C.T Phipps is a lifelong student of horror, science fiction, and fantasy. An avid tabletop gamer, he discovered this passion led him to write and turned him into a lifelong geek. He is a regular blogger on "The United Federation of Charles".
He's written Agent G, Cthulhu Armageddon, Lucifer's Star, and The Supervillainy Saga.
THE TIDES OF MANA by Matt Larkin is the first novel in the Heirs of Mana saga. It is a book that automatically wins points with me because of the fact that it doesn't take place in your typical Medieval European setting. Instead, for the first time I've read in a fantasy series, it is Polynesian-based fantasy with use of the myths of Hawaii and other Pacific Island cultures to form the basis of the story. I'd hate to use the description, "Like Moana except more violent and adult" but that's not a bad place to begin.
The premise is that the world has survived the Deluge but the results have been humanity surviving on tiny island kingdoms while the Mer dominate the underwater lands. Namaka the Sea Queen and Pele the Queen of Flames are dueling sisters that each wield fantastic mystical powers over their element. The Mer are racist and brutal towards humanity but that doesn't mean mankind can put aside its own petty conflicts long enough to repel them.
Matt Larkin dumps the reader square into the elaborate and fantastic world that he's created with little preparation. This is not an idealised or sanitized version of the Pacific peoples but a violent, politically-orientated, complicated and fascinating group of people. There are taboos, political rivalries, pragamtic decisions, and just enough cultural differences to make sure you never know how individual people are going to react.
The rich world that Matt Larkin has created is not always easy to understand as he makes use of many real-life terms that the meaning must be deduced by context. This is meant to make the work feel more authentic and does but is sometimes confusing. There's many non-authentic fully fantasy elements mixed together with the accurate mythology but that's to be expected with a fantasy novel.
The main characters are a pair of fascinating women who are both supremely arrogant, brutal, and not entirely sympathetic but always grandiose. The god queens fight a fairly grueling war across multiple islands and its some truly well-designed action sequences that mere mortals are easily swept up in. There's also some fascinating and hilarious characters as well like a boar god that is as vulgar as the other goddesses are stately.
If I have any complaints about the book, it is all a bit too much at times. Readers will be deluged with a complicated mythology, politics, and character interactions that can threaten a reader's understanding. Namaka and Pele hate each other for several reasons, often referring to past offenses or outrages with each of their scenes. However, their strong personalities are never boring and that gives grounding for the story.
This is definitely worth checking out and I picked up the sequel almost immediately.
A MURDER IN ABSENTIA tackles what is a common problem in fantasy and tackles it in an amusing way. One of the bigger issues in the genre is that almost all of it takes place in a faux-Europe during the Middle Ages. This series takes place in a fantasy version of Ancient Rome and fully immerses itself in the unique customs as well as culture to make an entertaining 30 A.D. murder mystery. The series also incorporates sorcery, Mystery Cults, and other wackiness that enhances the tale.
The Followers of Set hold a special place in my heart. They are the Set-worshiping, Caine-rejecting vampires who went from being one of the most ridiculous Clans in Vampire: The Masquerade to one of my all-time favorites. Presently, they hold a number #2 position for me in the setting with only Clan Malkavian ranking higher in people I'd want to be Embraced by. The Followers of Set are a group that is easy to get wrong but amazing if you get them right and a large part of why I love them is due to this book.