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This week I’m sharing about some series I love that I think deserve more readers and more discussion in bookish/SFF communities. Today I’m enthusing about Chronicles of the Bitch Queen (sometimes called Chronicles of the Wolf Queen) by K. S. Villoso, an epic fantasy trilogy told from the first-person perspective of a queen grappling with her role(s) in the world. In particular, I’m highlighting K. S. Villoso’s masterful use of voice and skill at creating unusually real, complex characters in this series.

Cover of The Wolf of Oren-Yaro by K. S. Villoso Cover of The Ikessar Falcon by K. S. Villoso Cover of The Dragon of Jin-Sayeng by K. S. Villoso

“They called me the Bitch Queen, the she-wolf, because I murdered a man and exiled my king the night before they crowned me.”

From the opening line of her narrative in The Wolf of Oren-Yaro, I suspected I was going to rather like Queen Talyien (and I did!). K. S. Villoso did an incredible job writing her voice and examining themes like womanhood, legacy, and identity in Chronicles of the Bitch Queen, a series that becomes more complicated as subsequent books delve further into the world, its magic, and various political factions. I was fascinated by the setting and its mysteries, delighted by the banter, and devastated at times, but what I appreciate most about this series is the incredible character work and how real K. S. Villoso made these messy, complicated people. (Yes, I consider being devastated by fiction a positive thing.)

Although she’s far from the only well-crafted character in these three novels, Queen Talyien (Tali) remains most memorable, as she should given she’s the heart of these books. The daughter of a ruthless warlord, Tali grew up hearing that her eventual marriage would bring peace to their nation, but that didn’t go well in practice: her husband left, and even people who know nothing about what happened blame her for his departure. The main story begins when Tali accepts her estranged husband’s invitation to meet across the sea five years after their falling out, but that ends disastrously: their dinner is filled with uncomfortable barbed comments about whose father started a war and whose uncle released a mad dragon into their homeland, and then assassins attack. As a result, Tali is separated from her travelling companions and must fend for herself in this unfamiliar place, and her journey leads to the discovery that she may not have known her father and his plans for her as well as she’d always believed—shattering her worldview and sense of who she is.

I loved Tali and found her fascinating from the very first book. She didn’t seem like the most reliable narrator—not because she was trying to be misleading, but because it seemed that she might be deluding herself due to a lack of self-awareness, or perhaps because she found it easier than digging deeply and uncovering the truth. However, she is someone who reevaluates her views throughout the series, and in the third book, I admired the bravery it took for her to do this and work toward active change. As I wrote in my review of The Dragon of Jin-Sayeng:

“Her story shows all sides of herself, her best and her worst, someone human and vulnerable who doesn’t always have the right answers—and she unflinchingly faces herself, acknowledging her imperfections and vulnerabilities as she lays them bare on the page, and keeps striving.”

I appreciated how K. S. Villoso delved further into all her characters in later books, and she even managed to make me go from disliking a character in the first couple of books to loving them in the end. (Before this, I’d only had this sort of drastic reversal in opinion happen with two book characters: Jaime Lannister in A Song of Ice and Fire and Malta Vestrit in Liveship Traders.) And even if I didn’t like Tali’s father, I found him extremely compelling, especially how he looms so large and somehow manages to be a major political player even 16 years after his death.

As I stated in my previous reviews, K. S. Villoso’s Chronicles of the Bitch Queen has everything I want in an epic fantasy series, and I believe it to be complex, character-driven fantasy at its very best.

Additional Reading on Chronicles of the Bitch Queen: