Book Review : The Wolf of Oren-Yaro

Book Review : The Wolf of Oren-YaroThe Wolf of Oren-Yaro (Chronicles of the Bitch Queen, #1) by K.S. Villoso
on July 23rd 2019
Genres: Fantasy, Grimdark fantasy
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“They called me “bitch”, the she-wolf, because I murdered a man and made my husband leave the night before they crowned me.”
Born under the crumbling towers of Oren-yaro, Talyien aren dar Orenar's life unfolded like a storybook. The shining jewel and legacy of the War of the Wolves that nearly tore her nation apart, her marriage to the Ikessar heir, Rayyel, spoke of peaceful days to come.
But all storybooks must end. Rayyel suddenly left the night before they were to be crowned, leaving the land as divided as before.
Years later, in the midst of the warlords' rising tensions, Talyien receives a message from Rayyel, urging her to meet with him in the Empire of Ziri-nar-Orxiaro. An assassination attempt interrupts Talyien's quest for reconciliation, sending the queen struggling in a strange and dangerous land. With betrayals in every twist and turn, she is forced to enlist the help of a con-artist to survive and save her husband from the clutches of those who would seek to use him for their gain...if he would let her.

When a series has a name like Chronicles of the Bitch Queen, I have certain expectations. I expect a ruthless, calculating Queen, who may even rule her kingdom with an iron fist, which in turn, makes her male followers resentful and afraid. With the cover of the first entry in this series, The Wolf of Oren-Yaro depicting a woman with a sword, I feel that I can safely assume she is also an adept swordswoman. Unfortunately, this was one of those cases where reality did not meet up with my expectations for the novel. 


“Take my advice, my queen. Ignore it. The man disappears for the better part of five years and then thinks that you will come running to him after a mere letter? Such arrogance.”


The main character of The Wolf of Oren-Yaro and narrator is Queen Talyien. Taliyen is the ruler of Jin-Sayeng, a formerly war torn country that is filled with formerly fighting warlords. To put a stop to the constant power grapple, Taliyen is married to a prince of a former enemy clan, named Rayyel. For reasons unbeknownst to the kingdom, Rayyel leaves his new wife, deserting her and his son and heir. This does a hell of a lot to undermine Talyien’s authority, but she manages to hold onto power for five years, keeping her kingdom together and raising her son on her own. Until one day, she receives a letter from Rayyel asking her to meet. Against the wishes of the few advisors she tells of the letter, Talyien sets out with a limited number of guards to meet her husband in a foreign land. 


And that is when everything goes completely to hell. Talyien is betrayed on every imaginable level possible, and that is not an exaggeration. Her guards turn on each other and her, assassins invade the meeting with her husband, the home she stayed in is full of spies, and the woman who finds her injured and unconscious in the slums, patches her up, feeds her, and slaps her with a debt that she must work to pay off, as a prostitute. Just wow. Every time Talyien manages to get herself out of one situation, whether using her feminine wiles, brains, or sword fighting, she ends up in another. Throughout every single betrayal, it never occurs to this Queen that she is being betrayed by people close to her, especially her absolutely awful husband, which blows my mind. 


“You could remove yourself from politics for a time, but when it came to matters of the heart? I was reduced to a mewling woman—to the girl who used to think her heart would explode simply because her prince glanced her way. My shaking made me feel like a weak-willed fool.”


I have no idea how this woman survives anything she encounters, let alone how she ran and held together a kingdom full of in-fighting. She is completely out of her depth, with very few people loyal to her, and most just wanting to use her. When the villain of the novel makes more sense than the heroine, who is completely blind when it comes to anything having to do with her husband, we have a problem. Instead of a capable bitch queen who took no prisoners and ruled capably, I found a frustratingly naive woman with a nose for trouble and blindness when it comes to her love life. Taliyen’s poor decisions continually aggravated me, with the novel reading like a laundry list of one avoidable incident after another, and I barely managed to finish it. 


“And so we have a queen who cannot even acknowledge when a man has betrayed her, a man who isn’t worth a single drop of the tears she has shed for him.”


Despite my irritation with The Wolf of Oren-Yaro, and Queen Talyien, I momentarily entertained the idea of reading the rest of the trilogy. That is, until I got to the ending. I was absolutely dumbfounded when Talyien finally gets her meeting with her husband, Rayyel, and the reason he left her is finally revealed. View Spoiler » I know the whole point of writing a review is to have words about the novel and its characters, but I honestly have no words for my disgust for this man, and by connection, the woman who still stupidly continues to love him. 


How could I respect this woman? It is inconceivable to me that Talyien could still harbor romantic feelings for Rayyel. And I can only see Talyien’s love life going to even worse places, if that’s even possible, in future entries in the series as the two men who have aided her throughout this reprehensible course of events, which honestly I just want to call it what it is—a shit show—are clearly both romantically interested in this woman—who should come with a warning label or something—for some inexplicable reason. Khine, the con man, definitely evokes feelings in Talyien, which wouldn’t be a problem—if I didn’t know, without a doubt, that she would screw it up. The other man, Agos, her former of the captain of the guard, childhood friend, View Spoiler », is the only man who has been consistently and unfalteringly loyal to her throughout her entire life. As he came back to save her once more, despite her using him and abusing him so so poorly, I just know that it’s going to happen to him again at Talyien,’s hands. And I am not sticking around to watch it—once was bad enough. 


“My father once told me that people cling to hope like drowning rats on driftwood. Sometimes it doesn’t matter if it’s all going to sink, anyway.”


Sadly, The Wolf of Oren-Yaro was just not for me and I am not clinging to any hope that I will like future entries of the series either. I hated Queen Talyien’s inability to separate political matters from matters of the heart, and how awfully she treated the people around her. I can only imagine that since The Wolf of Oren-Yaro left her stranded on foreign shores, the next entry in the series will portray a similar excruciating series of misfortunes as she makes her way back home. I know that Talyien will use those at her disposal to do, hurting them in the process, and not caring much because of her goal. Frankly, I can’t bear to read more of the constant patterns of romantic issues and abuse, they were just too maddening—both infuriating and disheartening— for me to enjoy the novel. Even though I typically really love antiheroes of some variety, I definitely didn’t care for Queen Talyien, as she was more unlikeable than any part of a hero, even an antihero.


Perhaps if I felt that Queen Talyien had learned anything from her past choices and would make different decisions going forward, I would read the next novels in the series. But as I honestly can’t picture her as anything but perpetually miserable, and by way of her own horrendous choices at that, I won’t be reading the next installments Chronicles of Bitch Queen. If you are a fan of darker fantasy novels with mostly unlikable and possibly irredeemable antiheroes and lots of frustrating romantic issues, The Wolf of Oren-Yaro is undoubtedly the novel for you.


Book Review : The Wolf of Oren Yaro - Blogging with Dragons

Posted August 2, 2021 in Book Reviews, Fantasy

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