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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. 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.
There are a lot of books to go through, so this week I’m being helped out by Amira Loutfi, our reviews editor.
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. To The Sky Kingdom by Tang Qi
This is standalone fantasy book. Tang Qi has many other books available, however most of them are not in English. This is the second week in a row that this book has been at the top of the top ten list.
From Amira Loutfi:
There are eight deserts and four seas and each has its own god-emperor. The Sky Emperor is the leader of them all. The emperors and their courts are immortal, but each member has to undergo serious trials before they are awarded their immortality.
The writing style is a bit bland compared to what I’m used to. The prologue was pretty cool although the majority of it is really depressing.
I probably won’t be back because I didn’t feel that close to any of the characters.
I recommend it if you like metaphysical fantasy with gods and goddesses and strong Asian inspiration and enjoy the bland narrative style.
2. The Stefan Mendoza Trilogy by P. R. Adams
This is a box set of the first three books in the six-book cyberpunk technothiller The Stefan Mendoza Series. The other books are $3.99 to $4.99 each and are not in Kindle Unlimited.
From Amira Loutfi:
I don’t usually read this genre, but maybe I will start now.
This tale clearly takes place in the future. War has devastated Soul, South Korea, and robots are cleaning up the ruins. Stefan has a speaker grafted to the bone behind his ear and can control the volume by touching his right palm. He wears VR shades. He serves a really annoying wealthy guy. And he works with a hacker called a “gridhound” in this world and another guy who is a great sniper and drone operator.
There are a lot of scifi terms that I don’t get. But it seems like this team is stalking a Korean terrorist. I like the descriptions of the city, the technology they use, and the men themselves. The tone of the writing is also gritty and cool. It pulls me in even despite feeling out of my element.
I like it. I will probably be back.
3. Pursued by Rebecca Rivard
This is the first of three books in The Vampire Syndicate urban fantasy series. The other books are $4.99 each and are not in Kindle Unlimited.
From Amira Loutfi:
Mila had been running away from Billionaire Karoly Kral’s men for three years. She’s been moving a lot and struggling financially. Then, one day as she is shoplifting, two beautiful vampire men capture her. She keeps a silver switchblade at hand just in case of such a run-in. Silver kills vampires, apparently.
In this world, vampires are cold, can’t sweat, and are vulnerable to silver. Vampires can brainwash humans with their voice commands — like the voice in Dune.
The two men who captured her say that they are bringing her to her old boyfriend, Gabriel Kral, the son and heir to the Karoly Kral fortune. It sounds like the two had a passionate though unhealthy relationship. When she finally makes it up to his fancy Manhattan apartment, she finds a different man. It’s not Gabriel at all.
The next chapter switches to Gabriel’s perspective. So I guess he will come to her rescue at some point?
I think that the main strength of this tale is wish fulfillment. I won’t be back.
4. Grimstone by Brad Magnarella
This is the first of two books in the Croft & Wesson occult mystery series. The other book is $2.99 but is in Kindle Unlimited.
From Alex Korolov:
If you like buddy wizard occult mysteries this book is for you.
Grimstone is a classic detective story of two people who are entirely different working together to solve a case – and they’re wizards.
Everson Croft is a wizard who’s been assigned to work with a junior wizard named James Wesson in Grimstone, Colorado. Croft is more of a big city New York wizard while Wesson is a leather vest and cowboy hat wearing wild west type.
Right from the start we learn that Wesson is a bit of a dubious character – as soon as Croft arrives to work with him, he learns that Wesson’s got enemies- and they’re werewolves.
I liked the story and I’d keep reading. You learn right from the start that Wesson and Croft are as different as two people can be, and the story gets going quickly when the two have to deal with some unhappy werewolves.
I thought the story seemed pretty goofy, but I’d keep reading just to see how the relationship between the two wizards develops. I like stories with wizards and supernatural creatures and I like detective stories so I’d say this is a fun read.
5. Sorceress Awakening by Lisa Blackwood
This is the first of nine books in A Gargoyle and Sorceress Tale urban fantasy series. The other books are $0.99 to $4.99 each, and are not in Kindle Unlimited. Lisa Blackbood has been on this list before. We reviewed her book Ishtar’s Blade, the first of five books in the Ishtar’s Legacy historical fantasy series, this past March.
From Amira Loutfi:
This tale begins with a bang — the internal perspective of Lillian’s magical awakening. It started with insomnia, as usual for Lillian, and then she goes outside to her garden, also as usual. The unusual thing is that a bunch of scary strangers show up and surround her.
Their leader says that she must be a very powerful dryad. He says that she can either give her power over to them or join their team. This is news to Lillian who has always been a normal girl and doesn’t believe in magic. She flees deeper into the garden which sounds beautiful. It’s got a maze in it.
During this chase, we learn that her pursuers are probably supernatural — vampires, dire wolves, and other types of bad magic folk. The stone in the garden burns their skin. A magical explosion hurts several of them and nearly kills Lillian. She leans against a tree that appears to be magically connected to her.
