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.
Trigger Warning: blood, death, threat of sexual harassment. I keep spoilers vague and undetectable, nothing explicit.
The Wolf of Oren-Yaro starts as a tale of heroics, of a chosen one, a strong woman, a complicated warrior, a full bitch. Villoso focuses on Filipino inspirations for her world, one refusing to prioritize colonialism. Filipino people get to be the fire and light of this book. It is well enough time for that.
Opening the book, you’ll find a narrator telling you her story. Her thoughts, her feelings, her idiot husband. This is no story of the chosen one i.e. Kvothe being awesome at everything. This is something interesting. A chosen one expected to make all the correct actions, no matter if her husband refuses to acknowledge and shoulder partial responsibility, our Bitch Queen is faced with impossible situations at every turn. She’s asked to stretch herself for others; for men and their selfish desires. Nothing goes as she expects. The Chosen One does not make the perfectly calculated decision. Broken heart, broken marriage, and that beautiful thing called trust is taken from her. Completely.
It changes a woman, hearing such things. Hardens your heart. Twists your mind along dark paths you have no business being on. And perhaps it wouldn’t have mattered if I hadn’t loved Rai, but I did. More than I understood myself. More than I cared to explain.
Talyien has no trust after all the ridicule and betrayal. She cannot know the right decision, the way to survive and to curb all expectations of her. Perfection is not what we’re given. We’re given a complicated, messy, warrior queen. Everyone set against her, she rages and burns into something bright and dangerous as she picks herself up. Bloody, wet and dirty the scarred riot girl does not give in to the men rallying to tear her apart. We’re pulled slowly and then fast with a frenzied obsession into the slow moments, deep into the abyss of the bloody, the sweet, one bomb drop to the next slice of Talyien’s epic story. Like a great warrior king narrating his epic tale of valor and love, Talyien gives us a feminist story and improves our expectations of what fantasy can do. Men are the prey, Talyien the bloody teeth.
Talyien, the Wolf of Oren-Yaro and Queen of Jin-Sayeng, travels to another land. She must speak with her idiot husband for her son and people. She’s not just a wife but a queen. She must be tactile and politically minded. Torn between her heart for him and responsibility as Queen, she must decide what is best for her people. Angry at seeing his face for the first time in five years, she jokes about pork and a certain husband’s lack of a spine.
She is wit. She is brutality. Her bloody boots? Meet Rayyel’s ass.
Their meeting is met with assassins. For the second time she’s pushed into the streets to fend for herself. Death is almost always at her feet. All sorts of people try to taking advantage of her but crafty bitch Talyien weasles her way out every time. Unlike what I’ve read in other fantasy novels, this one treats scars and wounds as something in need of healing. It’s a realistic part of life. Who could have known that the anatomy is not just a magical thing you can break and then heal in the next chapter.
Along the way, Talyien meets people and she must discover how to trust after all her heartbreak. She does not always do the right thing or say the best thing. Sometimes, as her title suggest, she’s a bitch. We all have our baggage but it’s how we develop that matters.
Now that the inevitable unrest has arrived, why should you blame only yourself? What about the man who was supposed to shoulder half this burden?
Strangers or just a really hot thief helps her out. Every mess she’s thrown into he’s there offering a hand, kind words, tea and a cooked meal to go with some dashing smirk full flirting. He gives her a shield from the rain and an unfamiliar perspective on what family, love, friendship should look like. As queen, she’s always been told propriety above emotions. Talyien, bitch queen and wit princess only ever desired a roll in the dirt. Even in marriage, her relationship to her prince suffered from rules of propriety. True verbal communications of love got lost in the intense politics of their families expectations that they remain respecfully a Oren-Yaro princess and an Ikessar prince. Khine tells her the ways he loves his family and those he’s lost.
I love him. I am furious and surprisingly religious with the need for them to be endgame. I want kissing. I want feverish obsessive ‘thou art the stars to my night’ level of epic love for them.
“What about you?”
“Ah, my heart. You wouldn’t hurt me.”
“Why would you think that?”
“Because you wouldn’t.”
Hubris is me thinking I could read this without a heart attack.
Khine is nothing what you’d expect from a thief. You expect hyper masculinity and you get the oppsoite. In her husband you expect a misunderstood and villainous ex but you get a complicated if not idiot man. The men in this book are not something you’ve read a thousand times. They’re dumb sometimes and our chaotic bitch has to clean house but that’s what is so interesting about the relationships and characters in the Wolf of Oren-Yaro. They are all representative of what many women may experience from the men in their lives. All expect perfection when women are anything but that. Some use relationships to dictate and abuse power, like Yuebek. Some refuse responsibility in their mistakes, leaving women to face all the blame. Some are givers.
K.S. Villoso wrote a perfect book about love. This is a love letter to complicated women, bitches, and queens. A book of things you’ll want in your mouth, whether it’s a kind thief or a bun with unparalleled tastes. I may move and pack boxes of my things as my life continues but I will always have this book on my shelf.