“A wolf of Oren-yaro fights to make it right, down to the last breath. A wolf of Oren-yaro does not beg. A wolf of Oren-yaro suffers in silence.”
Author: K.S. Villoso
Publication Date: January 2018
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Queen Talyien inherited a mess.
Jin-Sayeng is country with powerful individual warlords that are unified by one monarch, the Dragonlord, but do not cede to their authority easily. The people of the Jin-Sayeng clan Oren-Yaro have earned a reputation over the years of being called “wolves of Oren-Yaro” due to their ferocity and everyone expects Talyien to be just the same.
“They called me ‘bitch’, the she-wolf, because I murdered a man and made my husband leave the night before they crowned me.”
She has this reputation for being a violent monarch but from what we see in this book, that is somewhat unwarranted. She is perceived this way it seems thanks to her heritage but she does not actually demonstrate a desire to visit violence on anyone until toward the end of the book after she has gone through some major changes and epiphanies.
The thing is, Talyien is a woman who has the potential for great strength but up to this point has been a weak monarch.
Her land is on the brink of civil war and while this is not directly her fault (the clans of Jin-Sayeng seem to love arguing with each other regardless of who is in charge), she has also been unable to turn the tide of politics and bring prosperity to her nation despite her best intentions.
Her husband, Rayyel, left her rather than be crowned Dragonlord for reasons that are not discovered until the end of the book but he was still able to effect change in her nation and her nation’s economy without her even knowing about it. All this despite her proclamation that he should be arrested should anyone learn his whereabouts.
She also seems to have a habit of accidentally disappearing from her guards and getting lost in a foreign city. It doesn’t help that 95% of people in this world seem to be assholes and have no scruples about taking advantage of her situation and/or betraying her if they know who she is.
While I became very engrossed in this book and absolutely had trouble putting it down, I found myself frustrated with Talyien because she would almost never tell anyone who she was when she was in these situations. I am used to books and stories where monarchs are respected by the common people even if they dislike them. But man, no one in these nations seems to have the slightest amount of respect for Jin-Sayeng’s monarch and she cannot trust anyone with the knowledge of her identity.
With about 100 pages left to go in this book though, Tali does have her big epiphany moment that makes her look back on her decisions, the sort of queen she has been, and how she has fulfilled her duties versus how she should have been fulfilling her duties. This “awakening” moment made me breathe a sigh of relief because I had wanted to get behind her for the whole book and she was finally realizing her mistakes and becoming the badass that I wanted her to be from the beginning.
So many of the other characters in the book are total…well, “asshole” doesn’t begin to cover most of them and for some it is too gentle a word for what they are.
Prince Yuebek, for example, should crawl right back into whatever hellhole spawned him.
Rayyel though…oh Rayyel.
Through most of the book, Rayyel is portrayed as a pristine character in a sea of jerks. This is mostly because the story is told from Talyien’s perspective and despite his leaving her 5 years prior, she still loves him and doesn’t want to think ill of him. He is handsome and scholarly but not overly adept at politics so she sees anything bad that he is doing now as his being pushed around by other people and he is simply naive enough to think it is a good idea.
Through the book, his motives and character are questioned a lot. By the end and finding out why he left, I think he is one of the most despicable characters and he is up against Prince Fucking Yuebek!
Talyien and Rayyel’s history is given in short snippet’s throughout the book and with each piece that we receive, we see his sins plain as day, we see how contrary his character really is to what Talyien wants it to be. She suffered through his shortcomings though for her love for him and for what they were supposed to build together in Jin-Sayeng. Rayyel on the other hand ditched everything and worsened an already bad situation and let the wounds fester for years before making any attempt to contact Talyien. People could literally die for his pride and I sincerely think he would not blink.
At least Yuebek is the sort of villain that is clearly a villain.
Chronologically, this series comes after The Agartes Epilogues but I think I would actually recommend reading this book first if at all possible. There are only minor spoilers in The Wolf of Oren-Yaro for the first trilogy and this book has a smaller focus so the reader can get acquainted with part of the world. The Agartes Epilogues is much more epic in scale both story-wise and in world-building.
The one thing that both have in common though is that you have to get to the end because that is where the storytelling really comes together and any confusion or frustration from earlier is cleared away.