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Book Review: “The Wolf of Oren-Yaro”

The Wolf of Oren-Yaro

K.S. Villoso

Paperback, 496 pages

Publication Date:  February 18, 2020

Publisher: Orbit

Genre: Fantasy

I think the best thing about this book was how I received it. I entered a giveaway on Twitter months ago, and one day in November I saw a direct message from the author herself. I had won the giveaway, and she was going to send me a signed advanced reader’s copy (ARC) so I could read “The Wolf of Oren-Yaro” before it was published.

I could not have been more thrilled. I received my ARC in December and read it a couple weeks later, finishing it a full month before its release date of Feb. 18. I think it is the single coolest thing ever to happen to me.

Now, on to the book itself. “The Wolf of Oren-Yaro” is praised as a great book featuring an even greater protagonist. Talyien is the queen of her people, but only because of a bloody war when she was a child. Her father negotiated the end of the war by ensuring his daughter would rule when he died and made peace with the factions warring against him by promising her hand in marriage to the heir of his enemy. Talyien’s father died before this marriage took place, and the book opens with her married and a parent to the child who will bring the still-bitter clans of her kingdom together once and for all.

Except her husband is gone. Before Rayyel’s wife could be crowned, he left and never returned. Five years later, Talyien receives a letter from Rayyel, who wants to reconcile with her. Ignoring the advice of her counsel and leaving her vulnerable son behind, Talyien decides to leave the safety of her kingdom to meet with her estranged husband.

I, personally, felt like this was a dumb move, and I was proven correct when things on Talyien’s simple trip to see her husband quickly spiraled out of control. But I recognized books have to have conflict to drive the plot along, so I assumed this “great protagonist” would start making wiser decisions as the book went on.

That sadly never happened. Talyien seemed intent on doing whatever she felt like doing, despite almost everyone else in the book telling her not to be so stupid. She refuses to listen to any guidance and finds herself in deeper and deeper trouble as a direct result of her poor choices. In fact, a villain reveals toward the end of the book his plans were only able to work out so well because Talyien behaved as recklessly as he thought she would.

Throughout “The Wolf of Oren-Yaro,” I constantly found myself disappointed in a character-driven book being led by a character incapable of making a single good decision. While Talyien is not the amazing and unforgettable hero other readers seem to think she is, the writing makes up for the lack of redeeming qualities in Talyien. Villoso manages to make a nearly 500-page book never feel like a slog. The pace was quick and things were regularly happening, which many fantasy books have trouble accomplishing.

Even if I did not enjoy the main character, I never stopped having fun reading “The Wolf of Oren-Yaro,” thanks to Villoso crafting a well-structured novel with to-the-point prose. If you like high fantasy, give this a try. Maybe you will like Talyien better than I did.

Paige Holmes is a senior journalism major from Topeka, KS. Reading is her favorite thing to do because it teaches one how to think, imagine and live. Paige believes there is no better way to learn something or be entertained than by reading a book. Her favorite genre of books is fantasy/thriller and her favorite book is ‘Opening Moves’ by Steven James.

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