Nathan's Reading Wrap Up for May - The Fantasy Review

Nathan’s Reading Wrap Up for May

Nathan’s Monthly Reading Wrap Up for May

May was a pretty awesome reading month for me! I was able to read 15 books with an average star rating of 3.93. A vast majority of the books fell into the 4 star range, which for me is pretty good. I rarely give out 5 stars (well, maybe I give them out a bit more than most people!).

May Reading Stats

Total books: 15
Pages Read: 5,780 (36% were 500+ page long books, 43% were medium length; and 21% were short books)
Average Star Rating: 3.93
Format: 43% of my books this month were print books, while 57% were ebooks on my Kindle
Publishing: Exactly half of the books I read this month were from indie authors!

The May Reading Podium

Gods of the Wyrdwood

1st Place: Gods of the Wyrdwood by RJ Barker: I was lucky enough to receive an ARC of this book and it absolutely floored me in how good it was. Barker took everything I absolutely loved about The Bone Ships (complicated protagonists, weird ecologies) and somehow improved on it. I’ll have a full review of this one for the site soon. (Publication Date: 27 June 2023)

2nd Place: The Boys in the Valley by Philip Fracassi: I don’t usually read horror books, but every once in a while I get in the mood. I decided to pick up an ARC of The Boys in the Valley, a hauntingly gothic and action packed book about a demon that possesses a bunch of boys at an orphanage in rural Pennsylvania in the early twentieth century. This book was not only a page turner, but it really grappled with issues of faith, identity, and loyalty. My full review is coming soon. (Publication Date: 11 July 2023)

3rd Place: A Necromancer Called Gam Gam by Adam Holcombe: Cozy fantasy doesn’t always work for me because it often descends into “let’s take this dark and traumatic thing and make light of it”. Gam Gam doesn’t do that. Holcombe finds the perfect balance of wrapping you in this beautiful warm, knitted scarf while also not shying away from the true emotions of grief and loss. My full review is here.

Other Highly Recommended Reads from May

These are all of the books that I gave 4 or 5 stars to in May:

The Archive Undying by Emma Mieko Candon: Creative, queer, and insanely weird, this book may have had my favorite complicated protagonist of any book I read this month. Add some AI gods that destroy cities when they die and mech soldiers and you have a book unlike any other. This is a complicated read, so make sure you are in the right mood for it! Full review coming soon. (Publication Date: 27 June 2023).

Bard City Blues by Nathaniel Webb: A cozy fantasy that revels in melancholy and the pressures of deciding what you want vs. what society tells you that you want. This one has a great wintery vibe that will be perfect when the book has its full release (post-Kickstarter) in September. My full review here.

The Book That Wouldn’t Burn by Mark Lawrence: A love letter to reading, books, and the buildings that hold them, this is Mark Lawrence at is very best. Ambitious in both themes and worldbuilding, Lawrence introduces readers to a mysterious and ancient library full of secrets and dangers. Don’t miss this one. My full review here.

Jade Shards by Fonda Lee: I don’t think I have to sing any more praises to The Greenbone Saga. This is a masterful series that ranks among my Top 5 of all time. Jade Shards is a collection of 4 prequel short stories that allow us to spend just a bit more time with some of our favorite characters. Full review comnig soon. (Publication Date: 31 July 2023).

The Many Shades of Midnight by CM Debell: This book emotionally devastated me. A plague is killing off most of the population or turning them into hideous monsters, and the political/economic elites are doing nothing to help. Good intentions quickly lead to tragedy in this absolute gem of a book. My full review here.

The Price of Power by Michael Michel: Perfect for fans looking for a multi-POV, grimdark fantasy epic. This was one of the few books that got close to that feeling I had when I first read A Game of Thrones. My full review here.

Siren and Scion by JD Evans: The third book in the Mages of the Wheel series, this book (while not my favorite in the series) demonstrated strengths in worldbuilding and character that earlier books hadn’t tackled. My full review coming soon.

The Surviving Sky by Kritika Rao: Often too info-dumpy but with fascinating ideas and worldbuilding. It is rare to find a book from a major US/UK publisher that isn’t rooted in a Western or Judeo-Christian worldview, and Rao rooted her world in Hindu and Buddhist ideas to great effect. Full review coming soon. (Publication Date: 13 June 2023)

The Will of the Many by James Islington: A magical academy story set in a fantasy world reminiscent of Ancient Rome, this book is super-tropey but executes all of those tropes really well. This was a page turner that I could not put down. My full review here.

My Other Reviews

The are reviews that were posted this month that either (1) I read in previous months but just got around to reviewing or (2) were three stars and below.

Angel Falling by AD Landor (four stars): A noir-mystery/fantasy mash-up with angels and zombie-vampire-demons. The book has a relentless pace (a bit too fast for me), but Landor’s depiction of his two main “species” here are fantastic and he absolutely nails the tone. My full review here.

Age of Ash by Daniel Abraham (four stars): This series features a single city at a single but three different perspectives of the events. This first book introduces us to a plucky thief character, an evil magic-user, and a whole cast of wonderfully complex characters. I am very interested to see where Abraham takes this series next. My full review here.

The Battle Drum by Saara El-Arifi (five stars): It is rare that a second book avoids the dreaded “middle book syndrome”, but The Battle Drum is the platonic ideal what authors should do. This book beautifully expands the world while still keeping the character arcs and plots tight. My full review here.

The Foxglove King by Hannah Whitten (four stars): A perfect breezy beach read about a necromancer drafted by the king to find out what is wiping out entire villages. There is a low triangle and lots of angst along with the cool necromancy magic. Is it the best book ever? No. Did I have a lot of fun with it? Heck yes. My full review here.

Perilous Times by Thomas D. Lee (three stars): The Knights of the Round Table resurrect whenever England is in trouble and this time the trouble is climate change. Full of satire and humor, I thought that the book was a bit overly long and the humor didn’t always land for me (it could have been that I’m American). But Lee’s characterization of a gay Lancelot was everything. My full review here.

The Return of the Knights by Gregory Kontaxis (three stars): Perfect for fans of military tactics and strategy, this book starts with a big battle and doesn’t let up. I think the characters could have been a bit more fleshed out and a bit less lore/mythology, but this was a promising debut sure to set up a great series. My full review here.

Salt in the Wound by Benjamin Aeveryn (four stars): An exciting dystopian fantasy about creatures that kill you if you get caught in the rain. Complex characters, tense scenes, and fascinating worldbuilding combine to make for a great debut novel. Perfect if you are still looking to replace The Last of Us in your hearts. My full review here.

Son of a Sailor by Marshall J. Moore (two stars): The only book that really didn’t land with me at all this month, this is a cozy fantasy at its weakest. It has no plot, no interesting characters, no depth of feeling, and it makes light of too many dark situations (colonialism, etc.). My full review here.

Witch King by Martha Wells (three stars): This book….didn’t work for me. Three stars is probably being generous. I liked the creative worldbuilding, but the plots and characters were a confusing and sloggy mess. My full review here.

Author Interviews

I did several author interviews for the blog this month, here is the rundown:

Benjamin Aeveryn (Salt in the Wound)

Justin Lee Anderson (The Lost War)

Saara El-Arifi (The Battle Drum)

Adam Holcombe (A Necromancer Called Gam Gam)

James Islington (The Will of the Many)

Gregory Kontaxis (The Return of the Knights)

LL MacRae (The Iron Crown)

Michael Michel (The Price of Power)

The Fantasy Review Podcast

I am the co-host for The Fantasy Review Podcast with James Dulin (author of No Heart for a Thief). We release episodes every other Tuesday. This month we released two episodes:

Episode 5: An Interview with Moses Ose Utmoi: Moses Ose Utomi is the author of the outstanding novella, The Lies of the Ajungo. He was an effervescent interviewee that we loved having guest on the podcast. This review is spoiler-free, so you’ll definitely want to check this one out. More information here.

Episode 6: An Interview with Zack Argyle: Zack Argyle is an all-star in the indie publishing world, with his best-selling and SPFBO finalist Threadlight series. We chat with Zack about his writing, his involvement in the indie fantasy community, and what is next for him. More information here.

Top 5 Tuesdays

Every Tuesday I feature 5 different books around a particular theme. This month I listed:

Top 5 Books That Feature Dragons

Top 5 Books That Deserve The Bigolas Dikolas Effect (Part 1)

Top 5 Books That Deserve The Bigolas Dikolas Effect (Part 2)

Waiting on Wednesdays

On (most) Wednesdays I feature one book that I absolutely cannot wait for. This month I featured:

Claws and Contrivances by Stephanie Burgis: This is the sequel to Scales and Sensibility, a Regency romance with a light touch of magic (and a SPFBO finalist!)

The Hexologists by Josiah Bancroft: Bancroft’s Books of Babel series is one of my Top 5 all time favorites. I cannot wait to see what he offers next.

The Hexologists

Whew! That is it for what I did in May. Here is to an equally amazing June! Happy Pride!

(But before I go, here is a little preview of my June TBR!)

Related to Nathan’s Reading Wrap Up for May

My name is Nathan and I'm currently getting my Ph.D. in archaeology in the US, but in my freetime I absolutely love reading any kind of fantasy book (and watching way too much TV). So I guess you could say that during the day I like to escape into the past and in the evening I like to escape into other worlds! Review requests can be sent to You can also find me on twitter (@nathan_reviews) and TikTok (nathans_fantasy_reviews).

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