Women in SF&F Month Banner

Today’s guest is K.S. Villoso, author of The Agartes Epilogues series and Blackwood Marauders. The Wolf of Oren-Yaro, the first novel in her epic fantasy trilogy Chronicles of the Bitch Queen, was recently republished by Orbit Books with the next two books in the series following soon—The Ikessar Falcon in September and the new conclusion next year. I’m excited for the rest of this series since The Wolf of Oren-Yaro is exactly the type of book I love to read: a character-driven story with a vivid voice that captured my attention from the very first line and kept me riveted until the very end.

The Wolf of Oren-Yaro by K. S. Villoso Book Cover

Queen Talyien is a badass.

At least, this was the seed from which the entire concept of this series sprouted. She is the first woman I’ve written this way. Before Talyien, many of my women characters were not warrior types. Most were non-assuming, brimming with strength that bubbled beneath the surface as they faced their challenges with quiet resolution. Years later, when I started in the field of engineering, I learned the textbook definition of strength: a material’s ability to withstand load, to carry a burden.

That doesn’t mean that we can’t have the catharsis, the power fantasy that comes with the imagery. I enjoy the genre for much the same reason as many people—I really, really like swords, and fighting with swords, and the romantic notion that evil is something can be destroyed with a few strikes to the jugular. It is the allure of epic fantasy in the backdrop of a chaotic, unpredictable real life—the idea that our struggles aren’t senseless. That it will always lead up to a big, final battle that will save the whole world. And I’m not saying we can’t have that…

But I wanted Talyien to be more than her sword.

She has to be. More than a warrior, she’s also a politician and a mother and a person, and the answer to how to balance all these things—her responsibilities (deserved or not) against her personal desires—doesn’t lie in her ability to wield a blade. Otherwise, would she be any better than the men who laid the path of violence that led to the troubles of her life as it is? Would she be any better than her mass-murdering tyrant of a father? Ripping a body in half can’t solve all of Talyien’s problems, and it certainly can’t feed the poor. For a politician, it is a particularly dangerous road to walk down.

In many ways, I wanted to confront the idea of the male power fantasy with a female power fantasy, which in the current state of things is not at all as simple as cutting down enemies and bloodshed. I wanted to go beyond the woman who should have been a boy and start with a woman who has it all: power, family, purpose, physical ability, wealth, the confidence to chase after what she thinks she wants. Yet the issues unique to many women, even women in her position, remain: still that concern, deep down inside, about your choices, whether you’re a good mother or not or should’ve even been a mother in the first place, and the mistakes you’ve made, how the world judges you for it, but you’re the glue and it’s too much and you’re just one woman but you have to figure things out anyway.

That this physically capable woman is also given to second-guessing, and is sensitive and thoughtful on the inside, is not an accident. She could have ordered her husband killed in the first page, but she doesn’t. Talyien’s innate prudence might just very be her land’s saving grace: that the one person who has every reason to want everything go down in flames might stay her hand. And if she can learn the wisdom to be kind not just to others but also herself, learning to face adversity with true strength, then perhaps she might save her people.

There are, after all, many ways to be a badass.


K.S. Villoso Photo
Photo Credit: Mikhail Villoso
K.S. Villoso writes speculative fiction with a focus on deeply personal themes and character-driven narratives. Much of her work is inspired by her childhood in the slums of Taguig, Philippines. She is now living amidst the forest and mountains with her husband, children, and dogs in Anmore, BC. You can find her at www.ksvilloso.com, Twitter, or Facebook.