In which I read a book and now I’m talking about it

Y’all know this about me by now: I typically only write book reviews when something is either worth recommending or has seriously offended me for some reason. I don’t write a whole lot of mixed reviews. Every so often I’ll encounter a book that I really liked and can’t explain why, but for the most part my book reviews around here are raves of some variety or another.

(Why is the name of the book not in the title of the review, like usual? I’m actually trying to dodge easy Google hits on this one. I have at least one negative review of a book where I like every other single book that author has written that gets more traffic than it ought to and I don’t especially want that to happen with this one.)

Anyway. I finished K.S. Villoso’s The Wolf of Oren-Yaro yesterday. I picked it up based on several strong mentions online from people I trust, plus the author is a Filipino woman and the notion of epic fantasy from the Philippines is attractive.

And … damn. I finished the book, but I finished it seriously disappointed. The biggest problem that this book has is that the main character, the Bitch Queen (the series is actually called the Annals of the Bitch Queen) and the titular Wolf, probably has less agency in this book than any character I can remember short of Arthur Dent. You can get away with writing a book about a character whose decisions have no impact on the plot if you’re writing a comedy about someone the reader is supposed to feel sorry for, but when the main character is supposed to be a queen, only she consistently makes terrible decisions throughout the book and most of the time after she makes those terrible decisions they are immediately rendered irrelevant through external events, you probably need to go back and reconsider a little bit.

I have never in my life read something where a single character is captured or has her plans derailed so many times in the same book, by so many different people. And, like, she’ll manage to escape, or be rescued, and then the exact same shit happens again. And it’s really frustrating, because there’s a good story in here somewhere, to the point where I might actually buy the sequel, believe it or not– it’s just that the main character is damn near unbearable. There are signs of her claiming some agency toward the end of the book, so maybe she’ll be better in the sequel, and once you get beyond the character work, the world is interesting, and the writing is strong, it’s just that Queen Talyien is a black hole of a character and since she’s the sole POV character it’s a real problem.

I spent the entire book wondering what Cersei Baratheon or Celaena Sardothien might do in the same circumstances, and … that’s really not a good sign, right?

Blech. I started Deborah Hewitt’s The Nightjar last night and so far the first 60 pages are pretty promising. Hopefully that’ll wash the taste out a little bit.

11:43 AM, Tuesday April 21: 788,920 confirmed cases (we will likely crack 800K today) and 42,458 American deaths.

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Luther M. Siler

Teacher, writer of words, and local curmudgeon. Enthusiastically profane. Occasionally hostile.