Book Review : The Hurricane Wars

Book Review : The Hurricane WarsThe Hurricane Wars (The Hurricane Wars, #1) by Thea Guanzon
on October 3, 2023
Genres: Fantasy, Romance
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two-half-stars

The heart is a battlefield.
All Talasyn has ever known is the Hurricane Wars. Growing up an orphan in a nation under siege by the ruthless Night Emperor, Talasyn has found her family among the soldiers who fight for freedom. But she is hiding a deadly secret: light magic courses through her veins, a blazing power believed to have been wiped out years ago that can cut through the Night Empire's shadows.
Prince Alaric, the emperor's only son and heir, has been forged into a weapon by his father. Tasked with obliterating any threats to the Night Empire's rule with the strength of his armies and mighty Shadow magic, Alaric has never been bested. That is until he sees Talasyn burning brightly on the battlefield with the magic that killed his grandfather, turned his father into a monster, and ignited the Hurricane Wars. In a clash of light and dark, their powers merge and create a force the likes of which has never been seen.
Talasyn and Alaric both know this war can only end with them. But a greater threat is coming, and the strange new magic they can create together could be the only way to overcome it. Thrust into an uneasy alliance, they will confront the secrets at the heart of the war and find, in each other, a searing passion--one that could save their world...or destroy it.
An exquisite fantasy brimming with unforgettable characters, sizzling enemies-to-lovers romance, and richly drawn worlds, The Hurricane Wars marks the breathtaking debut of an extraordinary new writer.

It pains me to say this, but I enjoyed The Hurricane Wars more when it was a Reylo (Rey x Kylo Ren from the Star Wars sequel trilogy) fanfiction called Landscape with a Blur of Conquerors. Now, I read the fanfiction many years ago, back when the sequel trilogy was still being released, I think, and I remember thinking that the fanfiction was better researched and written than the actual Star Wars sequel trilogy itself. Though I binge-read what was released of the fanfic at the time, it eventually got to the point where I was waiting for new chapter releases, and I stopped keeping up with it. So, I was really excited when I heard that Landscape was getting published as a traditional novel and I could finally read the rest of the story.

 

Unfortunately, I found that the iteration of the story known as The Hurricane Wars just didn’t work as well for me and that it lacked a lot of the charm of the original work. I really think it’s awesome that fanfics are being published, but I think in the case of The Hurricane Wars, the execution was lacking. In fanfics, there is not really a lot of world-building needed, as fans are already familiar with the existing world, magical systems, and characters, and unfortunately, that is not the case in a traditional fantasy novel where this kind of setup is fundamental. In the beginning of The Hurricane Wars, the author does a fairly good job of giving out information about the world, but as the novel progresses, it gets a little frustrating. Most of the world-building facts are imparted in repetitive information dumps where the same surface level stuff is explained over and over again and nothing new or complex is divulged. 

 

These information dumps really did not do a lot for the pacing of the novel either, which was already struggling. The Hurricane Wars grinds to a halt to explain things with no regard to whatever else is going on in the story at the time. Despite this, I do think the author made a serious attempt at converting her world from that of Star Wars to a more fantastical world with dragons and what not, but I believe that it could have taken the new world-building, which was inspired by her life in the Philippines, a lot farther. As a result of the lack of page space dedicated to the new world, I was still imaging the orphanage Rey, er, Talasyn, grew up on as on the planet of Jakku, the Night Empire as the First Order, and picturing the characters as Kylo Ren and Rey. I just couldn’t see them any other way. Even though Rey’s iconic buns are traded in for a braid for Talasyn, she’s still basically the same exact character.

 

“She would have happily pushed him off the nearest cliff months ago. But that was before . . . everything else. Something had changed. She didn’t want him to get hurt.”

 

And that’s okay because obviously I really enjoyed Rey and Kylo Ren as characters or I wouldn’t have read a fanfic about them in the first place. Unfortunately, the versions of Rey and Kylo in The Hurricane Wars, as Talasyn and Alaric respectively, felt like paler, less nuanced versions of themselves. Other side characters are one-dimensional and clearly exist just to move the plot and the goal of getting Talasyn and Alaric together, forward. This is ironic because The Hurricane Wars doesn’t spend nearly as much time as it should on the different stages of their relationship. This is something that sets it apart from novels like The Jasad Heir, which did a fantastic job at the enemies-to-lovers trope.

 

Much like Rey and Kylo, Talasyn and Alaric meet on the battlefield, but the novel doesn’t do as good of a job as The Force Awakens, let alone The Last Jedi, at establishing the deep connection between the two. Instead, they meet, they fight, and apparently can’t stop thinking about one another. Their preoccupation with each other is not just from the standpoint of meeting a worthy foe in battle either, but is more focused on how alluringly attractive the other is, despite the fact they are trying to kill one another and that they are fighting on opposite sides of a war. This attraction and obsession happened way too quickly for me personally, as did the rest of their enemies-to-lovers journey. 

 

Their relationship (and the novel in general) reads as very YA to me, which makes sense, as it’s jam-packed with classic romance tropes like arranged marriages, forced to share one bed, enemies-to-lovers, etc.. The Hurricane Wars also strongly features one of my biggest pet peeves in romance novels—constant remarks on just how small the heroine is and how large the male character is. I literally hate these descriptions normally, as if a female protagonist can’t be desirable or feminine unless she’s petite and physically weak, but I especially hated it in a character based off of Rey, who was a fairly tall, athletic woman, capable of holding her own against some of the deadliest forces of the galaxy in Star Wars. It didn’t make sense to me that Talaysn, who was serving in armed forces and gifted with Lightweaver powers, would be so easily overpowered. 

 

“‘She has already assumed her role at court under duress, and now you are offering her up like a sacrificial lamb to the Night Emperor.’

‘The alternative is to fight a war that we cannot win,’ said Urduja. ‘This is what is best for our people.’

‘Then you marry him!’ Talasyn spat.

‘The Dragon Queen raised an eyebrow. ‘I am not the one he chased over the Eversea, the one he crossed blades with and met his match in. Who better to keep a Shadowforged husband in line than a Lightweaver wife?’”

 

The other issue for me involved the handling of Talasyn and Alaric’s marriage for a political alliance. Their marriage is the only thing keeping Talasyn’s homeland (and the country she grew up in, as well as the armed forces she served in) from being colonized or even destroyed by the Night Empire. Despite multiple characters remarking to Talasyn that Alaric is attracted to her, not one of them suggests that she seduce him to further ensure her standing with him, which seems like a pretty massive plot hole to me. Instead, Talasyn and Alaric continually remark that they can never be together because it would get people killed, but for the life of me, I do not understand that logic at all. Maybe the author has never read A Song of Ice and Fire or read about the multiple women vying for King Henry VIII’s affections, which would gain them the queendom and all of the power and other benefits that came with it.  It was even more baffling to me in a matriarchal kingdom like that of Talasyn’s, that no one was encouraging her to own her sexuality or to wield her feminine wiles and use them in order to gain her country the desperately needed advantage.

 

Regardless, it honestly frustrated me that the novel kept trying to sell this “we can’t possibly act on our feelings,” and “we can never be together,” thing to me—I wasn’t buying it, and I kind of felt insulted that it was pushing this contrived and unnatural angle in the first place. This is another part where it worked better in the fanfiction, where Kylo Ren was a force user who fell to the dark side, and Rey was a Jedi, and they also had conflicted familial alliances going on. In that situation, there was not only more of a philosophical and ideological difference creating a divide between the two, but also resentment over Kylo’s having a family, which Rey always so desperately wanted, and his choosing to give it up. This kind of emotional complexity just isn’t really demonstrated here.

 

And a lot of The Hurricane Wars isn’t as compelling as it should be simply because of the writing style. There is a lot of telling in this story over showing, which I didn’t remember from the fanfiction. Sadly, it really lessened the impact of many of the scenes in the novel. Another problem was that most of the novel read like young adults or teenagers speaking, but then the author would toss in some nonsensical and overly flowery metaphors that stuck out like a sore thumb amongst the rest of the work. As an example, here’s one of these off-putting metaphors: 

 

“Unmuffled by the mask, Alaric’s voice was low and deep with a hint of hoarseness around the edges. It shouldn’t have shocked her, but it did. It made her think of rough silk and honey mead in an oaken barrel.”

 

This metaphor alone was super random in and of itself. But as far as I know, Talasyn, who grew up in an abusive orphanage until she ran away to take refuge in the streets and later joined the armed forces, wouldn’t have a lot of experience with honey mead, rough silk, or oaken barrels. Therefore it was not really believable to me that her mind (or actually, anyone’s mind, for that matter) would go to this as a comparison for someone’s voice. It just felt like the author was trying too hard to write pretty prose, even if it came at the cost of continuity.

 

It must be said that even with all of these factors at play, I still enjoyed reading The Hurricane Wars, which I think has a really great premise. It was a quick and easy read for me in a year when I have struggled to get almost any reading accomplished. It was also fun because it was nostalgic for me to return to this story after all these years. I think fans who love young adult and romance novels and all of the classic tropes that come with them will eat this novel up and look for more immediately, especially if they don’t look too closely at the plot.


Unfortunately, I just liked
The Hurricane Wars a lot more when it was set in the world of Star Wars, and as a Star Wars fan, I wasn’t able to completely detach myself from the original story and to avoid making comparisons. I think those who haven’t read the fanfiction or aren’t preexisting fans of Star Wars will be able to enjoy the story more based on its own merit. I am hoping future entries in the series will dedicate more time to the Philippines-inspired world-building, which I thought was great and a bit underutilized. I also hope for a better ending for Talasyn and Alaric than what Star Wars gave Rey and Kylo Ren, and I have faith that the author will deliver it. Even though The Hurricane Wars felt more like a guilty pleasure read than a serious fantasy novel, I will definitely read future entries in the series, and am excited to do so.

 

two-half-stars
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Book Review : The Hurricane Wars - Blogging with Dragons

Posted February 16, 2024 in Book Reviews, Fantasy, Romance

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