Did you know that Amazon has a list of the top-selling and free sci-fi and fantasy books? The list changes constantly — authors and publishers set their books to free temporarily to promote their work, and, of course, books move up and down in the rankings. Read on to find your fun free read for this weekend! And grab the books quickly because they don’t always stay free for long.
This week’s list is completely different from those of the previous weeks. So if you’re a fan of free books, there are going to be new things to read all the time. If you want to get this list in your inbox every Friday afternoon, subscribe to the MetaStellar weekly newsletter.
There are a lot of books to go through, so this week I’m being helped out by a couple of other members of our MetaStellar community. If you’d like to join me in doing these reviews — and taping our regular Free Friday videos — email me at [email protected].
5. Hers, Untamed by Anna Adler
This is the first of five books in the Hers dystopian science fiction series. The other books in the series are $2.99 to $3.99 each and are not in Kindle Unlimited. This is the author’s first time on our Free Friday list.
From Maria Korolov:
So, first, the obligatory disclaimer. I’m not the target audience for this book, which I know because of the naked male chest on the cover. I’m writing this review because our more romantically-inclined team members were not available today.
Myself, I hate romance and all things good in the world. I prefer to spend my leisure time reading about murder and mayhem in far-flung galaxies.
That being said, the book opens on a distant planet. Whoo hoo! A planet where coffee costs more than a month’s salary. Oh, no! It’s a dystopia!
Our protagonist, Alyssa, is about to buy a pet. Oh, don’t buy, Alyssa. Get a rescue, instead! And she’s buying it partly as a status symbol. Oh, no. No.
Wait, it gets worse. This “pet” shop actually sells humanoid alien slaves, as well as human-alien hybrids. And they “train” the pets before selling them. Tame them, in other words. Or, more exactly, torture them until they’re obedient.
But the “pet” Alyssa wants hasn’t been broken yet. He’s wild and untamed, even though this pet shop has had him for three weeks already. She takes a month off of work so she can spend it with her new pet and tame him. She names him Jax. She’s also had a special cage installed in her apartment. The pet will also be wearing an obedience collar — and the controls are coded to her DNA.
Next, we see her “taming” her pet. Alternating rewards like food and exercise with punishment — shocks from the training collar that are painful enough to make him pass out. We spend several chapters on this.
Then she takes him outside for a walk. Jax runs away, the security bots catch him and torture him a bit to teach him a lesson.
I’m up to chapter ten — they’re short — and the best thing I can say about Alyssa is that she hasn’t raped the guy yet. She is planning to, as soon as she tames him and it’s safe. Meanwhile, Jax is trying to seduce her. My guess is that this is part of some plan he’s got to get free and get off her stupid planet.
I’m sure a lot of people are going to enjoy the sexual tension and the master-slave dynamic at play here. Plus, the writing is breezy and flows smoothly. It’s fun to read. Still, I’m not going to stick with it. It’s just not my thing, even if something happens to redeem Alyssa and she and Jax find a real life together somewhere.
4. The Dragon Blood Collection by Lindsay Buroker
This is a box set of the first three books in the eight-book Dragon Blood fantasy romance series. The other books are $3.99 to $4.99 each and are not in Kindle Unlimited. This author has been on our Free Friday list many times. For example, we’ve reviewed this box set before, in May of 2021. And, this past March, we reviewed Kingdoms at War, the first of six books in her Dragon Gate epic fantasy series. In April of 2022, we reviewed Mind over Magic, the first of five books in the A Witch in Wolf Wood paranormal romantic mystery series. Also, in November of 2021, she had a short story in the Star Rebels anthology. Lindsay Buroker is also the host of the Six Figure Authors podcast, a must-listen for anyone who wants to write speculative fiction for a living.
From Maria Korolov:
So, first, Lindsay Buroker is one of my favorite authors — and one of my all-time favorite people — so yeah, I’m definitely the target audience for these books. I’ve read dozens of her books and listened to every single episode of her Six Figure Authors podcast.
But I’m not the only fan. This box set has an amazing number of reviews on Amazon — more than 23,000. There are very few books out there with that number of reviews.
The first book in this box set, Balanced on the Blade’s Edge, introduces Ridge, a talented military man who is sent to manage a prison of murderers and rapists as punishment for causing an international incident.
According to the description, a mysterious woman shows up who’s been asleep for the past 300 years and is the last of a group of sorcerers who used to protect the realm of Iskandia from outsiders. She needs to be reunited with her soul blade, and her only way of doing this is to pretend to be one of the prisoners and build a relationship with Ridge. But she’s a sorcerer, and if Ridge ever finds out, he has to kill her.
So, from that description, the book sounds like it would be a sword-and-sorcery kind of book, and, by the cover, there should be dragons.
So let’s get started. First of all, it starts out with a military that sounds very modern-day, with modern titles. I like the fact that the military has female officers. I’m always a fan of women who kill — in my leisure reading, that is. But then there are unfamiliar country names, there’s a king, and it’s the king who sends Ridge off to run the prison for a year, even though he’s needed at the front. Ridge is a flier. There are references to dragons, so I’m guessing they’re not piloting airplanes, but dragons?
I like Ridge. I’m a fan of military sci-fi. This is more like military fantasy, but close enough. Very enjoyable.
Then in the next chapter, we switch to Sardelle’s point of view. She must be the mysterious woman the book description talked about. There was a battle, and an explosion brought a mountain down on her, and a safety device activated, cocooning her inside a magical bubble. The bubble put her in stasis until it was safe — and with the rocks all around her, that stasis lasted for 300 years. According to her telepathic talking sword, at least. Her sword warns her that times have changed, and if people see her using her magic powers, she’ll be killed.
Oh, and the reason she woke up? A couple of miners have reached her. Problem is, once they find her, they just want to rape her. They’re prisoners, forced to work in the mines. This must be the prison that Ridge is being sent to manage. She gives them both a rash and escapes down the tunnel, where she finds two prison guards. There’s an explosion, and the prisoners attack and the guards mow them down with rifles. Sardelle hadn’t seen rifles before — 300 years ago, people didn’t have them. I like the fact that the book recognizes that things change over time. It’s a personal pet peeve of mine that fantasy and science fiction books often have empires that last for a thousand years with no changes in technology.
The guards assume that she’s one of the prisoners who’s wandered off because she didn’t know any better, and she’s taken to the prison.
But I’m a little disappointed that this is turning out to be a romance. I was hoping it was going to be a military action book.
But I like both of the main characters, and I like the writing style. So I have high hopes for this book.
I read the first book, then the next two, then I went and bought the next three… and kept going. As of this writing — which is two years after I first reviewed this box set for MetaStellar — I’ve finished this entire series.
3. Band of Preppers by Robert J. Walker
This is a stand-alone EMP thriller novel and is available in Kindle Unlimited. This author was on our Free Friday list last week.
From Alex Korolov:
This one’s an EMP story, where an electromagnetic pulse wipes out all electronic devices, including cellphones, modern vehicles, and electrical grids. So, if you’re a fan of post-apocalyptic fiction, this one might be for you.
We meet Ross in Chapter one. He’s piloting a Boeing across the Atlantic. Henry, his best friend from flight school, is his co-pilot. The two are chatting amicably when all the lights in the cockpit suddenly go out.
The pilots quickly learn that all the plane’s power is out, including backup systems, and they realize that they have to make an emergency landing. The problem is that the aircraft is still 80 miles from land.
Chapter two jumps to a different scene. We meet Ross’s wife Daisy, who works with Henry’s wife Winnie at a luxury boutique in the city. It’s two minutes before closing time and suddenly the lights go out. A bunch of cars outside start smashing into each other.
People are standing around in the streets looking confused as they stare at their dead cellphones. Daisy and Winnie manage to close and lock the store’s doors, and pretty soon someone outside starts bashing on the locked doors.
That’s as far as I got with this one. This story seems pretty formulaic compared to other EMP books. I’ve reviewed at least a couple of other EMP stories that start out with a pilot flying a plane that suddenly loses power. And a lot of EMP books also have a main character who’s working in the city when the power goes out and society quickly starts to break down.
Still, this one’s action-packed from the start, and I do enjoy a fast-paced story with lots of excitement, so I might finish this one if I don’t have anything more interesting to read.
2. First Infraction by Wendi L. Wilson
This is the first of three books in the Oberon Reformatory paranormal romance series. The other books are $3.99 each but are both in Kindle Unlimited. This is the author’s first time on our Free Friday list.
From Kristin Noland:
Rory Finley is accused of murder. She doesn’t deny she killed a man, but she claims it was an accident. The judge sentences her to six months at the Oberon Reformatory for manslaughter. The story jumps back to the week before when Rory skips out on a summer trip to Europe to party and begins to reveal what happened that led to her killing the man.
Rory is a teenage fae princess whose true appearance has been hidden with glamour. With both Sylphid and Zephyr blood, she’s extremely powerful, but she doesn’t want to use her status or powers to get her out of this terrible situation. Doing so would bring turmoil to fae and humans alike and destroy all the hard work her parents did to make peace between the fae and humankind.
The book hooked me from the start and kept me immersed in the story through the sample chapters.
It’s a well-written and entertaining fantasy novel, and I would love to keep reading and find out how she survives her time in the reformatory and how she handles telling her parents once she is free. Since the title is First Infraction, I can only imagine Rory is going to get into a lot more trouble in the other books in the series.
Fans of fast-paced fae fantasies will love this book.
1. The Lure of Infinity by Stan C. Smith
This is the first of six books in the Bridgers science fiction adventure series. The other books are $3.99 each and in Kindle Unlimited. This is the author’s second time on our Free Friday list. We reviewed the prequel to the Bridgers series on Feb. 3, 2023.
From Terrence Smith:
The book starts well enough with a decent action scene, in which protagonist Infinity, along with a fellow guide and a tourist, are fending off Neanderthal hunters, but the prose did not enchant me. There was nothing really wrong with it, it described everything well, but that’s all it did. It was just, you know, “fine.”
The premise does sound interesting, though. A tourism company called SafeTrek provides guided trips to alternate versions of Earth that have branched off from our timeline at different points in history. This could be a great setup. But the question is, why is this a thing? How does this work, exactly? This is just for rich people looking for a thrill? Legitimate scientists used to be interested in it, but now it’s mostly just tourists.
It doesn’t help that the protagonist is fairly on the bland side. Infinity doesn’t have really any defining traits as opposed to being strong, tough, and snarky, as well as emotionally distant. I would have liked to see a bit more nuance and complexity in her, like what she’s thinking when she goes on these trips, why she got involved with this in the first place.
The critique of the patriarchy running SafeTrek is a bit on the nose as well. She and her tourist at the start of the book talk to four men, who are all staring at them naked. Their clothes disintegrate with each teleportation, and they can’t get their clothes back until the two of them are properly decontaminated.
The most interesting part of the story right now are the three young students, Xavier, Lenny, and Desmond, who want to see a version of Earth that branched off millions of years ago for a dissertation. I want to know exactly what they are studying, and what they hope to learn from it.
This book does seem like it could be an fascinating story, but as things stand, I cannot say that I will continue with this one.
Have you read any of these books? Are you planning to? Let us know in the comments!
And watch Maria, Kristin and Terrence discuss all five books in the video below: