I loved The Wolf of Oren-Yaro by K.S. Villoso. Originally a self-published fantasy novel, Orbit published Villoso’s debut this February and it blew me away. Fast-paced, action packed and well written, I’m going to be thinking about this for a long time and I’ve already pre-ordered the sequel. What is it about, I hear you ask? In a nutshell, Queen Talyien inherits the throne of Jin-Sayeng alone – her husband, the heir to a rival clan, left her and their son the night before their joint-coronation and left the promised peace in tatters. After a terrible war that tore the nation apart, their union was supposed to end hostilities and bring about a new era. Tali’s rule is on a knife-edge, the warlords are straining at their leashes, constantly questioning her decisions and always judging her. When she receives a letter from her husband after a 5 year absence, Talyien rushes to the neighbouring Empire for a secret meeting hoping to drag him back to their Kingdom. Chaos ensues.
I was hooked pretty quickly as the plot gets going straight away and doesn’t let up until the end. It’s one of those stories that makes you count down the hours at work until you can get home and back to this amazing world. Filipino-inspired, the descriptions of the places, food and cultures are incredible. I could picture every scene without ever feeling the pace slow. Volloso masterfully weaves the histories of the world and characters in with the story, feeding you the information as and when it’s pertinent while also hinting at other wonders off-scene (dragons) that I am hoping we’ll explore in the next books.
It is told from Talyien’s point of view and I enjoyed being inside her head. While I could see the flaws in some of her plans and thoughts, experiencing the story as Tali meant that I was heavily invested and felt all of the twists and betrayals keenly. I liked that at the start of the book she’d already been on the throne for 5 years. At 26 she is still a young protagonist but she’s experienced, she’s finished her schooling and has been trained as a warrior. While she may struggle to fully assert her control as Queen, she understands why and is stoic in her attempts to rule her nation well. It is a welcome change from young teen protagonists struggling to get established and whose stories end with them ascending a throne. This is what happens after, and it is not all sunshine and roses. It has been a long time since I felt this immersed in a fantasy world and truly cared about what happened to the characters. Yes, the plot gets a bit mad at times and I didn’t always understand what was going on but the emotional turmoil I went through while addictively turning the pages left me feeling a little in love with this story. Okay, a lot in love. Any book (and author) who can make my heart race, my stomach drop and my mind whirl gets all the stars in my eyes.
There is death, destruction, kickass fighting, con artists, and peril galore. Some parts were achingly sad, others dramatic and outrageous. I cannot wait to read more from K.S. Volloso, a new favourite for sure!
‘I could fight and kill and bleed like the rest of them, but deep inside, I remained the sort of foolish girl who still believed in fairy tales.’