Some articles may include Amazon affiliate links. All proceeds go to helping us pay for original stories and to support writers of speculative fiction. Read more here.
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].
10. Magic in the Desert by Christine Pope
This is a box set of the first books in three different paranormal romance series: Darkangel, the first of 14 books in the The Witches of Cleopatra Hill series; Bad Vibrations, the first of six books in The Sedona Files series; and Chosen, the first of twelve books in The Djinn Wars series. The other books in the three series are $2.99 to $4.99 each and are not in Kindle Unlimited. This USA Today-bestselling author has appeared on our Free Friday list more than once, with the last time being this past January, when we reviewed Found Objects, the first of six books in the Paranormal Penny Mysteries cozy mystery series.
From Maria Korolov:
First, a disclaimer. I’m not the target audience of this book. We don’t have enough reviewers on our team to do all the romance books we get. If you’re a fan of sci-fi or paranormal romance, join our team! Email me at [email protected] and you can be one of the people writing snarky reviews — and helping us out with the Free Friday YouTube shows!
No, I’m not a fan of romance. I have a cold, cold heart. When I see an enemy, I’d rather the woman just killed him on sight — maybe with a nice sharp stake or a mystical sword — instead of forcing herself to work with him and eventually falling in love. Don’t fall in love! He’s not going to change! Kill him! Kill him!
They never listen.
Anyway. Angela is at home, in her room, when her aunt shows up to tell her that her date is here. She’s recently turned 21 and, since then, 43 young men have shown up to see if they were her fated mate. She’s tired of it. She doesn’t even bother dressing up for these guys. This new guy is tall with dark hair — just like the guy she’s been dreaming about for the last five years. Oh yeah, Angela and her aunt are witches. Angela is fated to be the next top witch of her clan, get married, and use her powers for good.
But then the new guy turns around — and he’s not it. Now she has to engage in some uncomfortable small talk with some random guy from another clan of witches and warlocks. After a short, awkward exchange about where he’s from and what he thinks of her town in Arizona, they kiss. And… nothing. Nada. Just like she expected. Too bad, because this guy was cute.
Disappointed, she goes back to her room and calls her best friend, who invites her out to get some dinner and catch a band the next night. Her friend isn’t magical, but is aware that Angela is a witch and is fine with it. Who’d believe her if she told, anyway? Or care? This is Arizona, after all. The area is chock-full of so-called psychics and witches.
Then Angela has dinner with her aunt and we learn that her aunt has been taking care of her since she was a baby. Her mother, who was supposed to be the clan’s top witch, ditched fate and took off a month after her twenty-first birthday. She came back two years later with baby Angela, and promptly died in a motorcycle accident.
We also learn that if Angela turns twenty-two without finding her soulmate, her powers will be reduced. Oh, and a clan only has one top witch at a time, and if there’s no successor, it would be the end of the clan. So there’s a lot of pressure on Angela to marry and have a kid, I guess. The deadline’s approaching — she’s only got two months before her next birthday.
She dreams about the guy again that night, and, as usual, she only gets a faint impression of what he looks like. And, for the first time, the dream turns into a nightmare.
The next day, at the club, she meets a cute guy, he buys her drinks all night, then they go outside to make out. He’s not the guy though, and she winds up having to use her magic to get away from him.
She drives home, even though she’s been drinking all night, and almost hits a guy. She gets out to see if there’s a body, but there’s nobody there.
The next day, a cop shows up at the door. A young man was beaten up outside the club. She admits she did it, but claims self-defense — and shows the bruises the guy left on her arms.
So. The book is definitely readable. I can see why the author is a best-seller. But there’s a little too much teenage drama for me. Technically, Angela isn’t a teenager, but she definitely acts like one. I think if this was a television show — like Charmed — I might stick with it. Especially if I liked the actors. But in book form, I’m obsessing too much about the all the bad decisions that Angela is making. Like driving drunk and letting her aunt run her life.
9. The Molecule Thief by L.P. Styles
This is the first of four books in The Molecule Thief young adult sci-fi adventure series. The other books in the series are $0.99 each but are all in Kindle Unlimited. The fourth book in the series will be released in October this year and is now available for pre-order. This is the first time we have seen this author on our Free Friday list.
From Tobey Patton:
Spencer is a teenage genius who takes undergraduate physics classes at a military research compound on Vancouver Island. The outside world is an unknown, torn apart by earthquakes and a dimensional war that threatens them all.
