Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for The Wolf of Oren-Yaro!
Title: The Wolf of Oren-Yaro
Author: K S Villoso
Publisher: Orbit Books
Publication date: 18 February 2020
Genres: 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.
Rating: 4 of 5 stars
Warnings: xenophobia, torture, mentions of domestic abuse, sexual slavery and predation, threat of sexual assault and attempted sexual assault, on-page suicide, animal death
The Wolf of Oren-Yaro is a character-driven story about a young technically-a-single-parent queen who was brought up as a symbol of peace in their divided nation, and who has to keep it together despite practically everyone being against her; her mission of reconciliation with her estranged husband has her trapped in another country with few allies and fewer resources.
Talyien belongs to a clan of people who are considered brutish by other clans in her country, and her country itself is considered brutish and backward by the Empire that is their neighbor, and so most of her position is be diplomatic even though she is continuously underestimated. Her being a Queen, equal in ruling power, as opposed to just a Queen subservient to a King means that she isn’t popular and is blamed for everything, even the fact that her husband left her the night before their coronation; them being from warring clans, and him being from the previous long line of rulers means that their relationship is a very big part of the politics of their country. So when he calls her to a ‘neutral’ location in the Empire, she goes in secret to see if they can be reconciled, but an assassination attempt has her separated from her soldiers, wandering the country for allies and supporters who would help her get back.
A dragon alone did not make you a ruler. A dragon did not make loyal followers. Of course, I had neither. What did that make me?
Talyien’s story depends a lot on her characterization – outwardly she is proud, temperamental, and has an image of well, a bitch, but internally, she still has feelings for her, frankly, worthless husband. Her upbringing was such that she was basically told the peace in their nation hinges on their relationship, so she buys into the idea that they have to make it work, and that there is love between them. The reality, however, is that their ‘meeting’ turns out to be as petty as a divorce settlement, and she is sure he is being influenced by the Empire’s officials into making decisions. She is still willing to try for the sake of her country and her young son, when her clan thinks her weak and his clan looks down on her. During her journey, though, she has the chance to take off the mantle of Queen for a time, think over things, have a chance to like someone else for a change. Still, it is not all roses, as she keeps getting caught up in others’ schemes, or has to get out of tricky situations.
That’s a girl’s heart you’ve got, sitting there holding on to that letter like your life depended on it. We grow up, and some of us think we learn, but the truth is we would rather listen to our own lies for as long as there is a sliver of hope that they would turn out correct after all. There is nothing wrong with it. Will the world run on cynicism?
For most of the book, the story is quite engaging, and the pacing is not fast but good enough to keep things exciting and readers on their toes. There are a couple of good twists thrown in, which make the plot building up to something worthwhile. But the ending kind of becomes disappointing, because when it is revealed what happened 5 years ago, it feels so petty, and considering that forms a part of the core of this massive political plot, I felt it was a let-down of sorts. However, the consequences from that do leads into some interesting threads to carry forward into the sequel, so I am looking forward to that.
Is it diverse? Filipino-inspired fantasy culture, with PoC cast of characters
Received an advance reader copy for the blog tour.
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.