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 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.
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. Ashes of the Fall by Nicholas Erik
This is the first of three books in the The Remnants Trilogy post-apocalyptic sci-fi series. The other books are $3.99 each, and the series is not in Kindle Unlimited.
From Alex Korolov:
I’d recommend this book to those who are fans of high technology post-apocalyptic sci-fi stories.
It’s sometime in the future, could be a few decades or a century, I’m not sure. Luke has to sneak into New Manhattan, which is heavily monitored and doesn’t allow people access if they have a criminal record, and apparently Luke does.
He’s received a message from his brother whom he hasn’t seen in years. He manages to get into the city, but when he gets to his brother’s apartment, things go south quickly.
Right from the start, I found this story to be fast-paced and exciting. The United States seems to be controlled by a totalitarian government with access to advanced technology which is used to monitor and control its citizens, and a big natural disaster is about to occur that’s going to change everything in this disturbing future vision of our country.
2. The Reyes Incident by Briana Morgan
This is a standalone novel of fantastic horror. The author has a couple of other books in the same genre up on her Amazon author page.
From Maria Korolov:
I’m not the target audience for this book. I don’t like horror. It scares me, and I don’t like being scared. Why would I pay money in order to have nightmares? Okay, sure, in this case the nightmares are free, but still, my point stands. Nightmares are bad.
But nobody else is around to read this book, so it’s on me.
I turn the pages… and, for some unknown reason, I read the copyright page. I don’t know why. And there’s a disclaimer at the bottom. It’s a trigger warning, explaining that the book contains scenes of “graphic violence including but not limited to dismemberment, disembowelment, stabbing, drowning, and murder.” Also, it warns that there’s divorce, infidelity, disability, and child death.
Now, it’s not that I’m opposed to any of those things in principle. I’ll happily watch a Marvel movie where all of those things happen in the first scene.
So I admit it. I’m a hypocrite. I like my death and disembowelment to be sanitized and part of an amusing action sequence, instead of having to emotionally suffer the pain alongside the victims.
Andie is a cop, a police sergeant, who’s working a petty theft case when she’s reassigned. The department chief, her dad, wants her to work a murder case, even though she’s never done that before, and there are others more qualified in the department. She walks into the interview room and meets Liv, who looks like she’s been attacked.
Then we switch to Liv’s point of view. The day before, she and three friends went into the forest, to an abandoned bunker, to tape an episode of a show. One of them had a Geiger counter. Liv had a video camera. They were at the old military base to investigate rumors of occult ceremonies, mutated animals, and radioactive waste. The base is flooded and the four of them got into rafts. Then, Liv saw a light moving in the water. And a creepy mermaid came up, with long black hair and black lips and pointed teeth. Two more join her.
The mermaids can talk. And they’re fine with the crew filming them. The mermaids lure them further into the bunker, where the water is deeper.
And it’s too creepy for me. I’m out of here.
3. Graveyard Guardians Box Set by Jennifer Malone Wright
This is a boxed set of the first three of seven books in the Graveyard Guardians urban fantasy series, plus a prequel novella. The other books are $4.99 each and the series is not in Kindle Unlimited.
From Maria Korolov:
There are three point of view characters in this book. Two, Jack and Aiden, are Reapers. They lurk around graveyards and eat souls that haven’t passed on yet. They can also suck the souls out of living humans, but try not to do that, since murdering people brings too much attention. Instead, they just suck out a little bit of people’s souls.
Lucy is a Keeper. The seventh child, and the one destined to eliminate the Reapers once and for all. The Keepers hang around graveyards and protect the souls.
Lucy is okay, but Jack and Aiden are real creeps. I’m worried that Lucy’s going to end up dating both of them, since that’s the way it usually goes in this genre. If you’re a point of view character, you end up in a romance.
Jack likes to sleep with random women and suck on their souls. In fact, the book starts right out with him having sex with a woman whose name he can’t even remember. Explicit sex. He’s conscientious about using condoms, and is well-endowed, but otherwise doesn’t demonstrate any actual skill. I feel very sorry for Lucy if she ends up with him. Also, he’s a creep.
