The Wolf of Oren-Yaro got off to a fairly strong start: Tali’s first person perspective was engaging, I was intrigued to discover what had actually happened between her and her husband Rai, and I liked how she kept trying to get to know her guards and maids on a personal level. For me, things got even more exciting when she bumped into Khine, who introduced himself unrepentantly as a con man. I love a fantasy heist, and involving the queen in even a small con definitely ticked all sorts of boxes.
The world K S Villoso created felt very real, in part because Tali reacted like a human to periods of hunger or adverse weather. In books, these things are often mentioned, but you very rarely see someone actually acting stupid because they haven’t had a meal or day, or becoming more weak and susceptible to pain when they’re outside in the cold. K S Villoso created interesting contrasts between the way Tali was brought up and the world she was exploring for most of the book’s beginning.
You could not be queen and wife and queen and mother at the same time. There were always sacrifices to make, and none of us can be more than one person.The Wolf of Oren-Yaro, K S Villoso
The threats that Tali faced were certainly realistic, too. Maybe a little too much so. It’s not at all unreasonable that a woman would face sexual violence three or more times in the kind of society depicted by The Wolf of Oren-Yaro, but it did start to feel a little grating. While this played into the theme of how difficult it was for Tali to rule single-handed, it just wasn’t very pleasant to keep reading. It probably didn’t help that Tali’s consensual relationships with men (who weren’t related to her) nearly all revolved around sex, too.
Towards the end, I started to struggle with the plot of The Wolf of Oren-Yaro. Despite internally questioning at least one prior note that seemed to be in her husband’s handwriting, Tali jumps to the conclusion that a second note must absolutely be from him. In real life, that’s probably perfectly realistic, but in a narrative, unfortunately, it makes her certainty feel unconvincing. It’s the same kind of ‘but why did you jump to that conclusion?’ problem that I had with Under the Pendulum Sun. It doesn’t ruin the book entirely, but it did affect my enjoyment of the last third of the story.
The Wolf of Oren-Yaro was interesting enough, and reading K S Villoso’s thoughts on the next book in the series intrigued me enough that I think I’ll get around to it one of these days, but it wasn’t something I think I’ll reread over and over.