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A queen of a divided land must unite her people, even if they hate her, even if it means stopping a ruin that she helped create. A debut epic fantasy from an exciting new voice.

"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.

496 pages, Paperback

First published April 5, 2018

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About the author

K.S. Villoso

19 books597 followers
I write character-driven epic fantasy with huge doses of horror, angst, and frustratingly tangled character relationships. You can read more about my work at my website:

http://www.ksvilloso.com

__

K.S. Villoso was born in a dank hospital on an afternoon in Albay, Philippines, and things have generally been okay since then. After spending most of her childhood in a slum area in Taguig (where she dodged death-defying traffic, ate questionable food, and fell into open-pit sewers more often than one ought to), she and her family immigrated to Vancouver, Canada, where they spent the better part of two decades trying to chase the North American Dream. She is now living amidst the forest and mountains with her family, children, and dogs in Anmore, BC.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 773 reviews
Profile Image for Petrik.
654 reviews39.8k followers
May 9, 2020
3.5/5 Stars

ARC provided by the author in exchange for an honest review

The Wolf of Oren-yaro is an infuriatingly compelling and addictive first book of a trilogy.

I seriously can’t describe this book more appropriately than that one sentence. Let me expound upon it further. The first book in the Annals of the Bitch Queen trilogy by K.S. Villoso is a highly character-driven fantasy, which is probably my favorite type of story direction. That said, I’m going to start my review with the only con I had on the book, which is the main character, Queen Talyein; she lived up to the name of the series perfectly. I mean it, she’s seriously a Bitch Queen.

I’m not going to sugarcoat my words here, throughout the book I was infuriated, yet I found it hard to stop reading. At one point, I actually thought “there’s no way this book is receiving more than 3 stars rating from me, just no way.” Why? Simple: being inside Talyein’s head was often maddening because she made tons of stupid decisions and illogical actions, which went on for a long time. For a character-driven book, I need to be able to root for the main character, which was extremely hard to do during most of my time of reading this book. Not to mention that the story revolved heavily around Talyein’s obsession with his ex-husband who we know betrayed her in the beginning of the book; the saying “love is blind” is one of the driving force behind this book.

“The thought of what had been—of what could yet be—persisted. Perhaps it is not the same for most people. Perhaps, when you love less, it is easier not to let the emptiness become a cavern from which you could no longer see the sun.”


However, the last 50 pages almost completely changed my opinions about those negative aspects. Every decision, finally made sense whether you agree with her or not. It’s obvious that throughout the narrative, Talyein is hiding something from the reader, she’s keeping this “tough outlook, soft-hearted” mask; it’s not until the last 50 pages—where the story goes full throttle and becomes addictive—that the reader finally understands all the reasons behind it.

I must say that, by the end, I was impressed by what K.S accomplished. It’s not easy to make a character-driven story with this kind of main character. I can already imagine how many people will go “Why are you so stupid???” “Why did you do that!?” but trust me, as annoying as the main character can be, there’s a reason for it. This also means that the last two books have plenty of room for major improvements for the character development and if K.S managed to pull it off, this will be a fantastic character-driven trilogy.

Not only was the pacing of the book fantastic, the world-building was equally great, with plenty of histories and a vivid environment. K.S introduced these aspects gradually, and even though this book takes place in the same world as her previous trilogy—Agartes Epilogue, which I haven’t read yet—I found it absolutely okay to start reading her work here without any difficulty. Plus, the simplicity of the prose made this book highly compelling and addictive to read despite how infuriating some of Talyein’s decision could be. Also, the 1stperson narration was written really well; there’s an emotional line of thinking behind Talyein’s actions and we know all her thoughts behind them, whether we agree or not.

Despite my pessimism about the book, by the end, I found that I enjoyed it as a whole much more than I disliked certain parts. You have to be patient reading this book, but believe me, it’s worth it in the end. If you’re a fan character-driven stories featuring a complex female heroine, this is something you should definitely try. There is much room for development in the series and if K.S manages to make Talyein likable in the next two books in a realistic way, the Annals of the Bitch Queen will most likely become a satisfying and exhilarating series with rich character development in it.

P.S: The Asian cuisine description is seriously delightful to read, so prepare to play hunger games with your fridge.

Release date: January 29th, 2018

You can find this and the rest of my Adult Epic/High Fantasy & Sci-Fi reviews at BookNest
Profile Image for Melanie.
1,152 reviews97.7k followers
May 9, 2020
I really loved this, and it really beautifully (and sometimes heartbreakingly) incorporated filipino culture. I absolutely cannot wait for the next installment. (hopefully longer review to come!)

Youtube | Instagram | Twitter | Blog | Spotify | Twitch

Content and Trigger Warnings for murder, blood depiction, torture, mention of rape, threats of rape, arachnophobia, talk of cheating in past, mention of pedophilia, and talk of suicide.

Buddy read with Heathur! ❤
Profile Image for Nicole.
708 reviews1,735 followers
May 12, 2021
I didn’t have high expectations before starting the Wolf of Oren-Yaro yet it still managed to disappoint me. It was the book of the month in my book club and opinions ranged from loving to hating it. What interested me the most was the fact that this book got traditionally published by Orbit after it was originally self-published. I didn’t compare both editions a lot but I expected more to be edited honestly. This is nice in a way that this is a sign that publishers do not influence the story itself in a big way but at the same time… this book needed lots of extra editing.


This was a marital soap opera set in a fantasy world. The story was driven by the MC’s motives to find her husband and then relationship drama followed with a love triangle/square in a repetitive plot and underdeveloped world-building. And you know, there’s nothing wrong with that, except that I did not sign up for such a story but a book full of adventure/suspense and pollical intrigue (to not say epic because no, I didn’t expect it to be so). Hence, I was bored throughout this book and what little interest I had vanished around the 50% mark.
To begin with, the whole start wasn’t convincing. Our main character is the queen and her husband left her (and their son) 5 years ago and she never heard him again until chapter 1 where he sends a letter asking her to meet him. Against the advice of everyone, she goes to a foreign country to meet this husband of hers, taking 20 guards only. Without even informing anyone back home. Needless to say, things don’t go according to plan and the whole thing becomes a repetitive mess.


I honestly had so many issues with this book that I don’t know where to start from. Thus, I’m going to talk about the main character first: Talyien.

So, our MC is a queen, labeled the shelf wolf. The bitch queen. And that cover! Oh, how badass she looks like holding the sword. The truth is she’s weak. Not as cold as she tries to sound or be. Not as strong as the cover implies. Certainly, not a powerful queen. Why? Well
1- Any strong-willed, independent, and “bitch” queen would’ve stopped loving her jerk of a husband long ago. You see, she loved him even though he cheated on her, never treated her with any affection, left without a word, never asked about her nor their child, basically never did anything to deserve her love. This has folly of hers led her to leave her country to get him back home. Yeah, as if he’s not a ruler either and needs an invitation. I didn’t buy his motives nor reasoning.
2- This leads me to my second point: how she can make idiotic, selfish, and ignorant decisions to save a failed marriage, risking her whole kingdom meanwhile.
3- No one respects her/talks to her with respect. They instead criticize (and not the fruitful kind) and speak to her impolitely as if she’s not their queen. But hey, if she was back home? She would’ve severed their heads but alas, she’s not (we heard this line so many times, I had to roll my eyes each time said so).
4- She rejects good people’s help but trusts treacherous people. Excuse me?
5- She’s certainly not the badass queen the book is trying to make her look like.


The secondary characters? Well, the husband is a bastard and we’ve already established that. The rest lack personality and development. Except for Khine none were interesting or had a depth to their character. Most of the rest were a confusion of names to me. The character dynamics felt stiff a few times and not very natural.


Now fine, even if the characters sucked, there’s no reason to give it 1 star. Except that the plot itself was badly written to say the least. It took a long time for the action to start. We also had:
- Lots of repetitiveness, she’s lost/kidnapped/whatever then someone intervenes and helps/ saves her. So there wasn’t much going on. It picked up a bit towards the end but by then I’ve had lost all interest.
- Plot conveniences. On one hand, the author liked to make it look as hopeless as possible for Talyien and I honestly had a feeling that she humiliated her a lot! But then a convenience to a very difficult situation comes up and ta-da, our problem is solved!
- Plot holes because like I said before, some things did not make sense to me. At one point we have her escape in a very absurd way that simply cannot happen Also, there are plotlines other than being held under duress!!


The writing didn’t do it for me especially since we surprisingly didn’t know a lot about the world. The author has been writing in this world for over a decade and yet this book felt a lot like a debut. For example, we had flashbacks but they were random and too long. They felt separate from the plot. In other instances, we had what we see in some romance books like “sudden/random kiss” which can be… interesting. Not here though. One simply doesn’t do that in an adult fantasy novel in this way, certainly not to a queen and definitely not more than once. In fact, if this was a young-adult, it would’ve been a lot better because I would’ve excused stupid and impulsive decisions. But this wasn’t.


I wish we had more fantasy elements in this book. Dragons were vaguely mentioned but not fully explored. I can only assume that they’ll play a bigger role in future books. I also expect Talyien to develop more in the next book but sadly, I have no interest in reading the sequel nor actually care about what will happen next. This book had potential with its Asian setting, the politics between the countries, and the mythical creatures, however sadly, these weren’t explored and Villoso chose to focus instead on the dull relationship between husband and wife.


Overall, the plot was weak and the characters were underwhelming. Saying “bitch” in the title in my opinion is not creative at all and not a nice way to describe the main character at least in the title. I probably wouldn’t have read this book if it wasn’t the BOTM but I am now seeing it a lot around Instagram so in a way, I’m still glad I did (I do like to read popular books). What I can say is that for the most part, if you liked the female lead and or the secondary characters, you’ll enjoy this book. Opinions were pretty split and while everyone agrees on certain aspects (the whole unconvincing arc of the husband for example), some of my friends enjoyed it regardless so check the reviews of Milica and Hamad for a more positive feedback and Serge and Lydia’s for a similar reading experience (and opinion) to mine.


I wish Villoso the best in her writing career but this will probably be my first and last book by her. Only if a new one got very popular and the reviews were positive, I might read it. Otherwise, her books are not for me.

Profile Image for Brittney ~ Reverie and Ink.
257 reviews4,848 followers
March 24, 2020
Absolutely all the stars.

OOooooohhh boy here we go. If this book isn't on your to-read fantasy list, you're missing out.

Listen. I'm always a bit nervous when I pick up an adult epic fantasy purely because so often, much of it feels inaccessible or hard to follow due to pages and pages of meticulous world building and heaps of muddied prose. Rest assured friends. The Wolf of Oren-Yaro is an easy (although heart-wrenching) read. It's tightly paced with the perfect mixture of intrigue and mystery to keep those pages turning.

Basically prepare for a R I D E.

The story starts when Queen Talyien, our heroine, gets a message from the husband who walked out on her (before the coronation, mind you) (oh, and we don't yet know why). Five years ago, they were married and were SUPPOSED to unite two rival clans, but he left her and their son, and she's hardly heard from him since. Until now. So yeah, he asks her to travel across the sea to meet her, and doesn't say why. Tali, thinking she can try and reconcile things, decides to pack up and go.

And meet him, she does. For like two seconds until an assassination attempt separates them both.

Thus Tali (Queen Talyien) is lost on the streets of a foreign city (alone, because her guards lost her in the chaos). She barely escaped with her life.

With no food, no money, and no one to trust, Tali gets entangled with a con artist (Khine). Khine is cunning, a bit sassy, and SO SMOL ermergersh. But Tali doesn't trust him, so they part ways. But yeah not for long because turns out she can't trust anyone else either, and Khine happens to appear again in a rather ... desperate situation. (Trust me, it's anything but convenient.) (OH and yeah there are some sparks.)

I don't want to say much more, but what follows is a series of wild events that reveal who was REALLY behind the assassination, who betrayed Tali along the way, and even more, what really happened between her and the prince (her husband). We get little pieces of their story along the way, but it isn't until the end that you understand what actually drove them apart.

You guys. The TWISTS. At every turn, I'm thinking 'Ok yeah this is what happened and so-and-so was totally lying' BUT I WAS ALWAYS WRONG. AH. And then the end hits you with these massive reveals that just leave you wanting to pick up the biggest axe and chop everyone to pieces. Or weep.

Gah. I bawled. I can't even express the amount of emotions that ripped through me during those final chapters.

So yeah. Tali? I freaking adore her. This series is called 'Chronicles of the Bitch Queen' which initially made me wary, because I sometimes have a hard time connecting with characters who just want to cut everyone down. Yeah, yeah, I know everyone loves a 'fierce, mean, unapologetic heroine' - and don't get me wrong, I have before. But I'm just very soft hearted and I have a hard time relating to them. BUT. TALI. You guys. I connected to her so deeply. She isn't heartless by any stretch - if anything, her heart, the love she felt, made me feel for her sooo much. And every bit of vengeance and justice she brings (and WILL bring) will have you screaming her name.

To me that shows the skill of K.S. Villoso and her writing. She knows how to drag you under with the feels and make you crave SO many things. AH.

ALSO KHINE 2020. KHINNEEEEE.

Okay *breathes*

I'm fine.

PS... the audio is fantastic too!

On a last note, I took some time and read the author's story and why she wrote this book the way she did and I highly recommend doing so. She's incredible.
Profile Image for Hamad.
972 reviews1,283 followers
May 2, 2021
This Review ✍️ Blog 📖 Twitter 🐦 Instagram 📷 Support me

“Remind me,” I murmured, “why a single moment is enough to outweigh the rest. Why fickle tempers rule over steadfast hearts.”


My history with this book dates to back when it was first acquired by Orbit. I have heard about the self-published book but after it got some edits and got a new cover, I knew I was gonna read it. And funnily enough, one of the main reasons I wanted to read this was the name of the series: Chronicles of the Bitch Queen sounds like a very powerful and creative name so I had to know what all the hype is about.

The reason I kept putting off reading this one was that it had mixed reviews and I saw many people saying that the queen was insufferable yet unworthy of her title of a bitch Queen. I finally read this one along with The Fantasy Guild and I surprisingly enjoyed it.

Now after seeing many of the discussions in the group chat, I found myself agreeing with most of those criticisms because when I read those parts, I kind of had those exact same thoughts. That being said, I found that I was enjoying it for unclear reasons (Maybe I had very low expectations) I did not consider a DNF (Like the club’s last read Tigana which I DNFed) and I think I finished it rather quickly!

The writing itself was not bad, I found the prose to be good and it flowed well. I did think there were repetitions (I am the Bitch Queen/ I am a Wolf…etc) and there were places that telling was used in place of showing and yet I think it just flowed well.

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


I think it is hard to say that this is a character-driven book but it certainly does not focus on the plot either (more on this later). I can say that the main thing was the Queen’s journey of self-discovery albeit it being repetitive, without much growth and also it kind of comes off as YA-ish! There was kind of a love triangle (Square?) and I did not understand the dynamics when it comes to the romance in this book. (Why the hell were everyone falling for the Queen?!)

I expected more from the Queen herself, the cover kind of shows her as someone strong and with a sword but in the book she was only a shadow of that. I did not know also why she deserved those titles because the title sounds like an exaggeration. I know there were bad choices being made here but let’s be honest, we all make these! I am usually irritated by those when they are bad and unbelievable but I can say some of them were logical here (An example of an illogical one is her not reading the letter mentioned early on as I was never convinced and not facing her husband with some of the facts!).

The world-building is too simple, I can’t say it is bad but it was lacking, I was surprised by the presence of Dragons in the story! (They are a thing of the past but I am pretty sure we will be seeing them in the upcoming titles).

I don’t know what to say about the plot because there was not much going on. It was basically the Queen trying to find her husband and bring him back home, things go not as planned and then it is chase and run kind of story. I believe and hope that the plot will be better in book 2 though.

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


Summary: I enjoyed The Wolf of Oren-Yaro despite all the criticisms my friends and I had for it. I think it could have used more showing, less telling, a tighter plot and more focus on the queen’s “tough” side. I still think it is good enough to make me go for 3 stars and not less and I am definitely reading book 2 which I just feel will be better!
Profile Image for K.S..
Author 19 books597 followers
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January 29, 2018
Happy book day! This is now available on Amazon for both Kindle and Paperback. Thank you everyone for the amazing support! I'm speechless, overwhelmed, and eternally grateful.

For those who aren't aware, the Kindle version is 40% off until February 5, 2018. :)
Profile Image for Charlotte Kersten.
Author 3 books427 followers
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February 6, 2022
“A wolf of Oren-yaro does not beg. A wolf of Oren-yaro suffers in silence.”

There are few things that I love more than a self-publishing success story and in this case I can absolutely see why K.S. Villoso’s works were picked up for traditional publishing. I had a thoroughly enjoyable time reading The Wolf of Oren-Yaro and a some things about it worked really well for me. On the other hand, more reflection after reading has led me to the conclusion that there are a few integral flaws to the book as well.

One of my biggest concerns is that so much of the story’s emotional crux lies depends on the relationship between Tali and her estranged husband Rayyel. Quite simply, I felt absolutely nothing about this relationship besides exasperation and that led to a pretty significant lack of buy-in to the book’s stakes. I found Rayyel to be an incredibly flat and boring character and I don't think I would have minded Tali constantly thinking about him and pining after him if I cared about him or believed in their relationship at all.

Her love for him just wasn't compelling to me, and there were a few points where I really struggled to understand her thinking. Late in the book we have Tali declaring indignantly that Rayyel never abused/mistreated her and she would never “let him get away with it” if he did... at a point where she thinks that he’s orchestrated a plot against her life and believes that he’s sending assassins after her. Shortly after this she decides that she has to rescue him. So...what?

I’ll also point out that it’s utter nonsense that he abandoned her for cheating on him when he did exactly the same thing to her. There is very clearly a sexual double standard in this world and I understand that this situation highlights that, but I think the tricky part is that this also makes the reader feel that Rayyel is a gigantic hypocrite while we’re supposed to be sympathizing with or at least understanding Tali’s intense feelings for him because so much of the book hinges on them.

With the sexual double standard in mind, I’d also mention that the book’s world is a very sexist one and Tali kind of stumbles from one rape threat to another between Lo Bahn, the bandits she encounters and Yuebek several times over. There’s a lot of talk of cunts and whores and bitches and Yuebek’s abused wife gets murdered by him after she runs to him for forgiveness for betraying him by rescuing Tali. I know there are some readers who dislike reading about gendered violence and sexist worlds altogether but I’m actually not one of those readers. My subjective feeling is that I often love these books so long as they say something interesting about the power dynamics that create that violent world or reflect compellingly on what it’s like to experience that violence/live in such a world. I think the book does a good job depicting Tali’s conflicted feelings, flaws, strengths and vulnerabilities behind the veneer of the Bitch Queen that she must wear to keep power in a patriarchal world and an unstable country - but as for the actual violence she encounters, I don’t think it’s really explored or interrogated. I just happen to really prefer books that do this.

My other main problem is that Tali is a somewhat passive character for a large portion of the book. In some ways it all feels rather formulaic - she gets into a scrape, Khine shows up and suggests a plot or helps her, she follows along and things work out until the next bad thing happens, rinse and repeat. When Khine isn’t there to save her, Yuebek's aforementioned wife saves her. I think the best example of Tali’s independence and ingenuity is when she manipulates Lo Bahn out of raping her when she is imprisoned in the brothel. I liked this scene a lot and I wish she had been able to find her own way out of more of the dangers she found herself in.

As far as Khine goes, though, I did really like him as a character. There’s a hint of romance between him and Tali that feels very sweet and natural and I’m hoping to see more of him in the next book. I also really loved the mystical section of the book featuring her dead father and brother talking to her -I’m a sucker for strange liminal magical interludes. Finally, the ending really pulls it out of the bag when all of the characters’ machinations become clear and a few brand new ones are added to the mix. This was easily the strongest part of the book to me and it left me much more tempted to read the sequel than I’d felt for most of the book.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
February 3, 2021
💪 So-Called Queen Bitches for the Win Buddy Read (SCQBftWBR™) with the MacHalos and stuff 💪



💀 DNF at 33%.

So. Let's get this over with Bandage-Removal-Like (BRL™) aka as quickly and painlessly as possible, shall we? I DNFed this most delightful piece of literature because:

Nothing happens until you get to the 20% mark. And when I say nothing, I mean NOTHING. As in blah blah blah, yawn yawn yawn, blah blah blah, yawn yawn yawn and a slow-enough pace to enchant even the most lethargically lethargic barnacle.

Ludicrously unrealistic scenes galore. Need I say more? Didn't think so.

The so-called Bitch Queen . She's supposed to be this stab-happy, ruthless super badass, but all she does is act like a pathetic sick-love puppy. When the story begins it's been five years since her husband abandoned her and their kid, but there she is, still moaning and whining about it and pining after him like a silly teenager . It's been FIVE BLOODY SHRIMPING YEARS, woman! Grow up (friendly advice: you might want to grow a back bone while you're at it), show some self-respect, tell the bastard to go shrimp himself and bloody move on! But does our so-called Bitch Queen do that?



You jest! Of course she doesn't. What she does do is run to a different country/kingdom/whatever the second her stupid husband requests a meeting with her. She hasn't heard a single word from him in FIVE BLOODY SHRIMPING YEARS, but who the fish cares? The meeting is obviously a trap, but who the fish cares? Certainly not our resident TSTL Queen who jumps at the chance to finally be reunited with the man she 💕lurves💕, and to hell with the consequences! Oh yeah, and by the way 💥newsflash!💥 the so-called Bitch Queen is a complete, utter idiot. I swear, the woman makes so many ridiculously stupid decisions it feels like she's doing it on purpose or something . Oh yeah, and by the way 💥newsflash again!💥 the so-called Bitch Queen is naive as a newborn shrimp. But hey, apart from all that, she's a pretty cool character.



Nefarious Last Words (NLW™): this book, being refreshingly non Eurocentric and stuff, could have been Slightly Very Good (SVG™). But it wasn't, so it wasn't.





[Pre-review nonsense]

My first DNF of 2021! At long last! Go me and stuff!



Review to come and stuff.
458 reviews391 followers
December 20, 2017
I found K.S Villoso on reddit a year or so ago, I believe on one of the self promo threads they post from time to time. 

I clicked on her name on Goodreads and found that she was from the Philippines, and writes character driven epic fantasy. It's so rare when I stumble upon a non-western female-authored epic fantasy story I knew I had to check it out. I did not leave disappointed, Jaeths Eye had some of the best world building I had read in a long time, and the characters were endearing and fresh. Jaeth's Eye is a book that rewards patience. For the first half of the book you're not sure entirely what's going on, and how everything connects. This is done intentionally, and I do want to say that it comes together in the end so nicely it's totally worth it. 

That being said, I would recommend this book over Jaeth's Eye for new readers of KS. Villoso - I mean this in the best possible way though. This book is far more 'accessible' than Jaeth's Eye because it was written very differently. Jaeth's Eye throws a lot of names of people, places and gods at you very quickly - and it's also multi pov. It's one of those books that drops you into a fully realized world without explaining much outright. With Wolf of Oren-yaro it's a much more gentle introduction to the world, there is still a great amount of world-building that makes it stand out among the books I've read this year - but it's not as dense and as intimidating as it can be in Jaeth's Eye. 

And now I'll get to the actual review!!  Long review is long.

-------------------------------------------------------------------

Plot: 
The book starts out with the coronation of the new Queen of Jin-sayeng, but this isn't a happy occasion. There are no celebrations or festivities, it's a tense and brooding affair with no smiles. The Queens husband ran off the night before she was to be crowned, and the whole deal was their betrothal was uniting two warring houses of Jin-sayeng, without him there could be many problems. The coronation goes through anyway since this was part of the pact signed long ago, these two had been betrothed at birth and they had been married and had a son, but even here there's very little joy. The prince isn't an emotional person, he's rather distant and aloof, and there had been problems in their relationship for a while. He wasn't faithful to her during their betrothal, and it helped spread a lot of unkind rumors about the queen and their engagement. 

After he leaves, she doesn't hear from him in 5 years, and ruling alone has proved to be an enormous challenge. The warlords of her realm are always on edge, and always ready to go to war. The rumors spread about her have gotten worse over the years, and she's known as "The Bitch Queen". They say her cruel and sarcastic nature drove off the prince into someone elses arms because she's that cold and terrible. She's not though, she's actually one of the more fascinating characters I've read about in a long time. She definitely is sarcastic, but it's used more as a shield than a weapon unless provoked. 

She receives a letter from him asking her to join him in a foreign city to discuss things, she's advised not to go, but she does it anyway - thinking that if the people heard the prince reached out and she snubbed him, that she would be accused of wanting the power all to herself. 

Things go very badly at the meeting, assassins were sent and she finds herself running through the city after being stabbed, and wakes up in a very precarious situation. 

The rest of the plot is her trying to find her footing on foreign soil, figure out who is sending assassins and why, where her husband is and what his involvement was with the assassinations. 

Final Score: 8.5/10

----------------------------------------------------------------

Characters: 
This story was told in first person by the Queen of Jin-Sayeng, Queen Talyie (Tali). She's one of the most interesting Queen POV's I've read, she's incredibly dedicated to her country and her duty. She's strong but not cutthroat, she has a sense of justice but not really for vengeance. I think her most endearing quality is her unending sarcasm, it's not overdone but it's sprinkled throughout the book in all the right ways. She has a deeply complex relationship with her husband, and I find it amazing how dedicated she is to trying to make it work despite how horrible he's been to her. I am NOT a fan of this guy, at all. I kind of kept hoping he'd die so she could run off and be happy with someone else. Depite that, reading about her backstory with him and why she's so persistant was really fascinating. 

Khine is probably my favorite character in the book outside of Tali, he's a con artist on the street who helps Tali out of some bad situations. You never really know what his deal is, he's being nice - but why? He doesn't know who she is so his motives remained unclear for a while. 

Final Score: 9/10

World Building: 
Trying to go into world building with a series like the Argates series or this new Bitch Queen series is tough, there's SO MUCH. Everything about the different locations and countries in this world have their own flavor. Everything from the way the palaces tend their gardens, their dress, their food (so much food in this book it made me hungry), to the way the servants dressed and wore their makeup. Both of these series are so well detailed they are great examples of how to make a living breathing world. 

Dragons are a thing, Tali's ancestors used to ride dragons but it's become a lost art. The legends say that the dragons were intelligent and tameable, but the dragons that are known to the world today are aggressive and terrible monsters, with little to no intelligence. 

Agan is the 'magic' of this world, mages are mentioned in the book but they really don't come into play all that much. Mages and magic aren't embraced in Jin-sayeng, instead, children who are "afflicted" are sent away.... or drowned. Tali doesn't know whether those rumors are true or not, but she would never sanction the drowning of kids. Mages are openly accepted in other parts of the world, however, and there was an interesting discussion about it between the Queen and a foreign noble. 

Final Score: 10/10

Pacing/Writing/Tone: 
The pacing of this book will vary from person to person largely dependent on if you are a plot person or a character person. This book is very character driven, so if you need a lot of action scenes or mage battles this isn't that. For anyone who enjoys something like The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet, I urge you to try this. The tone isn't the same, and there's much more plot than Angry Planet, but the character building is what makes the book go from good to great. 

The tone is somewhat bleak, actually. The Queen gets betrayed a lot, and she doesn't always know by who, and she's walking around on foreign territory so it's all about anxiety-inducing./ for the character, she's almost always on the run from something or someone. 

This was an ARC, so I know the editing isn't done yet, so I'm actually going to omit this for now and rank this book out of 50 instead of 60. 

Pacing Final Score: 8/10

Originality: 
I've seen a lot of house politic books before, but not one with this sort of spin on it - where a wife is trying to find a prince/king who threw away everything at the last moment. Reading about a Queen who's trying to rule alone without a King is also rather uncommon for me. The world building is also extensive and unique. 

Final Score: 8/10 

Audience: 
For people who like character driven stories
For people who like female pov's
For people who like betrayal and backstabbing fuckery
Not for people who don't like cursing 
For people who like extensive world building 
For people looking for spins on house rivalries 
For people who like first person writing 
For people who like single pov 
Final Score: 43/50 or 8.7/10 
Profile Image for Dyrk Ashton.
Author 11 books632 followers
August 5, 2018
Thrilling and touching, a personal tale with the scope of kingdoms.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It was a refreshing change of pace for me from the military sword and sorcery or urban fantasy I usually read, reminding me of the more introspective narrative feel of The Goblin Emperor, which I loved, but with more action, which I greatly appreciated. Villoso can weave a yarn and make us care in a way I haven't experienced in a very long time. Read it and weep - and cheer at the same time.
Profile Image for Wol.
113 reviews42 followers
January 29, 2018
Plot

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

Queen Talyien is a woman devoted to her people and her duty. In this case, that duty is to marry the Ikessar heir, Rayyel, and unite their war-torn lands. She bears the burden placed upon her by her father, whose warmongering was largely responsible for creating the divides that still threaten the well-being of the nation.

However, Rayyel had other ideas. Without warning, the night before their Coronation, he left behind both Talyien and her shattered hopes of peace and prosperity for the future. The warlords of the land lie in wait to pounce upon any weakness.

After five years of struggling alone to rule over a people who dislike and mistrust her, Talyien receives a request from Rayyel to meet with him in the Empire of Ziri-nar-Orxiar. Hopeful of reconciliation (and knowing her refusal would, at best, result in more scorn and blame being heaped upon her), she heads out to meet him in secret, taking only her most trusted guards and advisors.

During their tense negotiations, they are met with an assassination attempt that plunges them into total chaos. The Queen must survive a hostile land and find a way to rescue her husband – but who sent the assassins?

Characters

Queen Talyien/Tali – Our first person PoV. A dutiful but severe personality, she is desperate to do what is best for her country and her child. Weary of the insincerity that plagues her life, she frequently uses stinging words as armor and craves companionship.

Rayyel/Rae – Talyien’s husband, a charming and ambitious royal with his own ideas about how the land should be governed. Seen through Talyien’s eyes, our understanding of his motivations is colored by hers.

Khine – A lovable rogue/confidence trickster who meets Talyien on the streets.

Zhu – An interesting parallel character who is not dissimilar to the Queen, but handles her own situation very differently.

Yuebeck – Hands down, one of the most unsettling characters I have read in recent years. I’m going to let you discover him for yourselves.

My Thoughts

Having read and enjoyed Villoso’s Agartes Epilogues, it’s difficult not to make a comparison, particularly since this novel is set in the same world a few decades later. It’s very much independent of the first trilogy, however, and an excellent jumping off point. Where Jaeth’s Eye is challenging and sometimes cryptic, The Wolf of Oren-Yaro is extremely accessible – for that reason, if you’re new to Villoso’s work I highly recommend making it your entry point.

The world-building, as always, is one of her greatest strengths – frequently when writers set subsequent trilogies in an existing world, they rest on the laurels of the work they have done previously. This can sometimes lead to a patchy and unsatisfying read unless you are familiar with the original novels. I’m pleased to say that is definitely not the case here – small touches everywhere let you know that this is a deep and nuanced world that doesn’t end when the protagonist leaves the room. There are religions, customs and even local dishes that ring true and don’t need to be explained to us in depth – their existence adds flavor and just the right amount of mystery to the world, allowing us to share in Talyien’s apprehension at being stranded in a place unfamiliar to her. It’s also refreshing to be outside of pseudo-medieval Europe. Villoso draws inspiration from a number of sources, most notably her Filipino background, which contributes to the feeling that her tale is something a little different in a sea of farm boy adventures.

The pacing is sometimes breathless – watching Talyien lurch from one disaster to the next was both entertaining and anxiety-inducing, but Villoso manages to give us plenty of room for introspection and character development. We’re seeing everything from Talyien’s point of view, but she’s written skilfully – I rooted for and liked her something fierce, but I was also able to see how her prickly nature turned off some of the characters she interacted with. Her point of view made it extremely easy to empathize with her and see what it was about these interactions that had raised her hackles in the first place. When faced with sincerity, her mixture of confusion, suspicion and yearning damn near broke my heart. Her chemistry and lively dialogue with Khine in particular was a joy to read, and their con-artist escapades were great fun. It gave the story a bit of levity right when it was needed, and I hope to see more of them together.

The real standout to me throughout was the backstory of the betrothal of Tali and Rae – I grew incredibly invested in the lives of the two children and their changing attitudes, their growing friendship and fondness for one another. The wild young girl’s blossoming love for Rayyel and her growing insecurities made for a great read, and an excellent setup. As a result, the scene in which Talyien begins to reveal what went wrong between them left me open mouthed and frantically trying to read faster – in my mind, it was an absolute masterclass in leaving the reader wanting more.

Overall, The Wolf of Oren-Yaro is a deeply personal and thoughtful tale of love, betrayal and the aftermath – at the same time, it’s a thrill ride that keeps you guessing until the end, full of exciting plot twists and twist subversions. The emotional depth of the characters, their motivations and their plausibility are all on point. Combined with an engaging story and its world full of rich and interesting cultures, this one is a winner. I genuinely believe that this will be Villoso’s breakthrough novel and I can’t wait for the next entry.

My Score: 9.2/10
Profile Image for K.J. Charles.
Author 56 books7,646 followers
Read
February 18, 2020
Fantasy set in an amazingly developed and vivid alt-Asian world with empires, small kingdoms, warlords and politics. Also dragons (though we don't see many). The narrator is the 'Bitch-Queen' of a small, chaotic and divided nation but we don't get a great deal of bitch in this first instalment: she's mostly running for her life, trying to escape unseen enemies and identify traitors, and working out what's going on, in particular with her estranged husband. That's a big element: beyond survival the queen is focused to a very large extent on reuniting with her husband and wondering if he really loved her.

It's a very traditional fantasy world in that respect--heavily dynastic and controlling of her sexuality, patriarchal, with a lot of emphasis put on her sexual conduct/purity and a lot of very aggressive sexual language used against her. This is clearly the point--she's not nice but she's also wronged and slandered in large part because she's a woman, while trying to do her best by her country. She's presumably going to embrace her inner Bitch-Queen as the series develops, and hopefully set it all on fire.
Profile Image for Karina Webster.
318 reviews50 followers
August 15, 2020
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. Villoso, 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.’

Review first published at www.karinareads.com
Profile Image for ♥Milica♥.
747 reviews225 followers
April 21, 2021
I would like to sue K.S. Villoso for emotional pain and brilliant writing. Effective immediately.

The Wolf of Oren-Yaro is April's book of the month for my book club. I was originally planning on reading it later in the month for the readalong but I decided to start early because I was curious about the audiobook. AND WHAT AN AUDIO IT IS!!!

The narration is AMAZING. The narrator pronounces everything clearly and I think I'd give both of my arms and legs to listen to more books narrated by her. Zero confusion my friends, ZERO.

Up until chapter 9 I wasn't sure what to make of it, it was interesting but I was scared the road trip would take too long, the pacing took me a hot minute to get used to...and then chapter 9 hit and I was hooked.

What I really love about this story is that whenever you think you know something, you really don't. There's always something hiding in the shadows waiting to jump out at you. SO MANY PLOT TWISTS, MY POOR BRAIN AND HEART.

I love everything about this though. The writing style isn't too descriptive (except with the food, made me so hungry), the world building is excellent, the plot is good and the characters are even better.

It's more character than plot driven and I love them all. Except Yuebek. All my homies hate Yuebek. He can burn in the fires of hell. Haha, fires.

Talyien is a bitch queen, true to her title. But she's not annoying. I really like her perspective, even though she's pining over her annoying husband Rayyel for most of the book.

Rayyel I decided I hated since before I started reading and my opinion did not change. He deserves the hate.

And then we have Khine who's such a delightful conning little cinnamon roll. HE'S ALWAYS THERE FOR TALYIEN, ALWAYS (yes, this is a jab at Rayyel). And he's so kind and gentle and wants to help everyone and I love him.

Agos came into the picture a bit later. Not history-with-Talyien wise but plot wise and hOW DO YOU EXPECT ME NOT TO SHIP TALYIEN WITH HIM TOO K.S.??? HOW??? THIS IS SO CRUEL! I love how protective he is, he's a good match too.

Another character I really like is Talyien's father. We don't see much of him but I can see why people stood beside him.

Also there's dragons. We stan dragons. I hope they play a bigger part in the next books. And magic too, I loooooove the magic system.

At the ending of the ebook (which I needed too, for the name spellings), there's an interview and not only did I find out the author has been working on this world for 16 years or so, but there's also more books set in it (that came before this trilogy)??? YES HELLO I WILL PROMPTLY BE READING EVERYTHING.

BUT FIRST, I need to complete this trilogy so it doesn't get mixed up. Unfortunately, I'll have to wait a little until this month's discussion before jumping into book two.

Meanwhile, I'm going to make my wallet cry by getting these beautiful books in physical form.

And so I finished this in 6 days...meant to stretch it out longer whoops. BUT IT'S JUST SO GOOD! AND I'D LIKE TO SAY THAT THE AVERAGE RATING DOESN'T DO IT JUSTICE! THIS DESERVES 10 BILLION STARS!

DROP WHATEVER YOU'RE READING AND READ THIS INSTEAD!!!
Profile Image for Shealea.
424 reviews1,180 followers
September 14, 2020
Holy shit. Despite some person spoiling the book's ending but shamelessly tweeting about it, I am blown away.

Second time reading this, and here are my initial thoughts:
📌 The parallels between this world and Filipino culture and identity are unmatched. Especially the explorations of regionalism, stubbornness, and gender-dependent double standards. Even the naming conventions of characters is very Filipino!
📌 I really connected with Talyien’s character in a way and with an intensity that I’ve never experienced before, barring The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco.
📌 THIS TIRED ME OUT. I just want Tali to get the rest she deserves.
📌 No rights for Rayyel. #DethroneTheDragonlord
📌 KHINE IS MY KING.
📌 To call this character-driven fantasy “addictive” is an understatement.
📌 Men are trash!!! Except Khine. Khine can have rights.
📌 THE WRITING STYLE. I’m blown away.
📌 Strongest Beginning And Ending Award.
📌 I’m off to dive into the sequel.

Highest of recommendations.
Profile Image for Maris Bave.
201 reviews14 followers
July 25, 2020
This book was frustrating.

I feel like I was promised the story of someone who doesn't back down from adversity, who may have her heart broken but doesn't stop, who is ruthless and cunning and brave. And I only got half of that.

Queen Taliyen doesn't back down from adversity...because she makes so many poor, emotion-based decisions that she is constantly running into adversity with open arms. She has her heart broken...and hesitates at that critical moment with her husband at the end of the book because deep down she still loves him. She is ruthless and brave, but she's as far from cunning as Antarctica is from Siberia, and without cunning her other traits are cute but almost useless. They don't get her where she needs to go.

Also, I'm not a fan of books about ridiculous obsolete gender expectations that a) don't get resolved by the end of the book, and b) the main character falls for. Come on, Queen Taliyen, blame Rayyel for something. Anything. Publicly or privately, I don't care. Most of this mess is his fault anyway.

I suspect Queen Taliyen's combination of strengths and weaknesses was just not for me, but I will also say this: Some authors think naivety can be...charming, I guess? But it usually isn't, especially when you've also made it clear to the reader that something else is afoot and the MC is just Not Getting It and doesn't overcome their naivety by the end of the book. Call it dynamic characterization, or a satisfying arc, or whatever you want to call it, I did not see it in this book.
Profile Image for Hiu Gregg.
113 reviews152 followers
June 6, 2018
Somewhere along the road, Villoso got the idea that people actually want to know more about the world she created in The Agartes Epilogues and decided to try her hand at a brand new novel, with a (somewhat) completely new cast and a new POV.

Enter The Wolf of Oren-yaro, Book 1 of the aptly named "Annals of the Bitch Queen." Why aptly named? Because the name character is, frankly, a bitch. On the first paragraph alone, she proudly proclaims that she "killed a man and made my husband leave..." all on the same night.

Villoso had turned a complete 180, and substituted the blinding subtlety in her Agartes series (which made the entire trilogy a confusing shitshow) in place of heavy-handedness. Way to improve on your writing there, Villoso.

For pages and pages and pages, we are treated to Villoso's trademark melodramatic narrative coming from a certain Queen Talyien aren dar Orenar. A character with such a mouthful for a name is going to have--predictably for a Villoso novel--barrels of issues. She was "raised a princess," but claims she isn't "pampered." She is lonely. She has Daddy issues. And husband issues. Moaning about the latter takes up a good half, if not 3/4s, of the novel. Everything about this character revolves around her husband. Once again, Villoso proves that she is unable to write strong heroines by presenting us with Talyien, quite probably one of the most inconsistent characters I've ever had the misfortune of reading about. If she is so strong, why does she spend so much time moaning about love and regret and her dickwad of a husband? Why doesn't she just seize the throne for herself? Cersei Lannister didn't go whining about half a book about Robert Barratheon's lack of love. No, she seized power and did things and killed everyone. BURN THEM ALL TO THE GROUND.

But not Talyien. Oddly enough for a child of a mass murderer, and despite her own sordid reputation, she seems unwilling to solve her problems with bloodshed. Oh, she kills the occasional bandit or two, before lapsing into another long soliloquy about her past and her husband and the nature of love and the universe and everything. It gets tiresome and repetitive. KILL THINGS, TALYIEN. SEIZE THE DAY. WHAT KIND OF A BLOODY RULER ARE YOU?

Villoso is clearly setting up for a larger story here, as threads on various factions emerge (and are then conveniently forgotten). A variety of characters are introduced, one even duller than the next. There is a con-artist/street mongrel character, Khine, a.k.a. Aladdin. There's the madman with lots of power who wants more power. There's a bunch of shady characters, government officials, seamstresses, tutors, etc. And of course we have Talyien's husband, Rayyel, who has the personality of a sponge. These characters all seem to prefer to talk about shit than stab things, which makes for a very dull "epic fantasy novel." As I've mentioned before, I think Villoso needs to vastly rethink the genre she's chosen to write in. What is this "character-driven" drivel? You just made that genre up, didn't you?

I am told that this is actually going to be a double trilogy (as opposed to a six-book series). The first three books (including this one) is supposed to be told from Talyien's point of view, while the second trilogy is going to be a multi-POV trilogy dealing with some sort of war because clearly Talyien is going to fuck everything up like Villoso's characters tend to do. I can only imagine how excruciating the next few books are going to be. Please, Villoso, for the love of God, just stop...just...


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Okay, seriously tho... real review below:
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This review was a nightmare to write. A nightmare. I’ve wrote and deleted I-don’t-know-how-many words, and yet here I am writing yet ANOTHER opening paragraph.

This is a character-focused book, let’s get that straight. There’s a plot there, sure, but it’s not so much “stuff happens” as it is “stuff happens to Talyien”. As is common for first-person books, everything in this book is tied to the character. If the character fails, then the book falls flat on its arse.

Thankfully, K.S. Villoso is a skilled character writer, and she doesn’t step over this pitfall so much as she does a twisting double-backflip over it and then lands with a wink to the camera.

Queen Talyien is probably the most complex character I’ve read about this year, and that’s proven in just how hard it is to describe her. There’s no definites with Talyien. She’s brash and arrogant and quick with an insult… yet she’s also anxious and nervous and afraid. She’s a woman who is living her life behind a front, hiding her anxieties and her worries so she can continue as the ruthless and self-assured Queen of the Oren-yaro: The Bitch Queen.

But what happens when all of these monarchical trappings are stripped from her? What happens when she has to face the husband she hasn’t seen in five years, and deal with all the emotions that she has suppressed? What happens when the comfort blanket of advisors and royal guards is torn from her grip, and she’s left alone in a foreign city where she holds no power; left with nothing but her own thoughts and insecurities as company?

That is what the story is really about. It’s an introspective journey of a single character, and while there are many relationships that have an important impact on the story, it’s Talyien’s journey of self-discovery that seemed most important to me.

There’s a Senlin-esque quality to the story, when looked at from this perspective. It has the same kind of “person gets lost, but then finds themselves” feel to it. It sounds almost simple in theory, but the reality and execution is anything but.

The plot here is a vehicle for character development, and the world — while wonderful and described with just enough detail to intrigue you — is something that exists in the background, never distracting from the story but enhancing it. The worldbuilding is maybe laid on a bit thick at the start of the book, but that’s just a base so that the characters can shine and grow without disruption. Little in this book happens for no reason, there isn’t much that is said with no meaning — everything has its purpose.

If you’re a fan of character-focused novels, you prefer interesting over likable, and you prefer a real and raw emotional journey to a fun romp with swords (though those are there too), then this is the book for you.
Profile Image for Sarah.
565 reviews142 followers
February 24, 2020
The Wolf of Oren-yaro follows the story of Queen Talyien of the Jin-Sayeng, the first woman to ever sit the Dragonthrone. Her marriage to the rival clan’s heir, Rayyel, was supposed to unite the fractured lands, ruled by warring Dragonlords. However, Rayyel leaves the night before their coronation, and she is crowned alone. Five years later, Rayyel has finally requested a meeting with his wife, and Talyien is all too eager to reconcile, even if she might be walking into a trap.

If I’m being honest- this story is not quite what I was hoping for. There is action and adventure, there is political intrigue, but mostly, this is a story about a failed marriage, and a woman who would go to seemingly any length to make it work. I was often frustrated with the amount of inner monologue dedicated to the husband when Tali also had a son at home to think about. I was frustrated at the selfishness of her, at the infuriating decisions she makes.

Despite the fact that I am also a single mother, I found Talyien very hard to relate to. I know every family situation is different, and Talyien’s choices are valid, but felt very dated. Almost every scene that brought up Rayyel I was thinking to myself- “Why hasn’t she kicked him to the curb yet?!” I wanted her to want to be more independent then she seemed, and at the end, during the final climactic scene, I was pretty disappointed with her feelings on the matter. Her husband is definitely not the sort of man I’d waste breath on, that’s for sure.

My issues with Tali aside- it doesn’t take long for the action to start, and the action scenes strike the perfect balance of excitement without overextending themselves. Tali finds herself in all kinds of interesting situations, and if you aren’t looking too closely at the logic of the plot, I think the right reader could have a lot of fun with this book. There were some scenes I found myself laughing along with, and it kept the pages turning.

The writing was mostly good. There were a few places where it felt amateurish and the dialogue a little stiff- but for the most part I have few complaints. The pacing could use a little work. The book seemed like it fell into a pattern at some point- we’d get some action, then a flashback scene, and then a few chapters of Tali’s thoughts on the whole thing. I wasn’t always sure the flashback scenes were needed, although they did occasionally give some nice backstory.

I’m not really sure this book or series is right for me, but plenty of readers are already enjoying it, so take my review with a grain of salt. Thank you to Orbit Books who provided an eGalley in exchange for an honest review!
Profile Image for Noura Khalid (theperksofbeingnoura).
479 reviews691 followers
July 25, 2020
I wasn't entirely sure what I was getting into when I picked up this book. I haven't seen many people talk about it but I did notice a few Twitter friends praising it and what can I say? I had to read it. Let me just tell you that this was unlike anything I've ever read! (I've been saying that a lot lately) but I mean it.

I'm so happy I gave this book a chance. It was definitely an adult fantasy. I haven't read that many books in this genre but I adored this one so much! I got through it 3 days mostly because I wanted to take my time with it. There's a lot of political intrigue which I actually really enjoyed. I loved following the story through Queen Talyien's perspective. She wasn't a perfect character. She often got stuck and had no one beside her that she could trust but she always used her head no matter how overwhelming. I loved seeing her become a bit more sure of herself as the story went on. I was exasperated at times with what she was going through but I rooted for her so hard. She was determined and only wanted what was best for her kingdom and her family.

There were some side characters and although I didn't really feel much for any of them I definitely loved Khine. He was such a sweetheart and I just loved their banter and shared moments. There was a lot of second guessing on my part when it came to the characters. You couldn't be too sure who to trust. Characters aside, I'm not Asian and can't comment on the representation but I do know that a lot of Asian friends really loved this one and they would definitely know better.

As for the information I thought it was flushed out really well. There was a lot of talk about Queen Talyien's life and what happened during her fathers time and between the kingdoms. I liked that it wasn't heaped all in one go and overwhelming. The author put the information in just the right places so everything came slowly and right when it needed to be known. The plot was a bit slow but I found myself already sucked in so there wasn't anything to do but continue.

I hadn't realized that I reached the end of the book because of how absorbed I was into the story. I flipped the page and found out I was already done. Book two comes out this year and I'm so excited to see what happens next! This is definitely one I would recommend you to read.
Profile Image for Serge.
116 reviews24 followers
April 30, 2021
“Betrayal has a funny way of turning your world upside-down. As familiar as I had already been with it by that point, it still amazed me how far I could stretch that moment of denial. The thought of what had been—of what could yet be—persisted. Perhaps it is not the same for most people. Perhaps, when you love less, it is easier not to let the emptiness become a cavern from which you could no longer see the sun.”

The Wolf of Oren-Yaro was The Fantasy Guild Book Club monthly pick for April. The story talks about a queen who, for the sake of political convenience and uniting two clans, marries a man who is supposed to rule with her. However, after 2 years of their marriage and before they are both crowned, her husband walks away from her, leaving her to rule the country on her own, while also raising their son. 5 years later, a letter written by him arrives, asking her to meet somewhere outside of their nation. Thus begins our story, with the queen setting off on a trip to talk with her husband and figure out his intentions.

I chose to listen to the audiobook of this and I'm glad I did, because if I had to actually read this story instead of listening to it, it would have been quite difficult for me to get through it, since even listening to the audio wasn't easy.

Setting:

This story is based in a medieval Asian-like world comprised of a multitude of clans, warlords, and large empires engaging in endless power struggles amongst each other. On a positive note, this is an interesting world with much potential, since political intrigue could be endless in an environment such as this one. However, this beautiful potential was sadly underutilized in favour of petty and endless drama pertaining to Queen Talyien's love life. The rich world and its potential, including the mages and the dragons, had all taken a backseat as we had to go through several dozens of pages of Talyien's endless moping about her confused feelings regarding her husband Rayyel. Which brings me to...

The Plot:

The entire plot of this story felt like it was taking me on a wild goose chase. A short trip of what I had expected to take a chapter or two ended up taking the entire book, and there was nothing except repetition upon repetition of Queen Talyien being continuously ambushed and betrayed left and right. For a so called "bitch queen", she was painstakingly weak and permissive, allowing her own guards to blatantly question and disrespect her while she did nothing but look down. She had 0 control over her soldiers who were all dispersed, and a large percentage of the story comprised of her running around in the city begging people for help and being lost. The only part of the plot that involved dangerous stakes was resolved almost instantly, with such ease that still has me baffled. This book was marketed as an adult fantasy book. Instead, all I got out of this was some form of soap opera intended for young adults. Endless moping about whether Queen Talyien's husband loved her or not, how she always felt while he looked at her with those cold, expressionless eyes, trying to decipher the depths of his heart while running away from random bandits and assassins left and right in a city she was lost in. If I wanted to read a soap opera of a character's constant whining about her loveless relationship, this would have been a perfect read, but I had signed up for adult fantasy, for political intrigue, epic battles and a complex plot. To add a cherry on top of this reading disaster, we obviously had the very cliche plot of being introduced to a random man while being lost in these wretched streets, who also ends up being a potential love interest for our "bitch queen."

Speaking of which, taking a very bland and stereotypical female character who doesn't truly stand out in any way and adding lines that say "if I was back in my kingdom, I would not have tolerated this" around 1000 times and adding the occasional scene where she finally stabs someone in the guts after 200+ pages of being walked over and treated like a random street beggar, does not make a powerful and interesting character who warrants the title of a "bitch queen."

Also, not to sound too nit-picky, but a title containing "bitch queen" doesn't really grab my attention for its creativity.

Writing:

As I mentioned earlier, this is an adult fantasy book based in a medieval Asian-style world, and thus, I would expect the writing to be somewhat tailored to suit this era, to give us an immersive experience. Instead, the writing made the world feel like some medieval version of the modern United States. Now, I'm not expecting the author to adopt a writing style we would see by Tolkien or Patrick Rothfuss or Robin Hobb, however, there are some standards that must be kept when writing adult fantasy. For example, using the term "Well fuck me sideways!" or naming a fish Sparky is NOT what someone writing in an era like this one should go for. I mean, this is fiction, and the author has her own right to express the world she created in whatever style she chooses, but these aspects negatively impacted my immersion experience. Also, the banter between some characters, for example, between Queen Talyien and Rayyel, had the same quality you would expect of two teenagers fighting in high school.


“Our special for today is pork bone stew,” the manager said.

“Pork bone stew sounds excellent,” I said. “Rayyel could use a spine.”

“Is heartless shrew on the menu?” Rai asked without batting an eye.”


However, it can be entertaining, if you're in the right mindset. However, since this book and I just started off and stayed on the wrong foot throughout my reading experience, it didn't do much for me from that angle.

In conclusion, this book just wasn't for me. It felt like a soap opera more than adult fantasy, the turns the book took were just too unrealistic and downright silly and the character work felt very weak to me. The main character is supposed to be an adult woman and a mother, however, we barely got to see that aspect of her. Apart from those brief moments of her remembering her child who is back home surrounded by potential enemies once in a blue moon, we get long paragraphs of her romantic longings and how she would have disemboweled anyone messing with her in different circumstances, in the comfort of her own realm. Don't get me wrong, a mother can very well have all of these romantic longings, however, the fact that a character is a mother to a son she really loves should add a layer to this character that was very much lacking in Queen Talyien, who was more like an immature girl going through the motions of a very unrealistic plot. The side characters felt bland and one-dimensional, with most of the citizens of the city taking on the roll of self-serving con-artists and the male characters being those very cliche love-interests or men with big egos. There was no nuance, nothing interesting. The final few chapters had some excitement, but that is just not enough for me to like an entire book. However, the audiobook narration by Catherine Ho was very good and made this story a little more bearable to me.

One star for Queen Tali... A lot of people seemed to have liked this book, so other opinions might be different, but it just didn't do it for me. I've heard the sequel is better, but I'm not invested in the story enough to care about continuing and I likely won't.
Profile Image for Lukasz.
1,224 reviews195 followers
February 2, 2018
Actual rating: 3.5

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


I like flawed characters. Good and noble ones are usually boring. Queen Talyien certainly isn’t boring. She’s strong: both physically and mentally, although she’s not the best monarch around. Jin-Sayeng - her country expects the leaders and monarchs to be ferocious, the true “wolves of Oren-Yaro”. While Talyien’s skillset allows her to meet the standards, her heart stands in the way.

Her husband left her shortly after conceiving their son. The reasons for his behavior aren’t revealed until the end of the book.

Despite everything, Talyen still loves Rai and she plans to meet him. And so the intrigue starts. There’s a treason, assassination, violence and unexpected friendship (?). Oh, and a psycho villain. Creepy as hell.

K.S. Villoso tends to start her series with massive world-building I’m not really partial to. The good news is that once the world is sketched in detail and the rules and characters established, the pacing improves and the story becomes engaging.

It can be problematic, especially during contests like SPFBO, as most readers/bloggers are expected to read only 20 % of the book before deciding its fate. Not much is happening in first 20 % of this book and what is happening is heavy with history, geography and stories I wasn’t interested in at all. I need to be invested in the character to appreciate world-building and not the other way around. Having said that, I must admit that food descriptions were a nice touch. I want some of this tofu pudding garnished with mint leaves.

The story is told from Queen Talyien perspective and we learn about other characters through her eyes. As a result, some may appear almost Saint while in reality they’re not. I think that most characters were done well: con-artist Khine was endearing, Yuebek was terrifying and disgusting and Zhu helpless.

As for Talyien, well, I found myself perplexed by her choices and behavior more than once but it’s a common theme in K.S. Villoso books – things usually start to gel near the end.

The writing is simple, mostly clean and unobtrusive. Some descriptions were quite humorous and showing nicely Talyien persona (
I tried to titter, but I had never been very good at that and ended up coughing instead
).

My main issue is with introducing the world through info-dumping. I like when world-building is done seamlessly and hear seems were clearly visible. It has to be said, though, it’s personal preference. Others will enjoy vivid world descriptions much more than I.

The pacing varies, sometimes it’s slow, sometimes breakneck. There were moments where I couldn’t put the book down. But there were also moments I wasn’t thoroughly motivated to continue.

Overall, I wouldn’t call WoOY a true page-turner. Massive info-dumps in the beginning of the book were tiring to me and I didn’t fully connect with Talyen. Her voice is interesting but something felt a bit off.

I liked the book but I’m not in awe. While I think it’s more accessible than Jaeth’s Eye, I have to admit that Jaeth hit me stronger.
Profile Image for Fadwa (Word Wonders).
543 reviews3,549 followers
Read
March 19, 2020
I received an ARC of this book from the publisher in exchange of an honest review

CW: public punishment, gore, xenophobia, kidnapping, imprisonment, death, injury, attempted murder.

From the very first sentence, I knew that I was in for a ride, reading THE WOLF OF OREN-YARO and I was definitely not wrong. Although the book was vastly and drastically different from what I expected it to be and from what it seemed to be in its very first pages, once I adjusted my expectations and got going, it blew me away, and kept blowing me away until the very last page, making me crave the sequel while simultaneously causing me a HUGE amount of emotional distress and I WANT TO SUE!!!

I’ve procrastinated writing this review for weeks because I had too much to say, didn’t know what exactly to say or how to keep it non-spoilery, and now…I forgot everything I wanted to say, or well, most things I wanted to say so this review will probably turn out to be the most chaotic one I write as of yet. “Where are your notes?” I hear you asking, well, I have a couple but I was so sucked in that I forgot to write most of my thoughts down, so that alone is indication enough of how much I loved the book. Right off the bat, I was taken by the narration, the writing style is very representative of Talien as a protagonist, it’s a mix of serious and funny, the funny side being equal parts sarcasm and self-deprecation. A bitch queen after my own heart.

Full review posted on my blog : Word Wonders
Profile Image for Runalong.
879 reviews30 followers
February 20, 2020
Brilliant debut fantasy set in an Asian inspired world with a fascinating complex lead character who isn’t the monster some think she is. Loved the episodic nature of the tale leading to the wonderful finale

Full review - https://www.runalongtheshelves.net/bl...
Profile Image for Justine.
191 reviews55 followers
April 8, 2019
Perhaps, when you love less, it is easier not to let the emptiness become a cavern from which you could no longer see the sun.

Born into a life preordained, Talyien aren dar Orenar of the Oren-yaro lives a life of duty to her people, marrying Rayyel Ikessar, heir of a rival clan, in order to unite Jin-Sayeng. The night before their coronation, Rayyel mysteriously abandons his wife, child, and country, leaving Talyien to rule the war-torn lands as Queen alone. Years pass and Talyien receives word her estranged husband would like to meet in a city across the sea. With a promise to her son to bring his father back home, she sets sail without a word to her countrymen into the unknown. The Bitch Queen of Oren-yaro is willing to face any danger to save her family and bring much needed peace to her people, but she isn't prepared for the trickery and betrayal that await her.

Well, The Wolf of Oren-yaro is one wild, emotional gut punch of a ride! It is a tale of the demanding balance between love and duty, of faith and the pain of deceit and betrayal, of loyalty, even when it is not apparently due. A woman bred to be the indomitable queen of a harsh nation finds herself being hunted and humiliated at every step of her journey to heal the rift between her husband and herself. While the beginning is a bit of a slow start, you’re soon thrown into a deadly game of cat and mouse, not knowing who can and cannot be trusted, with peril and obstacles at every turn. You can't help but earnestly hope things will begin to turn in Talyien’s favor - however, each time you see the sun cresting the horizon, you're knocked back into the dirt right beside her.

Villoso has created some of the most complex and compelling characters I've had the pleasure of meeting. Talyien, a wolf of Oren-yaro with a reputation of a bloodthirsty ruler, but really a hopeless romantic that almost seems to leave the threat of violence as a last resort. Her emotions often cloud her judgment, endangering all that surround her, even though that’s the last thing she would ever want. She finds solace in a life free of duty, but knows in order to honor her people and her father's memory, she must suffer in silence. Khine, a con man with a heart of gold and raw sincerity, who abandoned his path in life to care for his family. Rayyel Ikessar, heir and proclaimed Dragonlord, who is outwardly stoic and reserved, easily hiding his emotions, yet battles a torrent inside his heart. Yuebeck, the scheming and deranged fifth son of the Emperor, who seeks nothing but the power denied him, refusing to accept no as an answer to his demands. As the story continues, secrets come to light, beautifully deepening the personalities of these wonderful characters. Beneath the lofty titles and fine clothes, they're all utterly human with flaws, faults and needs.

But we make mistakes and we hide them with more mistakes and so life goes on like a broken marionette finishing a play, like a lame horse trying to win a race, like the melody from a lute with missing strings.

The world we're dropped into, dominated by Asian influence, is rife with dangers and wonder, whether we’re exploring the dragon pits of Jin-Seyang, navigating the winding roads of Anzhou City, or hidden behind the soaring walls of Zorheng. However, it's safe to say nothing is as it seems. The tone remains hopeful, even though we’re eclipsed by the shadow of desperation throughout most of the journey. Although this is a story where the fate of kingdoms is at stake, it’s surprisingly personal and relatable, keeping you fully invested in the outcome. And the food…oh, the food!

I've had my eye on The Wolf of Oren-yaro since it was released last year and I honestly regret waiting so long to finally dive in. This is the first book I've read by K.S. Villoso, and it certainly won't be the last! I'm excited and very much looking forward to seeing where we're taken next in the Annals of the Bitch Queen series. If you're looking for something that's large in scope, yet extremely intimate and character-driven, this is exactly what you're looking for. I highly recommend.
Profile Image for Yna from Books and Boybands.
741 reviews345 followers
May 13, 2021


Everyone who knows me is aware that fantasy is not really my thing. Given the chance to pick a genre, I’m a girl who goes for the romance and the contemporaries. But when Shealea posted about this, a high fantasy written by a Filipino, I was ready to go out of my comfort zone and jump on this adventure.

I’m so happy that I made this decision because this read was such a great one. From the first page, the book was able to draw me in and hook me. It’s a book I never wanted to stop reading because the writing style was easy to read and all the happenings were exciting. Though the plot build-up is a little slow, I loved all the little details in the world-building.



The story revolved around Queen Talyien, the Bitch Queen, or Tali. It was told from her perspective and how she was going to survive her reign, her personal life, and all the trials in her way. The book showed some glimpses of the past aside from her present journeys and it is good for a holistic approach to understanding the character and the story.

The Asian culture references throughout the story was such a unique experience and I enjoyed finding little Easter eggs that I can relate to. The fact the author is Filipino means that the details tend to lean toward Filipino culture and this is something that made this reading experience much more special to me. It shone in the lifestyle of the communities, the values, as well as the mouth-watering food that she described. I really loved this because it’s not every day that you get to read a book where you see yourself and your culture being represented without being in-your-face or over-the-top.



Representation aside, the book did not disappoint in providing an intriguing story. There was politics, magic, betrayals, royalty, war, manipulation, and non-stop action. I love how all the characters were developed and how each of them shined and made the story much more special. I liked some, I hated a lot of them, and I felt frustrated with some of them.

I don’t want to spoil much about the book, but what I can say is that the book is worth the read and I am excited to devour the rest of the series! The book will officially out on February 2020, so I am inviting everyone to watch out for the release and don’t miss getting a copy!
Profile Image for hiba.
223 reviews292 followers
October 6, 2020
CWs: xenophobia, gore, murder, public punishment, mentions of attempted rape

Rep: Filipino-coded characters + world

This book almost put me into a reading slump :')

I’m still glad I read it (I think?) because it’s not a bad book at all! It’s got a compelling MC, fascinating political intrigue, great pacing and solid worldbuilding.

It was just NOT what I was expecting at all.

The Characters (or: my essay on Talyien)

Talyien – not as much of a badass Bitch Queen/she-wolf as the cover, blurb and first line of the book lead you to believe and that was probably the point. Tali is the queen of a small warring nation Jin-Sayeng, torn apart by the constant in-fighting between its warlords, and through her the author shows the realities of being a female ruler in an extremely patriarchal world – the expectations, the scrutiny, the pressure of being a wife, mother and queen all at the same time. Tali is forced to outwardly project an image of toughness and cruelty when in actuality, she isn’t quite like that. She’s a pretty tragic figure and I felt so angry and sad for her, especially since her husband Rayyel literally abandoned his duties as king by disappearing 5 years ago (for reasons we don’t find out until the very end) yet she’s still the one blamed for not being a good enough wife and ruler.

BUT I would’ve appreciated this theme of gendered double standards even more if I wasn’t constantly distracted by JUST HOW MUCH Tali pined after Rayyel!!! Every other page!! I got so sick of it, especially seeing how Rayyel constantly and relentlessly pissed all over their marriage while they were together and was just an all-around asshole. I know what the author was trying to do – Tali had been isolated from her peers as a kid, especially other girls her age, by her equally asshole father and betrothed to Rayyel from birth. The marriage was inevitable and Tali likely projected her childhood fantasies of love onto her relationship with Rayyel. In the present timeline, she recognizes how unsettling her “love” for Rayyel is and hates herself for it – I actually read this as Tali being in an emotionally abusive relationship, since Rayyel treats her like shit but she still clings onto him and the comforting familiarity of love. So yeah I can rationalize this all day but you know what….I still hated reading it :)))))

Basically, Tali’s character is supposed to be a subversion of what we expect a ruler to be, particularly a female ruler in a misogynistic world. Throughout the novel, she’s constantly forced into these horrific situations with men, almost made helpless several times – showing how being an elite royal doesn’t let you escape the pervasive sexism and misogyny of society. I just personally didn’t like how things played out.

What bugged me the most was how Tali was so naïve, idealistic and made some pretty dumbass decisions to the point where the men around her seemed smarter…..I truly don’t know if that was on purpose or not. It just kept making me wonder how she’d been able to rule a country on the verge of civil war at all. HOWEVER, I did like how she never once gave up despite all the crappy situations she found herself in, how relentless and resourceful she was, and how she never stopped fighting.

As for the other characters…..SHITTY MEN EVERYWHERE!! And it really peaked with Rayyel – honestly throw the whole man away.

Khine was the only likable character here – he’s a con artist/thief with a past full of crushed dreams, a bright personality and a great sense of humor. I loved his relationship with his sisters and his developing friendship with Tali (though there’s definitely more hinted at between them). I also liked his backstory and just everything about him.

The World

I really liked the Filipino-inspired worldbuilding here and how the details of the culture were naturally woven into the story. But I can’t really speak for this representation so here are the ownvoices Filipino reviews that gave me a better insight into the world of this novel:

- Kate's review
- Shealea's review

I was fascinated by the history of Jin-Sayeng as well as the surrounding nations and how each of them had a distinct culture, the different relationships each nation had with each other, all the world politics. I also appreciated how the author brought out the issues of xenophobia, classism, migration and the lives of diaspora Jin-Sayeng people.

But I would’ve liked to see more of Jin-Sayeng and the Oren-yaro clan – like we’re constantly *told* how dangerous, ruthless and cold-blooded the Oren-yaro people are but we don’t ever get to *see* it, especially since most of the story takes place away from Jin-Sayeng and the Oren-yaro.

The Plot

This is quite an introspective, character-study kind of novel (again not what I was expecting) and the plot is sort of a meandering one since Tali spends most of the book lost in an unknown country and keeps getting thrown into unexpected situations – you can’t really predict where the plot’s gonna go and that definitely kept me engaged. There are a LOT of flashbacks interspersed throughout but they actually didn’t annoy me since I thought they were timed fairly well. The pacing is fast and the writing is straightforward so it’s a really easy book to get through.

For me though, the ending was a let-down – you can pretty much predict what the plot twist (?) is gonna be and honestly, Rayyel’s reason for leaving turned out to be SO astoundingly ridiculous – I know it was meant to be but it also killed whatever interest I’d had in the plot.

Ultimately, I don’t think I was in the right mindset for this book. If you are and you also know what kind of story this is, I think there’s a lot you can get out of it! And I’m definitely intrigued enough to check out the sequel.
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