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 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, Amazon allows you to lend your e-books, for free, to your friends. Even free e-books. Here are the instructions.
Most of these books are the first book in the series, and in each case, I’ve checked to see whether the rest of the books are free as well, or whether they’re in Kindle Unlimited. Learn more about Kindle Unlimited here.
The list is accurate as of the time of writing but may have changed since the story was posted.
1. Sandstorm by T.W. Piperbrook
This is the first book in the four-book The Sandstorm Series. The other books are $3.99 each and are not in Kindle Unlimited.
From Maria Korolov:
Ravar is a desert world, a colony that lost contact with Earth generations ago.
Neena hunts to keep her younger siblings, Raj and Samel, fed, since the three of them are without parents. The other hunters don’t respect her, so she has to hunt alone and the other kids tease and bully her younger brothers.
While out on a hunt, she saves a stranger from dying in a sandstorm, and, in return, he saves her from some kind of sand monster she’d never seen or heard of before.
The colonists seem remarkably ill-prepared for all the problems they have, considering they’d been on the planet for generations. Instead of getting better at farming and hunting on this planet, the colonists are actually getting worse at it, and supplies are dwindling. Even though they keep losing people to storms and predators, they have restrictions on how many children people can have. Plus, the colonists live in isolated communities far from each other, with only limited contact.
The point of view switches between Neena, her brother Samel, and other random people in her village. None of them are particularly capable, and I’m getting frustrated with all their whining. It’s long past time to stop feeling sorry for themselves, buck up, and try to get a handle on things.
I’m a little frustrated with all the characters. They seem to be powerless in the face of everything that’s happened to them. I got 18 chapters in, and it’s not getting any better.
2. The Homestead by Clay Wise
This is a standalone book about survival after an electromagnetic pulse attack. It is the only book the author currently has up on Amazon.
From Maria Korolov:
The book has no reviews, is not part of a series, and has a hand-made cover — you can tell by the lack of space around the book title and, oh, the fact that they forgot to put the author’s name on it.
I’m not sure why it’s on today’s top ten list. Maybe EMP survival books are just really popular right now, and there’s a group of die-hard readers out there going through every free book with EMP in the description? Or maybe it’s because the book made Pam’s Pride Recommendations list yesterday? That’s a site run by a Christian, home-schooling mom, who, according to her bio, has six children and is into homesteading, prepping and do-it-yourself.
Edge of Collapse, the fourth book on today’s top ten list, was also mentioned in her blog post.
I’m officially frightened. I hate prepper-style doomsday books, including most of the EMP survival books I’ve read so far. I hope she doesn’t send her army after me. After all, unlike Pam’s, my face, home phone number, and address are all over the Internet. Normally, my articles only annoy Linux nerds and Bitcoin crazies and those guys are scared of loud noises and tend to stay inside in their basements.
When preppers go into basements, it’s to lovingly stroke the barrels of their assault rifles.
Anyway, as you can imagine, I’m predisposed to dislike this book just by its title and cover.
Anyway, the book switches back and forth between different first-person points of view, which is confusing. First, there’s Gabby, trapped in an elevator in a Chicago building with Troy, her 14-year-old son. Then there’s Rick, her husband, back at the ranch with their employees. His phone goes dead suddenly, as does that of Chuck, one of his employees, as does their walkie-talkie. Rich immediately knows it’s an EMP attack. He’s always said one was coming.
It couldn’t possibly just be dead batteries. No, it has to be an EMP blast. And they have to immediately bring in all the animals and secure all the gates and warn everyone else in the community. They’ve practiced for this, they all know what to do.
The writing style is actually pretty good. But I can’t get over the fact that I’m reading about a bunch of doomsday preppers who are finally getting the disaster they’ve been waiting for.
