The Wolf of Oren-Yaro by KS Villoso
Let them speak ill of the bitch queen who brought ruin to the land with the same gilded tongue they praised the uncrowned king who was just as responsible.
Talyien was supposed to reunite her nation by marrying the son of her father’s rival, but on the eve of their wedding day, he left. For years she has struggled to hold her fractious people together and ignore the whispers of sedition and murder…until one day she receives a letter urging reconciliation. The only problem? The meeting is taking place across the sea, in the heart of her enemy. It’s certainly a trap, but Talyien has to know: will her almost husband return to heal his country?
A rough start but holy moly was I invested by about page 150 and it cannot end like this!!!
After a botched assassination leaves her closest minister dead, her almost husband either captured or conspiring, her guards scattered or fled, Talyien must navigate an enemy country alone, with no money, no resources and no allies. The Queen of Jin-Sayeng, the Bitch Queen, is alone.
How do I even capture my thoughts for this book I read nearly two months ago? It whispers in my mind, both frustrating and addicting, because while it wasn’t what I was expecting—often frustrating in terms of writing that felt like it needed a hint more polish with a plot that dragged—when it hit the ground, it hit the ground sprinting.
We grow up, and some of us think we learn, but the truth is we would rather listen to our own lies for as long as there is a sliver of hope they would turn out correct after all.
Talyien is an unreliable narrator—a woman who has had to put on a mask of the bitch queen, quash all emotion and become a super warrior in order to rule her patriarchal peoples. Because she has held herself apart and allowed herself and others to place her atop a pillar, because of her hurts that keep her isolated, she has drifted apart and is cannot even trust her closest allies when shit hits the fan.
Because shit hits the fan.
It’s hard to describe the twists and turns, and the politicking, but it’s definitely a high fantasy book that should be high up on the to-read list, although I was so annoyed by her quixotic quest for forgiveness from Rai, who is just about the most spineless sack of sanctimonious shit I’ve ever met.
It’s also incredibly character-driven vice plot-driven, which was an odd choice and reminded me a lot of The Queen of the Conquered in terms of how Talyien handles things and is constantly in her own head and believing the mythos of herself, but until that other book, this worked…better? Mainly because when the blood started flowing it kept flowing, and because it kept a cohesive(ish) plotline.
Anywho, a lot of the book delves into the legacy of the past. How the past permeates the future, how old alliances and grudges continue to manifest through children, how these strands are manipulated by those who seek to divide and ruin, and how it can be hard to lead when you cannot make yourself vulnerable to your own people.
I cannot wait to dive into book 2, and it’s been sitting on my desk since Christmas, waiting for me to get a chance to get to it already!
There are a bunch of trigger warnings for this one, so please pay attention before reading.