In need of a female protaganist in a fantasy book in a world filled with testosterone fueled fantasy? The Wolf of Oren-Yaro might be just what you are looking for.
The Bitch Queen
The book centers on Queen Talyien, ruler of the nation Jing-Sayen. Life isn’t easy for this bitch-queen what with trying to keep the warlords from tearing each others throats. Her husband, heir to one of the ruling clans was suppose to help rule alongside her. Two clans joined together in order to create peace. Unfortunately, for reasons unknown, King Rayyel left Talyien on the day of their coronation. Why? No one can say except Talyien. There are rumors, rumors that will affect this queens ability to rule, will fracture her family and call loyalties into question. Even more so if these rumors turn out to be true.
A Royal Marriage
“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.”
Parts of this book are dedicated to exploring Talyien and Rayyel’s relationship, from the day they first met until the day Rayyel left. The ups and downs show Talyien’s willingness to fulfill her duty in marrying in order to end a war but also show a deep love and longing for this man that happens to be the husband who abandoned her. Love is never a simple thing, especially when you’re wearing a crown.
Five years after having left, Rayyel writes in order to meet with Talyien in a far away empire. But what are his motives? Does he want a reconciliation or is there more to this?
This a tale of love, betrayal, political intrigue and bloody violence. Talyien may be a queen but she is no stranger to a sword and killing. Since the book is in Talyien’s perspective, you get inside her head, learn about her past and try to understand her. There were times I sympathized her and other times I just couldn’t relate to her at all. This first person perspective has it’s good side (diving deep into the character) and it’s downside (if you don’t like the character you will not like the book). Talyien’s introspective moods and internal monologues regarding her relationship with her husband were starting to wear me out during the first half of the book.
In fantasy books I’m a fan of multiple POV’s and characters to give the book as much flavor and differing personalities as you can. So this means I sometimes found myself not really enjoying this book. I enjoyed this after the second half and the story becomes more and more convoluted with plots and political intrigue.
“I think I understand you,” I said. I also thought I wanted to hit him in the face, but not everybody appreciated knowing that.”
By the end my head was spinning and grappling with some of the decisions taken by characters. Some of these characters like Rayyel or even Talyien herself are portrayed as being morally centered characters. So some of their more reprehensible actions led me to have a tough time to grapple and understand those actions. I usually read about morally gray characters; as in they are downright bad with a sliver of good shining through but these are the opposite. These are characters with a moral compass who are driven to some questionable things (such as murder) because they feel it is the only way to carry out their duty as royals.
Overall, an entertaining read with some solid world building and history, a lot of political intrigue, marital introspection and a chance to really get to know a new, bold character in fantasy. This is a filipino-inspired fantasy so for those wanting a different setting with a strong female main character who isn’t afraid of a sword fight, this is for you.
I gave The Wolf-Queen of Oren-Yaro 3 out of 5 mortars. The sequel, The Ikessar Falcon comes out September 22, 2020.