“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.
I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.
The Wolf of Oren-Yaro is a book I have seen passed around many a ‘Top XXX self-published books you should read’ list. Having gotten the chance to meet the author through various blogging circles, I was delighted to hear that Orbit picked this book up. I’m glad to say that my support for this book was not unfounded. The Wolf of Oren-Yaro finds its life in its main character Talyien, and while Talyien is brash and at times unlikeable character, her force-of-nature personality makes it hard to pull away.
I think the only way to start this review is to talk about Talyien. Force-of-nature, aggressive and unrelenting Talyien. Did I like her? To be honest, probably not. My favorite characters are the methodical and intelligent ones, always one step ahead of their opponents. Talyien is not that. Did I root for her though? Hell yes I did. The Wolf of Oren-Yaro is told from her perspective and as a very character-driven book, we learn a lot about her personality, her love for her son, all the shit she gets from her country, and the messy breakup between her and her husband. We learn of her (many) insecurities, from her husband issues to her daddy issues, but we also learn about the sheer amount of love she has for her son and her concerns for his future. Villoso paints this incredibly real and sympathetic character that even if you don’t like, you sure as hell can root for.
The worldbuilding is fantastic. The departure from fantasy-Western Europe is always nice, but the amount of detail that Villoso puts into creating this Asian-inspired world around Talyien is amazing. There are details on how the cultures dress, how they do their makeup, lost history and techniques from Taylien’s home (they used to be dragon-riders!). And then there’s the food. THE FOOD. I read this book in one sitting, fairly late at night in a nearby coffee shop and there were times I genuinely considered running home so I could make myself food. Early on, Talyien finds herself stuck in a different land and so we experience these new details as she tries to pick her way through the world.
The plot might be the part most people struggle with. I’ve seen multiple reviewers on GoodReads call the plot ‘anxiety-inducing’, and that’s probably the best descriptor I’ve read. Between how character-driven the plot is and how much worrying Talyien does on screen, reading becomes incredibly anxiety-inducing. Taylien goes through Some Shit in this book and with how much recovery and down-time she spends in-between big events, all of it taken up by Taylien worrying, events that would seem bad get feel even worse.
Overall, I rate this book a 4/5. KS Villoso has delivered a beautiful, character-driven story in The Wolf of Oren Yaro, packed full with political betrayals, a fascinating complex female lead, and phenomenal world-building.
/r/Fantasy 2019-2020 Bingo Squares:
- SFF Novel by a Local Author (Canada)
- Title with 4+ Words