When I first stumbled upon the announcement for this book, I wasn’t really paying that much attention to what the actual announcement said, I was just happily clicking “Add to TBR”.
So when I saw that the publisher had ARCs available, I reread the synopsis and realized that this book had a lot of promise. I haven’t read an epic, high fantasy in a long time and I was interested the Filipino-inspired world that it promised. Plus the author is based in Vancouver…so this is also Canadian-authored fantasy and we all know I gobble that up.
Stupidly, I started reading before a tense week of uni, so I read very sporadically and in short bursts until the weekend came around I swallowed chunks of this book!
The Wolf of Oren-Yaro by K.S. Villoso
Pub Date: Feb 18th, 2020
Publisher: Orbit Books
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.
*ARC provided by HBG Canada*
I LOVED EVERYTHING.
I AM NOT KIDDING WHEN I SAY THAT I LOVED ABSOLUTELY EVERY MOMENT OF READING THIS BOOK.
Lets start with these characters. It was sold to me as a character-driven novel and it delivered in every single way imaginable.
Tali, how do I even begin to express my love for her? She was such a witty, snarky and naive character who was just trying to do her best. *sobs* I mean, was she flawed? Absolutely. And I am not talking about the reputation that follows her around because her father was a total mass murderer. I mean that’s part of it, but Tali makes some not so great decisions, and she goes to lots of ends to cover them up. But she is also such an incredible voice. She is a woman in power whose husband has abandoned her, whose rule is constantly questioned and challenged by her countrymen, whose life is always in danger and all she just wants the peace that her birth, marriage and reign promised. She goes from being a feared queen to an unknown, left to the mercy of the streets. It’s a wild journey, and if I am honest, it gave her some much needed perspective. She is physically strong, raised to be a fighter but her emotional strength is definitely not up to par. It is tested and hinders her every step of the way. It was really amazing to read about because my gal struggles reading people’s intentions sometimes. Really, everything about her journey was so incredible to read about. I love her.
Khine. MY SON. WHO IS TECHNICALLY OLDER THAN ME, BUT STILL, MY CHILD. I love him. He was a conman with a heart of gold and honestly really dumb sometimes, but he is a cinnamon roll who must be protected at all times. Basically where he kind of lacked that physical strength, he was better at handling the emotions of others. He was a wonderful foil to Tali, without being too preachy and stiff. Ugh, I LOVE HIM!
Rayyel…I fucking hated this mans guts. I HATED HIM. You all do not understand how much I DETEST this little bitch. *Take a deep breath, Rendz* *Inhales, exhales* He was just a despicable character who was so central to this plot. He is not even a true antagonist. He is just that fucking despicable. I loved to hate him.
Others…gosh there are so many incredible characters in this story. There was complexity and diversity, there were some heroics and some villainous works going on with these side characters. They added to the richness of the tale and kept me entertained every step of the way.
This world was FASCINATING. Sadly, my ARC didn’t have the map with it, but I didn’t feel lost without it. Villoso does a great job of exploring the divisions of these nations, the history of the relationships between these peoples. Jin-Sayeng was such a complex place with the rival Oren-Yaro and Ikessar clans fighting for power. I also loved that we got to see the workings of the neighbouring empire that has lots of power, but poses a lot of dangers. There is so much to explore as Tali roams the streets of the empire. It’s dangerous, it’s comforting, but it’s mostly reallllyyyy dangerous.
The plot was wonderfully layered and laid out. There is the main present plot line which was all high stakes and constant suspense, then there were the snippets of the past that come in and play with your knowledge of what is actually happening. The best part of this whole story is that there is always a missing piece of information, there is always some secret that is being kept from the reader that makes you question what the heck is actually going on. AND WHEN YOU GET TO THE LAST 50 PAGES, EVERYTHING REALLY STARTS TO CLICK. SHIT GETS REVEALED AND I WAS LOSING IT!!!!
This book is also an EMOTIONAL ROLLER COASTER. Tali goes through so much shit and geez we have to experience it with her and it was possibly the best part of this novel. I felt so many things while reading this. Mostly I felt rage like Tali. Rage at the world. Rage at Rayyel. Rage at the fact that I have to wait for sequel! But there was also small moments that were heartwarming, lots of moments of despair and tension. THE SUSPENSE was killer! I couldn’t turn the page fast enough!
I CAN’T EVEN EXPLAIN TO YOU HOW MUCH THE ENDING TOTALLY MESSED ME UP. I was shooketh to my very core and I couldn’t be too loud about my freak out because it was close to midnight. IT WAS JAW-DROPPING GOOD. I mean I had inklings, but I doubted and then everything was revealed and AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!
After reading, I was left breathless. I was so exhilarated that I almost didn’t know what to do with myself so I just sat on my bed and smiled like a fool. It was a euphoria that I hadn’t felt in AGES. I am so completely in love with this story and its characters (except Rei!).
There is no questionable section because I cannot for the life of me find one single thing to critique. It was perfect for me. Completely and utterly perfect.
Overall, I loved everything about this book. Thrilling. Suspenseful. Addicting. Action packed. This is a high fantasy that you cannot miss! It was incredible!
Rating: 5 / 5 Stars
Recommend?: ABSOLUTELY YES.
Let me know what you think! Have you read this? Are you looking forward to reading this? What are some of your favourite character-driven stories? What was the last book that made you feel euphoric?