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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. Resonance by AJ Scudiere
This is the first of four books in the Relentless Suspense technothriller series. The other books are $2.99 each, and the series is not in Kindle Unlimited. However, the fourth book, Phoenix, is free today as well. The author has been on this list before. In February, we reviewed The Hunted, the first of five books in the Black Carbon sci-fi dystopian thriller series.
From Maria Korolov:
Twelve years ago, the Earth’s magnetic poles shifted slightly, and the aviation industry had to recalibrate their compasses. Six years ago, they shifted again. Then again three years ago. Now they’re shifting every three months.
David, a geologist, is on a dig with a group of paleologists when one night he goes down into the site by himself, even though he’s not supposed to. He’s convinced that the dinosaur scientists had mislabeled rocks, and he went down to double-check. It’s not exactly clear what the problem was, but I’m guessing there was something ununexpected about how the other scientists had dated these rocks — or maybe their orientation. After all, this is a book about the magnetic poles flipping, Anyway, turns out that the other scientists were right and David was wrong. Which means that something crazy was happening with the rocks.
Meanwhile, Jordan, a physician, has just started his new job at the CDC, and his first assignment is to fly out with a colleague and examine a little girl bitten by a strange spider.
Also meanwhile, Becky, a biologist, has found some six-legged frogs. Was there a radiation leak causing this?
It’s a slow-paced but steady build up of suspense, heavy on the science. I like it very much, and might stick with it.
2. Lost Contact by Nathan Hystad
This is the first of three books in The Bridge Sequence first contact series. The other books are $0.99 each, and both are in Kindle Unlimited.
From Maria Korolov:
In 1989, Dirk and Clayton bring a mysterious artifact into a cave. An object made of six hexagons that fit in the palm of a hand. They spent two decades tracking down the pieces, solving riddles. Now they brought it to the cave, where they use the artifact to trigger a device made of other-worldly material, and open some kind of portal. Or bridge.
Then the book jumps to 2025.
Archeology professor Rex Walker is traveling around the world with one of his former students, visiting ancient temples. Now they’re in Guatemala, exploring an ancient site, and find a hidden entrance. Rex is following clues left for him by his father. I’m guessing his dad was one of the two men from the prologue.
They go down into the ruins, but don’t find anything, and barely escape before the place collapses.
Rex goes back to his teaching job, and he’s headed to his sister’s house for Thanksgiving when he gets a call from that former student. The guy wants to talk about a strange object that’s been spotted near Pluto. While in town, he and his sister visit the cemetery where their mother and father are buried, and he finds the grave of his father’s friend, Clayton. And there’s a mysterious set of numbers on the tombstone. His family had purchased the plot for him before he disappeared. Plus, his sister had found another box of his dad’s old belongings in the house, which she had inherited from their mother.
Meanwhile, the mysterious object near Pluto has turned into two objects.
It’s a slow-paced story, but very readable. I might stick with it.
3. The Night Raven by Sarah Painter
This is the first of eight books in the Crow Investigations urban fantasy series. The other books are $4.99 each, and the series is not in Kindle Unlimited. The eighth book is scheduled to be released in October.
From Maria Korolov:
Lydia Crow has just moved to London. Her previous job turned sour and she finally agreed to go to work for her uncle Charlie to help him sort out some kind of problem and wait things out until it was safe for her to go back to her old work in Scotland.
Her mom has warned her about uncle Charlie. About how he would take advantage of her if he knew what her abilities were.
Lydia is going to be staying in an old abandoned apartment above a cafe. But when she comes in, she sees a ghost, then an armed stranger comes in and attacks her. The ghost defends her, then disappears.
It’s a slightly grittier story than what I normally expect in an urban fantasy, but very readable and engaging. I’ll probably stick with it.
4. Taken by the Dragon King by Amelia Shaw
This is the first of six books in The Dragon Kings of Fire and Ice paranormal romance series. The other books are $2.99 to $3.99 each, and the series is not in Kindle Unlimited. The last two books aren’t out yet. Book five is scheduled to be released at the end of this month, and book six is due out next January.
From Amira Loutfi:
It’s another shifter romance! It includes the fated-mates trope which means that it’s essential for the sanity or empowerment of the shifter to be united with their fated mate. The thing I like about the fated-mates trope is that the romance is built into the magic system from the start so it doesn’t feel contrived.
There are six secret kingdoms hiding out in Siberia, and each is ruled by a dragon-shifter king. Each needs a fated mate. So far all of them are mated except for two. Stavik and Damon. One morning Savik’s elder suggests that he ought to look among humans for his mate. That makes him angry because he thinks he’s too good. Next, his maid gives him an attitude. He says, “I am your king!” in each case. It is extremely unbelievable but cute.
