Monday, February 10, 2020

Review: The Wolf of Oren-Yaro by K.S. Villoso

The Wolf of Oren-Yaro
The Wolf of Oren-Yaro (Chronicles of a Bitch Queen, #1) by K.S. Villoso
Publication Date: February 18th, 2020
Paperback.  496 pages

About The Wolf of Oren-Yaro:

"'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."

This book was so different from other fantasy books and I've been really struggling to figure out how to capture it in a review. It's harsh and cruel and unforgiving and also weirdly captivating--much like our protagonist! I read this book back in September (which is also when I wrote the bulk of this review--don't want to forget things!) so I've had some time to sit and think about this book, and I still feel completely unsure how to rate it. Part of me was frustrated by the characters and plots, but another part of me was completely impressed by Villoso's unexpected world and decision to put such an unlikable person as her protagonist in a way that completely paid off.

The Wolf of Oren-Yaro follows main character Queen Talyien, or, as she's more affectionately and accurately dubbed, the Bitch Queen. When a series is titled "Chronicles of a Bitch-Queen," I expect a pretty hard-ass, intense character, and that's true of Talyien's personality for the most part. However, I also expected to like her a bit more than I did, because as it is I had a really hard time getting behind her many confusing decisions and nearly impossible to understand personality, which made it hard for me to enjoy this book as much as I know I could have. The confusing part for me, however, is that I was still weirdly hooked on her story and interested in knowing how it would turn, which to me is credit to Villoso's talent for writing a compelling story that knows just how to capture the reader's attention while also creating some very unique and strong-willed characters.

The world-building in The World of Oren-Yaro is impressive and took me by surprise. It's a very full world, and by that I mean it felt as though all the necessary corners and backgrounds in any setting were given adequate explanation that really let me feel as though I could imagine each scene in a vivid manner. I also appreciated how much many of these settings reflected the actions and characters of the novels, such as with some more bleak and/or violent settings that fit with some of the current situations and plot. The plot itself is sort of on the slower side and I felt this book was a little more focused on characters than action-heavy plot--which is fine with me--but it did leave me constantly wondering where this story was going to go, which I'm not sure I fully enjoyed.

I think one of the biggest strengths of this book is easily Villoso's strong narrative voice. If this book had been written in any other style or any way with even a little less personality and strength, I do not think I would've enjoyed or finished this book. Because of Villoso's voice, I was able to find myself becoming very engaged with the story and even the characters, despite my feelings about them, and I was constantly curious to keep turning the pages and see what new, unpredictable direction this story would take us in--and it definitely took us in some unexpected places! The ending was easily one of the most redeeming qualities of this book and has left me curious to see what the rest of this series will bring.

Overall, I think it's 3.5 stars from me. I'm almost at 3.75, but I have to acknowledge the struggles I had with some of the plot and characters and how much those did make it difficult to get into this book, so that's why I've ended up where I am. If you like to try new things and appreciate some unlikable characters, then I encourage you to give The Wolf of Oren-Yaro a try!

*I received a copy of The Wolf of Oren-Yaro courtesy of Orbit books in exchange for an honest review. This has no effect on my rating of the novel.*


  1. I'll be reading this soon and now I'm curious to see how I react. I've seen mostly positive reviews but you definitely have some good points.

    1. Oh now I am super curious to hear your thoughts as well! It's such an interesting book, definitely one I won't forget.