Here Are the Filipino Elements in the Fantasy New York Times Bestseller “The Hurricane Wars”

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When you think of the fantasy genre, it’s easy to imagine European elements like blonde hair, blue eyes, and big, medieval castles. A Song of Ice and Fire (popularly known as Game of Thrones), The Lord of the Rings, The Chronicles of Narnia, and Outlander are some of the enduring titles in the genre set in fantasy versions of European places.

Thea Guanzon’s debut novel The Hurricane Wars is a breath of fresh air as it is inspired by Southeast Asian and Filipino mythology, and is filled with familiar elements transported to a fantasy setting.

The novel, which was recently released, is set in a nation under siege by the ruthless Night Emperor in the Hurricane Wars. Our lead character is Talasyn, an orphan who hides 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.


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A post shared by Thea Guanzon (@theagwrites)

The emperor’s only son and heir, Prince Alaric, is tasked with obliterating any threats with the strength of his armies and mighty shadow magic. His greatest threat is Talasyn herself, who has the magic that killed his grandfather, turned his father into a monster, and ignited the Hurricane Wars.

These are standard elements of a good fantasy series but what makes this extra special is that it is filled with details familiar to Filipino readers. First, the plot is a reference to a recurring threat in the Philippines.

“When it came to the weapons of mass destruction being based on storm magic, it was very much influenced by life here in the Philippines, where we experience a lot of typhoons every year. It’s always an ongoing conversation on how best to mitigate their effects. I wanted to write a story about people who were working together to stop the storms,” Guanzon told in an interview.

There are other elements in the book that are familiar, such as the indigenous seafaring vessels used by our ancestors and the moon-eating bakunawa. A character is named Urduja, a clear reference to the legendary warrior princess.


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A post shared by Thea Guanzon (@theagwrites)

Guanzon goes a step further and even incorporates values and traits that can be found in the Philippines. One fun element is the “marites” culture.

The author admitted that this was one of her favorite aspects to write. She said, “There is this running gag throughout the book of how Alaric is always so discomfited by how gossipy Talasyn’s people are. I enjoyed including this because gossip is one of the threads of our social tapestry here in the Philippines. There is definitely ‘marites’ representation.”

Other Filipino aspects Guanzon had fun writing about are food and fashion.

“I believe that the soul of a culture can really be found in cuisine, what ingredients are prized, and what rituals accompany eating certain dishes. I also liked writing about fashion because I feel like we have so many rich materials here in the Philippines. And I like it when native crafts and textiles are given center stage,” she revealed.


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A post shared by Thea Guanzon (@theagwrites)

Guanzon also borrowed well-loved tropes from Filipino teleseryes. She said, “It’s a very time-honored trope in Filipino dramas where we have family secrets. We have this cunning matriarch who tries to control everything and everyone around her.”

Speaking of family, Guanzon also looked at her own for inspiration. Her grandfather, great-great-grandfather, and his father were freedom fighters during their time.

What’s interesting is that The Hurricane Wars didn’t start out this way.

“The first draft of The Hurricane Wars was so bad. It was uninspired and dry. The world was just a backdrop to the love story. The world was flat because it was based on those stereotypical Western fantasy tropes because that was what I grew up reading,” Guanzon said.

The lightbulb moment was when her agent, who is Vietnamese-American, suggested that Guanzon set the story in Southeast Asia.

“It was like a light bulb went off in my head. I was thinking, ‘I didn’t know it was allowed to do that.’ Afterward, that was when the world in The Hurricane Wars took off. Because this time, I was writing about what I know and what I love,” she said.


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A post shared by Thea Guanzon (@theagwrites)

Guanzon added, “I guess it just never occurred to me that I was allowed to write about my culture. And I think that’s something that we people of color really have to consider like, ‘Why isn’t this the first thing that comes to mind?'”

The result is a hit that has already made waves here and abroad. The Hurricane Wars is already a New York Times bestseller, where it joins the ranks of legendary authors like Stephen King, Danielle Steel, Ann Patchett, Ken Follett, Barbara Kingsolver, and Brandon Sanderson. It is also dubbed as one of the Best Books of 2023 by Barnes & Noble, the largest bookstore chain in the US. The #thehurricanewars hashtag has more than two million views on TikTok.

The Hurricane Wars is a planned trilogy and Guanzon already knows what to expect for books two and three. For the sequel, the author said that “there will be more political intrigue, more family drama. Alaric And Talasyn will continue to reluctantly grow closer. It will be a little bit spicier. I have my editor’s blessing to go ahead and just go wild.”

The Hurricane Wars is available in select National Book Store branches, online at, and in their official stores on Lazada and Shopee.

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