A couple of years ago I stumbled across something called Wyrd & Wonder. Wyrd & Wonder is an annual geek-out of people who love all things fantasy hosted by Lisa, Jorie, and imyril. The month of May is dedicated to celebrating fantasy books, movies TV shows, games, and more, and the fun includes read-alongs, interviews, memes, gaming, and more.
I joined the fun in 2020 and wrote one of my all-time favorite posts on A Few of My Favorite (Fantasy) Things.
This year, Wyrd & Wonder turns 5. And there just happens to be 5 weeks before May 1. To celebrate this 5th Wyrdiverisary, I’m doing 5 countdown posts to Wyrd & Wonder. I’m starting off the countdown with my Top 5 Fantasy Read since last May.
Top 5 Fantasy Reads Since May 2021
Before I dive into the list, just a word about the genre. Fantasy itself is often considered a genre of speculative fiction. Even setting aside spec fic, fantasy is a broad genre that encompasses numerous sub-genres. In fact, I debated with myself over several titles and whether I should include them in Fantasy or another genre. I have another post planned later where I discuss what fantasy is for me. But for now, I’m just going with the broadest definition that it typically involves magical elements and/or features settings that emulate Earth but have an otherness.
So without further ado, my top 5 in descending reading order (newest read to oldest read).
The Nature of Witches by Rachel Griffin
The Nature of Witches was gifted to me by a lovely Litten as part of a October-themed swap. The front cover caught my eye with the beautiful colors and image. Then I pulled off the dust jacket. The hard cover (what’s underneath the dust jacket) is stunning. As much as I like the design of the dust jacket, I love the cover even more.
Nature is a debut novel from Rachel Griffin and I found it to be a solid debut. While I would have liked to see the world-building fleshed out a bit more and I have so many questions about this world, I did love the magic system and how it was based on nature and the seasons. I especially liked how the author tied the magic system to the earth, the weather, and all things nature. How climate change was incorporated and made sense in conjunction with the magic system. Rather a seamless merger in my opinion.
I thought the writing was lyrical and beautiful. I flagged quite a few quotes throughout the book. I thoroughly enjoyed this refreshing take on nature and magic. I found it to be one of the strongest debut novels I’ve read recently. I think Rachel Griffin will only get better and look forward to reading what she writes next.
Skyhunter by Marie Lu
I became familiar with Marie Lu in 2020 when I receive The Kingdom of Back in an OwlCrate subscription box. I absolutely was enchanted with the fairy-tale historical fiction book. And then Skyhunter came on my radar thanks to BookishFirst*. It was one of the best excerpts I have ever reviewed on BookishFirst, so of course I ordered it.
And then it sat on my TBR bookcase for a year and a half.
Why? Mostly because I really wanted to love it (another stunning cover) but I worried that it wouldn’t live up to my expectations.
I have an entire shelf of books in this category. But I digress.
I finally picked it up as part of my TBR bookcase challenge and absolutely devoured it. Marie Lu has created an incredible world that I dove right in and didn’t look up until the last page. The world-building is fantastic. The characters are compelling and well-developed. This action-adventure story picks you up and doesn’t stop. And I am now kicking myself that I didn’t pick it up sooner because it’s book 1 of a duology (Steelstriker is book 2) and I’m on a book buying ban.
The God of Lost Words by A.J. Hackwith
The God of Lost Words is book 3 of the Hell’s Library trilogy. I originally picked up the first book, The Library of the Unwritten, in November of 2021 when randomly browsing my library. Two things drew me to this book. First, it’s a book about a library of unwritten books. Who wouldn’t be intrigued by that? And second, the tagline is: Join the Library. Raise Hell. Do you need any more reason to read this book?
I mean how do you not love the idea that unwritten stories exist in their own library that’s in hell, but not completely a part of hell. And that librarians are normally deceased mortals who once were these unwritten stories authors. So imaginative!
From the first chapter of book 1, I was immediately sucked into this world. I especially loved the main character Claire. So of course, I purchased my own copy of book 1, ordered book 2, The Archive of the Forgotten, and then pre-ordered book 3. On top of an intriguing premise, the world-building and character-building throughout the trilogy are phenomenal.
I was super excited when book 3 arrived. I threw my other reads aside to immediately devour it. (Okay, so I didn’t actually throw any books. I gently placed them on a table.) And what a fantastic ending! I loved every second of it.
Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones
I’ve realized that occasionally I failed to discover a book when I was younger. Howl’s Moving Castle, originally published in 1986, is one of those. I don’t know how it missed my radar when I was a young reader because it’s exactly the kind of book I loved (and still love) to read. I’ll blame it on the fact that I grew up in a teeny town with a teeny library in the days before the google.
But thanks to Neil Gaiman, who highly recommended this book and pretty much anything Diana Wynne Jones wrote, I rectified this terrible oversight. And then serendipitously in February’s OwlCrate subscription box, appropriately titled Among the Monsters, I got this great art print of Howl and Sophie by Dri.
Howl’s Moving Castle is a magical, enchanting, fantastical story about a young woman who feels trapped. Then she is cursed to be old and that frees her. This book is not only well-written, but it’s imaginative and funny with creative and unique characters. Everything a middle-grade fantasy book should be. I absolutely adored it. I mean, who wouldn’t want to live in a moving castle?
Under the Whispering Door by T.J. Klune
So this pick may stretch the definition of fantasy. I guess it depends on your views of the afterlife. But for me, I’m putting it in the broad fantasy category.
Two years ago at the beginning of the pandemic, I happened upon a book entitled The House in the Cerulean Sea and T.J. Klune became a must-read author for me. So when Under the Whispering Door was announced, I immediately pre-ordered it.
And wow. This story is simply beautiful.
This is a story about death and grief. A story about tea and life. A story about endings and new beginnings. A story of hope and redemption.
I have no words for how much I love this book. Klune has an incredible ability to tackle tough subjects and encase them in lovely prose and even adds a bit of whimsy. Because even in the dark, we need a little light.
I feel compelled to provide a word of caution. Despite my absolute love for this book, this isn’t one I would recommend to everyone. Well, I would but I know this book wouldn’t be well received by everyone. Please be forewarned, this is a book about death. It discusses hard subjects like death, suicide, and the afterlife. This may be triggering for some readers.
Have you read any of these books? What fantasy reads from the past year would be on your Top 5?
The Countdown to Wyrd & Wonder 2022 continues! Future countdown posts will include my top 5 faves featuring the 5 Wyrd & Wonder mascots, top 5 forest fantasy recommendations, top 5 single-serve fantasy reads, and top 5 faves from a fantasy subgenre. And I’ll probably have one or two other posts about fantasy (like fave fantasy films/shows) thrown in the mix too.
Want more book recommendations? See all my favorite fantasy picks and more on my Bookshop.org shop*.
A couple of notes on this post:
- Wyrd & Wonder image credit: tree wolf image by chic2view on 123RF.com
- The book links are affiliate links to Bookshop.org where I receive a teeny commission if you click on the link and then purchase something. Read more about affiliate links here.
- BookishFirst is a great way to get first looks of pre-publication books. Sign-up for free, and then read the excerpt and give an opinion to be entered into the book raffle. Use my referral code and we’ll each earn bonus points: a6818616a3d463e80