To get away from it all and clear his head, Spencer walks the coast looking for and identifying beached fish.
The novel starts with Spencer on one such excursion, interrupted only by Maude, another misfit and potential friend, if Spencer could only short circuit his own anxiety and not be a fast-talking nerd for thirty seconds. Maude, unlike Spencer, couldn’t care less about physics or science in the compound — she plays piano, and leaves the beach by scaling a twenty foot wall of solid rock. Talking to her is the best part of Spencer’s day.
Bullying and harassment from the other students is the status quo for Spencer inside the compound. Other students are athletes, used to being attractive and popular, with offers to go to UCLA to play basketball before the earthquakes turned that university to rubble. Spencer is a nerdy punching bag the jocks call “Mutant,” good only for explaining homework and getting a good laugh when they get bored of challenging the army guys to a game of three on three.
Then, after Maude leaves him on the beach, a watery hand rises out of the sea, disappearing as soon as it comes. This is the first appearance of the Molecule Thief, a manipulative interdimensional being, who just might have the answers to save the world from interdimensional nuclear annihilation.
Spencer must learn to stand up for himself, and decide whether to trust the Molecule Thief’s plan. And what if it’s all just in his head?
If you like metaverse science fiction, teenage angst coming-of-age stories, or just good old fashioned adventures, this is the book for you. The beginning chapters didn’t quite hook me, though — I’m not a huge fan of schoolyard jock and nerd cliches, and I wanted it to be a little faster-paced getting to the actual sci-fi adventure parts. I don’t think I’ll be continuing with this.
8. Cradleland Chronicles by Douglas Hirt
This is a box set of all three books in the Cradleland Chronicles epic fantasy series. The books are normally $2.99 each, but they’re all in Kindle Unlimited.
From Maria Korolov
I do love epic fantasy, so I had high hopes going into this book.
We start with Rhone, who’s gathering spiderwebs in the forest. He has a special ability to hear the spiders, but the spiders are all gone. He’s able to collect a few webs that they left behind when they fled, but nowhere near his usual haul. Something must have scared the spiders away. Then, at night, he’s attacked by a creature that normally doesn’t attack people, and he barely survives. Again, not normal behavior.
When he gets back to the town to turn over the spider silk to the merchant he does business with, he finds that other gatherers have been experiencing the same problem. Despite all this, the merchant’s son want to become a gatherer, and Rhone agrees to take the kid when he leaves again in three days.
Meanwhile, we also spend some time in the point of view of a pregnant woman, a visitor from a distant land who’s on a pilgrimage with her husband. Her husband mouths off in the public square, saying disparaging things about the local religion — like a total idiot — and Rhone, to his surprise, steps in to protect the couple. There might be a little magical compulsion at work here, too.
We also meet the captain of the local guard who’s ordered to keep an eye on both Rhone and the foreigners because the local ruler, a creepy guy with some weird powers, thinks that something is fishy about them.
Meanwhile, everyone is excited — or worried — or disbelieving — about the coming of the Oracle, who may or may not be a god, and whose new temple may or may not be worth the tax increase.
I don’t know if I’ll stick with this book. On the one hand, it is extremely readable, and I like Rhone a lot. And the captain of the guard is just a guy stuck with a bad job. The foreign woman is annoying, though — why is she with her jerk of a husband, anyway? And does she know she’s magically manipulating other people?
Plus, there are a lot of vocabulary words here and a lot of weird names. Everything — fruit, animals, weapons — has a made-up word. I have a enough time remembering the names of people I’m related to, much less learning a whole cast of characters with strange fantasy names and a whole dictionary’s worth of new nouns. However, I do have to say that it’s usually pretty clear from context what’s happening and who’s doing what.
So, overall, good world-building here, great characters, and I might stick with it.
7. The Chain Breaker Box Set by D.K. Holmberg
This is the first three of twelve books in The Chain Breaker fantasy series. The other books are available for $4.99 but the entire series is in Kindle Unlimited. The last book will be coming out later on this month. Both are available for pre-order. We previously reviewed the first book in this box set, The Risen Shard, in April of 2022. And the author has been on this list many times before Last March we reviewed The Elder Stones Saga, Last February we reviewed The Book of Maladies series, Last January we reviewed The Dragon Rogues and The Dragon Misfits, last December we reviewed The Endless War series and his Elemental Academy series. Last November, we reviewed The Teralin Sword, a box set of the first three of six books in The Teralin Sword epic fantasy series. Last September, we reviewed his The Lost Prophecy box set. We reviewed The Cloud Warrior Saga box set back in July, and, later that same month, Path of the Flame, the first of five books in The Dragon Thief coming of age fantasy series, and finally May of 2022, we reviewed Unbonded, the first of five books in the First of the Blades epic fantasy series.
From Maria Korolov:
The first book, The Risen Shard, starts out with plenty of action. Gavin is a mercenary, and he’s trying to break into a very well-guarded house to get to someone. He has help — his friend Wrenlow is communicating with him via a magical earpiece, giving him directions. Still, he has to fight his way in, battling unexpectedly skilled fighters.
It’s a difficult job. In fact, most of his jobs lately have been difficult, thanks to his new, mysterious employer. Maybe it was time for him to move on to another city. Or find out exactly who it is he’s been working for and do something about the way the employer had been threatening him and his friends.
I like the writing style. It’s fast-based, heavy on the action. And there are a tantalizing hints about Gavin’s past. Plus, I enjoy spending time with a main character who’s decisive and competent.
I’m looking forwarding to learning more about the politics of the world and the magic system.
6. Rise, the Quantamancer by A.R. McNevin
This is the first book in the Quantamancy post-apocalyptic fantasy series. The second book is expected to be released in 2024. This is the first time we have seen this author in our Free Friday list.
From Tobey Patton:
A thousand years ago magic disappeared, replaced by pale representations like Dungeons and Dragons.
Wizard Thaddeus Gonne had to adapt, opening a small trinket shop and trying to stay out of the public eye. Better to hide and listen to mundane folk bicker over his once-magic antiques than cause a fuss. He even ignores the kids who dare each other to run up the front stairs of his house and touch the front door. But on October 13, 2003, everything changed. Thad is working, which for him mostly consists of grumbling and trying to shoo people out of the shop, when a cabinet begins to glow. Inside he finds his old wand, lit up with a magic he thought would never return.
The magic’s back!
Then we switch to an astrophysicist who is not happy that science has been replaced by magic, monsters, and myth. He was supposed to be briefing President Bush—he had even practiced dumbing down his talking points just to make sure the leader of the free world understood the difference between astrology and astronomy. But then his satellites start dropping off the map just as they pass over the international date line.
Then we jump ahead fifteen years, to a young witch named Danika who is a product of the new world. She’s witnessed billions of deaths, and the rise of witches and wizards to new-found power. The old world’s conventions of science and political borders are thrown down in the face of a new truth: power lies with those who know magic. But Danny has a different path. A horrible vision has come to her, of a world destroyed by a return to science. Bent on keeping her world magical, she sets out on the thousand-mile journey to the ruins of New York, where her destiny awaits.
If you’d like a magical dystopia, epic cross-continental journeys, or multiple points of view stories, this one’s for you. Though I really like the three characters we’ve met so far, I’m not a huge magical realism fan. I was on the fence about continuing for most of the first couple chapters, and I think the fact I have a lot of other books I want to get to means this one won’t be one I’m continuing.
5. Adrift by Daniel Gibbs
This is the first of six books in the The Lost Warship space opera series. The other books in the series are $0.99 to $4.99 but are all in Kindle Unlimited. The sixth book will be released in October this year and is available for pre-order. We have seen this author numerous times on our Free Friday list, with the most recent being this past May, when we reviewed Breach of Peace, the first of seven books in the Breach of Faith space opera series.
From Alex Mueller:
Set in the distant future, during an era of tentative peace following a war between different factions of humanity, this book follows the crew of the spaceship Lion of Judah.
The story begins with the Lion’s commander, Major General David Cohen, coming on duty to begin what starts off as a perfectly normal shift on a routine mission. It is a joyous time for the crew — the final mission on their tour of duty is complete, and all that’s left is a short jump to get home. It isn’t until they’re in transit that something goes wrong. With no warning, the Lion’s reactor malfunctions and sends it far off course and deep into space. Now stranded in an entirely different and alien galaxy, the crew of the Lion face a decades long journey to get home.
It’s very much Star Trek: Voyager-esque. I wasn’t thrilled about this, but I kept reading anyway — and I’m glad I did.
Unlike the Star Trek spin-off, Adrift doesn’t have incompetent people running things. Instead it has David Cohen. Get lost in another galaxy? Just treat it like another work day. Identify the problem, identify the cause, and find the solution. It’s smart, it’s professional, and it’s what a good leader should do. When did Janeway ever do that?
That means readers get to enjoy a protagonist they can root for from the beginning.
The downside is that the Lion doesn’t have endless supplies of food, water, or breathable air. Spend too long in space, and it’s going to turn into a very big, very fancy coffin. What a lovely thought.
Luckily for the crew of the Lion, it quickly becomes apparent that their situation isn’t overwhelmingly hopeless.
Something in this new galaxy caused them to become lost in space, and that something has left a trail for them to follow. Something they can potentially use to get home again.
Combine this dire situation with a colorful cast ranging from stoic commanders to ornery scientists, throw in a dash of hope and possibility, and you have all the makings of an exciting space adventure.
I look forward to seeing where that adventure leads.
4. The Hunted by S.B. Alexander
This is the first of seven books in the Vampire Navy SEAL: Sam & Layla paranormal romance series. The other books are $4.99 and are not in Kindle Unlimited. The seventh book will be released next week and is available for pre-order. This is the first time we have seen this author on our Free Friday list.
From Maria Korolov:
Again, I’m not the target reader for this book.
I prefer my vampires staked dead, thank you very much.
We start out with Sam, a vampire. He’s a fan of indie rock, so he’s not happy to be in a seedy club playing loud, obnoxious music, but he and his team are on a mission to watch a well-known vampire criminal. Fortunately, it’s not a full moon, or he’d have deal with shifters, as well. There are ten vampires in the club, but none of them are the target.
Then an expensive black car pulls up. The vampire criminal is reported to have a penchant for expensive black cars. Instead, three human women climb out. Idiots, for going to a vampire club. Sam hopes he doesn’t have to save them — that would compromise his team’s mission. But there’s something weird about them.
Then a black Mercedes pulls up. This time, their target climbs out. He’s with a woman shifter.
Then the team member inside the club reports that the three humans are shooting at vampires with poisoned darts. He walks inside, and it’s totally silent. The bouncer vampire is passed out on the floor. The only vampire still awake is the criminal. He asks the women what they want — and they say that they want Sam. And they say that they’ve got Sam’s sister’s house rigged to explode.
There’s a little bit of explicit language right from the start, with lots of mention of Sam’s private parts and how he’s reacting to the women. So I’m going to go out on a limb here and predict that there’s going to be some heavy hanky-panky later on.
Also, I’m sensing that there’s a lot of backstory here that I don’t know.
I just checked the author’s website, and it looks like this is part of a shared universe. The first set of books is The Vampire Navy SEAL Series: Jo & Webb series. The first book of that one, On the Edge of Humanity, is also free today. I suggest you start out with that one.
I’m not going to stick with this book, but I’ll probably keep it on my Kindle shelf. You know. Just in case.
3. Valkyrie Landing by A.J. Flowers
This is the first of three books in the Valkyrie Allegiance young adult paranormal romance series. The other books in the series are $4.99 to $5.99 and are not included on Kindle Unlimited. This is the first time we have seen this USA Today-bestselling author appear on our Free Friday list.
From Maria Korolov:
Again, I’m not the target reader here. Doubly so, actually — I’m opposed to both young people and love.
But, on the plus side, the story begins in a spaceship. I like spaceships. Oh, no, never mind — it’s a fake-out.
Valerie did spend some time in her mother’s spaceship, orbiting the volcanic planet that she called home. But then she traveled to a new world, lost her wings, or spear, her immortal flesh and became — a teenage girl. Her job: to collect human souls.
When she woke up as human, she had a new life, a new family, and new friends. Plus, a fellow Valkerie, her older sister, Sam, who just spent their whole budget on a new car.
Her task is to get powerful human souls to become allies and to join them in a fight against the dark armies that threaten her home world. Which involves ripping their souls out of their bodies. Sam drops her off at school, where she discovers that her best friend Tyler is also here, to be her bodyguard. He’s also in human form now.
The three of them go to watch a swimming competition. Valerie’s target is on the swim team. Caught up in the excitement of it all — and all those hot teen guys — she accidentally uses her power and stops time. Sam bails her out.
One of the swimmers start to drown. The best swimmer on the team, William, gets him out of the water before the lifeguard can get there and starts compressions, but William can’t save the guy’s life. Oh, and William is Valerie’s target.
William blames himself for his friend’s death, because he was too slow. Valerie can feel his emotions.
The story is definitely well-written and pulls you in. But I don’t want to be pulled in. I don’t like the premise — of an immortal being seducing a teenage boy for the purpose of stealing his soul. There was a mythological explanation for why this is okay, but I kind of skimmed over those parts. In general, immortal beings seducing teenagers feels a little creepy to me, even if Valerie does act like a teenager herself.
But I think fans of Twilight might enjoy this very much.
2. The Last Prepper by James Hunt
This is the last of five books in the EMP Survivor Series, a post-apocalyptic survival series. The other books in the series are $1.99 to $4.99 but are all in Kindle Unlimited. This author has appeared on our Free Friday list many times and we have even reviewed two other books from this series — the first book, The Last Island, in April of 2022, and the fourth book, The Last Bunker this past May.
From Alex Korolov:
This one’s a post-apocalyptic EMP story, where an electromagnetic pulse wipes out all electronics, including cellphones, computers, and modern vehicles.
Chapter one starts out with a guy named Nelson sitting in an abandoned house in the woods with his wife and two sons. The chapter’s title is “Three Days Without Power,” so I assume this chapter takes place three days after the EMP has hit. We learn that Nelson was a well-off vice president at a tech firm, but now all his riches are worth nothing and he’s just struggling to survive and feed his family. The house they’re in has a well, so they have fresh water, but not much food.
Three men dressed in tactical gear and armed with rifles come up to check out the house. They find Nelson alone since he told his family to hide in a back room. The men think Nelson’s hiding something, and they end up finding his family after a quick search of the house. Nelson struggles with one of the men who’s pointing a rifle at him, and it accidentally goes off, killing one of his kids. Nelson’s wife is enraged, so she charges the man who killed her son, but he shoots and kills her.
That’s as far as I read, but I would say this EMP book starts out with plenty of action and emotional turmoil, as a man loses most of his family in mere moments. I thought the first chapter was pretty gut-wrenching, but it did draw me into the story, and I do find myself wondering how Nelson and his remaining son will survive. I’ll give this book a chance, despite having read and reviewed many EMP stories in the past.
1. Space Race by Nathan Hystad
This is the first of three books in the Space Race space opera series. The other books in the series are normally $4.99 each but are on sale today for $0.99 — and they’re both in Kindle Unlimited. We have seen this author on our Free Friday list numerous times, with the most recent being in December of 2022, when we reviewed his book The Event, the first of 22 books in The Survivors alien invasion series.
From Terrence Smith:
The premise had me hooked from the start.
Science fiction-themed racing stories are not very common, so it was interesting to see a story like this on Amazon’s top free sci-fi list.
In the prologue, Arlo, a teenager, is in a race — similar to one in video games such as F-Zero GX or WipeOut. It puts readers right in the cockpit, almost pushing the adrenaline of the race through their veins.
After the race, he finds out that his grandfather — who’s also his manager — had been pressured into a corporate job. This leads Arlo to abandon racing altogether.
Now, years later, he is a cargo transporter for a massive corporation, whose latest job sees him encountering a UFO and discovering a person infected by a biological entity.
Soon after, he is recruited to lead a team in a race held by the massive corporations governing the galaxy in the backdrop of civil and economic unrest.
For some reason, the writing style just did not click with me. I suppose maybe I had just become more accustomed to fantasy-based stories, especially with the urban fantasies I have been reading for this weekly segment.
The backdrop for this story, and the Han Solo-type protagonist, did entertain me enough, though.
So far, I am picking up echoes of pod racing from Star Wars: Episode I, and his relationship with his grandfather reminds me a little bit of Speed Racer. I hope that the two do end up reconciling somewhere down the line. Also, it would be great to see a little Ford versus Ferrari reference where someone says, “You’re not Henry Ford. You’re Henry Ford the Twenty-Fifth.”
This book was entertaining, though — enough to put it in my ever-expanding to-read shelf, and fans of Star Wars and racing should give it a chance.
Have you read any of these books? Are you planning to? Let us know in the comments!
Or watch Maria and Alex Mueller talk about all ten books in the video below: