Queen Talyien has been ruling alone for years. Her estranged husband, Rayyal, left 5 years ago under mysterious circumstances, leaving Queen Tal and her son to fend for themselves. Just as greedy warlords are threatening her rule, Tal receives a letter from her husband stating that he wants to see her. Even though the place Rai proposes to meet is in a strange land, Tal jumps at the chance to reconcile. Their marriage was meant to unite the Kingdom, and it has been falling apart ever since.
Tal takes a small retinue with her to the meeting, and it does not take long before assassins descend on the gathering. Tal narrowly escapes, but now she is alone in a strange land where she has no friends or allies and no one knows she is a queen.
Tal must do whatever it takes to find her husband and bring him home. But, first she must navigate dangerous waters. Alone.
The Wolf of Oren-Yaro is an asian-inspired adventure fantasy about a Queen trying to find herself while traveling in an area unknown to her, and without the help of her allies. Queen Talyien finds herself in the most dangerous situations, and she does not know who to trust. As things continue to get worse, she eventually finds some clues as to where her husband, Rayyel, has been taken after an assassination attempt and sets off to find him and bring him home.
This story is told from Queen Talyien’s (“Tal”) perspective, and I had a hard time connecting with her in this story. She made bad decision after bad decision, and her internal monologue would always tell her ahead of time it was not the right action to take – she always did it, anyway. Every person she came in contact with felt like the same thought-loop: “I cannot trust this person. I am going to trust them, anyway, because I do not have a choice.” I think she always had another choice, but took the wrong road every time. I found her to be quite frustrating.
Speaking of trusting people, I have never read a book before that had so many characters with so few who had positive impact on the story. There was 1 character in this book (Khine) who was redeemable in any kind of way, and even then the reader spends the whole book wondering whether or not he is going to betray her in the end. Add in the fact that the overall tone of the book was super dark, and I walked away from this book feeling down – like the weight of the whole story had been pressing down on me for 400+ pages. I like my adventure fantasies higher up on the whimsical scale.
One of the things that kept me reading was the fact that many of the plot points felt so random, that I was always wondering what kind of situation Tal was going to find herself in next. There is also this big mystery surrounding her husband Rai: his disappearance, where he has been, why he called this meeting, and what it means for the future of the kingdom. That is the aspect of the story that held my interesting and was the light at the end of the tunnel.
After hanging on to that little piece of hope the whole time, the ending was unsatisfying for me, as well.
The Wolf of Oren-Yaro is an action–packed adventure fantasy set in an asian-inspired world. It is a deep and heavy, and it was just not for me. I recommend this for anyone who likes their adventure fantasy on the darker side.