Oh yeah — there is also a cool gargoyle that she has always been deeply connected to. She crawls over to the gargoyle and the spell to awaken him comes instinctively to her. She screams it and he awakens. He’s super powerful and decapitates one of the pursuers with the flick of his tale.
It’s a cool beginning, but as with the other book I reviewed by Lisa Blackwood, there is a lot of navel-gazing. Too much description of the internal feelings and perceptions of the characters.
I probably will be back because the concepts are exciting.
6. Fortune Favors the Cruel by Kel Carpenter
This is the first of five books in Dark Maji dark fantasy series. The other books are $0.99 to $4.99 each and are not in Kindle Unlimited. This is the second time the book has been on this list. We previously reviewed it in August of 2021.
From Alex Korolov:
If you like dark fantasy stories this book is for you.
Quinn Darkova is a freed slave who wants revenge against those who sold her, and it turns out she’s a wizard with dark powers that are on the rise and hard to control.
Lazarus Fierté is a nobleman who’s been waiting for the right woman to appear – and it’s Darkova.
Be warned the story does contain violence if that’s not your thing, and the violence starts fairly early in the book.
I find the two main characters compelling and I’d keep reading to see how Darkova’s magical powers manifest and to see how the relationship between her and Fierté develops.
From Maria Korolov:
Quinn is a stage performer. She has a magic power that shows the audience their greatest fears. She has a magic amulet to keep her powers — and their side effects — under control, but her powers are getting stronger and the amulet is losing its effectiveness. Also, she’s a former slave, and when she sees other slaves being abused she’s compelled to step in. In the first chapter, she almost kills an abusive slaveowner before a stranger with a scarred but strikingly beautiful face stops her.
Then the stranger comes to one of her performances. How did he find out who she is? Are the authorities going to find her, as well? How will she escape?
I’m getting vibes of Leigh Bardugo’s Shadow and Bone books while reading this. Even the covers are kind of similar.
I like the premise. The world is grim but well-realized. The heroine is sympathetic. I might come back and finish this book later.
7. Burnout by Sean Platt and Johnny B. Truant
This is a standalone novel but both authors have other sci-fi books up on Amazon. In February, we reviewed their book Pattern Black. In addition, Johnny B. Truant is the bestselling author of the Fat Vampire books, adapted by NBC Universal in 2022 as a SyFy Channel series starring Spider-Man’s Jacob Batalon. Last May, we reviewed Longshot, which he co-wrote with Avery Blake.
From Maria Korolov:
In dystopian near future, people who don’t have chips implanted and registered are ghosts, existing outside of mainstream society, unable to get jobs or access most services.
Cutter Dunn is one of those ghosts, growing up on the margins of society. But he’s got a talent for fixing things. He uses his repair skills to get a job with a big corporation specializing in self-driving delivery trucks. Then things go very wrong.
The book is extremely redable and Cutter is compelling character, and the story is ripper-from-the-headlines kind of realistic. However, I keep getting stuck on the main premise, that just people people use technology and spend all their time online, they don’t know how to fix things anymore. I’m a huge fan of repair and restoration channels on YouTube. I’m not kidding. Each night, to go to sleep, I pull up a video of someone lovingly sanding down rusted old farm equipment or repairing old Tonka cars. It’s very soothing and peaceful. My point is, if you want to fix something, you can find tutorials online in how to do just about anything. Just because we spend time online doesn’t mean that the propensity that some people have for fidding with things and figuring out how it works just magically goes away.
So that’s my personal pet peeve. But I can look past that. And the book itself reads well and is fast-paced. I might even stick with it, even though I have a personal prejudice against dystopian fiction. As far as I’m concerned, we’re living through one now, and I don’t want to read about more of the same, thank you very much.
8. The First Human Rider by Ramy Vance and Michael Anderle
This is the first of 13 books in the Dragon Approved young adult fantasy series. The other books are $2.99 each and are all in Kindle Unlimited. Michael Anderle has been on this list more than half a dozen times since we started doing these reviews a year ago. We reviewed The Unforgiven in March of 2021, Risk Be Damned in April, The Flawed Legacy in May, An Assassin’s Accord in July, Never A Dragon in October, Diplomatic Recruit in January of this year, and Sword Diplomacy in February.
From Maria Korolov:
This is a young adult fantasy about dragon riders. I’m not a fan of young adult books, but I did love the Dragonriders of Pern, so I’m going to keep my mind open.
Myrddin is an old wizard with a pewter cauldron half his height. The cauldron stands on real dragon feet. He looks into the cauldron and sees a vision of the armies of the Dark One, with orcs and goblins and trolls and other dark creatures. They’re met by another force, of elves, dwarves, halflings, and, finally, humans.
And he sees something else in the cauldron. A meteor is flying to the earth, sooner than expected.
But the dragonrider he’s been preparing for isn’t ready yet. She’s female. There hasn’t been a female rider for centuries. And there’s never been a human rider.
And there’s something else. She’s also blind.
But the wizard will do what he must to get the girl to the land of Middang3ard.
No, that’s not a typo. There’s a number three in the name of the land.
Then, in the next chapter, we’re with Alex. She must be the girl the wizard was talking about.
She’s flying on a dragon. Virtual dragon. Middang3ard is a video game. And though she’s blind in real life, she can see just fine in the virtual reality world. The game just got an expansion and she and another player are going to go see what all the fuss is about.
Alex and a group of other players are on a quest that involves battling giant bees and fighting a god inside a mountain cave. She suspects that the quest is a test run by Myrddin to see who’s good enough to go to Middang3ard. If Middang3ard is even real. Hold on, I thought she was already in Middang3ard and it was just a virtual reality video game?
Anyway, Alex makes it to the end of the quest and meets the mountain cave god, Shiva.
Okay, I’m very confused by all of this. And it doesn’t help when, in the next chapter, the wizard Myrddin shows up, wearing a gray suit and a bowler hat, and introduces himself as the CEO and creator of Middang3ard. And he confirms her suspicions — there is a real land called Middang3ard.
I’m not going to keep reading. You’d think I would. This book has everything I like. But it’s just not clicking for me. And the main premise, that Alex is embracing virtual reality because it gives her the eyesight that she lacks in real life, rubs me a little the wrong way. It boils her down to her handicap. It’s almost like real life isn’t worth as much if you’ve got a disability.
Anyway, the wizard offers her the opprtunity to go the real Middang3ard and learn to ride a real dragon. She turns him down and goes home.
She lives in a nice normal home with two nice, loving, normal parents. She’s having breakfast with them when a giant floating head shows up at the door, freaks out her parents, and asks that she reconsider her decision.
I normally like books set inside video games. I should — it’s where I set my own books. But I’m not getting pulled here here.
9. Broken Witch by Kiesha Thomas
This is the first of three books in the Arko Witch Series young adult paranormal romance. The other books are $3.99 each and are not in Kindle Unlimited.
From Maria Korolov:
Cosima Arko lives in the Realm of Ashburg. She lives at home with her father and her twin sister Chaniya. She’s bitter because her sister is her dad’s favorite and she hates her life and wishes she could run away. She enjoys going into Fairfield Forest, outside the city of Clovertown, where she can practice her archery by shooting at beasts like the vicious animal Saysquam. Except that she’s not that good at hunting, and her sister Chaniya has to save her with magic. Oh, and Cosima is also the weakest witch in her coven.
I don’t like Cosima very much.
I also don’t like the fact that this is a young adult novel.
Meanwhile, Zarin Goldbach lives in Atlanta. He’s in trouble with the the alpha wolf who runs the Georgia pack.
I don’t like books that have alpha wolves in them — the whole alpha and beta thing has been thoroughly debunked ages ago.
Anyway, the chief werewolf catches up with Zarin. Turns out, he needs Zarin’s help. So does the girl with him, Claire Sands, the most beautiful girl Zarin has ever seen.
Oh, no, it’s a romance. I’m not in a romance mood. (I’m never in a romance mood.)
Seems that the werewolf needs to go to the Realm of Ashburg to find somebody. Zarin doesn’t want anything to do with it. He’d rather die.
I don’t think I like Zarin very much, either.
I’m not going to keep reading. But if you like young adult books with witchcraft, magical realms, and werewolves, this might be for you. Oh, and Zarin also mentioned vampires in passing, so they might show up as well.
10. Claimed by Gods by Eva Chase
This is the first of four books in the Their Dark Valkyire paranormal romance series. The other books are $3.99 each and are all in Kindle Unlimited. This is the second time Eva Chase has been on this list this year. Last month, we reviewed her book Shadow Thief, the first of four books in the Flirting with Monsters paranormal romance series.
From Maria Korolov:
Aria Watson is a messenger in Philadelphia. Her clients are typically criminals, but it pays the bills — and helps her take care of her little brother. Her mother isn’t much use to either of them, and Aria can’t wait until she’s got enough money so that she can get custory of the six-year-old and save him from the kind of upgrinding that she’d had to suffer through.
Then she’s killed in an accident — and brought back to life, as a valkyrie, by a group of Norse gods.
Aira finds the gods, who include Thor, Loki, and Freya, to be very attractive, which gives me pause. And there are some chapters from the other gods’ point of views. That makes me think that there might be some romance coming down the line.
Turns out, Odin is lost on Earth somewhere and the gods can’t go home without him. They need a valkyrie’s help to find him, and the other valkyries haven’t worked out well.
Aria is street-smart, so maybe she’ll succeed where the other valkyries have failed.
I don’t buy the premise for a second. And I’m a little wary of the romatic elements. I’m bitter, and have no romance in my soul. What can I say?
But I was a third into this book before I remembered that I have others to read today — and I’ll probably go back and finish this one. I like Aria, I like the other gods, and I’m caught up in the story.
Have you read any of these books? Are you planning to? Let us know in the comments!
And watch Maria and Amira discuss all ten books in the video below: