Blog Archive

View My Stats
Saturday, May 30, 2020

The Wolf of Oren-Yaro by KS Villoso (Reviewed by David Stewart)



To say that I liked Tali, Queen Talyien, the Bitch Queen of Oren-Yaro, is like saying that I like coffee. I could take a few cups of Tali every day, six or seven on those days where I need the extra kick. She is a character, but also a character. Villoso has a knack for writing strong leads, with Luc in Blackwood Marauders being the best part of that book and now Tali in The Wolf of Oren-Yaro taking up the strong lead mantle. Told in the first person in a diary-like way, Wolf is Talyien's book from the first page to the last, and seeing the world through her eyes is never dull. She makes sitting down to tea readable. The story of Wolf has readers venture with Tali into a foreign land, and while I was expecting something political, I was not expecting the fish-out-of-water story that Villoso gifts us with, all the while asking readers a complex question - what does a queen do when she is stripped of everything that makes her royal?

Strengths

Well, I've already spoiled what I think is the strongest part of The Wolf of Oren-Yaro. Tali really steals the show, and she is reason enough to read this book. That she happens to be my "type" of character probably biases me towards liking Wolf, but even the best character needs a good plot and setting in which to work. Thankfully, Villoso has provided us with both. The story sees Tali venturing into the unknown, constantly beat up, and barely surviving to the very end of the book. The Wolf of Oren-Yaro is a political tangle, with Talyien hardly understanding her own nation at times, much less the complications of others. Villoso does politics and royal machinations very well, while at the same time not requiring an encyclopedia to keep track of a bunch of houses and one-off characters. The advantage of telling a book in first person that's also full of politics is that the reader only ever needs to know what Talyien knows.

The other great strength of the book is that question I posed in the start of this review. Talyien quickly loses all the shields that make a queen so invulnerable. She becomes a lamb amidst the wolves, and queens I've read about in other books would crumple in similar situations. Tali starts strong as a character, but her development over the course of her journey is key to The Wolf of Oren-Yaro succeeding. Villoso places her queen in situation after situation that tests her resolve and grit, and Talyien walks away a little different every time.

The other great strength of this book, perhaps its defining jewel, is Villoso's descriptions of food. This works both ways as some of the street food she describes is fairly nauseating, but her ability to either repulse or salivate her readers is truly beautiful. Not much more needs to be said about this.

Weaknesses

There were aspects of the setting in The Wolf of Oren-Yaro that I felt were underdeveloped. Part of this stems from the nature of the work. Talyien's journey takes her to very specific spots. We don't get the jumped perspective of someone across the nation to break up what we're seeing. That said, I would have liked a deeper exploration of Villoso's world. I am intrigued by some of the hints given, particularly those involving dragons, but I never felt fully immersed in the world as much as I did in Tali's story.

The biggest problem in The Wolf of Oren-Yaro, for me, was the big reveals, and most pointedly, the villain of the book. It is difficult for an author to build tension for a grand reveal near the climax of the story without giving away that very reveal by dropping overt hints or too many clues. I think Villoso errs in her choice of villain for The Wolf of Oren-Yaro, and while I think the character is fine by villainous standards, I found them largely fangless and simply an obstacle to be overcome - like a dark alley or locked room. Puppeteer villains like this one can work, but there needs to be, for the reader, some chance at guessing who is pulling the strings, or some kind of foreshadowing. Without that, it feels like the writer is forcing a reveal that is not entirely earned. This did not ruin the novel for me because there are strengths enough to appreciate, but given the sheer involvement of the villain in The Wolf of Oren-Yaro, I would have preferred to care more about them.

If You Liked


I place The Wolf of Oren-Yaro in august company in this section. It is fairly unique in that it didn't overtly remind me of much, but when I started thinking about it I found some similarities to some of my favorite books. Queen Talyien has much in common with Misaki, the lead character of the recent SPFBO winning Sword of Kaigen. These are women with power, but hindered by their cold-shoulder male counterparts. They are both middle-aged mothers, something not common enough in fantasy, and they both display a strength of character and physicality that is hard not to admire. I also thought of Senlin Ascends as I was reading Wolf. Though not much can top the sheer wonder of the Tower of Babel, Talyien has a similar helplessness when left to her own devices that echoed that of Thomas Senlin, and like Senlin, she manages to overcome her trials through character and wit.

Parting Thoughts


I didn't read The Wolf of Oren-Yaro when it was self-published, but I did read Villoso's other self-published book, The Blackwood Marauders. My biggest complaint with Marauders had been a subtle lack of polish, which I mostly attributed to the author's admitted ESL situation. When Orbit picked up The Wolf of Oren-Yaro for publication, I knew it would be worth reading because Orbit has one of the best editing teams in the business, and Villoso's storytelling and world-building talent would shine in their hands. I was not wrong, and The Wolf of Oren-Yaro's polish gleams in the sea of fantasy books we find ourselves with these days. It's a great start with one of the most refreshingly blunt and multi-faceted characters I've had the pleasure of reading this year. The story wraps up in an incredibly satisfying way that also leaves the reader wanting to see where Talyien goes in the next chronicle. Villoso has crafted a world and a cast that have possibility, and I'd honestly like to read the next book right now.


1 comments:

Srishti Verma said...

superb and awesome, keep posting

Alexa echo dot

Follow by Email

NOTEWORTHY RELEASES

Click Here To Order “Right To The Kill ” by Craig Schaefer!!!
Order HERE

NOTEWORTHY RELEASES

Click Here To Order “Spit And Song” by Travis M. Riddle!!!
Order HERE

NOTEWORTHY RELEASES

Click Here To Order “The Arkhel Conundrum” by Sarah Ash!!!
Order HERE

NOTEWORTHY RELEASES

Click Here To Order “The Company Of Birds” by Nerine Dorman!!!
Order HERE

NOTEWORTHY RELEASES

Click Here To Order “The True Bastards” by Jonathan French!!!
Order HERE

NOTEWORTHY RELEASES

Click Here To Order “Rumble In Woodhollow” by Jonathan Pembroke!!!
Order HERE