AUTHOR’S WEBSITE: https://www.ksvilloso.com/
SERIES: Annals of the Bitch Queen
PUBLISHED: January 29, 2018 (Self-published)
GENRE: Epic Fantasy
In a nation of lost glory and fallen cities, mad dragons run amok and warlords bristle under the guise of peace. Now a woman must stop the ruin she helped create, but how do you fight what you are fated to fail?
“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’s life unfolded like a storybook. The shining jewel and legacy of the bloody War of the Wolves that nearly tore her nation apart, her marriage to Rayyel, the son of her father’s rival, spoke of peaceful days to come.
But all storybooks must end. Rayyel’s sudden departure before their reign began created fractures that left the land as divided as ever.
Years later, Talyien receives a message from Rayyel, urging her to meet with him across the sea. 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.
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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.