What’s better than reading a high-stakes epic fantasy with well-balanced characters, a chock-full of political scheming and ferocious warrior queens? A PHILIPPINE-INSPIRED high-stakes epic fantasy with well-balanced characters, a chock-full of political scheming and A ferocious FILIPINA warrior queen! This is what makes up The Wolf of Oren-Yaro and as one of the last books that I’ll be reading this year, it is apt that it’ll wrap up my reading year with this gem. As always, a MASSIVE thank you to Shealea of Caffeine Book Tours and Orbit Books for sending me an ARC!
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.
Being able to read a Philippine-inspired epic fantasy with a Filipina MC brings me joy without bounds and this book definitely made my wishes come true. Finishing this read was like being handed an early Christmas present and I adored every single page I read of this book that I was so sad to finally reach the end.
To start off, this book has one of the strongest opening lines that I have read so far. The words, “They called me the Bitch Queen, the she-wolf, because I murdered a man and exiled my king the night before they crowned me.” immediately hooked me in and gave me a brief glimpse of what Talyien’s character was like. I immediately had this image of her being a warrior queen that had to endure quite a lot prior to her coronation and bore a foreshadowing of what was yet to come.
The setting of the book definitely drew some inspiration from Philippine settings as well. I had fun picking out the references to Philippine food and even some tidbits of culture and geography. It was like hunting for Easter Eggs and I immediately connected to the atmosphere of the book. Special mention to the food descriptions especially. It was a mistake to have my reading marathon in the middle of the night because I had really intense food cravings despite it being the time to sleep already.
Let’s delve in to the characters. Queen Talyien’s character may come across to other readers as impulsive, and choosing to suffer in silence instead of being outspoken thus relating it to a “weak” and “willful” woman, but with the way I see it, these qualities are her strength in a world where a woman is expected to keep up appearances whatever crises she is going through. Many might not know it but Queen Talyien’s traits are reflective of some qualities expected of Filipino women. Filipino women are expected to keep the helm of the family together, no matter what the stakes are. Talyien’s dedication to her husband is not only because of having leftover feelings for him despite him running away from her, but it is also coming from a responsibility to bring her family together for her son, and to stand united against the opposing forces that threaten to crumble their rule over Jin-Sayeng. Family bonds are upheld and valued most especially in Filipino culture as no matter what odds, family must stand together. The women are a central force in keeping this balance and tight bonds, so Talyien’s traits and emotions not only resonated with me, but it is also an important facet of her character to move the plot of the story forward.
Another character I really liked in this story was Khine. He was the man who assisted Talyien when she was left behind and I could not resist falling for his charms: he is charismatic, suave, and noble. Though he is a con man, he is doing it so to support his family. He really wormed his way into my heart and stubbornly stayed right there and I am really living for his interactions and relationship dynamic with Tali! I can’t wait to see mor of him in the next book.
As for Rayyel, I haven’t really connected with him in the book save for the snippets of flashbacks and him being absent for the story, but his relationship with Talyien sure is a driving force to keep the story moving forward. I can’t wait to read more about him in the next book and hopefully it’ll clear some facts about him.
On the other hand, the plot of the story was immersive, and world-building, as I mentioned in the previous paragraphs was vivid and lets the reader get a feel for the atmosphere and setting of the place. The narrative exposed several political schemes that threaten to weaken Queen Talyien’s hold over her kingdom and reading through them kept me entertained and immersed as I tried to untangle and follow the leads as to who’s the puppet -master in one scheme to another. There were several plot twists that I did not expect and it really kept me on the edge of my seat while I turned page after page.
To sum it up, I really loved every single page of this book. It is empowering to be able to see your culture being represented in media, especially books. This book is like a care package and a love letter to the Philippines and the main character was very endearing and I grew attached to her through the course of reading this book. I could not recommend this enough, but I think it’s a book that everyone should be able to read and enjoy!
The Wolf of Oren-Yaro is out in bookstores by February 2020.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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.