Review: “The Wolf of Oren-yaro” by K.S. Villoso

The Wolf of Oren-yaro (2020)

Title: The Wolf of Oren-Yaro
Series: Chronicles of the Bitch Queen #1
Author: K.S. Villoso
Publication Date: February 18, 2020
Publisher: Orbit
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐1/2
Pre-order: IndieBound | Book Depository| Barnes and Noble | Books-a-Million | Amazon | Kobo| Apple Books

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/39863498-the-gilded-wolves

ARC provided by the publisher. All opinions expressed in this review are my own.

 

A queen from a bloody lineage is desperate to unite her divided land in this compulsive and addicting series opener by debut author K.S. Villoso.

Born under the crumbling towers of Oren-yaro, Queen Talyien was the shining jewel and legacy of the bloody War of the Wolves that nearly tore her nation apart. Her upcoming marriage to the son of her father’s rival heralds peaceful days to come.

But his sudden departure before their reign begins fractures the kingdom beyond repair.

Years later, Talyien receives a message, urging her to attend a meeting across the sea. It’s meant to be an effort at reconciliation, but an assassination attempt leaves the queen stranded and desperate to survive in a dangerous land. With no idea who she can trust, she’s on her own as she struggles to fight her way home.

I must admit, I wasn’t entirely sure what I was getting myself into when I started this book. With my obvious preference for plot-driven stories – especially when it comes to both sci-fi and fantasy – this was out of my comfort zone, but I took the plunge anyway.

And, oh boy, am I grateful I did.

The Wolf of Oren-yaro was a thrilling ride. Set against the backdrop of a country teetering on the brink of war, this is a story of love and betrayal, of family, duty, and legacy. It is a complicated tale, tangled with the politics of the world. At the center of it all, though, is one woman: Queen Talyien aren dar Orenar.

Queen Talyien is the heart and soul of this epic fantasy. This is her story. 

Told from her point-of-view, Talyien is the readers’ connection to this story’s world, and there couldn’t be anyone better. She is easily one of the most interesting characters I’ve read in a long while. Talyien – the Bitch Queen – is a complex character: brash, proud and quick to insult, yet she is also insecure, afraid and so full of uncertainties. The daughter of the warlord who started the war that tore their nation apart, she has inherited her father’s bloody and ruthless legacy. Her marriage to the Ikessar heir, the Oren-yaro’s rival clan, and their subsequent rule is supposed to bring peace – no matter how tenuous – to their land. But one night before their joint coronation, he abandons her leaving Talyien to hold together Jin Sayeng on her own.

Talyien is not easy to like. Jumping from one danger to another and committing herself to half-formed decisions, she is infuriating and frustrating in equal measures. Still, I found myself immediately empathizing with her. Though physically capable and mentally sharp, there is this certain vulnerability about her. Talyien, having been born, bred and grown into duty, wasn’t really given any chance to get to know who she is a woman and as a queen. These two roles often blend and blur together, and it creates so much inner conflict – in addition to outside forces *hint hint* warlords, councilors with misplaced loyalty and a creepy megalomaniac prince – in Talyien and fuels much of her actions.

This is where K.S. Villoso truly shines, mining and building on her characters’ inner tumult, creating depth and breathing life into them. She works her magic from Talyien to the soft-hearted con-man Khine down to self-made lord Lo Bahn. Every character in this book stands out, their voices clear and easily distinguishable. Her secondary characters manage to both add texture to Talyien’s story, and live their own. You can effortlessly imagine what they do beyond the page-time they are given, and that is something that’s not easy to do.

The world-building, though it is not the focus, is also one of the things I love about this book. From page one, the world, its people, the food felt familiar to me. Villoso drew much of her world’s elements from Asian culture and history. But that’s not the reason why the setting of this book was instantly familiar to me because as much as Talyien’s world felt Asian, it felt, more so, Filipino. I’ll be limiting what I put here to avoid spoilers, but take Jin Sayeng as an example. The warlords who rule over their region are reminiscent of feudal Japan while the clans with their defining traits reminded me of the Philippines’ regionalism/province-centric attitude.

The book though is not without its fault. The story took more time before it really gained its momentum. The first half was slow without much happening. Talyien’s recollections of the past, while interesting, interrupted the story’s pace most times. The last quarter of this book makes up for this though, trust me. 

Overall, The Wolf of Oren-yaro is a great series opener. With compelling, fully-formed characters carrying the weight, this a little bit more personal than the usual epic fantasy. You can be sure that I’ll be making grabby hands for the next installment, especially with the way this one ended. This is one book you shouldn’t miss. 

about the authorAuthor photo (K.S. Villoso)

 

K.S. VILLOSO writes speculative fiction with a focus on deeply personal themes and character-driven narratives. much of her work is inspired by her childhood in the slums of Taguig, Philippines. She is now living amid the forest and mountains with her husband, children, and dogs in Anmore, BC.

