Hello, friends! Today I have The Wolf of Oren-Yaro by author K.S. Villoso. Earlier this year I kept seeing this book on Instagram and on must-read lists, so naturally I was intrigued (especially since the author is Filipino!). Everyone only had good things to say about it so I decided to get a copy when the Kindle version went on sale back in April. But because I’m a terrible reader I only got to it in August.
I’m going to be honest. I wasn’t sure I wanted to post my review, even when I joined a blog tour for the sequel, because the book wasn’t what I expected. Not that it was terrible, it just wasn’t.. er, what I expected. Hah. Anyway, let’s just get on with it.
Read on for more about the book and my rambling thoughts about it.
The Wolf of Oren-Yaro
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.
Add The Wolf of Oren-Yaro on Goodreads.
A mix of exciting elements; there’s something worth reading there, but kinda left me wanting.
I had such high expectations for this book because of all the praise and that kickass cover and the promise of a badass bitch queen. But, alas, it seems I am part of a very small, teeny tiny group that didn’t get blown away by this book. Boo.
I just didn’t love it as much as everyone did. I don’t think it’s a terrible book. It just didn’t grip me like I thought (hoped) it would. Chalk it up to ill timing or my overall state when I was reading. I don’t know.
The story is intriguing enough and all the other elements are pretty exciting stuff. You have a seemingly ruthless queen, interesting supporting characters, a divided kingdom with warlords and clans, an intriguing history of war and bloodshed, dazzling foreign empires, political intrigue, assassination attempts, betrayals and conspiracies. There’s even mention of wild dragons and hints of magic. These are all awesome stuff — stuff I’d normally be into — but I just didn’t get that whoa feeling.
Was into it at first.
I didn’t mind the first person narrative and I thought the pacing was good. The writing style was good and the author did a good job describing settings, places and things.
I can’t comment much on the world building though and that’s weird cos it’s one of the top 3 things I love about fantasies and sci-fi (the other two are the magic systems and the main characters). For some reason, nothing really stood out to me. Maybe I wasn’t really paying attention?
Several chapters in, I started getting annoyed with the baybayin texts in the chapter headings. I was excited when I first saw baybayin (an old Philippine writing system) under the first chapter heading. I noted them all down for each chapter. Then I realized they were the same words repeating in the same order. At first they made sense because they were words like lobo (wolf), lawin (hawk or falcon) and lakan (chieftain or lord), but after a while I couldn’t relate the word to the corresponding chapter anymore. And there was one word I couldn’t figure out. It frustrated me. It’s not really a big deal maybe, but I just wish there was more to it or some kind of explanation.
Wanted a more stabby-stab-stab kind of queen
Strong female protagonists are my fave. I adore honorable, stable, morally upright female protagonists, but I also luuurve badass, trigger happy, stab-first-talk-later, warrior, fighter, maybe morally grey female protagonists. When I read that this was the “bitch queen chronicles,” I was kinda hoping Queen Talyien would be the latter (the stabby one). And although she was in a way, she was not really as vicious and ruthless as I hoped her to be. (Am I evil??)
She wasn’t soft but I guess I expected more from someone who was raised by a vicious warlord father and taught and trained to be some kind of a warrior queen since infancy. I read in some reviews of the book that it simply shows that as much as she’s a queen she’s also just a woman trying to deal with a lot of things, and I get it, I really do, but I really just wanted a more stabby-stab-stab kind of heroine, you know what I mean? Am I weird? (Yes, I definitely am.)
Also, the word bitch. The people called her that because of her supposed reputation and because she wasn’t living up to whatever impossible “queenly” or “womanly” ideal they wanted her to be. She’s not perfect, so she’s a bitch? This kind of thing is all too real for all women right now in the real world, so I wanted Talyien to at least really own that word. (More in the next books maybe?)
Didn’t really care for that ending.
The crazy twists were interesting, but that ending was just unsatisfying. After all the things, that was it?? I really wanted Talyien to go in harder and be harder on everyone, everything, all of it. I don’t know what I was expecting, but that ending did not make me happy at all. (In my head I was like, “Kick him! Kick him!!” That’s all I’m going to say. LOL.)
So there. I haven’t been the best reader for a long time and maybe I just was not in the right mood when I read this. Or maybe I just didn’t get it. I really wanted to LOVE this book because this is the kind of book that we need to see more of — written by a woman, written by a Filipino, Filipino-inspired fantasy, POC characters, diverse, all that. So really, I’m chalking this one up to my mood when I read this. And I haven’t given up on this series and my review of book two may even be in the horizon (that is, if I can get my sh*t together haha).
Anyway, if you’re into fantasy, you might like this one, so check this book out for yourself!
As of the date of this post, The Wolf of Oren-Yaro is on sale on Amazon Kindle. Check it out now!
Note: I purchased my own copy of this book. All opinions and views expressed are my own.
About the author K.S. Villoso
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.
Find purchase links for The Wolf of Oren-Yaro here.