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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. Kelpie House by Frances Pauli
This is the first of what will be the Kelpies Forever fairy tale fantasy series. Usually it’s $3.99, but today it’s free. This book is in Kindle Unlimited.
From Maria Korolov:
The cover makes me think that this book is a horror novel, and the cursive font in the title makes me think … I don’t know what I think. Maybe it’s poetic? I dislike both horror and poetry, and the combination of the two really gives me the chills.
But I’ll forge ahead anyway.
The book starts out with a lyrical description of a unicorn city. I guess that this is where the poetic part comes in.
Then the unicorns’ ancient enemy shows up. Bastion, a shapeshifting kelpie who’s wearing the form of a spider. The unicorns are his natural prey, and they smell tasty to him. But he’s not here for a snack. He’s here to spy on the city, to find out how much danger he’s in. As long as the unicorns think that kelpies are just a myth, he’s safe.
Oh, and he can read minds. So, as he’s walking around the city on his spider legs, he’s listening to the unicorns’ thoughts and dreams. There are so many that he missed the two most important ones. Two young unicorns slap a pot over him and discuss whether they should pin the spider or smash it.
A third unicorn shows up, a girl, and demands that the boys release the spider or she’ll tattle to their parents. She lets him go, and he immediately jumps on her and bites her.
In the next scene, we’re in the museum of unicorn history, where Junebug, a unicorn, is listening to her friend, Iris, reading to a group of foals. Junebug has taken off time from college to intern at the museum. Iris, a grad student, tells her that she’s discovered evidence of kelpies in an old diary.
In the next chapter, we’re back with Bastion the kelpie and this time he’s a raven. He flies back home, to his island, and shifts back to his natural form, that of a horse. And he can still taste and smell the unicorn he got a nibble of before she bucked him off.
When he enters his house, his friend Norm is there, another kelpie. And Norm has a unicorn slave he’s got enthralled. The unicorn is their butler, cool, and Norm’s lover. Norm smells Bastion’s unicorn on him. Bastion makes Norm promise to stay away from the unicorn city, but he doesn’t really believe his assurances.
Then we’re back to the museum. Iris is reading from a diary about a foal that ran away into the swamp. Iris is convinced this means the foal was abducted by a kelpie, but Junebug has doubts. Then Iris sees the spider bite on Junebug’s rump. Ah ha. So she’s the one the kelpie bit the night before.
So, first of all, this is not horror. Well, not at least the tone shifts pretty radically later on in the book.
This is a light fantasy story.
The premise is interesting and unusual, but the stakes just aren’t there to pull me in. And I don’t like Bastion and his housemate Norm and their unicorn slave. That just comes off as super creepy. With Bastion being a point-of-view character, I’m concerned that there’s going to be a romance between him and Junebug. The thought of that is a little disturbing.
Okay, I just read the book’s description, and they do get together. Yikes. So, definitely not for me.
9. Hidden by Shalini Boland
This is the first of three books in the Vampires of Marchwood paranormal romance series. The other books are $3.99 each, but they’re both in Kindle Unlimited. This is the second week in a row that this book has been on this top-ten list.
From Maria Korolov:
I’m not a fan of vampire romance novels. I prefer my vampires to be soulless monsters who get staked on sight. So please take my review with a large helping of salt.
Madison is a student at a private school in Scotland — oh, no, the book is set in a school! — and she’s in trouble for her goth clothing choices. She calls the deputy headmistress a Nazi, gets slapped, threatens to report the woman, and gets blackmailed into staying silent. If she speaks up, the deputy head promises, something bad will happen to her little brother. Not that anyone would believe her about the slap, anyway. Instead, she gets a week’s suspension. When she comes home, she gets into a fight with her foster parents about getting suspended and storms off.
She goes to the library to hang out for a while. She doesn’t have a library card, so when the librarian tells her the library is closing, she steals the book she’s reading. That evening she goes to a friend’s house for a party.
Then we go back in time, to 1881, Paris. Alexandre was in trouble over a girl — he got caught kissing her at a dance. As punishment, he’s sent off with his parents on their archeological dig in Turkey.
Then we’re back in the present day with Madison, who got some extra hours at the supermarket where she’d been working on Saturdays. Then a lawyer shows up at the supermarket and asks to speak to her. A distant relative has left an estate to her and her brother. It includes a house, an allowance, and a ton of money. But there are strings attached. For one thing, she’ll have to move to the house.
This is a pretty well-written book, and it’s trying hard to pull me in. But I don’t like the whole vampire thing, and I don’t like Alexandre and am worried that he’s going to be the love interest. Plus, Madison is a little annoying. So I’m not going to stick with it. But, again, the book is extremely readable and pulls you in. If you don’t mind teenage drama, you might enjoy it quite a bit.
8. In Solitude’s Shadow by David Green
This is the first of three books in the Empire of Ruin dark fantasy series. The other books are $0.99 to $2.99 each, but the entire series is in Kindle Unlimited.
The world is at war and humans and mages are trying to eradicate the elves for good. But it wasn’t always like that.
In the prologue of the story, set hundreds of years ago, we can see humans and elves fighting together against a common enemy: the First People. It’s not clear what they are, but they’re described as pale white people with colorful eyes who have the Spark in them and are able to wield the elements in their favor. This epilogue introduces us to characters Jakob and Byar, a pair of very different characters. The reader sees the effects the old war had on them, while also showing us that the humans and the elves didn’t win the war against the First People because they overpowered them, but because the First People suddenly lost their Spark. After that, they all fled to the mountains and decided to settle there, promising the humans that they would get their revenge one day.
Then we get into the main part of the book and meet Zanna, a powerful mage who was banished from the capital city for using forbidden magic. She now lives between the Peaks of Eternity in Solitude where she has an apprentice known as Arlo and spends her days teaching him how to use his magic and about their history. What’s interesting about this is that the place she was exiled to is the only thing that stands between the empire and the Banished — previously known as the First People. After hundreds of years of keeping to themselves, the Banished are now seen as nothing more than shepherds. But while the empire is busy waging their war against the elves, the Banished take the opportunity to strike again, forcing Zanna and the daughter that wanted nothing to do with her for years to reunite and work together.
Overall, the beginning of this book is fantastic. The writing is great, the characters are interesting, and the plot is intriguing enough to keep me going. I definitely plan to continue reading this, especially since it kind of reminds me of the Witcher with all the conflicts against the elves and the other races.
7. A Kingdom Scarred by K.A. Riley
This is the first of three books in the Fae of Tiria fantasy and futuristic romance series. The second book is $3.99 and the third book is currently available for pre-order and will be coming out June 19, 2023. The entire series is in Kindle Unlimited.
This fantasy fae romance is set in a mortal kingdom which was separated from the land of the fae by a deadly mist known as the Breath of the Fae. No mortal had ever been able to walk through it and survive, and for hundreds of years, the fae have seemed like just another legend parents tell their children to keep them from wandering around or being bad.
Lyrinn is an eighteen-year-old who almost died in a fire as a baby. She is covered in scars and though she seems like a nice person to deal with, she’s deadly with a blade, thanks to her father’s training. She and her sister have been his priority ever since their mother died in the fire that almost killed them as babies. I actually loved how natural their relationship felt. It’s not the usual useless-parental-figure kind of fantasy and I’m glad to see that.
Besides meeting Lyrinn and her family, we also get to meet her harassers in the opening chapters. Thanks to them, we get to see how the magic from the deadly mist calls to Lyrinn and helps her survive an attack by making a way for her to climb towards the land of the fae.
Meanwhile, the human kingdom is celebrating the deadly Blood Trials this year and they’re looking for champions from Lyrinn’s region. This reminds me of the Hunger Games and actually makes me more interested in the story so, yes, I think I’ll continue reading it.
I really enjoyed the writing, the characters, and how the plot actually goes beyond the Fae Lands calling to our main character and romance.
6. A Place Outside The Wild by Daniel Humphreys
This is the first of four books in the Z-Day post-apocalyptic survival series. The other books are $4.99 each but they are all in Kindle Unlimited.
From Maria Korolov:
I don’t like zombies, and I don’t like apocalypses, so I’m not the target audience for this book. I prefer my escapist reading to be a little further removed from reality, thank you very much.
The book starts out with a prologue focusing on Miles, who works in the IT department. He’s a couple of years out of college and works extra shifts to pay his student loans and make his car payments. He also has two other part-time jobs. One of those is at a chain motel, and one night, a housekeeper starts bleeding from her eyes, and then bites another housekeeper. Miles carries a gun — the motel isn’t the safest place to work — and shoots the zombie. Then he runs from the motel and jumps into his Jeep.
Then, in the next scene, we get some backstory in the form of a ham radio intercept. A flu virus has swept through civilization and within a month, the world had descended into chaos. Ten percent of people died immediately. Others went into comas – and then woke up hungry. Then people started turning into zombies immediately after being bitten.
Then, in chapter one, we jump ahead to 2026, eight years later. Miles is still around, married, and has a daughter now. The zombies are less of a threat now, but the world is decimated. He lives in an isolated community that doesn’t even have a name. There are about twenty kids in the group and at least that many adults, possibly more.
Miles still has flashbacks.
Then, in chapter two, we switch to another group of survivors, three scavengers investigating an abandoned house. There’s something moving upstairs. It’s a zombie, on its last legs, and one of the men kills it silently with a knife.
In chapter three, we switch points of view again, to a teenager out hunting zombies. He kills one when Miles and one of his friends walks up. That’s the same Miles from earlier. He admonishes Alex for skipping school. Tells him education is important so that people can eventually rebuild civilization.
And he tells Alex not to shoot at zombies — gunfire just attracts more of them.
The book is definitely readable, but I’m not getting caught up in the story or the characters. There’s a little too much survivor politics for my taste. Plus, I don’t really enjoy reading about the collapse of civilization. I get enough of that on the news.
5. Pharoni by Colin Dodds
This is a standalone book of dystopian science fiction. Usually it’s $9.99, but today it’s free. This book is in Kindle Unlimited. If you like this book, the author has several others available and some of them are in Kindle Unlimited.
From Terrence Smith:
This book is not what one would normally expect from a science fiction novel. It starts off as very down-to-earth. A group of friends are mourning the death of one of their own, who apparently died by suicide in the ocean. The only catch, though, is that their friend came back from the dead after a supernova lit up the sky one night.
This event, and the events that follow, are told from the perspective of Tommy, an aspiring screenwriter who starts a religion inspired by his friend’s apparent resurrection. It goes back and forth between prose writing and samples from a screenplay that he attempted to write based off his experiences.
The prose itself can be a little dull. However, it perfectly captures the spirit of the struggling artist, who longs to create, but is pressured by society into following a more traditional route, and surrounded by the dinginess of life in New York.
What is expected to come in the story, according to the book’s description, is a falling out between the group of friends. Roy becomes a tech billionaire and attempts to take over the religion, putting Tommy’s life into a spiral.
I did not anticipate myself returning to this book initially, but as I continued reading, I continued to be drawn in, so at some point I would like to see how this narrative unfolds.
4. A Taste of Vampire by D.S. Murphy
This is the first of four books in the Kingdom of Blood and Ash dark fantasy horror series. The next two books in the series are $0.99 each, and the last book is currently available for pre-order and will be coming out April 30, 2023. The entire series is in Kindle Unlimited.
From Carla Nordlund:
Emily Sharrow is a human on the edges of her compound’s society, struggling to help support her mother and siblings with limited resources.
Emily breaches the electric walls of the compound one day while hunting, braving toxic ash and mutant animals, but runs into something worse – three Elites, who kill a large stag for sport and begin to torture Emily. A fourth Elite, Damien, interrupts, and stops the assault. He lets Emily go, but she hesitates, wanting to take the stag carcass back to feed her family. Surprised and amused, he offers to throw the carcass over the compound wall for her, rather than forcing Emily to dress and carry it back in trips by herself.
In the next chapter, Emily prepares for The Choosing – an annual ceremony where every young woman who has turned seventeen is offered to the Elite as a consort, getting to leave the poverty of the compound and, in her new role, provide more supplies and a better life for her family. Emily is positive that she won’t get chosen, but is then terrified when her assaulter chooses her at the ceremony.
At the last moment, Damien interferes, invoking his right as a prince to claim Emily over the other Elites. As Emily says goodbye to her family and friends, she mourns the loss of her life as she knows it, but mentions to a friend that she may not make it through the trials and tests of a month-long trial period that follows the Choosing.
I’m enjoying the dystopian setup of vampires – essentially, biological warfare and nuclear fallout lead to the creation of an immortality elixir, with the catch that it requires blood to sustain it. It’s a cool setting to explore a cross-class romance, and I’m really liking Emily as a character. The setup and stakes are all set to go, and this is shaping up to be a really fun fantasy romance read.
3. City of Storms by Kat Ross
This is the first book of four in the Nightmarked fantasy series. The second book is $3.99, the third books is $4.99 and fourth book is currently available for pre-order and will be coming out next month. The series is not in Kindle Unlimited. Kat Ross has been on this list before. We previously reviewed this book in May of last year, and, in November of 2021, we reviewed A Feast of Phantoms, the first of three books in Lingua Magika steampunk fantasy series.
From Maria Korolov:
In this world, people get magical tattoos called Marks, which suppress people’s worst impulses. But sometimes these Marks flip, and do the opposite, releasing inhibitions and causing people to do horrible, crazy things, up to and including murder. Alexei is a priest and his job is to hunt down people whose Marks have flipped, before anyone gets hurt. To help him, he has a kennel of Markhounds, dogs bred to smell the moment a Mark flips and to follow the smell to its source.
At first, I thought this was an epic fantasy, but then Alexei’s partner, Patrik, drives up in a car, smoking a cigarette. So not, epic fantasy. The names sound Russian, but are all slightly off.
I read further. Okay, they don’t seem to be our modern world either. They’re in something called Via Sancta, composed of four city states. The world has electricity and telephones, umbrellas and taxis and trams and waterproof mascara. But it also has knights and mages.
I’m getting very much caught up in the story. The tone and style reminds me a little bit of The Shadow and Bone books by Leigh Bardugo, which they recently made into an awesome Netflix series.
I recommend it. I think it’s worth paying money for.
2. The Frozen Frontier by Marie Wilkens, Alexandria Clarke, and Robert J. Walker
This is a box set of three books from the 46-book EMP Survival in a Powerless World series. The other books are $1.99 to $4.99 each, but they’re all in Kindle Unlimited. This box set includes They Come at Night by Marie Wilkens, Blackout by Alexandria Clarke, and Into the Dark by Robert J. Walker. Marie Wilkens has been on this list before. We reviewed her book The Hartford Homestead last November and Final Light last October. Robert. J. Walker has also been on this list before. This past December, we reviewed his book The Cabin in the Woods, a year ago last April we reviewed The Hidden Prepper, and in May of 2021, we reviewed Off The Grid, all three books are about EMP survival.
From Alex Korolov:
If you like EMP stories – where an electromagnetic pulse wipes out all electricity and leaves humanity struggling to survive — then you’re in luck! The Frozen Frontier is a three-book box set, so there’s plenty to read here.
I read the first four chapters of book 1, They Come at Night, and I’ll tell you what I thought of that.
We meet Layla in chapter one. Layla works for Big Jim’s Trail Tales, where she takes people on horseback rides in the countryside near Austin. She works there with her beloved horse Gunner, but plans to quit her job today, since it seems her boss is a scumbag who’s underpaying her.
Apparently Layla’s boss actually owns Gunner, so she’s going to steal the horse and get out of the state. The boss’s son catches her trying to leave, but all the power suddenly goes out, and Layla runs off with Gunner. They make it to the next town, where Layla catches up with some friends and realizes that nothing works anymore. No electricity, cars, or cellphones. Layla’s friends say they’re going to Mississippi, and invite her to tag along.
I liked the start of this book. Layla is likable-enough as a character, and I like that she has a horse. The author does a good job of introducing Layla and giving her some back story, including how her horse Gunner used to belong to her, but her drug-addict mother apparently sold Gunner to Layla’s shady boss without her permission.
I’m not the biggest fan of EMP books, but I like the story so far and I might keep reading this one. The bonus is that if you like the first book, you get two more included in this set.
1. The Farthest Star by A.R. Knight
This is the first of three books in The Far Horizons science fiction adventure series. The other books are $3.99 each, but the entire series is in Kindle Unlimited.
From Tim McHugh:
This book takes place on a starship traversing the galaxy in the far future. It seems to follow a plot that I’ve seen many times before, a deep space journey gone wrong, but with a twist: our main character is a robot. Usually I prefer my sci-fi to take place on a distant planet or in a dystopian world. Here we have a plot contained to a single space ship so I’m not the main audience for this one.
The first three chapters move at a slow pace but do a good job setting up the plot and our main characters. We start with Gamma, an android that wakes on the ship, who is not exactly sure why he’s there and is trying to figure it out. There are no humans in the crew and it falls to Gamma to figure out what he has to do. We follow him as he learns to use his mechanical body.
We meet a few more characters along the way, including The Librarian and Kaydee. The Librarian helps to enlighten Gamma a bit as to his role on the ship, while Kaydee seems to have different motivations. The first few chapters don’t do much to move the plot forward but as the book goes on we will follow Gamma as he tries to complete the currently unknown goal of the spaceship while the others act towards their own ends.
The writing in this book is very good, it flows well and the author is smooth with his descriptions. The pacing is very slow at the start, the plot has not moved forward much in the chapters that I read, but I expect the pace to pick up once Gamma understands his functions.
I’m not going to stick with this one, but if you like unique space travel stories, you’ll probably like this one.
Have you read any of these books? Are you planning to? Let us know in the comments!
And watch Maria and Terrence talk about all ten books in the video below: