I recently read two fantasy books that have been on my TBR list for a while, and I really enjoyed them. As much as I adore the fantasy genre, some of it came feel quite samey but both The Wolf of Oren-Yaro and The Ruin of Kings felt very unique!
Check out my full reviews:
The Wolf of Oren-Yaro by K.S. Villoso
The marriage between Queen Talyien and Rayyel, the Ikessar heir, was supposed to bring peace to the fractured lands of Jin-Sayeng. However, when Rayyel flees before their reign can truly begin Talyien struggles to hold it together. When she receives an invitation to meet from her estranged husband years later, she eagerly journeys to the meeting place in hopes of reconciling their past and bringing peace once more to their lands. But when an assassination attempt interrupts their meeting, Talyien is left alone and vulnerable in a strange country, and must get by on her wits, and with a little help from an unexpected ally.
- I grew to really like Talyien, even though she wasn’t the most endearing character. Going into this book I expected its’ main character to not be overly likeable – the series is called ‘Chronicles of the Bitch Queen‘ after all – but I found that she was quite different than I expected. I was expecting your stereotypical ‘strong female character’ who can fight better than all the men and is snarky and sarcastic, but Talyien wasn’t like that. Whilst she is clearly a good fighter, she came across as more of a thinker, and quite introspective, but with a cold, unfriendly facade that made her initially unlikable. However, throughout the novel you get to see more of her vulnerable side, and see her form bonds with people and stand on her own two feet, and by the end, I was massively rooting for her!
- I loved the world of this book! Most of the book takes place in the city of Anzhao, and the vivid descriptions made it really come to life, from the sounds and smells to the food and the people. Whilst I’ve read a lot of books with fantasy cities in them, this one felt very unique, and from reading the interview with K.S. Villoso in the back I found out that she based a lot of the world on Filipino culture, which isn’t something I’ve seen much of in the fantasy genre (despite the recent increase in the amount of Asian-inspired fantasy in the past few years, which is something I’ve been loving!).
- It did take me a little while to get into this book, as the start of it felt quite slow, and it does take quite a while to warm to Talyien, or it did in my experience. I was definitely intrigued by the mystery of why Rayyel had left in the first place though, and the prospect of her meeting with him kept me turning the pages.
Overall, I loved this book! I’ve read a lot of fantasy books, and they can often blur into one, but The Wolf of Oren-Yaro felt very unique, and had one of the most complex female characters I’ve seen in a long time. I can’t wait for the next book in this series!
My Rating: 4/5
The Ruin of Kings by Jenn Lyons
Kihrin is a bard’s apprentice with a habit of stealing, and when he tries to rob the wrong house he finds himself marked by a demon. The attention this brings him leads to him being claimed by royalty and taken to live in a Palace…but he’s far from living the dream. Embroiled in his new family’s ruthless schemes he seeks to escape, but even that doesn’t make things better. He finds out he may be the subject of an ancient prophecy…and he isn’t even the hero.
- I think the characters were the best thing about this book for me! Kihrin as the main character was lovable with his sassy attitude, and I adored his exchanges with Tereath (I was totally shipping those two!). I also really liked Tyentso and the friendship that develops between her and Kihrin, and Kihrin’s new found royal family were deliciously evil (except Galen – who was super sweet!).
- This book had a lot of trappings of classic fantasy, but managed to create something completely fresh out of them (for example, the ancient prophecy involving Kihrin setting him up as the destroyer of the empire, rather than the hero who’ll save them all).
- I wasn’t a huge fan of the weird narrative style in this book, even if it was one of the things that kept it feeling fresh. The book basically starts with Kihrin in a jail cell being guared by Talon, and they both tell Kihrin’s story throughout the book, alternating between them, but talking about different time periods…even explaining it is kind of complicated. You’re basically reading two different stories about Kihrin at once, and I personally would have just liked to read the story in chronological order! I appreciate what the book was trying to do, and I’m sure a lot of people loved the book for this weird timeline, but I wasn’t a huge fan of it. It just felt unnecessarily complicated!
- There were footnotes. This is kind of a weird one, because I actually enjoyed the content of the footnotes – a guy reading the account and adding his own humorous commentary about the narratives inaccuracies etc. I just didn’t like keep having to stop reading the actual story to then read the footnotes, and then find my place again… I think I just opened this book, saw footnotes and thought ‘oh no!’ and nothing could really change my mind!
Despite not loving the narrative format, I did really enjoy the actual story of The Ruin of Kings, and above everything, I loved the characters. This felt like a really fresh spin on a fantasy epic, and I’m interested to see where the story goes next (I just have to psych myself up to reading the enormous tome that is The Name of All Things!).
My Rating: 4/5
So have you read either of these books? What did you think? Are you a fan of unusual narrative structures in books, or do you prefer things simple and chronological?