Then, all of the other secret kings show up for dinner. As they are eating a fancy meaty dinner (dragons love meat) the first thing that anyone says is about Stavrok finding a human mate. And Stavrok is offended again, even though the suggestion makes sense. Secretly, Stavrok always felt mating is really important and he’s been getting lonely. He’s been struggling to find his mate his whole life. One way he’d know he found his mate is by smell. He ought to be able to smell her from miles away. He’s never smelled her, though.
Eventually, of course, the perspective switches to another character named “Lucy.” That’s probably the woman he’s gonna fall for.
I’m probably not coming back to read this, but I think you might like it if you are looking for a cute and sweet story that is fast-paced and has the fated-mates trope.
5. The Trouble with Black Cats and Demons by Kat Simons
This is the first of six books in the Cary Redmond urban fantasy series. The other books are $3.99 to $5.99 each, and the series is not in Kindle Unlimited.
From Maria Korolov:
I love cozy mysteries. And I love magical private eyes. This book promises both, and I’m totally into it. It’s just the kind of escapist reading I need these days.
The book starts out with Cary Edmond ducking firewalls. She’s a Protector. Her job is to run around keeping people safe from magical bad guys. She didn’t ask for the job, but she’s stuck with it. But the fireballs aren’t related to her official duties. Instead, she’s there as a favor for her faery mentor. He asked her to save a poor defenseless little black kitty cat. How could she refuse?
She has to rescue the cat from a wizard.
She breaks into the wizard’s house, ducks those fireballs and other magical defenses, and finds a naked man chained to a bed. The man turns into a black leopard and back into a man again. So that was the black cat she’s supposed to rescue. Not a poor defenseless little kitty cat. She’s a little annoyed at the faery now.
Turns out, the evil wizard plans to sacrifice him at midnight. And it’s almost midnight now. She uses her magical talents to free him.
I like the beginning of this book very much, and will probably stick with it, despite the oh-so-sexy beginning.
6. Hidden Deep by Amy Patrick
This is the first of ten books in The Hidden Saga paranormal romance series. The other books are $4.99 each, and the series is not in Kindle Unlimited. We previously reviewed the seventh book in the series, Hidden Game, in April of 2021. Patrick also has another series on Amazon, The Crimson Accord series, the first book of which, Crimson Born, was the top free sci-fi and fantasy book on Mar. 19.
From Maria Korolov:
Ryann Carroll is 16. Ten years ago, a guy who isn’t supposed to exist saved her life. Lad, 17, is the one who saved her life. His race has been living undetected for thousands of years.
I’m not particularly enthused about the premise. I don’t like the star-crossed lovers trope. I don’t like teenagers.
Anyway, three days prior to the start of the story, Ryann and her mother have moved in with her grandmother. She’s always loved her grandma’s log house with dense woodland surrounding it. She likes going out in the woods.
There’s a pond in the woods, and it’s a hot day, so she strips down to her underwear and goes swimming. And when she stands up in the water and turns around, she sees the guy there. She tells him that he’s trespassing, that these are her woods. He scares her, keeps her from leaving, and demands to talk. He wants her to come with him. He has a book to give her. The book she lost ten years ago.
I don’t like the guy. He’s rude. And I don’t like the fact that they’re probably going to end up together. But I figure that lots of people do like that kind of thing, since Twilight was a huge hit and all. So if you like that kind of book, you’re in luck.
7. The Vesik Series by Eric Asher
This is the first three of 19 books in the Vesik urban fantasy series. The other books are $0.99 to $5.99 each, and the series is not in Kindle Unlimited.
From Maria Korolov:
From the cover, this book feels like a gritty urban fantasy, something akin to the Dresden Files.
I love those books, so I’m highly optimistic about this series. I’m exactly the target audience for it.
So it starts out with Damien getting a wedding invitation. His sister’s best friend is marrying the sister’s ex-boyfriend, and the sister is pissed off. Meanwhile, girls are disappearing — the Amber Alerts are all over the news.
The bride is also Damien’s ex, back when they were both teenagers. And the sister is a vampire.
Damien runs a magic shop, selling spell-crafting supplies and crystals and other stuff like that. He inherited the shop from his old teacher several years before as a kind of graduation present. The teacher herself disappeared on some kind of mission.
He’s got magical pets and magical guards up at the shop, and more work than he can handle. So he hires an assistant.
In this world, magic is being kept secret from ordinary humans. The magical beings — fairies, witches, vampires — think that humans would kill them all, or force them into the military. Damien doesn’t agree with that. but he goes along with it. The Watchers use misdirection — and memory charms — to make sure that humans don’t find out about the magic. Kind of like the Men in Black.