He drinks. He’s lazy. He’s a coward. His parents, emperors of the Keeper race, sent him on a mission to kill Lucy. And he whined about it, and procrastinated, but not in a funny way. Just in an annoying way.
Aiden is also a jerk, but apparently has been able to keep his jerkiness out of the public eye enough for the Empress to trust him enough to send him after Jack to make sure Jack gets the job done.
So there’s tension here, and plenty of potential conflict. I also like the small town where Lucy and most of her siblings live. It seems very nice and cozy. If there was a guarantee that Lucy wouldn’t end up with Jack or Aiden, if this was one of those rare books where the villain was a point of view character, I’d stick with it.
Hold on, I’ll check the description… ah, phooney. The book is described as “Romeo and Juliet with a paranormal twist.” Darn it all to heck.
4. Brute Force by Lizzy Bequin
This is a standalone romance novel of forced sex with an alien, and a happily ever after ending. The author has several other books in the same genre up on her Amazon author page.
From Maria Korolov:
I’m not a fan of romance, or romance with aliens, and especially not a fan of situations where someone is forced to have sex.
So, the story is that ten days ago, nineteen-year-old Fiorinda became the queen of the planet Xanridia after the death of her father, the king. Her first action as ruler is to establish diplomatic relations with the Dugorim, the native aliens. The local humans have been fighting with them ever since the planet had been colonized, and it was in this war that the king died.
Her advisors are horrified at the idea. Not even her husband supports her. But theirs is a political marriage — she hasn’t even slept with him yet.
Anyway, the Dugorim are shaped like humans. But bigger. And are covered with a tough gray hide of leathery scales.
Then she’s taken prisoner. There’s a plot, orchestrated by her stepmother and by her husband, and backed by the military. She’s thrown into a dungeon, and there’s a naked Dugorim in the next cell.
And then the sexy stuff starts and I’m too embarrassed to keep reading. I’ll just say that it’s extremely sexy. And, as it turns out, Fiorinda isn’t actually unwilling.
5. The 8 Mistakes of Amy Maxwell by Heather Balog
This is the first book in the five-book Amy Maxwell Series of cozy mysteries. The other books are $0.99 to $4.99 each and the entire series is in Kindle Unlimited.
From Maria Korolov:
From the cover and the blurb, this doesn’t sound like a sci-fi or fantasy book. However, in the prologue, Amy says that she lives in her own fantasy world and has a hard time telling the difference between what’s real and what she imagines. Oh, and that she’s hog-tied to a chair on a desolate mountaintop in a deserted cabin, her life flashing before her eyes. The book is about the eight mistakes she made that got her to this spot.
Then, the first chapter opens with her husband dead, her kids crying, the ambulance on its way, then the hot paramedic takes her in his arms… oh, it’s a fantasy. One of those fantasies she mentioned in the prologue.
In fact, Amy’s husband is asleep on the couch, and she’s got a laundry basket on one hip and a crying toddler at her feet.
She’s got four kids, total, and one of them is turning six that day. Guests are coming to the kid’s birthday party that afternoon. She’s cleaned the house, sent the invitations, hung the decorations, ordered the food and found the pony, clown, and bounce house, made the goodie bags and a piñata, and the husband is grumpy that she asked him to make sure the kid’s face is washed.
Oh, and she forgot to bake the cake.
So, this is a horror novel. I guess that’s why it’s on this list.
Well, as I mentioned, I’m not a fan of horror, and so far the book is giving me bad flashbacks to my own marriage. I think I’ll pass. But it is readable, and amusing, so you might enjoy it.
6. The Curse of Cain by Theophilus Monroe
This is a box set of the first three books of the six-book The Vilokan Asylum of the Magically and Mentally Deranged urban fantasy series. The other books are $1.99 to $4.99 each and the series is in Kindle Unlimited. The fifth and sixth book are not out yet but will be released later on this month and in October, respectively, and are both available for preorder.
From Maria Korolov:
Cain, the protagonist, is six thousand years old. For the last few decades he’s been working as a private psychiatrist in New York City. He literally studied under Sigmund Freud. In the prologue, he’s applying for a job as the lead psychiatrist at a New Orleans asylum for the magically and mentally deranged.
Oh, and he’s also the world’s first werewolf. And he’s the literal Cain from the Bible, so he’s also the world’s first murderer. The werewolf curse is his punishment for killing his brother.
Then, in the first chapter, he meets a pack of wolves in a swamp. As the oldest werewolf, Cain is the alpha of the alphas and is able to dominate them.
That’s my first pet peeve. The whole alpha wolf thing is a myth that’s been thoroughly debunked. But I can get past that.
Anyway, this particular pack was trapped in the swamp for a century in wolf form by a magical artifact which is now gone. Cain is going to try to teach the pack how to be human again. Well, part-human, anyway.
Cain has been running the Vilokan Asylum of the Magically and Mentally Deranged for nearly a decade now.
Anyway, he’s out in the swamp running with the pack when they hear the howl of another werewolf, and it’s coming from the city. He leads the pack to the city to find the lone wolf, taking back streets and alleys so as to stay out of view. They track the new wolf by his scent, then bring him back to their cabin in the swamp to change back to human form. The new wolf’s name is Ryan, and he’d been bitten two weeks earlier, while camping in the woods.
Now Cain offers to accept Ryan as a patient at the asylum to help him adjust to his new life as a wolf.
When he returns to work, he finds that there’s a new patient — a necromancer. She poses a danger to humanity, and if she can’t be helped with treatment, she’s going to be banished into the void. The necromancer might be planning to resurrect a serial killer who’d been run out of town by a mob. If she’s resurrected, she will want to exact revenge on the city’s residents.
I like the premise of the book, but it starts very slowly. There isn’t any tension or conflict in the first few chapters. I might keep reading, though — I like the characters, and the pace and all the administrative procedural discussions are actually kind of soothing.
7. The Book of Shadow by Bruce Blake
This is the first of three books in the Curse of the Unnamed epic fantasy series. The other books are $0.99 to $4.99 each and the series is in Kindle Unlimited. The third book isn’t out yet, but is scheduled to be released in November and is available for preorder.
From Alex Korolov:
If you’re a fan of fantasy books that have a lot of action, this book could be for you.
The book starts with a werewolf that’s apparently lost control and murdered his handler — it seems werewolves have handlers in this world — and he’s on the run for his life.
If you don’t like violence this book might not be for you.
A wizard and a knight wielding a large sword somehow track the werewolf, magically teleport to his location, and he’s cleaved in half by the knight’s sword.
This all happens in the first few pages of the book.
Personally, I like action-heavy fantasy books, so I enjoyed reading the first few chapters of this book, and I plan to finish it.
8. By Earth by T. Thorn Coyle
This is the first of nine books in the The Witches of Portland urban fantasy series. The other books are $4.99 each and the series is not in Kindle Unlimited. The author has been on this list before — last September, By Wind, the third book in the same series was on the top ten list and the fifth book, By Moon, was on this list this past June.
From Maria Korolov:
Cassiel is a pretty 22-year-old red head with a nice life, even though she worries all the time. She works at a cafe where her boss is a member of her coven.
So, this is another 22-year-old witch. Except her power is that she can talk to ghosts. Police call her on cases, and she had to testify, at fourteen, in murder cases. The pressure got to be too much and she left her home town and moved to Portland.
In a vision, she sees a tower on fire and a mysterious woman, a ghost, tells her to go to the tower.
Then we switch to Joe’s point of view. Joe also lives in Portland, and he’s a plumber. In his spare time, he rehabs classic homes with his brother.
Ever since his girlfriend killed herself a year and a half ago, he’s been having the same nightmare, once a month, like clockwork.
The book begins slowly, and the main characters don’t really grab me. Plus, the books aren’t in Kindle Unlimited, so I’ll probably pass.
From Amira Loutfi:
The chapters switch back and forth between Cassiel and Joe. Joe is an odd name for the romantic interest, but I can roll with it for now.
This is already turning me off. There’s a coven. It’s solstice eve. And people say weird things about the sun and the moon. These witchy gatherings usually bore me.
