The Wolf of Oren-yaro
The Wolf of Oren-Yaro is the first novel in K.S. Villoso’s planned double trilogy The Annals of the Bitch Queen. For lovers of high fantasy and action, Villoso’s move will certainly satisfy, as she has created one of the most compelling woman protagonists in recent memory in Queen Talyien, who is seeking reconciliation with her lost husband and, at the same time, desperately trying to unite her divided nation. Early on, it is made clear to readers just how challenging that is: “The reality of ruling is complex, made even more so when you have a nation like mine, with empty coffers and people who hated each other behind polite words and empty smiles.”
Villoso takes her time in creating the universe of the novel. Fans of patient-yet-complex and in-depth worldbuilding will be fascinated by what she’s created. It is a vivid world, drawing from East Asian and Southeast Asian cultures, making it a refreshing change of pace from the standard Eurocentric medieval-fantasy tropes long dominating the genre. The Wolf of Oren-Yaro comes alive due to how deftly Villoso is able to enliven her settings. Casual but intricate details about mundane rituals and vivid accounting of foods make the prose feel palpable.
Against this rich backdrop, Talyien operates as a royal with seemingly little support. The clans and warlords buttressing her throne are seething with rebellion, causing neighboring nations to see her as weak and prime to be replaced. A solution to her political challenges brings Talyien face-to-face with her personal issues as she attempts to reunite with her husband, Rayyel, bringing him back into the royal fold to stabilize their nation. But there are myriad machinations and intrigues working to not only increase the divide between her and her husband but also dissolve any power or claim she may have to lead.
With this in mind, readers may expect a character who either swings into violent action or menacingly plots in the shadows. However, Talyien is written as a protagonist who is all too aware of the pitfalls and traps around her. She moves deliberately and, whenever she can, with surety (which is, unfortunately, rare). Thus, although she has a fearsome reputation and does spill blood on occasion, Queen Talyien is portrayed as being thoughtful and ruminative. For some readers, this may seem slow or frustrating, but we ought to remember that Villoso is plotting out a six-book series, meaning this epic tale will be a slow burn but definitely one that is bright. Because we experience the story from Talyien’s point of view, we see all of her strengths and weaknesses. It is delightful to read a novel whose protagonist is presented as full of doubt yet decisive, bold and brutal yet tender in her way.
Character-driven with distinctive settings, The Wolf of Oren-Yaro lives up to its hype and delivers a story at once politically and emotionally complex while being extremely satisfying in its earnest and authentic depictions. Villoso has written a superb novel, one that introduces what ought to be one of the best fantasy series.
|Page Count||416 pages|
|Publisher||Liam's Vigil Publishing Co.|
|Bookshop.org||Buy this Book|
|Category||Science Fiction & Fantasy|