Book Review & Aesthetic: The Wolf of Oren Yaro by KS Villoso

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Title: The Wolf of Oren-Yaro
Author: K.S. Villoso
Publisher: Orbit
Publication date: February 18th, 2020

Diversity Representation: Filipino inspired characters and world building, Asian author

Content Warnings: attempted murder, abandonment, racism, violence, blood, rape, sexual violence, kidnapping, torture, indentured slavery

Stunning, immersive, character driven, full-of-twists page turner!

I’ve had The Wolf of Oren-Yaro on my to read list for quite some time, but I was not ready for the richness of characters that were portrayed in it. This book is beautiful. I was in absolute awe the entire time at the character depth. Not just of Talyien, but every character she interacts with.

“They called me “bitch”, the she-wolf, because I murdered a man and made my husband leave the night before they crowned me.”

Quick summary: The Wolf of Oren-Yaro follows the queen of a fractured nation. Her arranged marriage brought peace to the land, but right before coronation, he disappears. The story opens five years later, when Queen Talyien receives a mysterious letter to from her husband to meet. Talyien travels across the sea, to a nation she doesn’t know, to meet with Reyyel, her husband and the father of her child, to find out what happened.

What I found the most impressive about this book was the characters that Kay Villoso was able to create. This story is told from the first person perspective of Talyien, but somehow she still managed to create depth from each character, despite having only the single viewpoint. It was absolutely stunning. I could see first hand the downfalls of Talyien’s perspective, but at the same time, even though her eyes, I could see things that she missed. Which is an incredible balance that I don’t think most authors are able to master!

Queen Talyien is an incredible character. I don’t say this lightly! She is absolutely one of the best main characters that I have ever read. She has so much depth, and each of her decisions is weighed between the multiple lenses that make her so human. She is a mother, a wife, a queen and a warrior. Each decision she makes is weighed between all pieces of who she is, and each decision makes sense for who she is. She is incredibly clever, but she also has flaws. She is blinded by love, but manages to get out of tough situations with her wit.

“Five years of regret has a funny way of fermenting inside someone—like wine, it had only gained potency over the years.”

This book draws heavily on Filipino characters and influences, and it is done so beautifully. The food is Filipino, the atmosphere is Filipino, and the setting is rich with Filipino influences. It is absolutely incredible to read a book with so much Asian influence, I felt right at home. Though I’m not Filipino, I was so happy to see all of these influences. I absolutely recommend reading reviews on this book by Filipino reviewers. Check out this incredible review here to get you started.

The Wolf of Oren Yaro is an incredible, character driven fantasy, that will have you on your toes with the twists and turns. Kay Villoso has written such relatable and human characters, you will be immersed into the story immediately.

The Wolf of Oren-Yaro has this badass swordfighting in the Philippines vibe. I absolutely loved it. Honestly the cover art for this book captures the vibe perfectly, I’m so impressed with it after reading the book. Here is my aesthetic board for The Wolf of Oren Yaro!!!

I’m Kay. I write weird, intense, character-driven fantasy stories that wear their hearts on their sleeve and aren’t ashamed about it. I particularly love to write about broken things: systems, structures, but mostly people.

I was born in Albay, Bicol, the land of pili nuts, chili peppers, and that people with their fierce Bicolano pride (oragon ini!) We moved when I was very young, and most of my formative years was spent in Taguig, Metro Manila, in the slums outside a military base. There wasn’t a lot of safe places to play in–the closest thing we had to a playground was a parking lot and a sewage-filled river. And coming from a poor family, we didn’t have much to buy books, except mostly second hand or bargain bin items. I learned to make my own entertainment by writing, which I developed very early on by mimicking sentences from old classics like Call of the Wild, The Jungle Book, and Little Women.

We immigrated to Canada in my teens, where I continued writing as my family attempted to chase the North American Dream. Since then, I’ve juggled my writing career with motherhood, a whole heck of a lot of side projects, and a bit of civil design. I now live in Anmore, BC, a magical place where there are more trees than people. It’s wonderful.

Have you read the Wolf of Oren-Yaro? Is this on your list? What was the last Filipino inspired fantasy you read? How happy does own voices fantasy make you?!

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