Cassiel can communicate with ghosts and used her powers to help identify murderers in Tennessee. She fled the state and is afraid of being reminded of what happened.
She has to look into a black mirror. It shows her a burning tower. She starts flying. A few of the other witches have left their bodies, but their spirits are attached to their bodies by a silver cord. Cassiel is attached in the same way. Then she sees a beautiful woman with a warrior’s body tell her to “follow the burning tower” and to send her love to Joe. She doesn’t know what it means.
I’m not usually into stories like this. I think the author and readers of these books have the opposite taste as me. I don’t like mysterious messages from mysterious beings. I also don’t like weird witchy rituals that seem a lot like religious rituals in real life.
Joe’s story begins with a mysterious dream. I also don’t like it when mysterious dreams impact the plot.
Not for me, but definitely not bad if you like these things.
9. Restoration by Sharon Mikeworth
This is an award-winning standalone horror novel. The author has several other books in the same genre up on her Amazon author page.
From Maria Korolov:
I’m not a fan of horror, so I’m not the target audience for this book.
I don’t like to read books — or watch movies — that make me scared or sad.
So keep in mind that I’m going to stop reading as soon as the scary stuff starts.
Anyway, Cliff has just arrived at a rustic cabin deep in the heart of Blue Ridge Mountains. He rented it for a month. It’s the beginning of the off-season, so the price was reasonable.
The other cabins are empty and when the rangers at the park office went home for the day he was completely alone.
The nearest store is nine miles away, so he drives out to stock up on some supplies, and picks up some liquor on the way home.
Three weeks earlier his wife had left him for another man.
The next day, someone else arrives in the park, and invites Cliff over for a beer that night. Cliff considers it. Meanwhile, he spends the day getting settled, renting a canoe, getting firewood, getting the WiFi password, calling his parents…
The story moves very slowly.
Not that I mind, since it means that the scary part hasn’t started yet. But it does drag on quite a bit with all the minutia. I don’t think I’d keep reading even if I was a horror fan because of the slow start.
10. Nightshade by Michelle Rowen
This is the first of two books in the Nightshade urban fantasy series. The other book is $5.99 each and is in Kindle Unlimited.
From Maria Korolov:
This is my favorite cover of all the books on this list, so I have high hopes for the story.
Jill is an office temp at an investment firm who runs out to Starbucks on her coffee break. She’s getting on the elevator back to her office, holding her own coffee order and those of three colleagues, when she sees that it’s already occupied — by a scientist in a lab coat holding an uncapped syringe. He works for one of the other companies in the building, a pharmaceutical firm. Before she can get on, a man with a gun enters the building lobby — and the scientist grabs Jill and holds her by the neck, then stabs her with the needle before the gunman shoots him.
Jill tries to run away but the gunman, Declan, chases her down and catches her. He’s a bad-looking guy, with scars and an eye patch.
He refuses to take her to a hospital. Instead, when she passes out, he throws her in his car and starts driving her somewhere.
When she regains consciousness, he reluctantly tells her that he’s taking her to see his father. Turns out, Declan’s mom was raped by a vampire and Declan is half-vampire himself. He takes regular injections to curb his vampiric impulses, and his adoptive father has trained him up to be a vampire hunter.
Turns out, that scientist Declan shot was developing a formula to kill vampires. He was the only one who had the formula, and it was only in his head. With the scientist now dead, the formula only exists in the injection in Jill’s body. I’m guessing that Jill will survive, since she’s the protagonist in the story — and is on the book’s cover. And she might get some fun superpowers.
I like the book so far, and am looking forward to reading the rest of the series.
Have you read any of these books? Are you planning to? Let us know in the comments!
And watch Maria discuss all ten books in the video below:
Edited by Melody Friedenthal
MetaStellar editor and publisher Maria Korolov is a science fiction novelist, writing stories set in a future virtual world. And, during the day, she is an award-winning freelance technology journalist who covers artificial intelligence, cybersecurity and enterprise virtual reality. See her Amazon author page here and follow her on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn. Email her at [email protected]. She is also the editor and publisher of Hypergrid Business, one of the top global sites covering virtual reality.