I like this world, I like Damien very much, and I like his shop and his friends. I’ll be sticking with it. I might even pay for the rest of the books in the series, if my library doesn’t carry them.
8. Alchemist Apprentice by Dan Michaelson
This is the first of six books in The Alchemist epic fantasy series. The other books are $3.99 each, and the entire series is in Kindle Unlimited.
From Maria Korolov:
First, my usual disclaimer. I don’t like books about young adults, and I don’t like books about magic schools. I’m all Harry Potter’d out. But when I started reading this book, I couldn’t put it down. As of this writing, I’m three-quarters of the way through it and will be going back to finish it as soon as I’m done with work for the day.
Sam and his younger sister are orphans living on the far edge of their kingdom, in the Badlands. They’re desperate to escape, especially since the sister has magical abilities. She can make things freeze. If they could only get out of their village, and to the capital, she might get to attend the Academy. But they’re desperately poor. Sam is able to convince a tester to test his sister, and to bring him along. The tester — one of the teachers at the school — has his own agenda. As long as Sam can pass himself off as a student, they can both stay. If Sam spies for the teacher, that is. Whom he doesn’t trust.
The story is gripping. I quite literally couldn’t put it down. And it’s in Kindle Unlimited, which is very nice.
9. Breach of Peace by Daniel Gibbs and Gary Stevens
This is the first of seven books in the Breach of Faith space opera series. The other books are $0.99 to $4.99 each, and the series is in Kindle Unlimited. The seventh book will be released in December and is available for pre-order.
Gibbs has been on this list before. In January, we reviewed Victory’s Wake, the first of five books in the Deception Fleet military sci-fi series. And, last September, we reviewed Weapons Free, the first of five books in Battlegroup Z military sci-fi series.
From Maria Korolov:
I love space operas. It’s my favorite genre, not counting Terry Pratchett, who’s a genre all to himself.
There’s a war going on between the League of Sol and the Terran Coalition. In the middle of it is the Shadow Wolf, a trading ship with a ragtag crew. But before we get to that ship, we hear from an admiral with the League of Sol, who has a plan to bring the Terran Coalition down. A plan to turn his enemies’ sentimentalism and war-weariness against them, and make them all part of the League machine. Apparently, the League are the bad guys.
We also meet Miri, a woman on a ship that’s just been captured by the League. Most likely, by the aforementioned admiral. She escapes from her ship by climbing into a space suit and jumping off just before it goes through a worm hole. She’s got enough air to last for two days. Floating in space. All alone.
Then we get to the Shadow Wolf, which is carrying cargo without the proper license from the League — lithium ore, a restricted material. They’re boarded by an inspector, who finds the ore. But the captain has a plan to get around that.
Meanwhile, Miri has now been floating in space for ten hours, and her oxygen is half gone.
I love this story, and the writing style. It’s extremely readable, fast-paced, and suspenseful. I’m planning to stick with it, especially since the rest of the books are in Kindle Unlimited.
10. Midnight Angel by Kimberly Loth
This is the first of four books in The Thorn Chronicles young adult dystopian series. The other books are $4.99 each, and the series is not in Kindle Unlimited.
From Amira Loutfi:
Naomi’s skin gets burned when people touch her. She never gets to celebrate her birthday. She has to be completely obedient and silent. Otherwise, her parents will beat her. She has to keep her hair blonde, even her arm hair. All this started eight years ago when her parents joined a racist group called the “Crusaders.”
When she turns sixteen, she hears her parents talking about her birthday. Her mother says her father is bringing her a “gift.” Instead, it’s an attempt to use her as a tool within their ideology. I feel sorry for her. But just when it starts to get really bad, she gets transported to another place where she meets a nice man. I suspect he’s the angel referred to in the title.
In the rest of the world, there are armed guards all over, on the school bus, restaurants, shops, etc. Naomi’s family is really poor, so I assume that it isn’t affiliated with the leaders of this new world.
The next day on the bus, the protagonist meets a new girl who is in foster care. Her foster mother is nice and that makes Naomi reconsider her fears of telling anyone about her toxic home.
Roses and gardening seem to be a pretty consistent theme in this story. I’m still not sure what the plot is, but I assume it is going to be about running away from her family.
I feel that the writing could be better, but it is a good story so far. I am intrigued. I think you’d be happy with this book if you’re ok with mediocre writing, and you like near-future dystopia and ideological extremism.
Have you read any of these books? Are you planning to? Let us know in the comments!
Or watch Maria and Amira talk about all ten books in the video below: