I have read thousands of books in my lifetime. As a child, they were among my only friends. I grew up in a predominantly white neighborhood and attended predominantly white schools. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, there were few Filipinos on TV, and even fewer Filipinos in Western literature.
In all the books I've read in all my life, only a handful published outside the Philippines have featured Filipino characters, let alone Filipino lead characters. That's why it was such a powerful moment when I first held a copy of K.S. Villoso's The Wolf of Oren-Yaro in my hands.
Drawing inspiration from Filipino mythology, The Wolf of Oren-Yaro is an empowering epic fantasy about a woman’s quest to unite her people. On the cover is a fierce, unmistakably Filipino woman with thick, dark hair. She could be me. She could be any woman in my family.
Representation is a vital thing. While so many fantasy epics are set in worlds that feel vaguely European, Villoso, a Filipino Canadian writer from Taguig, has built a fantasy world in The Wolf of Oren-Yaro that feels like home. The book’s setting may be fictional, but it is still familiar. The tale she has crafted is even more magical than the cover. In her protagonist, Queen Talyien, Filipino readers who have longed for a hero they could see themselves in will finally feel vindicated.
"But like the Filipino woman, she is a survivor. She's been taken advantage of, abused, and everything else in between, and yet she journeys on. She does her best to carry so many roles: She’s a mother who thinks of her son; she’s a queen who wants to rebuild her land; she’s a wife who wants to have a better (if ever so slightly) relationship with her husband. This is a woman who has been battered throughout the story that whenever I see other Filipino women walk by, I see a tinge of Talyien in them, the heroine in every person who survives the everyday.”
The Wolf of Oren-Yaro is a must-read for any book lover, but it is especially significant for those of us who have longed for better representation in literature. Rating: 5/5