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Free Friday: Today’s top free Amazon sci-fi and fantasy books for Apr. 30
By Maria Korolov and Amira Loutfi
Did you know that Amazon has a list of the top-selling and free sci-fi and fantasy books?
The list changes constantly — authors set their books to free temporarily to promote their work, and, of course, books move up and down in the rankings. But are any of the books actually worth reading? Well, I read the first few chapters of each to find out, so you don’t have to.
This week’s list is completely different from those of the previous weeks. So if you’re a fan of free books, it looks like there are going to be new things to read all the time.
I’ve also noticed that if you try to open the list on a mobile device, it will take you to the listings that cost money, instead. I’ve found that by switching to the “desktop site” in the mobile browser, the free list comes up. Oh, and if there’s a book that catches your eye, grab it quickly, since the books are often free for only a short time. And I also learned something new last week — Amazon allows you to lend your e-books, for free, to your friends. Even free e-books. Here are the instructions.
1. Born To Magic by David Wind
This is the first book of the seven-book Tales Of Nevaeh series set in a post-apocalyptic fantasy future. The rest of the books are $2.99 each and are not in Kindle Unlimited.
From Maria Korolov:
It’s now 3,000 years after the U.S. was destroyed by a nuclear war and people have evolved and can now do magic. I’m guessing that the nuclear radiation had something to do with that. Two young magic users, sorceress Areenna and Mikaal, who’s the son of the high king, are the only ones who can save the world from darkest evil.
The book begins with Areenna at 14, just hitting puberty, coming into her magic. There’s a confusing scene in which a poacher on her family land shoots a bird, and she magically feels the bird’s pain as it dies. Then the poacher aims at the bird’s mate, and Areenna is about to stop him with her psychic powers when the other bird telepathically stops her from interfering. The bird attacks the poacher, the poacher shoots the bird, the bird knocks the poacher out of the tree where he’s sitting. Both die. Turns out, the bird didn’t want to keep living if its mate was dead and committed suicide by poacher. But the bird’s got a baby, and it’s now Areenna’s to take care of.
That could be a promising beginning. We don’t see much of Areenna’s personality, but maybe we’ll get that as she learns to take care of the bird.
But no, we move on to the high king, who meeting with his council, worrying about the fact that they can’t do anything about their enemies until the queen’s prophecy comes true and someone is sent who can help them. But maybe we’ll get back to Areenna and see what’s happening with the bird?
Nope. The next chapter is four years later, when she’s 18 and her father tells her that he’s been called to attend the high king’s council, and she’s going with him. Oh, her father is a king as well, and she’s his chief advisor.
But the thing she’s worried about most is that she’s 18, and she’s going to be the queen. Who’s going to want to marry her if she’s going to be the boss? She might as well never marry at all, and leave it up to one of her cousins to produce the next heir.
Then her bird shows up. It’s been flying around, watching over her kingdom like a security camera. It sends her a feeling of calmness and strength and flies off again.
So that’s a quick summary of what happens, but the actual chapters aren’t that much longer. They read more like an outline of a book rather than a book itself, and skip over all the good parts. And we still haven’t seen any reason to care about Areenna.
I’m not going to keep reading the book, because I’m not a fan of coming-of-age stories as a general rule. I lived through it once, and that was enough, so unless there’s something really gripping about the book I’m not going to keep going. But the story is definitely readable, and if it’s your kind of thing, check it out.
2. Rekker by Ava York and Starr Huntress
This is the first book of the six-book Warriors of Vaznik series set in a post-apocalyptic fantasy future. The rest of the books are $2.99 each and are not in Kindle Unlimited.
From Maria Korolov:
It’s Friday and it’s time for the lottery. The lottery where the winner — or the loser, depending on how you look at it — gets to go off to strange new worlds and have adventures with aliens. But Lila isn’t enthused. The treaty with the aliens means that everyone on Earth wasn’t dead, or a slave somewhere, but Lila’s not happy at the possibility of becoming a broodmare for some alien warrior.
Though, judging by the book cover, the alien warriors are hot and have giant horns. So …
But her number is called. Specifically, her birthdate. She’d been training all her life to be a vet, but now she’s going to have to report to a testing facility to find out if she’s a match, and, if she’s a match, she will be sent away to some alien planet to be an alien’s mate.
I feel sorry for Lila. This really sucks. But, on the other hand, traveling to alien planets does sound exciting. Of course, I could just be saying that because I’ve been stuck in a pandemic for a year and it’ll be three more weeks before I have my second shot and get to go anywhere. Being a slave on an alien planet is starting to sound good to me.
Then the point of view switches to Rekker, one of the alien warriors. And if you’ve been following these posts, I hate books where the whole point is a romance, and the point of view switches between the guy and the woman, and the plot is really hokey.
But what can I say? It’s pulling me in!
3. Dead Witch on a Bridge by Gretchen Galway
This is the first book of the four-book Sonoma Witches series, a post-apocalyptic thriller. The rest of the books are $3.99 each and are not in Kindle Unlimited.
From Amira Loutfi:
We start out with a chilly scene in which the protagonist finds her ex-boyfriend’s “crumpled form,” and determines his status with a “probing spell.” I’m already pulled in.The ex-boyfriend was the “Protector,” a powerful member of an international witches group that “protected fae and humans alike from supernatural dangers.”
The world-building here is good.
>Damn. It feels a lot like I’m watching a really good urban fantasy tv series from the eighties. In this world our protagonist is serious, the situation is grim, and she is surrounded by a bunch of silly, useless, supernatural characters. I can only imagine they look and behave like the puppets from the “Neverending Story” or any other pre-CGI SFF film.
Other than the world-building and the juxtaposition of silly puppet characters with Galway’s humorless protagonist, I am not enjoying any of the other characters. Chapter two introduces the father, who visits for seemingly no reason. Chapter three introduces a handsome demon that cost our protagonist her job. Chapter four introduces a boring neighbor and lots of chatter from said neighbor …
4. Coven by Rebecca Main
This is the first book in the six-book Soulmark series. The other books are $3.99 to $7.99 each and are not in Kindle Unlimited.
From Maria Korolov:
Zoe has graduated culinary school and her grandmother invites her to join her and move back to their home town, Branson Falls. They both moved away 14 years before, when Zoe’s parents and sister died in an accident.
Grandmother used to be the town doctor. Judging by the book’s cover and title, all is not as it seems, and there is going to be some mystical or magical stuff happening shortly.
But the book moves slowly. She moves back to her home town with grandma. Her boyfriend drives up for a dinner, and it doesn’t go well, and she goes for a run in the woods. She runs further than she means to, trips over something and cuts her leg. Then two wolves show up, followed by two men who change into wolves. The werewolves see her and catch her and are about to kill her when they see her birthmark — a soul mark. She’s the soul mate of one of the wolves.
The book is readable, though the fact that it’s written in the present tense keeps interfering with me just being able to relax and read it. It just feels wrong. But the main characters don’t grab me, and I’m not a fan of the urban fantasy trope of the wolves mating for life and soulmates and all that stuff — especially when, as in this case, it’s taken seriously instead being treated with irony or humor.
Plus, the whole romance plot of meeting someone you don’t like but are physically attracted to and are destined to be with — I don’t like it. If the guy’s a jerk, walk away. Hot jerks are still jerks. It’s not worth the annoyance.
I’m not going to continue reading this book, but someone who’s a fan of those stories might enjoy it.
5. Black Autumn by Jeff Kirkham
This is the first book in the five-book Black Autumn series. The other books are $2.99 or $3.99 each but are all in Kindle Unlimited.
From Maria Korolov:
Jeff, a Green Beret who had trained small armies all around the world, is preparing for a massive disaster and potential collapse of society. A dirty bomb has gone off in Saudi Arabia, affecting the global oil supply.
Meanwhile, two terrorists are sailing a boat loaded with a nuclear bomb towards Los Angeles, while a logistics foul-up threatens to cut off a big chunk of California’s power. It’s a good read, and the writing style reminds me a little bit of Lee Child’s Jack Reacher books, except in a post-apocalyptic setting.
The story bounces around between a lot of different places, where a cascade of unfortunate events are piling up. I know where it’s going. A massive global disaster and collapse of civilization. I can tell from the book’s subtitle: “surviving the crash.”
I can’t decide if I like Jeff enough to read the rest of the book. It’s certainly readable, and I like the style it’s written in. I might come back to it, if I’ve got some down time.
6. Hunt by Demelza Carlton
This is one of the books in the 22-book Romance a Medieval Fairytale series. Two of the other books — Enchant and Fall — are also free, but the rest are $3.99 each and are not in Kindle Unlimited. It seems that different books in this series may get a free promotion, so if you’re a fan — but don’t want to spend money — keep checking back.
From Maria Korolov:
Rosa’s grandmother is a witch, and so is Rosa. But Rosa isn’t just someone who knows her way around herbs. She’s an elemental kind of witch, far more powerful than her grandmother, and if people knew, it would go badly for her.
Meanwhile, Sir Chase, a knight, has left his old kingdom and sets off on a quest for fame and fortune. Since this is a romance series, I’m betting that the two are going to get together.
When Rosa gets home, she discovers her family killed, and the perpetrator — a giant white wolf — attacks her too, but she’s able to drive it away, though not without accidentally setting her house on fire.
Rosa vows to revenge her family.
It’s an easy read, and the story moves along quickly. The fairy tale setting is fun, too.
