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. 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 Friday videos — email me at [email protected].
10. Of Love & Darkness by Tami Lund
This is the first of three books in the Twisted Fate paranormal romance series. The other books are $3.99 each, and the series is not in Kindle Unlimited.
From Maria Korolov:
Gavin is a shape-shifter, and he used to hunt humans for sport. But he was cursed, and now hunts his own kind, protecting humans.
Sydney is an event planner. She lives near Detroit. On the way back to her car from a convention, she gets lost in downtown Detroit — and her phone is dead. She’s walking around, hitting the alarm button on her key fob, hoping to find where she parked her car when she gets a creepy feeling.
A man approaches, whose eyes almost seem to glow. And, of course, he’s very sexy. He tells her she’s not safe and forces her into a car. But then, instead of taking her somewhere to kill her, he drives around the area until she finds her car.
He lets her out and warns her to head straight home. She’s about to get into her car when an animal leaps out of an alley, its eyes glowing. But before it reaches her, it’s attacked by another animal.
The two animals fight and, during the battle, the larger one injures her. She wants to get to a hospital and get some rabies shots, when Gavin reappears. Sydney thinks that he ran away when the giant dogs started fighting and came back when the coast was clear.
Then Gavin does something to heal her wounds, smells her, and tells her that she’s some kind of mystical creature — and his chosen mate. Now he’ll be able to repopulate the world with Light Ones and get the evil shapeshifters under control.
Yeah, right. Sure.
Sydney tries to drive away from the crazy guy, but of course her car wouldn’t start and she winds up back in Gavin’s car.
So, definitely not my type of book. I don’t like books with mushy stuff in them, because of my cold, cold heart. I also don’t like the fated mates trope. I prefer it when characters get to decide their own fate. And I don’t like the chosen one trope. Again, I like it when people make their own destinies. Still, for all that, the book is easy to read and if I was trapped on the beach with it, I’d probably enjoy it very much.
9. Aria by Ariele Sieling
This is the first of three books in the Aria’s Song fantasy romance series. The other books are $3.99 each, and the series is not in Kindle Unlimited.
This story is set in a future where magic and technology collide.
Lenna Stone works in a tavern and has managed to keep a low profile all of her life. But with the tensions across the city rising, things start getting a little complicated for her. First, androids — and technology in general — continue to die the moment they come in contact with her or get close to her. This ends up bringing unwanted attention from a mysterious group of people as they investigate the gruesome android murders that have been happening around the city.
Now she’s on the run again. Will she be able to get away or will the people hunting her down find her and discover what secrets she’s been hiding?
One thing that I found interesting about this story were the protests that were raging across the city. You’d think they’d have something to do with the androids they live with but no, they’re actually from people who have magic in their DNA. This made the story very interesting and it’s something that makes you want to continue reading so you can learn more about why they’re protesting and why everyone is scared of them…or hates them. Sadly, we don’t get many answers in the first few chapters of this book.
Another thing that was super interesting was the mystery and the secrets behind our main character, Lenna. I mean, the way technology has always died when it comes into contact with her or the way she can heal tattoos in less than 24hrs. There’s also definitely something hiding behind those headaches she suffers from all the time.
I definitely recommend this book if you’re into futuristic worlds where technology and magic are in conflict with each other. It has a lot of mysteries, suspense, and it looks like maybe there will be some romance.
Overall, I liked what I read from this book, but I didn’t love it enough to want to continue reading it right now…but maybe one day I’ll pick it up again!
8. The Female Breeders by Melanie Bokstad Horev
This is the first of two books in The Female Saga dystopian series. The sequel is currently available for pre-order and will be coming out August 15, 2023.
From Christina Brown:
The story is set in a dystopian, woman-ruled society where men are imprisoned and used only as breeders, held in a glass dome where they undergo Gladiator-esque competitions for the privilege to breed or be cast aside.
Neen is a young scientist awaiting her work assignment after the completion of her degree. Their society is near perfect, without crime or social unrest, yet Neen feels unsatisfied at the monotony of her life.
A councilwoman arrives to offer Neen the opportunity to be put in charge of a program to start psychological screening of the male breeders to ensure compatibility and safety because birth rates are declining. Curious for a way to improve the process, she accepts.
Only a few minutes later, another councilwoman mysteriously shows up who is suspiciously cheerful and questions the need for males at all, hinting at potential annihilation of the other sex, if they can develop a way of breeding without them.
I generally like a good dystopia, though this one is portrayed as a utopia. The beginning was a little slow to me, with a lot of backstory and no real glimpse into Neen’s day-to-day life. It was hard to form much of a connection with her as a main character.
We’re told she’s smart and beautiful and not challenged enough for her intelligence, which is a little hard to relate to for most of us. I might read another chapter or two. I peeked ahead and this is a multi-POV and I’m most interested in hearing from the male’s perspective here to get a real picture of their world.
7. Rescued by Qaiyaan by Tamsin Ley
This is the first of five books in the Galactic Pirate Brides sci-fi romance series. The other books are $0.99 to $4.99 each. The fifth book is currently available for pre-order and will be coming out June 20, 2023. The series is not in Kindle Unlimited.
From Maria Korolov:
I can tell right from the cover that this isn’t my genre. But — hey, you never know!
Qaiyaan is the captain of a pirate spaceship. He and his crew find an unarmed passenger transport with a hole in its side and another pirate ship, disabled, circling around it.
He and his team board the passenger ship. Oh, they don’t need suits — they’re of an alien race that can withstand vacuum. A catastrophe ended their world, and they turned to piracy to survive.
The pirates are in a race against time. The company that owns the transport ship will be arriving any minute, so they loot everything they can. There no survivors on the ship, except for one cryo-pod with a woman inside.
Then the company shows up and blows up both the transport ship and the other pirate, and Qaiyaan’s ship barely makes its escape.
In the next chapter, we switch to Lisa’s point of view. She must be the woman who the pirates found on the transport ship. She’s a test subject for nanite technology on the way to a super-secret lab. Her nanites allow her to interface directly with complex computer systems.
Then the alien captain shows up and, of course, she finds him extremely hot. The captain asks her why she was on the ship, and she lies and says she’s got a rare cancer and was on her way to a hospital for treatment.
By a coincidence, it turns out that it was a rare cancer that killed his entire race. Oh, and he thinks that Lisa is luscious.
Now he’s going to have to protect her from the company which seems to want her dead, find buyers for the medical supplies they looted from the transport ship, and keep Lisa from dying from her supposed cancer.
It’s definitely an action-packed beginning and the story is definitely very readable. But I don’t think I’ll be sticking with it.
6. Drafted by Renée Jaggér and Michael Anderle
This is the first of nine books in the Para-Military Recruiter urban fantasy series. The other books are $0.99 to $4.99 each. The ninth book is currently abatable for pre-order and will be coming out June 24, 2023. The entire series is in Kindle Unlimited. Michael Anderle is a frequent player on this list.
From Terrence Smith:
Julia is a struggling young girl in New York City trying to find a steady job and a half-decent boyfriend. On her birthday, she receives a letter saying that she was drafted into the Official Para-Military Agency. Basically, it is a military organization composed of every fantasy creature imaginable, or as Julia describes it, something straight out of Lord of the Rings. This premise reminds one of Men In Black or R.I.P.D, but instead of aliens or the undead, the organization deals with elves and dwarves and the like.
She wasn’t even supposed to be drafted, but due to a fluke in the new recruitment system it was discovered that she is capable of seeing these characters and creatures. The only options are to take the job or have her mind wiped, meaning to be killed.
Julia as a character is similar to protagonists from other paranormal stories with females as their lead: she is struggling to get by, and has a snarky, if somewhat bleak, sense of humor. What is nice to see about her is that she values herself, and won’t do any work that she considers demeaning. She looks at her new Para-Military boss, essentially a giant, and demands a sign-on bonus. If she is stuck in this situation, she might as well get all she can from it. Julia is also a bookworm, who has not gotten out much, and she has trouble reading people. As an Autistic adult, this aspect of her character hooked me.
Julia’s new work partner is Taylor Woodskin, an elf prince, who is, of course, charming and gorgeous, almost as if he came out of a Hallmark Channel movie. He will obviously be Julia’s love interest, which also fits the tropes of these types of stories.
The writing itself is fine. It is nothing amazing or enthralling, but it describes everything in great detail and moves the story along.
The big plot hole that makes this story fall apart for me is the fact that she would have to get murdered if she turned down the job. If this Para-Military Agency comprises fantasy creatures and deals with magic, it should just be able to give her a memory erasure spell, and just send her back into her dull life.
Personally, I will not be continuing with it, but this book is readable and interesting enough for others to take a look.
5. Noxx by Tasha Black
This is the first of fifteen books in the Alien Adoption Agency science fiction romance series. The other books are $3.99 each, and the fourteenth and fifteenth book are currently available for pre-order and will be coming out this coming September and October, respectively. The entire series is in kindle Unlimited. Tasha Black has been on this list before — we reviewed her book King of Midnight back in June of 2022.
From Maria Korolov:
Another book with a hot alien on the cover. Except this time, instead of a beautiful woman, there’s a baby in his arms. I’m a little confused by this. That’s not what I expected to see.
Nope, it’s all good. Our protagonist is Luna, who is very much an adult woman. She’s about to adopt a baby, and, for some reason, the adoption agency insisted that she wear a ridiculously low-cut dress to her first meeting with the baby. She’s on a spaceship with two other prospective adoptive parents — both also single women, in ridiculous low-cut purple gowns.
Meanwhile, there’s an interplanetary conflict happening and Luna suspects that one of the other women on the ship is a rebel looking for a safe harbor. The adoption agency will place them on a frontier moon, where they will settle and raise some orphaned babies.
Then we switch to the point of view of Noxx, the alien, as he lands his ship next to where the three women have been dropped off. He thinks they’re ridiculous for showing up dressed like prostitutes on a planet where they’ll have to farm for a living. He’s a career soldier and this assignment is a complete nightmare. Oh, and also, he’s carrying a baby. His people had destroyed an entire planet full of nice people, who left behind nothing but a DNA vault. So now they’ve decided to rebuilt that race by growing babies from that DNA and getting human women to raise them. When they grow up, the babies will inherit the planet and its rich mineral deposits. Until then, Noxx and the other alien warriors will protect them. Getting assigned a baby to protect was supposed to be a great honor. But it’s an honor that Noxx doesn’t want.
He’s not looking forward to being stuck on bodyguard duty for 20 years as the baby grows up.
Then he meets one of the human women and, of course, knows instantly that she’s mean to be his mate.
There’s some fun things here that I appreciate. For example, Noxx and Luna have a moose to carry them and their stuff to their new homestead. And their new house is in the canopy of a giant tree.
Then night falls, and they watch the animals of the night come out. They’re deadly. Noxx warns Luna never to go outside at night — and this also explains why their house is up in a tree.
But I don’t understand why a civilization with a super-high level of technology can’t have a powered vehicle to take them where they need to go. Or why Luna wasn’t able to bring anything with her. Or why they don’t have one of those bots that we met in a previous chapter.
But mostly, I’m not a fan of the fated-mates premise, or romance in general, so I won’t be sticking with it.
4. Fae Fair by Clarissa Gosling
This is the first of three books in the Lost Princess of Starlight fantasy series. The other books in the series are $4.99 each, and the series is not in Kindle Unlimited. This isn’t the first time Clarissa Gosling has been on this list. We reviewed her book Dragon Shift earlier this year in March.
From Sophie Gorjance:
Zoe is an English teenager who lives with her bully of a foster brother and foster parents who don’t seem to care as much as they ought to.
After an argument, Zoe rides her horse into the nearby woods and accidentally passes through a gate into the fairy realm. In quick succession, she encounters a tricky boggart, prickly fae youth, and a pack of antagonistic, but nonetheless helpful, pixies.
But Zoe is not just a hapless teen who has tripped into adventure: she is fae herself, and not only that, the missing heir to one of the fae courts!
Didn’t see that coming, did you?
Sarcasm aside, this book runs on a very tropey, familiar plot, but that is not a reason to dismiss it. Zoe herself is a precocious, interesting person, and Gosling is not just following the paint-by-numbers structure so many of these portal plots have.
The story promises to get quite twisty and political, if the conversation between a fae prince and princess Zoe overheard is to be believed, and the fact that her foster brother, Ross, seems to be a missing fae prince as well throws a spanner in the usual plot expectations.
The writing is engaging and easy to read quickly, to the point that I read more of this book than I really needed to for this review, and I’d honestly come back to it for a quick, fun, weekend read. If you like escapist YA fantasy, this should go high on your list.
3. Descent into Darkness by Vincent Valentean
This is a standalone book of EMP survival. Usually it’s $0.99, but today it’s free. This book is in Kindle Unlimited. Vincent Valentean has been on this list before. We reviewed his book Out of the Shadows, back in November of 2022.
From Tim McHugh:
This book takes place in NYC just as an EMP — an electromagnetic pulse — knocks out the nation’s power grid. I have read a couple of EMP stories before and while it is not my go-to genre, there are plenty that I’ve enjoyed in the past so I’d say I’m a good audience for this one.
The story begins with Vic and his nephew Anthony, who is staying with his uncle in NYC while his father, Daniel, lives out in the country. It starts with Vic and Anthony practicing baseball. Anthony just missed out on making the varsity team and he’s taking out his frustration.
After practice, the two of them talk briefly about baseball but the conversation abruptly shifts to war. Apparently Vic and Daniel are ex-military and have been training Anthony since he was a child for a war the two brothers think is inevitable. And it seems that war is about to come when at the end of the chapter, Anthony is on the phone with his father, Daniel, and the EMP hits.
The cause of the EMP strike is unknown but it takes out all electricity and NYC is set to fall into chaos. We then switch to Daniel’s point of view. He lives out in the country and he seems to be the classic tough military dad. He does some shooting practice, talks to his associate, then talks to his son on the phone. As soon as the EMP hits, he is prepared to go into the city to fetch his son.
Right off the bat I had a few problems with this story. It seems to be following the very common trope: a dad goes into danger to save his son. And this trope works all the time in TV shows, movies, and books, but I don’t think it’s going to work here. From the first scene on I felt the dialogue, characters, and relationships were very corny.
When the EMP strikes, instead of the characters being confused or scared. Instead of trying to figure out what just happened, Vic says, “War just came to your front door kid.” And when we see Daniel’s reaction he springs into action without trying to gather any real information and says, “My son is in a cesspool of a city…and I’m going to bring him back.” I just can’t personally see real people reacting this way.
I’m not going to continue this book mainly because I have problems with the characters and dialogue but if you like EMP stories and are not bothered by the things I outlined, you might enjoy this one.
2. City of Ruin by Lindsey Pogue
This is the first of three books in the Ruined Lands dystopian science fiction series. The other books are $4.99, and are not in Kindle Unlimited. This isn’t the first time Lindsey Pogue has been on this list. We reviewed her book The Darkest Winter in September of 2022, Dust and Shadow in July of 2022, and After the Ending in May of 2022.
From Romel Madray:
This is a near-future dystopian novel set in the year 2200. The world has suffered a catastrophic event, leading the inhabitants of London to move underground to survive. The city is now governed by the Council of Four and is later discovered by outsiders who offer knowledge to help rebuild it above ground as New London.
The protagonist of the story is Selene, a sixteen-year-old girl whose father plans to sell her to move up the social ladder. Selene’s brother takes her to a poor house, believing it to be a safe haven, but tragedy strikes and her brother dies in a roof collapse.
Nine years later, Selene finds herself in a situation of indentured servitude, with a damaged leg from the roof falling. As a pretty female of childbearing age, she is valuable in this world, as women are needed to bear children, and she is still worried about being sold.
The people who run this poor house aren’t kind people, like Selene’s brother thought. The wife is constantly making Selene work and the husband wants to rape Selene and have her as his sex slave.
Then someone named the Collector arrives and buys all the children and Selene. In Selene’s words, “I don’t know if I have just saved us or doomed us instead.”
The book feels claustrophobic and hopeless, and paints a vivid picture of a dystopian world locked into a static social hierarchy. The writing is smooth and engaging, though there are some slower moments of introspection, which I think these help reinforce the world-building and emphasize Selene’s condition. At no point did I wonder why Selene did not run away. There is a feeling of the constant pressure and containment of the individual within this society and so far I like and understand the motivation of the character and the plot.
Overall, this is a well-written dystopian novel with strong world-building and a captivating protagonist. The power dynamics and themes of indentured servitude and social hierarchies are expertly woven into the story, creating a thrilling and thought-provoking read. I will continue reading it to see how it turns out.
1. The Disappeared by Kristine Kathryn Rusch
This is the first of nineteen books in the Retrieval Artist space exploration science fiction series. The other books are $2.99 to $5.99 each, and the series is not in Kindle Unlimited.
From Maria Korolov:
Kristine Kathryn Rusch is one of my favorite sci-fi writers. You might have heard of her from her The Diving Series, her Star Wars, Star Trek and X-Men novels, her books about writing, her short stories… I could go on and on. She also has a great blog that I read every week and usually mention in my Writing Advice of the Week column every Sunday.
This particular book is set in a future where humans co-exist with aliens. But not all interactions go well. Sometimes, humans accidentally do things to piss the aliens off. Sometimes, those actions break alien laws and, because of treaties, the humans are tried and sentenced under alien laws. This leads to situations where humans doing stupid, minor things that nobody thinks twice about wind up being sentenced to death by torture or slightly slower deaths in alien prison camps.
Understandably, the humans so sentenced would rather not be, and try to evade the consequences as much as they can. This happens frequently enough that there are agencies that help people create new identities and disappear — and a whole profession of bounty hunters that tracks down these people on behalf of the aliens.
The book begins with Ekaterina, an attorney who’s been sentenced under one of these nonsensical alien laws and now has to disappear.
Then we switch to Jamal’s point of view. He and his wife and baby son live on the moon, and he worries about what’s going to happen to his son when he’s old enough to go to school. Where they live, home schooling isn’t an option. Then his son disappears — taken one evening right from his crib while Jamal and his wife were in another room. Jamal knows what happened, and knows that there’s nothing he can do.
Then we switch to Sara’s point of view. She’s on a space ship with two other people, when it’s approached by another ship. She and the other passengers find out that the ship’s pilots have left, and aliens are about to board. They found her.
Then we switch to Flint’s point of view, he’s on the Moon, and was recently promoted to the job of detective. He and his partner are sent to investigate an abandoned ship that only has dead, mutilated bodies aboard. Most likely, victims of alien justice. If so, there was nothing he could do — no crime was committed.
Then we’re back with Ekaterina. She’s on a space yacht, reviewing her new identity, and she doesn’t like anything about it. She’s starting to regret not doing more research on the company she hired to make her disappear, but she was in a big hurry. Then she discovers that the people flying her ship are about to abandon the vessel — and an alien ship is approaching. The disappearance company sold her out.
It’s a great beginning, Rusch is a really good writer, the pacing is great, I’m invested in both Flint and Ekaterina, and I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the book.
Have you read any of these books? Are you planning to? Let us know in the comments!
Or watch Maria and Terrence talk about all ten books in the video below: