouldn't be writing any female characters without some strict female supervision." She also tried and failed to read this book, having seen it on my coffee table, and stopped because she was so insulted over this issue by it. She, like many women, and very understandably, has a hard time stomaching being told that she's good for nothing but raising children. No one wants to hear that they're worthless, and in this book, Orullian basically says that 52% of the world's population is good for nothing but procreation. I find that insulting, and I'm a man. What's worse is that I'm pretty sure this guy has a wife he can run this crap by before writing it, and yet he didn't.

Rape is a very touchy subject, and as a man, I can only imagine the horrors that it inflicts upon the victims, especially those who are impregnated by it. I consider it to be the absolute worst, most horrible thing that anyone can ever do to another human being. I find it VERY hard to believe that ANY woman is going to PROTECT the man that did that to her from justice by refusing to give his name to the authorities. I can understand withholding it out of fear, yes, but (and I don't even remember her name because she was such a bland and uninteresting character) this character does not give any signs that she fears retaliation. She simply refuses to give up his name to protect him from justice. This man has done the most horrible thing that a person can do to another human being to her. It resulted in pregnancy. And yet she protects this man by refusing to give up his name or description? IN FACT, she seems to have WELCOMED the attack after the fact because it helped her to fulfill that supposed lifelong ambition that every woman supposedly feels, according to the extraordinarily flawed understandings of Peter Orullian, to be a mother. BULLSHIT!!! I CALL BULLSHIT!!! Welcome to real life Pete, where women are people too, just like you and me, in case you missed that fact. Maybe you should start treating them like it. Honestly, has this guy's wife even bothered to read this book? Probably not, she probably got about three chapters in and couldn't force herself to read any further and just sort of smiles and nods to him when he asks how she liked it. This guy needs a female editor to filter all this crap through before it goes to publication. Seeing things like this is books makes me angry. Is it not 2012? Have we not moved past these archaic ideals of inequality amongst the sexes? Apparently not. I see congressional panels made up of all men who seem to think a woman can control whether or not she is impregnated by rape debating issues of women's rights without a SINGLE female committee member to add her perspective to the proceedings, and I see authors like Peter Orullian and Patrick Rothfuss who haven't got a shred of respect for women as people. Ladies, I'm sorry that you have to put up with this bullshit. I truly am. No one should have to deal with being treated as subhuman because of something as trivial and completely uncontrollable to them as their gender.

In conclusion this book had those three major problems, plus a whole slew of minor ones, and because of that I just couldn't work up the desire to even finish it. I got halfway through, but I can't force my way through any further. The half that I read is just plain TERRIBLE. It has, literally, not one single redeeming quality to save it, or even make me want to finish. Unfortunately I cannot give any more than one star to a book that I was incapable of finishing. I really wanted to like this book, the first chapter was extremely good. Unfortunately, everything else about the book completely fails. I do not think I will ever finish it, and I certainly do not think I will be picking up the second volume when it eventually comes out. Some people may enjoy it, though I really can't see myself recommending it to anyone except as an example of everything NOT to do while writing a fantasy adventure.

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message 1: by Eric (last edited Jun 04, 2015 08:29PM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Eric Allen All right, I actually managed to finish the "Author's Definitive Edition" of this book, with a little help from, and my iPod's 2x speed function. And let me tell you, it was a CHORE to get through even still. So here's a review of the new version of this book.

ZERO stars

All right, I already ranted about a lot of the problems this book had in its original version, so I'm not going to retread too much. Just know that about 90% of what I already said about the book still stands.

Let's start out by going over what is better about this version. There were a couple things.

First of all, the horrible juvenile attempts at humor are, for the most part, gone. And good riddance to them. That was just AWFUL. So good job Mr. Orullian on listening to fans and leaving that shite where it belongs, on the cutting room floor.

And Sutter's Abrasive, highly irritating personality has been toned down quite a bit.

And that's about it. Those two aspects of the book are better than the original version. Everything else is either the same, or much, MUCH worse.

This is something I didn't really talk about in my original review, but before I get started on what's way, WAY worse in this book, I'm going to talk about it now, because it has a lot to do with why this version is so much worse.

Okay, so, Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, The Wheel of Time, to name a few, all follow the same basic story as this one. A person from the ass end of nowhere is caught up in a quest that will take them far from their home and through many dangers and toward some sort of goal. Each of these stories starts out with a person of authority, someone who uses magic, and is old and wise, telling the protagonist that they have to leave home and why it's important that they do.

Star Wars:
"Luke, the Empire murdered the only family you've ever known to get their hands on these droids. We must take them to to the rebel leaders on Alderaan immediately, and make sure that the Empire never takes them from us."

You know what the quest is, get the droids to Alderaan, and keep them away from the Empire. You know what's at stake, Luke's family has been murdered, and so will he if he's caught with the droids. You can see why he's leaving, and what he hopes to accomplish by doing so.

Lord of the Rings:
"Frodo, the Black Riders have come to the Shire for that ring that your uncle left you. I fear it may hold some great evil within it. To protect the rest of the Shire, you must meet me at an inn in Bree and we will continue on to Rivendell to enlist the help of the elves in solving this mystery and keeping the ring out of the hands of the evil things that seek it."

You know what the quest is, get the ring out of the Shire so more experienced and learned people can figure out what to do with it. You know what is at stake, Black Riders are terrorizing the Shirefolk in search of the ring and will kill to get it back. You can see why he's leaving, to protect the Shire from those that would do evil to get the ring.

The Wheel of Time:
"Rand, the Trollocs attacked your village because they were looking for you. You have to come with me to the White Tower in Tar Valon for your own protection, to keep them from attacking your village again, and so that the entire Aes Sedai Order can put their efforts into finding out why."

You know what the quest is, get to Tar Valon to find out why the Dark One is hunting Rand. You know what's at stake, Rand's life, those of everyone he knows and cares about, and perhaps even his soul. You can see why he's leaving, much of the village was burnt to the ground, and many people were injured in the attack, some, or all, might die in a second attack, and there might not be anything left of the village afterward.

The Unremembered:
"Tahn, you need to come with me. We're leaving the Hollows."
"Because I said so, that's why, now start running."

You do not know what the quest it. You have no idea what the eventual goal is, or why it is important to reach. You have no idea what is at stake because you haven't really seen anything to let you know that there's any sort of real danger. You don't know why he's leaving. Some guy just showed up and told him he had to, without giving any reasons at all for it. And I read over half of this book in its original form, and even that far into it, the author hadn't gotten around to answering these most basic of questions about what's going on and why.

Do you see the difference between doing it well, and not doing it well? Do you see how The Unremembered just completely failed on a basic exposition level, which then made every single thing that happened after that point confusing and pointless? I get the whole need for mystery and tension and all, but you still have to let your readers know what's going on, if only to let them know what the goal is. Why are these characters leaving home, and where are they going? What is the point? What do they hope to accomplish by leaving? We need to at least know this much if we are expected to give half a damn about what's going on.

And what does this have to do with the Author's Definitive Edition, you ask? Plenty. You see, the author was on one extreme end of the spectrum of terrible with the original version. This time around, he's on the complete opposite end. Through dialog it's clear that the characters know what they're doing, and have some idea of what might be at stake. The problem is THAT THE AUTHOR STILL HASN'T BOTHERED TO TELL US, THE READERS ANY OF IT!!!!!

This version of the book is considerably shorter than the originally published version, and you can see why almost immediately. The first 25% of the book has been almost completely removed. Now, I don't know about you, but, I kind of like to, you know, be introduced to the characters in a story, and introduced to the world that the story takes place in. I don't particularly care for being dropped in the middle of a chase where I don't know what's happening, or why, and I don't know who any of the characters are, or why I'm supposed to care about them. All of these things were just completely cut out of the book by the author for some reason, and I just can't see why he would have done something so utterly stupid. Yes, the characters were either bland and generic, highly abrasive, or offensive stereotypes, but at least we knew who they were are people. We knew what drove them, and a bit about their personalities and relationships with each other. The world was somewhat interesting, and the author did a generally good job of introducing it to us. Now, it's like starting on book 2 of a series. You have no idea what's going on, no idea who any of the characters are, how any of them are related to each other in any way, and you don't even realize that some of the characters are even there at all until several chapters later when they just start talking out of nowhere and you're like, wtf, who is this guy? Has he been there all along, or did they just meet him?

The original beginning was bland and generic, and the characters were equally so, but at least it WAS a beginning. At least we were introduced to these people, and told about how they are related to one another. We knew something of the world, and the dark creatures that walk in the night. We have some back story on the world, and were introduced to a pretty cool villain in what I still say was the best chapter in the book. (and it was cut from this version... wtf...) In short, though we didn't really know any real details on the quest or why they were leaving home, we did know who they were as people, and saw how they got themselves into the position where they were being chased and separated.