And they immediately go on the defensive, becoming paranoid, reacting weirdly even to normal human interactions. For example, Gabby gets out of that elevator and meets someone else in the hallway, a young woman named Jun. She asks if she can come with, and they go down the stairs together where a bunch of people are gathered to check their cell phones, And, instead of joining the rest of her coworkers, Jun keeps going with Gabby and Troy. Why? Fortunately, none of the other people there look at Gabby and Troy. Why fortunately? Are people going to jump her and rip her apart and eat her flesh just because their phones are dead? Arrgh.
People don’t immediately turn into mindless savages the minute the power goes out. Well, a few do, but most people react by helping their neighbors, not by immediately reaching for their guns.
Sorry, but I can’t stand these kinds of books.
3. Death’s Detective by Charlotte E. English
This is the first book in the three-book The Malykant Mysteries series. The other two books are $7.99 each and are not in Kindle Unlimited.
From Maria Korolov:
Konrad is out in a marsh in the Bone Forest, outside the city of Ekamet, gathering poisonous plants. As one does. But someone else got to the marsh spectre plant before he did.
See, Konrad is the chief servant of the Malykt, the spirit that presides over the transition from life to death. That makes Konrad the Malykant, head of the Order of Death.
If anyone is gathering poisonous plants, I guess, it should be him.
When he gets back to his workshop, he discovers that the Malykt is angry because there’s been an unclean death nearby, and he heads back out to look for the corpse. He recognizes the victim — a popular society hostess, in a fine gown and jewels. She’s been poisoned with the marsh spectre, the very plant he’d been looking for.
He tries to talk to her spirit to find out who murdered her, but he got there too late. Her spirit is now incoherent, and can only tell him her name, which he already knows. So, of course, Konrad goes to work. He cuts open her body, removes one of her rib bones and puts it in his coat, and then heads off to find the killer.
When not prowling the marches for poisons or slicing open bodies in the middle of the night, Konrad is a wealthy gentleman. He wears linen shirts and silk waistcoats and a top hat. He has servants and a carriage with a coachman to drive him around.
The next morning, he heads off to the victim’s house to investigate. He bullies his way in past the butler and finds a clue in the victim’s study — a note telling her to meet someone alone in the middle of the night. Then he heads home, and writes an anonymous note to one of the inspectors in the city’s police department.
The style of this book reminds me a little bit of Sherlock Holmes. It’s slow-paced, deliberate, and atmospheric. Except it’s set in a fantasy world, and instead of keen powers of deduction, Konrad has spirits that talk to him.
I like it. I’ll probably come back and finish the book, though the fact that the next two aren’t in Kindle Unlimited does give me pause.
From Amira Loutfi:
This one is really well-written especially if you like to get swept away into the world of a dark, Witcher-esque fantasy. Konrad is searching through the spooky Bone Forest for a poisonous flower. He finds it has already been harvested. Ugh. And roughly at that. He can tell whoever got there first was an amateur.
So how does he handle the situation? By shifting into the spirit world, of course. He calls upon his spooky phantom friends to go find the unquiet. Not sure what that means, but the world-building and mood are good enough to sweep me away. I’m hooked.
So Konrad is a professional, and his title is “Malykant, head of the Order of Death.” His boss, the Overlord, is unhappy about a death. A woman had recently died from a poisonous stab wound to the gut. And Konrad recognizes her. She was a prominent wealthy woman from town. With help from his phantom servants, he’s able to question her.
Seems to me like there are already two plot threads going — who killed this woman and why, and Konrad might also suffer professionally from how messy it got. I want to know and I want to spend more time in this world…
This is giving me “Witcher” vibes. A professional, laconic protagonist with great skill and experience in a dark fantasy craft.
4. Edge of Collapse by Kyla Stone
This is the first book in the seven-book Edge of Collapse series. The other books are $3.99 to $4.99 each but are all in Kindle Unlimited.
From Maria Korolov:
Hannah Sheridan has been trapped for years in a concrete room, taken prisoner, separated from her husband and son, tortured, with occasional visits from her captor her only human contact. She’s got a few broken bones, badly healed. And she’s pregnant. Then the power goes out.
