The Wolf Of Oren-Yaro, by K.S. Villoso is an amazing debut fantasy filled to the brim with action, wit and unexpected twists!
Synopsis: They call Talyien the Bitch-Queen, the she-wolf, the woman who killed a man and drove away her husband the night before she was crowned is hated by her subjects. She was a symbol of peace, her marriage a symbol of unity and hope, until her husband left her.
Now she is the ruler of a broken kingdom, a woman overshadowed by her fathers violence and the supposed violent nature of her clan. So when a letter arrives summoning her across the sea to a meeting that could restore peace, Talyien is determined to go – especially if it means she can avoid another war.
But her hopes of peace are quickly shattered when an assassination attempt occurs leaving her running for her life, stranded in unknown territories, and with no-one to trust. Talyien must become the Wolf her people believe her to be if she wants to make it out alive, but can she survive when no-one seems to be on her side? Can she restore peace and make it home to her son?
All Talyien knows is she is a wolf, and “A Wolf Of Oren-Yaro Is Not Tamed.”
— Incredibly Rich And Descriptive —
Writing Style And Narrative. K.S Villoso’s writing style is incredibly rich and descriptive meaning it is undoubtedly immersive and I was hooked right from the start. I was actually suprised at how immersive the writing was because it is written in the first person narrative style, normally I prefer my fantasy to be in third person but the author’s writing is so fantastic that I was drawn in anyway. Villoso’s writing is beautifully vivid, the senses are used effectively and the detail is stunning, so much so that you feel like you are in this world.
The first person narrative was a brilliant choice for this particular fantasy because we see the world from Talyien’s perspective and we see her thoughts, the reason it worked so well was because Talyien’s character was fascinating. Her perspective is limiting, we don’t know who she can trust or why this is all happening, but that only adds to the tension of the story and keeps you intrigued.
The tension and pace is also maintained through this perspective because we get little snippets into the past, the story alternates between the present and Talyien’s past leading up to her being crowned. We see these past events from her perspective and can slowly try to piece together the story – it adds more mystery to the novel and allows for us to form an opinion of Rayyel, and the relationship between the two, even if it may be a biased one.
Villoso is an extraordinary storyteller who manages to keep you immersed and intrigued despite the heavily political element of the story. The world and the characters are so complex and rich, and her descriptions perfectly portray this – I adored the writing style used and the first person narrative was done phenomenally well.
— Full Of Surprises And Shocking Twists —
Plot/Story. So, the story is a character driven one, there is a plot but it relies heavily on how the characters behave, and is focused around the relationship between Talyien and Rayyel. The story is well paced and has a lot of action but, despite her violent reputation, Talyien is rarely the instigator nor the reason for the events, in fact things just happen to her. This, however, doesn’t come off as passive, instead it makes you more interested as to why this is all happening and makes the twists and reveals more impactful and shocking.
The plot is focused around Talyien trying to come to peaceful terms with her husband, and hopefully she can bring him home to their son. Peace is important to Tali because, despite her title of “Bitch-Queen” she doesn’t want another war as it would be too damaging and she (as well as her marriage) was meant to be a symbol of peace and unity as the two are from warring clans. This, however, leads her to make some incredibly questionable decisions which leave her vulnerable and at a disadvantage. An assassination attempt occurs early on and Talyien finds herself alone without anyone to trust and the action only gets better from here.
It is a well paced novel, there is a good balance between the action of the story and the politics that are imbued within it. Being a story about a kingdom trying to survive after a war, politics is crucial to the story and to Tali and Rai’s relationship. But, the politics is not boring, there is a lot of information given to you throughout the story but not through ‘info-dumping’ it usually occurs through conversation very organically and is incredibly interesting. This, however, means that this book is likely to be more suited to avid fantasy lovers and high-fantasy adorers – which is perfect for me!
The concept for this story is incredibly unique and the story is full of surprises and shocking twists! This story is unpredictable and I was caught off guard multiple times, it is very cleverly told and you never know who you can trust. I spent the entire time while reading distrusting EVERYBODY, even the sweetest characters I was eyeing suspiciously because in this book anything can happen and anyone can be evil – never have I been so suspicious of an entire cast of characters. It was brilliant!
— Comlpex, Realistic And Dynamic —
Characters. Villoso’s characters are remarkable. They are comlpex, realistic and dynamic, and I loved reading about them. Each of the characters created are incredibly strong and evoke specific emotions from you, this makes it much more difficult to figure out who is actually trustworthy and adds an interesting layer of suspicion and mystery to the book. The characters are also very diverse, they come from different parts of their world, have different clans, and different views of each other – this, however, is not the stereotypical ‘this clan/race is inherently violent’. While some are seen as being so, the characters actually prove this to be untrue and a harmful stereotype, this is most prevalent with Tali herself and the book deals well with how preconceptions can be damaging.
Queen Talyien (Tali): Tali is a phenomenal character and is by far one of the most complex female leads I have ever read about. She is the “Bitch Queen” in many ways, she is sarcastic, witty, and can be cruel but she is also nervous, unsure of herself and lonely. Tali is a struggling Queen, everything she does is judged harshly because of her fathers reputation and because of her husbands absence. Despite this she is a strong person who ruled alone for 5 years and is determined to do whatever it takes to create peace despite everyone telling her she should go to war. She is an admirable character in this regard and yet she is also incredibly frustrating because of this. Her drive and determination paired with her nervous nature results in some poor decision making that will have you screaming at the book. But, it makes sense.
As the past is revealed and her personality becomes more apparent, the decisions she makes are understandable, at least by the end of the novel. There is so much to this character that I can only imagine how amazing the rest of this series will be. Tali is clever, she can fight, she can be cruel. But, she is sweet, kind and withdrawn too. She is both a fighter unafraid to get her hands dirty, but also feminine with a soft heart that is hopeful – We need more characters like this who are complex and dynamic and strong. I hope to see Tali grow more confident and sure of herself as the series goes on, she is full of potential!
Khine: The sweetheart of the novel and yet YOU CAN’T TRUST HIM because Villoso has done such an amazing job at destroying the trust you may have in any character. But, Khine is a fantastic character. Khine is a con-man, though clever enough not to be he has little choice and he has his own set of morals to justify this. He is incredibly loyal, helpful and likable, he is witty and clever but has difficulty with letting people go – he goes out of his way to be helpful. I loved this character, he is just as complex as the others with a lot to his personality (though I cannot say too much because spoilers!)
But his companionship/friendship with Tali is fantastic, they have hilarious conversations full of witty sarcasm and have to rely on each other despite not knowing if they can trust each other. I loved this and thought it was done very well. He wa definitely one of my favourite characters (alongside Tali) because his personality radiates through the pages.
Rayyel (Rai): So, Rai, the absent husband of Tali is largely absent throughout the book, but he does appear in some significant scenes and in Tali’s past narratives. Rai is clever, not really a fighter and is a walking encyclopedia. But, he appears to have little regard for the feelings of others, particularly Tali, and is not all that likable. However, Tali consistently describes him positively despite this so we get a very biased view of him and it doesn’t quite make sense until the end of the book – this was not an issue though, in fact it just added to the mystery of why he left and made the ending more shocking. He is an interesting character, not likable and yet you want to see more of him and know more about him.
Yuebek: … This man is the creepiest character in the book and is completely and utterly vile. There are a lot of ‘villains’/bad-guys in this book, all of which are very interesting and personally I love a good villain, redeemable or not they are interesting characters. But, this is a villain that just unsettled me to my core and it was brilliant! I hated this character which is why he was a fantastic bad-guy but I will say no more about him, he is for you to discover.
There are so many more characters who are equally interesting and complex, but you will have to discover them for yourself!
Overall. Villosos has undoubtedly created an amazing story, the extensive world building, the unique concept and the intersting multi-dimensional characters combine to create a stand-out fantasy that is phenomenal in so many ways. I will definitely be continuing this series because there is so much potential for it. The shocking twists, revelas and turns this book takes serves only to inspire my interest of how this will play out further on into the series. Villoso is definitely an author to keep an eye on.
If you love high-fantasy, back-stabbing politics, untrustworthy characters and a dynamically snarky “Bitch Queen” then this book is definitely for you.
*I received an eARC of #TheWolfOfOrenYaro, by #KSVilloso from #Netgalley @Orbitbooks @LittleBrownUK in exchange for an honest review*