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram

 

 

Follow the Tour

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The PH blog tour hosted by Shealea at Caffeine Book Tours is still ongoing. If you have the time, please do check out the rest of the tour stops.

ph-schedule-the-wolf-of-oren-yaro

Review: “The Never Tilting World” by Rin Chupeco

The Never Tilting World
Title: The Never Tilting World
Series: Never Tilting World #1
Author: Rin Chupeco
Publication Date: October 15, 2019
Publisher: HarperTeen
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Get it: IndieBound | Book Depository | Barnes and Noble | Books-a-Million | Amazon | Kobo | Apple Books

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/39863498-the-gilded-wolves
ARC provided by the publisher through Edelweiss. All opinions expressed in this review are my own.

Two young goddesses try to right a world gone wrong in Rin Chupeco’s newest fantasy duology The Never Tilting World.

Generations of twin goddesses have long ruled Aeon. But seventeen years ago, one sister’s betrayal defied an ancient prophecy and split their world in two. The planet ceased to spin, and a Great Abyss now divides two realms: one cloaked in perpetual night, the other scorched by unrelenting sun.
While one sister rules Aranth – a frozen city surrounded by a storm-wrecked sea – her twin inhabits the sand-locked Golden City. Each goddess has raised a daughter, and each keeps her own secrets about her sister’s betrayal.
But when shadowy forces begin to call their daughters, Odessa and Haidee, back to the site of the Breaking, the two young goddesses – along with a powerful healer from Aranth, and mouthy desert scavenger – set out on separate journeys across treacherous wastelands, desperate to heal their broken world. No matter the sacrifice it demands.

“A demoness is what men call a goddess they cannot control.”

A strong opening for a strong story, The Never Tilting World blew me away. From the amazing world-building down to all the carefully laid out plot twists, this book had everything I wanted and more. It entertained and made me think: about sisters and that invisible thread connecting them, about power and sacrifice, and of the broken world handed down to us and what we could do to heal it.

Rin Chupeco’s writing really shone through in this book.

With details so vividly described they’re almost tangible, this story’s world-building is just something else. The idea of a world that has stopped spinning, split in two by a great unknowable abyss was a fresh one to me. The two halves – one veiled in the darkness of a never-ending night frozen and battered by tempestuous storms, the other languishing under the heat of a set that never sets – and the element-based magic system reminded me a bit of The Avatar: The Last Airbender and Mad Max.

Having multiple point-of-view characters can be a tough thing to work with. Sometimes it works, others it doesn’t. For TNTW though, it’s the latter. In fact, I think, it’s the best way to tell this particular story.

The two halves of the split world setting of this world is a huge ground to cover. Each side’s widely (and wildly) differing natures create an equally diverse set of challenges for everyone in this book. Chupeco, however, used her characters effectively and maximized the use of the first-person narrative. The four POV characters – Odessa and Lan, Haidee and Arjun – give readers a complete and comprehensive view of the story’s world all while moving the plot.

I must admit, for the first 20% of the book I felt kind of overwhelmed. There were a lot of foundational parts of the world-building thrown in with the narrative in the opening part and it was a sensory overload. Processing and separating the plot while trying to get a feel of what the world looked like and how it functioned became a task. Once things start gelling together though, everything just flowed and those bits laid out at the beginning of the book made a whole lot of sense. Plot twists (especially that ONE involving a supporting character) were deftly foreshadowed without sinking down the surprise factor. This is actually one of the first books I’ve read in a while that I wasn’t able to predict how things will go, and I was all the better for it.

The main characters were a treat to read about. They all have distinct voices and unique personalities, making them easy to tell apart. I enjoyed reading about them – Arjun more than most because he’s just hilarious even when he’s not trying. But, as fun as following their journeys through their world and, in turn, watching them grow as characters, I wasn’t able to really personally connect with any of them. This is not something necessarily bad, it’s just a matter of different experiences. Nevertheless, this difference did not stop me from rooting for all four MCs to succeed (or stay alive and unharmed.)

I thoroughly enjoyed this book from beginning to end. It’s an epic adventure featuring young characters who are willing to take on the challenge of righting the wrongs of those who came before them – to break the cycle. It tackles climate change in all its harshness and destruction, but it still carries with it a hopeful note.

The Never Tilting World is a great start to a new series. It tied off a handful of the plot threads it pulled in but left enough to give the sequel a comfortable starting point. I definitely have a number of questions I want to be answered (What exactly did Asteria and Latona do?) and you can be sure that the moment the next installment hits the shelves, I will be making a grab for it. This is a must-read!

about the author

Rin Chupeco

Raised in Manila, Philippines, RIN CHUPECO writes about ghosts and fantastic worlds. She is the author of The Bone Witch series, The Suffering, and The Girl from the Well.

Website | Twitter | Instagram | Tumblr

INTL Blog Tour + Review: “Stay a Little Longer” by Dawn Lanuza

Stay a Little Longer (Dawn Lanuza)

Title: Stay a Little Longer
Author: Dawn Lanuza
Publication Date: May 28, 2019
Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Pre-order: IndieBound | Book Depository | Barnes and Noble | Amazon | Books-A-Million | Kobo | iBooks

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/39863498-the-gilded-wolves

ARC provided by the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest opinion.

 

A perfect romantic read, Dawn Lanuza’s Stay A Little Longer is sure to leave hearts beating faster and feeling just as full.

They were perfect strangers – all perks, no strings. Until they weren’t.

Elan wasn’t supposed to meet Caty. She lived halfway arounf the world, and he barely left Manila. Yet here he was, giving her a ride to the airport. Covinced that they would never have to see each other after that day, Elan and Caty started to bond over truths, dares, stolen kisses, and games in hotel rooms and bars.

With brief encounters that turned them from acquiantances to friends – tipping to the point of lovers, always – will Elan and Caty keep settling for a day, or will someone finally dare to stay long enough to discover: Is this love?

I have a confession.

I am just a little bit in love with Stay a Little Longer.

Okay, I lied. I’m in love with this book. Like a lot in love.

With a realistic storyline a lot of people would be able to relate to, likable and believable characters, and straightforward and succinct writing, there’s a lot to love in this little book. It was a quick read, with only 200++ pages. I managed to finish reading this within the same day I started it. But, even with its brevity, Dawn Lanuza made every page count. She wielded perfect control of the story’s pace, dropping hints for readers to pick up just enough to tease them and unloading revelations about the characters in all the right places. Maybe the third person perspective made me feel like there’s still somehow a transparent wall in between me and the characters, but nevertheless, it didn’t prevent me from enjoying the story.

As much as I loved the writing though, it was the characters – Elan and Caty – who were the stars of this book.

Stay a Little Longer Quote #1

When we first meet Elan and Caty they were both in love with other people. Living in opposite halves of the world, the two wouldn’t have met but chance brought them together.

Caty and Elan couldn’t be more different from one another. She’s loud and sometimes brash, while he’s quiet and closed-off. However, as they began to get to know one another, the two discover unlikely similarities until what started off as awkward became familiar, instinctual even – strangers becoming friends then evolving into something more, always hovering over an invisible line.

I loved Caty and Elan. I think most people will find a bit of themselves in both characters. They were real and relatable, and so, so easy to like. I rooted for them from the get-go. They had great chemistry and their attraction was very obvious right from the beginning of the story. It was truly a treat watching these two come together in the end, frustrating and tough as it was at times.

Stay a Little Longer Quote #1 (1)

Stay a Little Longer perfectly captures the push and pull of falling in love – its sweetness and urgency, its mess and complications. It didn’t discount the difficulties of maintaining a long distance relationship, which I, as a person whose own LDR burned out, appreciated. The ending was perfect and entirely satisfying, a balm to my jaded heart.

This book has my highest recommendations. Romance and NA readers will definitely find it easy to fall in love with this one, but I think everyone else will find something in Stay a Little Longer that they will enjoy. I will definitely explore other #romanceclass titles after this.

About the Author

Dawn Lanuza

DAWN LANUZA writes contemporary romance, young adult fiction, and prose poetry. She has two first loves – music and writing – and is lucky enough to surround herself with them. She currently lives with her family and a very loved cream toy poodle.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

 

 

Follow the Tour

Check out the rest of these cool bloggers and their blogs for the rest of the Stay a Little Longer Blog Tour hosted by The Royal Polar Bear Reads and The Nocturnal Fey.

May 22

Erika @ The Nocturnal Fey

Rafael @ The Royal Polar Bear Reads

Jen @ Jen D Bibliophile

May 23

Angela @ Hiding Behind Books

Jenny @ Levicorpvs Blog

Alice @ Married to Books Reviews and Blog

May 24

Shaa @ Moonlight Pages

Cathrina @ Puggyreader Writes

Jennilyn @ Rurouni Jenni Reads

May 25

Ynnah @ The Youngvamp’s Haven

Bryan @ Bryan Hoards Books

Rachel @ In Between Book Pages

May 26

Naadhira @ legenbooksdary

Gerald @ Gerald the Bookworm

Danielle @ dmcireadsblog

May 27

Kat @ Reading After Ten

Princess @ Princess and Pages

Provocatrix @ Provocatrix

May 28

Kath @ The Last Reader

Jessica @ Endless Chapters

Rebecca @ Bookingway Reads 

And, to end this post, I’ll leave you with a song that reminds me just a little bit too much of Caty and Elan.