7. Spring’s Calling by Sarah Biglow
This is the first book in the four-book Seasons of Magic series. The other books are $3.99 each and are not in Kindle Unlimited.
From Maria Korolov:
Ezri just made detective. She became a cop because her mother had been killed ten years previously, but the death was declared to be natural causes. Now she’s got a license to hunt down the real killer. The fact that she’s got magical powers helps.
Meanwhile, she’s got a murder to solve, and the victim was killed with magic.
Plus, as a child she’d been told about a prophecy — she’d have to face off against a great evil when a solar eclipse and a meteor shower both occurred on the same day, on the Vernal Equinix. And guess what — that’s about to happen.
I like Ezri. She’s matter-of-fact and goal-oriented. And I love, love, love police procedurals. So this book is definitely a keeper.
8. Exodus by Andreas Christensen
This is the first book of the Exodus trilogy. The other two books are $3.99 each and are not in Kindle Unlimited.
From Maria Korolov:
It’s about fifty years in the future. A disaster on Mars has soured people on space exploration, so when a rogue planet comes out of nowhere and wipes out Mars, it’s a big shock. Now what’s left of the rogue is going to spiral around the sun and come dangerously close to Earth in eight years, then come around again four years after that and wipe us out.
The first few chapters bounce around between a lot of different characters. One of them, a military pilot, is the most interesting to me.
There’s nothing that can stop it. The only thing people can do is build an ark to save a few people, though it’s not clear where exactly they’re going to go.
There are a lot of bureaucratic meetings with unpleasant people making unpleasant and corrupt and morally questionable decisions in the first few chapters,
The one good thing is that the story does eventually come back to that pilot from the first scene. It’s now two years later, and she’s been chosen to go to space.
But then the story goes back to the scientists and the bureaucrats. They’ve figured out a way to get to Alpha Centauri with a 25-year trip.
The book hops around a lot, with never enough time to get to know the characters, or get invested in their fates. But for people interested in the details of organizing something like this, both political and scientific, this could be an interesting read.
9. The Spirit Child by Alison Naomi Holt
This is the first book of the four-book Seven Realms of Ar’rothi series. The other books are $3.99 each and are not in Kindle Unlimited. The author also has a paranormal mystery series up on Amazon, the seven-book Alex Wolfe Mysteries series, which also looks awesome.
From Maria Korolov:
Oh, wow, I loved this beginning. I didn’t expect much from the cover, but wow, the writing is amazing.
Bree, the main character has money and some power, being a duchess, and takes no guff from anyone. She’s picking up some supplies from a local store when a fur trapper brings in a little girl along with his furs, and a child molester tries to buy her. Bree intercedes and outbids the creep, throws the kid over her shoulder, and takes her home. Well, she takes her to a bathhouse first, to get all the grime washed off of her. Looks like the child is feral, raised in the woods by a spirit animal companion. First thing the kid does is bite her when Bree tries to untie her.
I love the kid, and I love the way Bree deals with her. Bree is tough, capable, practical, but with heart.
I don’t care what the rest of the book is about, I want to read more about Bree. And I will tonight, after work. I’ve already got it queued up in my Kindle reader. The book is a keeper, and judging from what I’ve read so far, the author might become a new favorite of mine.
But, for you guys’ sake, I’ll cheat and read the description. Oh — Bree is gay and her beloved wife, the love of her life, has died. And there’s a big battle coming up against a black evil.
Okay, this book now officially rings all the bells for me. You just try to tear it away from my hands. I dare you.
10. Lady Tanglewood by Toni Cabell
This book is a prequel to the two-book The Serving Magic series. The other two books are both $3.99 each. The first is in Kindle Unlimited, and the second will be released in July.
From Amira Loutfi:
Nari is traveling with a party from her clan to visit her fiancé in Arrowood. Her parents are arguing. They refuse to tell her why, but our narrator tells us it’s probably because they agreed to the marriage without really believing in it.
To the surprise of Nari’s party, her fiancé and his father, Chief Orbahn, meet them out in the forest of Arrowood with two dozen fighters and no reasonable explanation. At nightfall, they arrange their encampment in a circle about Nari’s gang. This is highly offensive, confusing, and scary.
Her parents are high status, so I’m unsure why they can’t communicate more directly with the Arrowood gang.
At night Nari’s family’s servants inform them that the Arrowood is full of evil magic. They think Chief Orbahn is doing it, and this puts Nari in a difficult position because he is her future father-in-law and she is then confronted with the possibility of having to break off an engagement with a man she loves.
In the midst of this tense conversation, Nari notices how attractive one of the servants is.
Ending the engagement could have harmful repercussions for their society, so the party decides to go along with it, and only turn back if there is serious evidence of Chief Orbahn’s dark magic.
Personally, I’m not feeling this one, but I understand why other people like it.
Do you have other free books for me to check out? Email me at [email protected].