Smart, Rough, and Adrenaline-Packed: A Review of The Wolf of Oren-Yaro by K.S. Villoso
Words By Suzie Bartholomew
Published February 18, 2020 by Orbit
“They called me the Bitch Queen, the she-wolf, because I murdered a man and exiled my king the night before they crowned me,” are the first words that catapult readers into the world of The Wolf of Oren-Yaro by K.S. Villoso. It opens on coronation day for Queen Talyien, a woman who must maintain peace in her divided country of Jin-Sayeng, in spite of Warlords questioning her every move and the fact that her husband has left her to rule alone. Once she receives a message that sends her across the sea with hopes of reconciliation, Talyien finds herself in a foreign land dodging assassination attempts. As she tries to find her husband, Talyien travels through this unknown country and must decide what is truly necessary for her to lead Jin-Sayeng, whether it is what she wants or what her country needs. This is a novel brimming with tension and, in my completely biased opinion, a wonderfully detailed fantasy world.
From start to end, The Wolf of Oren-Yaro is fast-paced, jumping from one moment to the next. Villoso’s writing keeps the reader off-balance, much like Talyien is throughout the story, never really sure where she is heading next. That’s not to say the story doesn’t have a solid plotline. We wonder alongside Talyien: Is the person next to her trustworthy? How can she possibly get out of this? And is it really possible to travel any backroads without running into bandits?
Beyond the action is the character of Talyien herself. Ever constant, Talyien drives the story forward, hoping to find her husband and reunite their lands to stop future bloodshed. She has a single goal, one that changes only in how she will achieve it. But it is her growth that is the most impressive. She manages to reconcile duty to her role and people with her own personal longing to have both husband and son at her side. We see her recognize not only the faults in her own desires, but also her struggle to balance them with what she knows must happen in the end.
Villoso does a fantastic job of putting together a strong fantasy epic that seemingly winds characters and situations around one another without purpose, only to bring all the threads deftly together by the end. From betrayals to nonstop action, the story keeps you on edge most of the time, but there are many moments of introspection that allow the reader a chance to catch their breath and appreciate the world before them.
If you’re looking for a new fantasy novel to read, The Wolf of Oren-Yaro should definitely be your next choice. With a smart, rough narrator, willing do what it takes to unite her country, this novel is full of intrigue that will keep you hooked. K. S. Villoso is a strong new voice in the fantasy genre and it will be exciting to see what this author gives us next.