I’m sure you’ve heard the hype surrounding K. S. Villoso’s latest, The Wolf of Oren-Yaro. If you somehow haven’t, let me hype up this book for you by giving you 5 reasons why you should add it to your TBR! Just to give you a bit of info before diving into the post, this book comes out on February 18th, 2020 from Orbit. It is planned to be a trilogy and the first two books were self-published before Orbit picked up the series to be traditionally published. The series is set in the same world as the author’s previous series, The Agartes Epilogue, which is already out in case you want to read in publication order. Strap in for a quick post and keep your wallet handy!
Reason #1: Strong female character
This trope is slowly evolving away from the image of a sword-wielding badass to include different kinds of strengths. You can add The Wolf of Oren-Yaro to the list of books that are contributing to that evolution. The main character in the book, Queen Talyien, is the picture of strength in so many ways.
She is introduced as a ruthless ruler who is ready to do what it takes to keep her country together. She is also a wife and a mother, with both of those identities being central to the plot. She is a wonderful contradiction of resilience and vulnerability, which adds layers of complexity to her character.
Talyien is ambitious and resourceful when she needs to be. She is protected and privileged in some ways but the narrative always calls out these instances in subtle ways. She is one of the most interesting main characters I’ve come across in adult fantasy.
Reason #2: Fast-paced plot
The plot has high-stakes and starts off with fiery intensity from the beginning. I was hooked within the first three chapters and the action is relentless after that. Adult fantasies generally start off on a slow note, so I appreciate this aspect of the book a lot.
Queen Talyien is content with looking after her fractured country when she suddenly receives a letter from her husband she hasn’t seen in 5 years. Despite her misgivings, she agrees to meet him on foreign soil on his terms. Everything goes wrong from the moment she steps foot in Ziri-nar-Orxiar.
The reader is plunged right into the thick of things from the very first page. It takes some time to get used to, but the world-building and setup does not get in the way of the progression of the plot. Talyien’s character development is integral to the progression of the plot, making it a character-driven narrative.
Reason #3: Asian-inspired world-building
It is always refreshing to read about a world that does not have a medieval European setting in adult fantasy. The world in The Wolf of Oren-Yaro is heavily inspired by Filipino culture and includes several Asian-coded elements. The author being Filipino herself, she draws on her experiences to bring a lush and imaginative universe to life.
As an Asian myself, it is wonderful to see the similarities between the various cultures of Asia. Here in South India we have the habit of eating with our hands, which is incorporated into the narrative in this book. I have never come across this in any fantasy book I’ve read so far and this small thing really warmed my heart.
From small things like the dish names to the rice fields that are the bread and butter of Jin-Sayeng, there is a bit of Filipino culture sprinkled in everything. The author has also woven a complex historical background of clan warfare and addresses issues like classism, bigotry and racism. Check out this review by Kate @ Your Tita Kate, a Filipino who loved the representation in this book!
Reason #4: Compelling mystery
The element that I most enjoyed and the one that I think will keep readers hooked is the sense of mystery. It is revealed in the synopsis itself that Talyien and her husband had a falling out. However, the reasons for that is unclear.
Bits and pieces of the mystery unfold throughout the narrative and it is entangled with Talyien’s feelings about the incident. I really liked how this seemingly simple falling out between two people in a marriage had such an impact on the plot. There’s an undercurrent of politics and betrayal that is handled with subtlety by the author.
It’s a bit difficult to handle mysteries that have emotional high-stakes as opposed to a heist or murder mystery in which it is external. There is a lot of depth and complexity in the former because the payoff needs to be worth it for the readers. I think Villoso did a very good job of that in this book.
Reason #5: Distinct narrative voice
The Wolf of Oren-Yaro is narrated in the first person and the reader only gets Queen Talyien’s viewpoint. I’ve already mentioned how good a character she is, but the writing style is one of the main reasons why this works so well with the plot. She has a really strong and self-assured voice that appealed to me.
The author does a good job of balancing the aspects of character development, plot progression and world-building. Good world-building is hard to pull off when you have a first-person narrative but Villoso does it with ease. I thought that it was a stroke of genius to set in a country that was unfamiliar to the main character and reader, thereby giving the writer the chance to explore it fully.
Another point that stood out to me was how accessible this book was to readers who haven’t read the author’s previous works set in the same world. I didn’t feel out of loop or disoriented at any point of time in the story. I also didn’t have to flip back the pages to reference things as Villoso cleverly avoided info-dumps and unveils the important elements in a natural way.
The Wolf of Oren-Yaro Blog Tour Information
About the Book
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.
About the Author
K. S. Villoso was born in a dank hospital on an afternoon in Albay, Philippines, and things have generally been okay since then. After spending most of her childhood in a slum area in Taguig (where she dodged death-defying traffic, ate questionable food, and fell into open-pit sewers more often than one ought to), she and her family immigrated to Vancouver, Canada, where they spent the better part of two decades trying to chase the North American Dream. She is now living amidst the forest and mountains with her family, children, and dogs in Anmore, BC.
Did I convince you to add this book to your TBR? Was it already on your radar? What do you think of the cover? Let me know in the comments section down below. Hope you are having a magical week, readers from Earth!