I just don't get it. Why would the author do something like this? It's just utterly stupid. He, in effect, cut the legs right out from under the story before it even began. What editor actually signed off on this? An editor doing his job would have said something like this to Orullian, "Yeah, I see what you're trying to do there, but it's not going to work, and this is why. So, if you're set on changing up the beginning of the book, let's sit down together and figure out a better way of doing it." That editor should be ashamed of himself, and should resign immediately, because he is utterly incompetent at his job. This is not how good storytelling works, and if he can't rein in an author doing something this idiotic with his book, he has no business being an editor.

All in all, this version of the book makes Peter Orullian look like an utterly incompetent writer. I just cannot understand why he would do this to his own story. It makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. He, basically, made it completely impossible to care about the characters, or what's happening to them. He cut out the entire beginning of the book, and didn't make any changes to the rest of it to make up for the loss.

I'd like to compare the Author's Definitive Edition of The Unremembered to a video game that came out a while back. Final Fantasy XIII. Now, the Final Fantasy series was once knows as a series with epic stories, excellent characters, awesome villains, beautiful music, and cutting edge graphics (at the time of each game's release, they're not so impressive by modern standards). But Final Fantasy XIII was seen by pretty much all fans of the series as the last nail in the coffin of a once beautiful thing. The "writers" of the story of this game, for whatever reason, decided that exposition is for wusses, and didn't give any... at all... ever... in the entire fucking game. So you are dropped in the middle of some sort of action scene with characters you know nothing about, doing... something... because reasons. And these are vital plot and character elements that you NEVER find out in the entirety of the game. You have to spend about 20 hours reading ingame datalogs that tell you what's going on and why if you want to know, and they are a friggen chore to read through too. Not to mention the fact that they don't all unlock at the beginning. You have to play all the way to the end of the game to even know what the hell was going on at the beginning by reading datalogs outside of gameplay.

Why do I bring this up, you ask? BECAUSE THIS BOOK IS EXACTLY THE FUCKING SAME NOW!!!! If I sit down to read a book I expect the author to introduce me to his characters, and tell me who they are and why I should give a damn about them. I expect to have some idea of what they're doing, why, and what's at stake if they fail. These are BASIC storytelling elements, the bare bones of a plot, and they are utterly absent from this piece of shit book. I never really got a feel for who the characters are as people, how they knew each other, why they cared about one another, or why I should care about them. It made the book just utterly mind-numbing to sit through. And on top of that, there were WAY more characters than there needed to be, and not enough personality to go around.

This is something I didn't really notice in the original version, but the wording of this version seemed a little over the top into flowery prose that, rather than making the author look like he's good at writing, it pretty much just made it seem like he was trying way too hard. Here's an idea, lose a lot of the flowery poetics and just tell me what's going on and why I should care about it, eh? When you've done THAT, then you can work on making it sound pretty. Poetics are superfluous when the entire rest of the story is an utter disaster that needs a considerable amount of further work to make it readable.

Do not read this book. Seriously. Don't. It is fucking terrible and the author is an incompetent moron that doesn't know the first thing about telling a story, or building his characters. If you must, read the originally published version rather than this train wreck.

message 2: by Mark (new)

Mark G HAHA WOAH! Oh man that was the most comprehensibly brutal review (well double review cause you hit it even harder in the comments section) I've ever seen about anything! Nice job I won't be reading this book ;)
Perhaps the comparisons in the lines of Brandon Sanderson and Orullian we a measure of authorship after all.

Autumn Thank you for this. I just dragged my way through this book and I didn't dislike it but something was missing. As a mom of three young kids, I don't have time to type up a good review. You secondly and description of the characters was spot on. I think the author has the potential to do much better!

Matthew L. TL;DR

Vicki I wish I'd read your review before I wasted my money, time and eyesight on this book.

[redacted by S.H.I.E.L.D.] Bravo, sir. Bravo

message 7: by Richard (new) - added it

Richard C I'm roughly a third of the way thru this book and I'm finding it hard to continue on. I have read 3 other books since placing it down a month ago, but the story and a couple of the characters I found a connection with. I believe the author tried to add too much to make it this epic grand book and that's what losing me. As with so many sci-fi fantasy books they tend to be too long. I will finish this book because of the interesting elements in it and the connections between some of the characters. So far it's a 3 star book, hoping it grabs me soon.

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