After reading The Wolf of Oren-Yaro by K.S. Villoso in August, I was almost nervous about the sequel because I wasn’t sure how a sequel could live up to the adventure of the first book. But, thankfully, The Ikessar Falcon proved me wrong, and showed just how masterful K.S. Villoso is as an epic fantasy writer.
If you weren’t convinced you should read The Chronicles of the Bitch Queen before, I’m going to try and change that.
Note: This review is spoiler-free. Basic knowledge of The Wolf of Oren-Yaro is assumed, but neither books are spoiled here.
I received an Advanced Reader’s Copy (ARC) of The Ikessar Falcon from the publisher, Orbit Books, and Caffeine Book Tours as part of my participation of this tour. All quotes pulled from this edition are subject to change upon publication.
If you would like to read more reviews of The Ikessar Falcon as part of the #DethronetheDragonlord book tour, click here for a helpful and handy Twitter thread. You can also peruse the #DethronetheDragonlord tag on Twitter and Instagram for more content.
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.
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While there was so much that happened in the first book, there are still a lot of questions left unanswered and parts of the story left unexplored that finally get their limelight in the second book. K.S. Villoso essentially gave us a lot of puzzle pieces in the first book that we began to piece together as we continued on in Talyien’s story.
As I stated earlier, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from the sequel, and that embedded in me a fear that my enjoyment for The Ikessar Falcon would be diminutive in comparison to The Wolf of Oren-yaro. However, K.S. Villoso’s strong voice and unique story-telling stays true through the second book, beautifully connecting events, mysteries, and character relationships. For this review, I wanted to talk about the overall major themes that made The Ikessar Falcon such an immensely gripping read.
The consequences of our actions
The characters in this world feel almost as real as your neighbors and friends, while also being in incredibly fantastical situations (such as a queen stranded without her guard, or a warlord who… kills a lot of people without remorse). The incredible effect this has mainly impacts character actions and motivations, and the web that is woven from all these complex characters is beautifully done. With such a wide cast of characters with such different motivations, it’s easy, especially of the course of two books, to allow a plothole or two. However, K.S. Villoso’s brain must be extra big with how she created a heavily political, emotionally complicated, and overall incredibly complex story without missing a beat. Her creation of such realistic characters and situations also lead to the creation of an extremely real main character who makes mistakes and has to live with them.
As much as I love Talyien, I’ll be the first to admit she can be frustrating at times. She is one of the most imperfect female heroine main characters I have ever read. But I absolutely loved that. How many science-fiction/fantasy books with strong female leads can you name? You know, the ones who do everything right and know exactly what to do as soon as the mission falls into their hands? My guess is a lot. Finally,we have a book with a female protagonist who has no “chosen one” special abilities or talents, but rather is honestly flying by the seat of her pants. And while a lot of her actions, whether historic or rather recent, still affect her life now, but other’s mistakes and choices have a profound effect on Talyien’s life as well. This is all to say that Talyien is human, and it’s incredible to watch someone so relatable go through what she has to.
The legacy — or in this case, infamy — and living up to an image
Being the daughter of a warlord is tough no matter what. Your dad is a murderous fiend whom most commoners hate, and he probably doesn’t treat you like any normal kid either. So when he dies and leaves the throne to you — you can imagine it’s not all peaches and cream, and that’s certainly the case for Talyien. This book gives us some insight on the aftermath of the death of a ruthless warlord and those who have to live in his shadow forever. Talyien is hated and feared for her father’s actions, despite not claiming them as her own. She also suffers the consequences of how she was raised, and like all of us, our upbringing falls short in some areas, but this can actually be a huge issue for someone who has to rule an entire country.
Raised a soldier, she’s expected to be this equally heartless ruler, but it’s evident in her relationships with other people that that’s just not her. But with every person she meets, and every rumor spread, she must put up a front and live her life by the definition of others. Not only is that exhausting, but that’s also incredibly unfair. She rarely ever gets a choice and acts in the best interests of others before herself.
“You said it yourself. We have to live with what we created.”
Some last thoughts: characters that make you feel things, a crazy story to tell your kid in the future, and what if the Philippines was never colonized?
If you talk to anyone who’s read The Wolf of Oren-yaro, they probably have a pretty strong opinion on just about every single major character. These characters are extremely polarizing, and their actions and personalities will definitely have the same effect on you, too. But it’s incredible because all of the characters are memorable for one thing or another, and there aren’t a lot of books with a wide cast of characters that I can say that about.
Also, Talyien is a mom. Can you imagine her kid asking her about all her adventures and Talyien having to sit down and explain all that to them? I don’t know why but I found this so humorous. Like, sit down kid, let me tell you about the time I… (I think this will make more sense if you actually read the book).
Yes, the world that Talyien lives in is the world K.S. Villoso has crafted around the idea of an untouched Philippines — what if Spain never colonized the Philippines? I think all of us Filipinos can find some comfort in the idea of a Philippines untouched by colonizers. I certainly did.
Bottom line — I loved this book for much more than its epic fantasy story
Books that become more than books and transform into important think pieces are the books that really tickle my pickle. The world that K.S. Villoso created is so finely crafted and immersive that this book will grab you from page one and throttle you until the very end, but still leave you mesmerized and excited for the next installment of the series, which only promises to build on the wonderful story so far. You will not regret picking up this series whether you’re a fan of fantasy or social commentary, and I hope by the time you’ve gotten this far you’re hyped to pick up a copy for yourself.
About the author:
Thank you so much to my three bestest friends in the whole world for proofreading this and checking for spoilers!! I love you guys to death!
Thank you once more to Shealea & Caffeine Book Tours for selecting me for part of this tour. It was my first book tour, and such an amazing experience!
If you'd like to chat with me about the book at all, feel free to reach out to me on Twitter or Instagram.
hi, i'm mari, and i'm a STEM grad student, i watch baseball, and i read... a lot of books. i hope you learn some-thing new while you're here!