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.
This is a review that I’ve waited a year and a half to write. I first bought this book two years ago when it was self-published and read it in that form last year. I was going to write and post my review, but then I found out that it was going to be traditionally published with Orbit.
Many thanks to Orbit and Netgalley for the copy of the traditionally published version.
As I said, I’ve been waiting a long time to review this book. I’ve read it twice now and each time, I still felt the same intense emotion that I did the first time. The Wolf of Oren-Yaro is absolutely one of the best SFF books I’ve read and I suspect it would stay as one of my favorites for a long time.
Early on we learn that Talyien’s marriage to Rayyel brought about the promise of peace after a destructive war. That peace then became fragile once he left. In this book, we saw how much that kind of burden has impacted Tali and how it informs her actions.
Love is a major theme in this book- so is betrayal and secrets, but love is a theme that bleeds through. Anyone familiar with the concept of filial piety will find it in spades here. The obligations, the loyalty, and the love that ties family together are all here. Queen Talyien is a complicated woman defined by love. Love of her father, of her son, of her husband, and even for a people who hates her. Love is a core theme and that powerful kind of love is also a major factor in all the hurt and pain Tali goes through.
The other theme is betrayal and secrets. In this book, we go through extended flashbacks and see what happened in the past and how everything got to the point where they were. Through it, we see Tali’s character through the years- a headstrong, stubborn, and prideful woman, but for all her faults, unrelentingly dutiful and all too aware of what is expected of her.
It wasn’t just Tali’s mistakes that we see- we see everyone else’s too through her eyes and as she finds out things that challenge everything she’s ever known and her own point of view of how things are. In the book, we see her reacting to everything and trying to keep up with all of the twists and turns throughout her journey. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like she could catch a break as the book seemingly tries to plunge her to her lowest point. When you think she’s about to catch a break, something else happens. Through it all, you just can’t help but root for this character.
Talyien is probably one of the best fantasy protagonists I’ve encountered in a while. A warrior, a queen, a daughter, a mother. Throughout her journey, there are many titles she wears, many burdens she carries and yet, she never breaks. That last part certainly wasn’t for lack of trying because there are many people in the story who’d love for her to break, but she doesn’t. Even as she gets outwitted by her enemies, even when she’s surrounded by them, she always manages to pull through somehow. And yet, she wasn’t the perfect character. Many of the things that happen in the story happened through her own shortcomings- which she also acknowledge. Her own pride, her own stubborn nature combined with her husband’s pride and stubborn nature doesn’t exactly bode well for the both of them.
I mentioned earlier that this is a book that will make you angry and it will. Reading this would make you ask why Tali remained faithful to a husband who doesn’t trust her and doesn’t respect her. Men try to victimize her in this book, but she refuses to become their victim. Always, she fights, even when she’s tired, even when it looks like she might give up, she still fights.
The Wolf of Oren-Yaro is character driven fantasy at its finest. There is plenty of plot and it moves along at a pretty fast pace, but at the same time, it gives you an in-depth look into the mind of the main character. You get to know her and really root for her. The first person POV was also utilized really well her as some plot twists would catch you off-guard, like Tali.
I didn’t touch much on the world-building so far, but I’d say I love it and I love how you can see the Filipino influences, from some of the names, the customs, and the food. This is an Asian-inspired fantasy that really sucks you in and doesn’t let go. The writing style is also very good, clean, descriptive, and conveys emotion in a way few fantasy books I’ve read do.
Overall, I highly recommend The Wolf of Oren-Yaro to anyone who loves fantasy and strong female protagonists.