I like Hannah. Despite all that she’s been through, she hasn’t given up hope yet.
Next, we go to Gavin Pike, a night guard at the local jail, a volunteer reserve police officer, and a hunter. He’s not a nice guy. He sees a bar accident and does nothing to help.
Also, when the power goes out, he immediately knows that it’s something more than just a bad outage. He knows the simplest explanation isn’t the right one because he isn’t stupid. It’s not clear to me whether it’s Gavin who thinks he isn’t stupid, or the author. Oh, he’s thinking of going back to his cabin — the one where he has Hannah locked up. So he’s the bad guy. I feel better about the book now.
Back to Hannah. She gets free, steals a bunch of supplies, feeds Gavin’s dog, then sets the dog loose and heads out into the woods.
Meanwhile, Gavin steals an old Blazer — one that didn’t rely on electronics — and drives off towards his cabin.
This is a tense book, gripping, very well written. And yes, I hate EMP survival books, but here the survivalist is the bad guy. I like that.
5. Prince of Foxes by H. L. Macfarlane
This is the first book in the Bright Spear Trilogy. The other two books are $3.99 each but are both in Kindle Unlimited.
From Amira Loutfi:
Ohh, so in this one there is a potential for awakening, a chain of consequences, and a shifter who has been a fox for 500 years… Nice.
In the little town of Darach, you must never give out your real name. Our protagonist, who goes by Clara but whose real name is Sorcha, has seen people disappear and reappear mentally altered after having given out their real name. Why? Because there are faeries in the forest who will be able to harm you if they have your real name. I love it.
And it’s got a nice opening! “Today was the queen’s funeral and Lachlan, her only child and heir to the throne, was deliberately avoiding the ceremony.” They are Faeries, and Lachlan is a faery prince. He’s immediately trying to trick Sorcha.
In chapter two, we learn that her father is also under pressure to do some shady stuff with his business. Hmm.. the plot thickens. I predict that he might be tempted to give up Sorcha’s name the Lachlan, in true fairy tale fashion.
If you enjoy Grimm’s Fairy Tales, then you’ll probably enjoy this series. I will likely come back to it.
6. An Assassin’s Accord by Michael Anderle
This is the fourth book in the eight-book McFadden and Banks series. The other books are $4.99 each but are both in Kindle Unlimited, though the last book isn’t scheduled to be released until later this month.
From Amira Loutfi:
So there’s a situation and the protagonist is 6’6. Damn, that’s tall. He’s covered in mechanized armor. Oh ok, now I get it. Not really.
Taylor is a ginger. Great, we always need more positive representation for ginger-haired men! The new suit is comfortable, and he’s been donning these suits for years and fighting in them. This new suit is hopefully gonna be more reliable than his previous suits. He is a little dazed (for no reason?) and asks a few dumb questions, so his team leader and the rest of the guys laugh at him.
So I kinda like how his team is made up of blithe, foul-mouthed folks. They remind me of military men in real life.
It’s an odd situation though. He’s at a zoo with a team of mostly new military guys and then a massive dinosaur-like monster trundles through. Someone might die. He’s in love with one of his teammates, Tanya, and she almost gets hurt by the monster.
In this world, zoos are what people call the jungles in Southern California. And the problem with these zoos is that monsters keep escaping from them and terrorizing populous areas. So teams like this have to go in a kill them before they get out.
It’s not really my thing. But I can see why other people like it. It’s exciting.
7. Destiny Rising by M. D. Cooper
This is the first two books of the three-book Aeon 14: The Intrepid Saga series and includes Outsystem and A Path in the Darkness. The third book, Building Victoria, is $4.99 but is in Kindle Unlimited.
From Maria Korolov:
There are a lot of different series in the Aeon 14 universe. In fact, The universe is so complex that Cooper has written a separate book on how to read the series, The Aeon 14 Reading Guide. There’s also a website which is almost as difficult to navigate as the series itself.
The site Book Series in Order says that Outsystem was the first book that was published, so it looks like today’s two-book set is an excellent place to get started. And if you do get into it, there are literally more than a hundred books in this universe, so you’ll be set with reading material for life.
Once you’re done with Aeon 14: The Intrepid Saga, check out the 14-book Aeon 14: The Orion War series, the two-book Aeon 14: Tales of the Orion War series, the four-book Aeon 14 – The Sol Dissolution series, the two-book Aeon 14: Fennington Station Murder Mysteries series, the two-book Aeon 14: The Ascension War series and its prelude Heather’s Marauders, the four-book Aeon 14: Building New Canaan series, the three-book Aeon 14 – The Delta Team series, the three-book Aeon 14: The Empire series, the five-book Enfield Genesis series, the two-book Aeon 14: Hand’s Assassin series, the five-book The Sentience Wars – Origins series and its prequel The Proteus Bridge, the four-book Aeon 14: Origins of Destiny series, the seven-book Perilous Alliance series, the six-book Aeon 14: Perseus Gate Season 1 series, the five-book Aeon 14: Perseus Gate Season 2 series, the two-book Aeon 14: Serenity series, the four-book Aeon 14: Solar War 1 series and its prequel Vesta Burning, the seven book Rika’s Marauders series and its prequel Rika Mechanized and its successor the three-book Aeon 14: The Genevian Queen series, the three-book Aeon 14: Machete System Bounty Hunter series, the three-book Outlaws of Aquilia series, the three book Quantum Legends series, the five-book The Sentience Wars – Origins series, the three-book Aeon 14: The Warlord series, the three-book Legacy of the Lost series, the two-book Aeon 14: Bitchalante series, and its prequel Vesta Burning, and finally you can finish it off with the two-book series of short stories Tales From The Multiverse.
Whew. Malorie Cooper is my hero. The sheer number of books she has out is amazing, especially considering that nearly all of them have been published in the last five years. I’m also impressed by all the co-authors she works with. She’s like the sci-fi James Patterson.
From Melody Friedenthal:
Lt. Colonel Tanis Richards is on a ship heading for an asteroid named 1685 Toro. The reader is told that Toro orbits “in resonance” with Earth and Venus. Hmm, is “resonant orbit” a thing? Now, a million years ago I studied astronomy, so this stuff interests me – I looked up “resonant orbit” and I was delighted to find it is a thing! Author M.D. Cooper has just won a brownie point from me.
Tanis has an “Internal AI” with which she has discussions. It seems Toro is the home of a crazy cult called Cardid and Tanis is worried about her mission which involves making contact with them. Gentle readers learn that Toro is a source of the mineral olivine and I’m guessing this is very valuable and perhaps why Tanis and her ship (and shipmates?) are headed there. Nope, it looks like the crystals have been mined out, most of the people have left, but there are estimates of ten thousand living on this rock now, followers of a shady character named John Cardid. Cardid is a suspected human trafficker and mercenary. Tanis wants more intel on him, especially since some VIPs recently visited the asteroid and never returned to Earth.
Are they dead? Are they being held for ransom? Were they sold? Eaten? Curious readers want to know.
8. Relic: Blade by Ben Zackheim
This is the first book in the nine-book Relic series. The other books are $1.99 to $3.99 each but are all in Kindle Unlimited
From Maria Korolov:
Kane and Rebel work for an international agency that protects people from supernatural monsters. They’re one of the three teams based in the United Satates, and their job is to find powerful lost relics before the bad guys do.
Okay, I like the premise. Very Warehouse 13.
The book starts out in Peru, where Kane and his partner are in the jungle, trying to evade armed treasure guardians. He’d rather be back in his mansion in upstate New York, drinking rye whiskey handed to him by his demon librarian.
Now I’m thinking more of Tomb Raider or Indiana Jones. Yes, Indiana Jones, definitely.
Kane and Rebel are hunting some kind of valuable vampire treasure. Kane is a deadshot, and Rebel has some magic powers. They’re fighting their way up a mountain in the jungle.
The story is funny and action-packed, moves along quickly, and has lots of killing in it. My kind of book. And there’s no sign — in the first four chapters at least — that Kane and Rebel are star-crossed lovers destined to spend eternity together as soon as they get over their fear of commitment. Good. I hate mushy stuff.
Maybe they’re just good buddies who happen to be male and female. Oh, no, Rebel kisses Kane on the cheek after they battle someone nasty. Good buddies don’t do that. I’m disappointed. After all the paranormal romance I’ve been reading on these top ten lists, I was hoping for a break.
So anyway, Kane has a magic power, too. He can make a portal to some other dimension where he can store stuff.
This is a light, fluffy book that moves quickly. The banter between the characters is fun. Definitely worth reading over a nice big bag of potato chips. Or low-carb protein chips, as the case may be.
9. Embellish: Brave Little Tailor Retold by Demelza Carlton
This is one of the books in the 24-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.
Other books from this series have also been on the top-ten list in the last few months. In May, we reviewed Melt: Snow Queen Retold and, in April, we reviewed Blow: Three Little Pigs Retold on April 9 and Hunt: Red Riding Hood Retold on April 30. Back then, there were only 22 books in the series, not 24. Carlton is really cranking them out.
From Maria Korolov:
Did I mention I hate mushy stuff? If I haven’t yet, well, I don’t mind the occasional romantic subplot once in a while, but I’ve been overdosing lately with all these reviews. I like books where people just kill each other, ideally for reasons that make very little sense, with no angst or second thoughts about it.
Anyway, this series has the word “romance” right in its title. That’s not a good sign.
Okay, George loves dragons more than anything else in the world. Or used to, before this particular one burned the knight next to him to death, took his sword, and knocked him down with its tail. George ran away before the dragon noticed that he wasn’t dead. Sure, people laughed at him, but at least he wasn’t crispy.
George’s escape was helped by the fact that the maiden who’d lured the dragon out of its cave was keeping it distracted. The main was his fairy godmother, who could more than hold her own against a dragon. She was going to be mad that he lost her enchanted sword.
Meanwhile, Melitta is a lady at court, and all she wants to do is become a knight herself and decides to learn archery.
It’s a fun read, breezy, with engaging characters. Yes, I know I hate mushy stuff, but I’m actually rooting for these two to get together.
10. Ravenous by Jaymie Acosta
This is the first book of four books in the Boys of Lake City series. The other books are $3.99 each but are all in Kindle Unlimited.
From Maria Korolov:
Ravenous is a “reverse harem romance,” meaning that a female protagonist has more than one lover.
In this series, Pia is a succubus with an eating disorder — every three days, she has to feed from a different lover. It’s a crazy premise… but it just might work!
So we start out with Pia chained up, a prisoner. It’s been seven days since she’s last fed, and she emaciated. Her father, the ruler of Lake City, sends a team out to find her.
That team is composed of a vampire and a werewolf and they don’t want to bring Pia back in the state she’s in. She needs to be fed. And by fed, I mean she has to have sex. The vampire steps up, but she fights him, even chained up. She’d rather die than stay a slave to her demon lusts. Oh — she chained herself up.
Anyway, she can’t help herself. Once the vampire and the werewolf are right there, she has to have sex with them, even though she doesn’t want to. But it’s the demon forcing her, not the two guys, so it doesn’t come off as too rape-y. Still a little disturbing if you think about it too much, but the sex is hot enough that you don’t.
The book starts right in with the sex, too. I’m guessing that there’s going to be a lot of it.
Do you have other free books for us to check out? Email me at [email protected].