Title: The Wolf of Oren-Yaro
Series: Chronicles of the Bitch Queen, #1
Author: K.S. Villoso
Publisher: Orbit Books
Publishing Date: February 18th, 2020
Age Category & Genre: Adult, Fantasy
A queen of a divided land must unite her people, even if they hate her, even if it means stopping a ruin that she helped create. A debut epic fantasy from an exciting new voice.
“I murdered a man and made my husband leave the night before they crowned me.”
Born under the crumbling towers of Oren-yaro, Queen Talyien was the shining jewel and legacy of the bloody War of the Wolves that nearly tore her nation apart. Her upcoming marriage to the son of her father’s rival heralds peaceful days to come.
But his sudden departure before their reign begins fractures the kingdom beyond repair.
Years later, Talyien receives a message, urging her to attend a meeting across the sea. It’s meant to be an effort at reconciliation, but an assassination attempt leaves the queen stranded and desperate to survive in a dangerous land. With no idea who she can trust, she’s on her own as she struggles to fight her way home.
**Thank you so much to Shealea @ Caffeine Book Tours and Orbit Books for the opportunity to participate on the tour and for providing me an ARC. These, by any means did not affect nor influence my review.**
T/CW: death, attempted sexual assault, cheating, prostitution
I was really excited to read this book. It was written by a Filipino author and has a Filipino-inspired main character – things that are rare for me to encounter especially in adult fantasy. Imagine just how grateful and excited I was when I was given the chance to read it through a blog tour. And can I just say that the cover is A+????
WHAT I LOVED, NO DOUBT
The Wolf of Oren-Yaro follows Queen Talyien who went to another country to talk with and possibly make her husband – whom she married for political alliance, come back to their family and nation after he left them 5 years ago before their coronation. It is about a queen facing betrayals and dangers in a foreign nation and fighting for her life to be able to come back home.
I loved its concept and themes. It was really interesting to follow a story of a woman who must survive not just for herself but for her son, her father’s legacy, and her nation, amidst all the power hungry and evil men surrounding her, plaguing every places she goes and threatening her life. It’s about a woman playing politics.
I could fight and kill and bleed like the rest of them, but deep inside, I remained the sort of foolish girl who still believed in fairy tales.
The main character, Talyien, is multi-layered and is deeply flawed. She felt like a real human to me and doesn’t exactly fit into any stereotypes. I loved how she never stopped thinking of her duties as a Queen and as a mother and seeing her balance her roles as a mother, as a wife, as a Queen and just as a human, and face its challenges.
The themes and topics explored reflects reality: here comes a female leader with a bad reputation. Hence, despite her position and capacity to serve, her people disbelieve, disrespect and betray her which they probably wouldn’t dare do to a male leader; women being blamed for the actions of men in their lives; people acting as if it’s a wife’s duty to babysit her husband; the ease in how men twist women’s words; how different men and women deals with cheating; different forms of government and its implications. It further tackles marital issues, leadership, love triangle, power imbalance and the effects of politics to whole nations, and common people who don’t hold any power.
There was a lot of nod to Filipino culture. Some Filipino foods and customs are present. I have also seen hint of other Asian cultures and I was just so here for it.
WHAT I HAD MIXED FEELINGS ABOUT AND DISLIKED
I felt disconnected with the book right from the start. This started as really underwhelming for me mostly because of the main character and the world-building – which are huge deals for me especially in fantasy books. I wanted so much to root for Talyien. But it was difficult. I opened this book expecting a lot of bad-assery from her. A lot of bitchiness, to be honest. Instead, I was given a character who keeps on saying that she is intelligent and strategic but also keeps on acting otherwise. I was frustrated. I just wanted to shake her most of the time. I knew it was intentional, but I just couldn’t love her.
Most of the characters felt flat for me at first but I eventually liked some of them. I liked Agos. Rayyel was a trash. I loved Khine and liked her sisters. I liked how other side characters take part in the story. I had a hard time immersing myself into its world. It was a challenge for me and confusing on the beginning. I think I would have done better if I was able to see a map (not available in the ARC) for me to understand which words were places or not to make sense of what was being said. I didn’t know what to feel of the plot on the first half but it turned to be really good. The pacing was a bit slow, but quickened up as we reached the end.
It was only after I got passed 60% when I started to really appreciate this. The wolf in Talyien started to show and the plot twists also started emerging and spinning in my mind. It started to feel like a puzzle begging for me to solve. There were certainly a lot of unpredictability. The last three chapters were excellent, how I wish most part of the book was like that. I loved the confrontation scenes. I was gripped, my heart was beating so fast and I had to put the book down a couple of times to let things sink in, analyze what was happening, or just to scream at some characters. The ending is no doubt promising.
The Wolf of Oren-Yaro is full of complexities – from the main character to the situations they were in and promises a next installment full of political intrigue, unpredictable plot twists and challenges for the characters. I think I didn’t love this as I expected for mostly “me” reasons. I can see why majority would love this book. I would recommend this for fantasy readers who loves character-driven narratives and lots of political intrigue.
K.S. Villoso was born in a dank hospital on an afternoon in Albay, Philippines, and things have generally been okay since then. After spending most of her childhood in a slum area in Taguig (where she dodged death-defying traffic, ate questionable food, and fell into open-pit sewers more often than one ought to), she and her family immigrated to Vancouver, Canada, where they spent the better part of two decades trying to chase the North American Dream. She is now living amidst the forest and mountains with her family, children, and dogs in Anmore, BC.
#HailtheBitchQueen isn’t over yet! Follow the tour: