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. The Glass Palace by Kathryn Trattner
This is a standalone book, a retelling of the classic fairy tale “East of the Sun, West of the Moon.” If you like this author’s style, she has plenty of other fantasy books on Amazon. This book has been on our Free Friday list before — we reviewed it last month.
From Terrence Smith:
This book is not what one would typically call my go-to genre. It takes place in 1890 and follows a young woman, Astrid, whose father arranged a marriage for her when she was just a little girl.
After her father dies, and all his possessions are sold to pay off his debts, she travels from her home in Amsterdam to Siberia to meet Tyhr, the man to whom she was betrothed. There, she finds a bulky man donned in black, wearing a silver mask which he would not remove. This is throwing off vibes of a Gothic romance, such as Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre, which I do not go out of my way to read.
Strangely, however, I am getting into it.
The writing is beautiful. It does an effective job of portraying the atmosphere, including the cold and beauty of the train station in which she arrives. It also illustrates everything Astrid is feeling, making it palpable to anyone who has not lost her whole family like she has. She is also an avid reader, to which anyone reading this story could relate. She tries her hardest to ignore the man who fetches her in the train cabin, just wanting to be left alone with her books.
I am also intrigued by the mystery of just who this Tyhr is. He seems like an imposing figure, hinting at a possible Beauty and the Beast dynamic. Astrid describes her wedding ring as getting warmer as she gets closer to her final destination, and him, implying some kind of mystic connection between the two of them. The fact that he wears a mask and refuses to remove it also reminds me of Alan Moore’s vigilante V from V for Vendetta.
I am willing to continue with this story and see where it goes. This is also a title that will be up many Eyre fans’ alley as well.
4. Fae Wilds Box Set by W. J. May
This is a box set of the first three books in the nine-book Fae Wilds coming of age fantasy series by a USA Today bestselling author. The other books in the series are $3.99 each and the series is not in Kindle Unlimited. We previously reviewed the first book in this series in November of 2022. In fact, the author is a regular on our Free Friday lists. This past June, we reviewed the Royal Factions Box Set, the first three of six books in the Royal Factions series of young adult fantasy. And this past April, we reviewed Beginning’s End, a box set of the first three of eight books in the Beginning’s End Series of young adult romantic fantasy. In December of 2022, we reviewed The Kerrigan Kids box set, the first three books in the 12-book The Kerrigan Kids series.
From Maria Korolov:
I’m not a fan of the coming-of-age genre because I hate young people and am sick and tired of their drama. Also, them driving four-wheelers across my lawn. Get off my lawn, you pesky young people!
That being said, you have to keep your mind open.
The main character wakes up by a stream, with no memory of how she got there — or who she is. She’s in a forest, wearing a silk gown, and the back of her head hurts, like she’d been hit — or fell. She thinks that maybe she got drunk the night before. She finds a velvet purse in the grass, embroidered with the word “Linetta.” Maybe that’s her name. There are coins in it and red gemstones.
She groans. Who in the Fae Realm is she?
Saying that out loud makes her remember some stuff. She’s one of the Fae, living in one of the many realms connected via portals.
She walks out of the forest and finds a road, which takes her to a farm. She has a drink of water, then keeps walking. By the time she reaches a village, it’s later afternoon and she’s starving.
She goes into a pub to buy some food, and there are some Fae soldiers there, which fills her with apprehension for some unknown reason. She’s forced to show her money before she can order anything, and one of the locals tricks her into buying a round for everyone. She drinks as well, and, on an empty stomach, she’s almost instantly drunk. Or maybe they put something in her drink.
I don’t like the way that she lets people push her around. I don’t like the way some of the locals are hitting on her — and the fact that she keeps drinking even though it’s obviously a really bad idea.
I don’t think I’ll be sticking with this book but I do have to say that it’s very readable and the setting is vivid.
3. The Vixen and the Vet by Katy Regnery
This standalone novel is a modern retelling of “Beauty and the Beast” by a New York Times-bestselling author and is part of the eight-book A Modern Fairytale romantic fantasy series. The other books are $3.99 to $6.99 each but are all in Kindle Unlimited.
From Maria Korolov:
I don’t like romantic fantasy retellings of classic fairy tales — just not my genre. Usually, because there’s too much love and happiness in them and not enough gore and violence.
But that’s not an issue with this book because, even though it’s on this list, it’s not actually a romantic fantasy. It’s just a regular contemporary romance — though one inspired by a classic fairy tale.
Of course, with a few exceptions, contemporary romances tend not to have a lot of gore and violence in them, either.
Savanna has left her hometown to move to New York City and become a reporter. Romance is the farthest thing from her mind. Okay, I’m with her so far. I support her life choices. Maybe she can team up with some sewer-dwelling mutant turtles and fight crime.
But then she has to go back home because her younger sister is getting married.
No, wait — that’s not the full story! She’s home because she got fired from her job, because of her ex-boyfriend. He tricked her into writing a libelous story which benefitted his rich, scumbag family, then dumped her when he got what he needed.
No wonder she’s not a fan of romance.
But if I was her, instead of worrying about her bad taste in men — we all make mistakes — I’d worry more about the lack of professionalism. It sounds like she didn’t have her facts in order before she wrote her story — and dating the subject of a story is also a major conflict of interest. Will she take responsibility for her career-ending mistake and work hard to recover from it?
Probably not. This is a romance book, after all.
Wait — I’m wrong again! She does take responsibility for her mistakes. She gets a call from a journalism friend and admits the story was her fault. Good for her. And the friend offers her a job as a lifestyle editor, as long as she can successfully write a lifestyle piece. She’s mostly just done investigative journalism before.
And there’s a reclusive, wounded — and disfigured — veteran in town who’d be the perfect subject for a story.
Then we switch to the point of view of Asher, the veteran in question. He’s fit, even though he seems to spend most of his time holed up in his house reading romance novels. There’s a ring at the door, and he eavesdrops when his housekeeper opens it. It’s Savanna. She wants to interview him for a story — and she brought a plate of brownies.
Okay, I’ve got to admit, I’m enjoying the story despite the lack of comedic hijinks or unnecessary violence. Or any speculative elements.
Plus, I sympathize with Savanna’s plight. I’ve had to do lifestyle features before — I’m a journalist at my day job — and it was hard to put myself in that mindset. It’s way too easy to write it badly because you don’t have enough respect for the subject matter.
I might stick with this book.
2. Resonance by AJ Scudiere
This is the first of four books in the Relentless Suspense technothriller series. The other books are $3.99 each, and the series is not in Kindle Unlimited. The author has been on this list before. In February, we reviewed The Hunted, the first of five books in the Black Carbon sci-fi dystopian thriller series. And we previously reviewed this book in August of 2022.
From Maria Korolov:
Twelve years ago, the Earth’s magnetic poles shifted slightly, and the aviation industry had to recalibrate their compasses. Six years ago, they shifted again. Then again three years ago. Now, they’re shifting every three months.
David, a geologist, is on a dig with a group of paleologists when one night he goes down into the site by himself, even though he’s not supposed to. He’s convinced that the dinosaur scientists had mislabeled rocks, and he went down to double-check. It’s not exactly clear what the problem was, but I’m guessing there was something unexpected about how the other scientists had dated these rocks — or maybe their orientation. After all, this is a book about the magnetic poles flipping, Anyway, turns out that the other scientists were right and David was wrong. Which means that something crazy was happening with the rocks.
Meanwhile, Jordan, a physician, has just started his new job at the CDC, and his first assignment is to fly out with a colleague and examine a little girl bitten by a strange spider.
Also meanwhile, Becky, a biologist, has found some six-legged frogs. Was there a radiation leak causing this?
It’s a slow-paced but steady build-up of suspense, heavy on the science. I like it very much and might stick with it.
1. Hexed and Hitched by Stephanie Damore
This is the first of three standalone books in the Mystic Hollow cozy romantic fantasy series by a USA Today bestselling author. The other books are $3.99 each, and are in Kindle Unlimited. The third book is scheduled to be released in April but is available for pre-order. This is the author’s first time on our Free Friday list.
From Maria Korolov:
I don’t like romances, but I do like romantic comedies even if they don’t contain any gory murders. Yes, I contain multitudes.
I also like cozy magical books, so I think I’m in the target audience here.
In the first chapter, we meet Avery zipping up a pink chiffon bridesmaid’s dress. She’s a wedding planner, and has a magical ability to feel emotions. It’s the day of the wedding — and the bride is missing. At least, that’s what the mother of the bride is complaining about.
Avery uses her powers to try to figure out what’s happened to the bride, but there are a lot of people around, and lots of emotions. Then she spots a cat carrying a shrew in its mouth and chases after it. You see, the bride is a shape-shifter and her other form is a shrew. Fun hijinks ensue. I’d love to see this on the big screen!
In the next chapter, we find out that Avery’s landlord is raising her rent again, and the town where her business is based is now a bustling touring destination, which means that the real estate market is tough. Meanwhile, she’s secretly in love with her best friend and carpenter even though they’re both seeing other people.
Then we switch to the carpenter’s point of view. His name is Troy and his problem is that he wants to break up with his current girlfriend and hasn’t figure out how to do it yet. He’s a vet, dealing with some PTSD, and he’s also in love with Avery — but doesn’t think that he’s worthy of her love. So he’s been using magic potions to hide his feelings from her.
The next time he sees his girlfriend, he tries again to end things with her, but she casts a spell on him. He fights it off, but barely. This is a woman who won’t take no for an answer.
I would totally want to see that scene filmed.
This is a cozy, fun, light read, and I definitely plan to finish it this weekend.
Edit by Melody Friedenthal
Have you read any of these books? Are you planning to? Let us know in the comments!
And watch Maria and Terrence discuss all five books in the video below: