The last book of my new all-time favorite series is finally out! Talyien’s journey has finally come to an end, and wow, what a ride it has been.
About the Book
The stunning finale to the Chronicles of the Bitch Queen trilogy where the queen of a divided land must unite her people against the enemies who threaten to tear her country apart. K. S. Villoso is a “powerful new voice in fantasy.” (Kameron Hurley)
Queen Talyien is finally home, but dangers she never imagined await her in the shadowed halls of her father’s castle.
War is on the horizon. Her son has been stolen from her, her warlords despise her, and across the sea, a cursed prince threatens her nation with invasion in order to win her hand.
Worse yet, her father’s ancient secrets are dangerous enough to bring Jin Sayeng to ruin. Dark magic tears rifts in the sky, preparing to rain down madness, chaos, and the possibility of setting her nation aflame.
Bearing the brunt of the past and uncertain about her future, Talyien will need to decide between fleeing her shadows or embracing them before the whole world becomes an inferno.
On-page representation: own-voices, author of color (Filipino author), POC representation (Filipino characters), victim of emotional abuse and gaslighting
Content/trigger warnings: ableist language (not direct, relayed from Yeshin), death, cutting of limbs, violence against children, threatening child, described blood, animal cruelty, misogyny, rape (off screen; threats), emotional abuse, lifechanging injury, execution, torture, mutilation of corpses, gore, decapitation
Disclaimer: I received an Advanced Reader’s Copy of this book from the publisher and Caffeine Book Tours as part of my participation in their tour. This does not affect my honest review.
The Dragon of Jin-Sayeng is the best conclusion to this masterpiece of storytelling, and K.S. Villoso does not leave a thread hanging as she brings this epic and heart-filled journey to a close. It takes everything I love in the first two books–worldbuilding, themes, culture, relationships, details, CHARACTERS–and brings them all together in a way that would leave no one wanting. Especially Talyien. Good Lord knows she needs the break.
There’s so much to love and unpack in this book, and here are some aspects that truly hit the mark for me.
Power and hidden histories
Throughout the first two books, Yeshin’s shadow has been looming over Talyien’s decisions. In this book, all of Yeshin’s secrets comes to light as the characters uncover how deeply a dead man’s influence taints the very core of Jin-Sayeng’s history. The meticulous planning, the BRAINCELLS Yeshin has is just so… I can’t think of any other fictional character who can surpass the level of insight he has into the people around him that he can maneuver them with ease. The closest example I can think of is the original Homunculus or the Monster in the Flask of Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, but… no. Yeshin is a class of his own.
I love how each subsequent reveal is a commentary on the reign of greed and the lengths the privileged will go to just to keep the power within their grasp. Historiography here is not the distanced, clinical way of chronicling past events, but rather a narrative that is rewritten to serve the people in power. In contrast, we see how Talyien struggles with her place in the story of her country and how she aims to write a fresh one for the sake of her son.Writing this paragraph alone is so hard because I want to geek out about how this whole series follows the Filipino concept of kasaysayan: ito ay isang salaysay (a narrative or story) na may saysay (has sense, holds meaning) para sa pinagsasalaysayan (for its audience). Who is narrating what version of the truth to whom? What meaning does it hold for them?
I LOVE EVERYTHING. MY BRAIN IS GOING ON OVERDRIVE.
Filipino families: the good, the bad, and the downright ugly
Though I knew that this was going to be an emotionally hard-hitting book, I did not expect it to be told in the form of a classic Filipino telenovela, where family love, hurts, and secrets form the main medium for storytelling. In the world of The Chronicles of the Bitch Queen, the family is considered the basic unit of society and the core on which every single thing is built: the characters, the history, the struggles for power and legitimacy… EVERYTHING.
Talyien comes to terms with her identity and role in Jin-Sayeng’s history by continuously interrogating her expectations and responsibilities within the family. Princess Ryia’s significance is best understood when she is viewed as a matriarch who bends everything to her will. On a larger scale, we see how kinship ties between bannermen and warlords dictate the tides of war, and how this complex web of relationships is built on viewing children as extensions of their parents’ legacies. There are no lone wolves here, no solo adventurers. Even orphans or bastards here have their respective positions in their families.
Related post: A Mother’s Day greeting for Sayu
While reading this book, I couldn’t help but cry over the depiction of different kinds of families that are so undeniably Filipino to the point that most ownvoices readers can think of an example for each one presented here. In particular, Rayyel’s and Agos’ failures as fathers hit too close to home for so many readers as they represent the toxic masculinity that Filipinos struggle with today. This truly is a very Filipino worldview, and any attempts to read this series with only the usual Western values of individual glory, redemption, and corruption will do the work and the author a huge disservice.
This part here is more of a note to myself about the parts I still want to understand more when I reread this book. The whole story is set up like a trap or a heist or a con, and it is reflected in the titles of each act: the approach, the play, the send and the touch, etc. It further amplifies the eerie feeling that even the reader is falling into Yeshin’s trap and that we are all being played by a madman.
I’m not really someone who pays much attention to chapter titles, but reading through the table of contents alone makes me so curious about the way each narrative beat is laid out. When everything starts to fall into place and explode in my face, I pause to just marvel at the level of craft Villoso employs to make sure her story sails through.
Wow. I have nothing but respect for the care, brilliance, and hard work the author put into The Dragon of Jin-Sayeng. This series–and especially this particular installment–should be considered part of the literary canon.
Overall, I love this book so much that I think nothing I read in the next ten years would eclipse how much it means to me. As someone who has struggled with losing her favorite books to critical rereads, I’m so happy that I finally have found a series that I can consider home.
About the Author
K.S. Villoso was born in a dank hospital on an afternoon in Albay, Philippines, and things have generally been okay since then. After spending most of her childhood in a slum area in Taguig (where she dodged death-defying traffic, ate questionable food, and fell into open-pit sewers more often than one ought to), she and her family immigrated to Vancouver, Canada, where they spent the better part of two decades trying to chase the North American Dream. She is now living amidst the forest and mountains with her family, children, and dogs in Anmore, BC.
In celebration of the trilogy’s completion, Caffeine Book Tours is giving away The Literary Culture‘s Revenge of the Bitch Queen collection to two winners! One winner from the Philippines, and one international-based winner will be picked.
The box includes the following items:
- An exclusive tapestry that will feature the characters of the series
- An exclusive book sleeve featuring characters
- And more Chronicles of the Bitch Queen themed fandom items that will be useful and very much Filipino!
Click this link to join the giveaway!
- Have you read the first two books?
- Are you excited for this book? Any thoughts on where the story will go for the third book?
- Have you read this book? PLEASE CRY WITH ME!