“None of it mattered. My duties were far from over. A wolf of Oren-yaro fights to make it right, down to the last breath. A wolf of Oren-yaro does not beg. A wolf of Oren-yaro suffers in silence”
The Wolf of Oren Yaro by K.S. Villoso focuses on the character of Queen Talyien. It has been 5 years since her estranged husband, Rayyel Ikessar unexpectedly left her the night before their coronation. The reason she married him was because in doing so it united their waring region/clan. Since he left, Talyien has barely kept her homeland together with warlords refusing to listen to her and take her decision making seriously. Talyien then miraculously receives a letter from Rayyel to meet him in Anzhao in the hopes of sorting out their differences. However, when Talyien arrives and meets Rayyel at the meeting point, it soon turns into a bloodbath as Assassin’s attempt to kidnap her and her guards are killed. Escaping was the easiest part, Talyien is now all alone and must navigate through a foreign land that doesn’t want her there. She soon discovers a lot of shit has been going on behind her back and she must use all the courage she has to outsmart her way out of Anzhao if she ever wants to return to Jin-Sayeng.
The Wolf of Oren Yaro was such an excellent fantasy novel and a great first book to a series I can’t wait to continue! I think one of the main things that drives this story forward is the character of Talyien. I felt she had a lot of personality and her narrative was very engaging. Obviously I can’t relate to her story, but through the writing Villoso instantly makes you feel part of the world she has created through Talyien. You really learn about her and all of the shit that’s been happening around in her life. Especially the pressure of having to run a land without her husband who just walks away from her. It is up to Talyien to pick up the pieces and keep Jin-Sayeng together.
When Talyien is having to fend for herself, Villoso highlights the vulnerabilities of the character. Even though she is Queen, no one respects her or even tries to help her. She must quickly adapt to the situation and try to make sense of her new surroundings. But through this I feel Talyien manages to grow as a person and realise that many things are not in her control.
However, throughout the story we see that Talyien is not someone you should underestimate when pushed into a corner. When she is first stuck all by herself I was very nervous about what would happen to her. But through her own will and determination she manages to fend off her enemies from left, right, centre. Not with ease but she manages to find a way out of the most uncomfortable of situations. This added a lot of tension and had me on the edge whenever she found herself on the brink of death. I also loved how much of a badass Talyien is. She’s an incredible sword fighter and many of those who underestimate her skills end up falling on their ass 😂.
“I think,” Khine said gently, “that it’s no longer up to you. You can’t honestly think you can control everything your warlords and their lords do. Even now, it’s clear that they’re moving on their own, queen’s approval be damned. The fate of your nation is out of your hands”
In terms of the side characters, there are many we come across throughout the story. My favourite was definitely Khine, an incredibly witty and sharp con-man who helps Talyien out of many awkward situations. I loved how caring he was for people and honestly the man had a heart of gold! No matter what he stood by Talyien, even when she told him to piss off he was there to help her. I really wanted them both of them to be a “thaang”. We then have Talyien’s husband Rayyel who wasn’t in the story as much but we see glimpses of him, especially through flashbacks. I didn’t like Rayyel at all, be was such an untrustworthy weasel😤. I can’t believe Talyien fell in love with this nincompoop. We then have Prince Yuebek who acts as the main antagonist. When we are introduced to him you’d think he was an ally but it soon becomes apparent be is not. I pictured him as Emperor Kuzco from the Emperor’s New Groove as his head was so far up his ass. Essentially, every character stood out for me due to their individual personalities and distinct voice.
When considering the world building, I really liked how the story takes place across different settings. The Asian inspired world was such a treat and brought me back to The Poppy War Trilogy by Rebecca F Kuang. In each place Talyien travels people speak different dialects which is something the characters point out when Talyien speaks or when she hears someone speak. Each of the locations also come with their own history which I found really intriguing.
Overall, a fantastic opener to a series I can’t wait to continue. The characters are very interesting and the world is full of history and depth. I really enjoyed the political elements as well as it added a lot tension. I’m so excited to start reading book 2 😊
Thank you to Angela and Orbit for sending me a copy! I’m grateful as always 😊