While this post may not contain spoilers for The Ikessar Falcon, there may be some for The Wolf of Oren-Yaro.
Title: The Ikessar Falcon
Author: K.S. Villoso
Publication Date: September 24, 2020
Publisher: Orbit Books
Age Range: Adult
The story so far:The Bitch Queen returns in The Ikessar Falcon, the action-packed sequel to K. S. Villoso’s acclaimed fantasy debut, The Wolf of Oren-Yaro.
Abandoned by her people, Queen Talyien’s quest takes a turn for the worse as she stumbles upon a plot deeper and more sinister than she could have ever imagined, one that will displace her king and see her son dead. The road home beckons, strewn with a tangled web of deceit and unimaginable horrors – creatures from the dark, mad dragons and men with hearts hungry for power.
To save her land, Talyien must confront the myth others have built around her: Warlord Yeshin’s daughter, symbol of peace, warrior and queen and everything she could never be.
The price for failure is steep. Her friends are few. And a nation carved by a murderer can only be destined for war.
Many thanks to Shealea and Caffeine Book Tours for organizing this book tour. I received an ARC from Orbit Books and Caffeine Book Tours for participating in this tour. All opinions expressed are my own.
If you could hear the way I screamed and yelled at the pages of this book, you would think it was killing me (to be quite honest, I’m still not 100% sure it didn’t). Yes, that’s how good it was. Mind you, I was still reeling from the first book when I started this, and I’m happy to say that Kay has just hacked at the pieces that were left. When we left off, Tali was worlds away from her son and her people, facing truly outrageous proposals that left her questioning everything she had come to know. And when we see her again in The Ikessar Falcon, some disturbing truths come to light.
K.S. Villoso’s writing is a sword that never dulls. I mean, honestly.
Kay Talyien stabs, slices, and hacks her way through my heart and soul and still has enough to keep going. The transition from the first to the second novel is seamless, and yet still leaves you wanting for the finale. The writing itself loaded otherwise simple interactions with tension and hidden meaning, hardly allowing for a moment of relief.
The thing about Tali is that she is haunted, I’d say in some of the worst ways possible. Not only is she still hearing her father’s voice over her shoulder, chastising her every move since she became Queen, but the more she learns, the more she questions him, and in turn, she’s haunted by the certainty that she’ll never get. Every memory, everything Yeshin ever told her, every single belief that she was raised on is questioned, all of which make a stubborn, hell-bent woman all the more so. Tali, with some painful reminders from her traveling companions, chips away at all the worst parts of herself, and has to force herself past them because they’re simply luxuries that politics doesn’t allow. The collision of Tali’s world with Queen Talyien’s makes for a deeply intricate tale that sent my heart racing at every turn. One is having the rug ripped out from under her and just wants a minute to sort through her thoughts, and the other is a wolf of Oren-yaro, through and through. You do the math.
Wolf of Oren-yaro. Yeshin’s daughter. Bitch Queen. Mother. Tali deals with all these titles and then some, and as a royal, she carries some pretty hefty expectations on her shoulders. The world has never been fair to her. Rayyel leaves and the entire country goes to shit? Her fault. Rai says something he shouldn’t have and then takes it back? Whoops, his bad, Tali take the risks why don’t you. This isn’t to say Tali doesn’t have her own flaws, she’s got plenty lmao. But the weight of it all is enough to crush anyone, and yet she is supposed to have an endless capacity for bullshit. Sound familiar? A wolf of Oren-yaro suffers in silence. Which is exactly what I did, taking some very teary-eyed reaction pictures for future use.
One of the things I loved most about this book is how deep we get into Tali’s mind. In The Wolf of Oren-Yaro, we watch Tali question her moves through the eyes of her father, and of course he’s still looming over her head in The Ikessar Falcon, but we also see Tali go through the grueling process of questioning him in his afterlife, as well as herself. Sure, she questions Yeshin’s daughter, but she finds it in her to question Talyien. Tali is spoiled, not just because she’s a royal, but the loyalty of her guards and subjects is something she’s never had to question before. When it seems the whole world is against her, she’s poorly equipped to handle complaints from people she never considered before that moment, and it’s fascinating to watch unfold, although it made my family question me after a bit of yelling out loud. Tali’s journey is more than what it seems, and it seems that Villoso has more in store for us.
At a glance, Talyien’s tale is one of a mother fighting her way through hell to get to her son before, you know, people try to hurt him and things, but it is so much more. Tali isn’t only haunted by her father and his bloodthirst and wars, but by her own decisions. There are so many times that people look to her for a decision, only to turn and berate her for making them. Watching her deal with such
conniving officials petty warlords frustrating politicians in the way she does is indescribable; the most intense and entertaining chess match you’ll ever watch. There’s a reason the queen has all the power on the board, and why it’s not recommended you try and win without one. Just when you think Tali is trapped in a corner, even at her most exhausted, she finds the push she needed. What I absolutely love about this woman is that she has had to sharpen everything she has to fight her way out of something she didn’t choose, and deals with it all. The entire world sees her flaws and she is constantly confronted with her father’s legacy. But where does the legacy end and Talyien begin? For that alone, Villoso has created one of my favorite characters of all time.
Speaking of characters, oh my. I’m not sure I understand the amount of skill it takes to write such beautiful and frustrating characters, and give them a purpose and role to play in Tali’s life. Khine’s easy-going and naturally kind heart is Tali’s (painful) reminder that life can be beautiful, and therefore just breaks my heart over and over again. Agos and Nor, and even Rai I guess, showcase the varying sides and degrees of loyalty, pushing Tali to question her relationships with each of them. The complications between loyalty and logic and love make for one hell of a shitshow that puts Tali right at the center, making for some very late nights starting at the ceiling trying to wonder how we got here at all. There were some moments that were so intimate, that felt like Tali’s own bubble of privacy, that I wasn’t sure if I wanted to stop reading so she could stay there forever, or if I could keep going to rip the band-aid off.
Between the intricacy of both the plot and the relationships, the character development that highlights their flaws, and the amount of strength I simultaneously gained and lost from reading this, there’s no surprise it’s already one of my favorite 2020 reads. Villoso held nothing back and sharpened my soft heart, leaving me ready for (almost) anything. The Ikessar Falcon takes on complex themes of love and legacy and loyalty, all while twisting it like a dagger in a wound. If we had the time and space, I could rant about this book for hours, so I’m only hoping this review does it justice, but I hope it drives you to fall in love with these people and this world as much as I did.
If you’d like, here’s a little playlist I put together for Tali to enjoy while you read (:
About the Author
K.S. Villoso was born in a dank hospital on an afternoon in Albay, Philippines, and things have generally been okay since then. After spending most of her childhood in a slum area in Taguig (where she dodged death-defying traffic, ate questionable food, and fell into open-pit sewers more often than one ought to), she and her family immigrated to Vancouver, Canada, where they spent the better part of two decades trying to chase the North American Dream. She is now living amidst the forest and mountains with her family, children, and dogs in Anmore, BC.
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