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. 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. Kingdoms of Sand by Daniel Arenson
This is a collection of the first three of six books in the Kingdoms of Sand high fantasy series. Individually the books are $2.99 to $4.99 each, and the series is not in Kindle Unlimited. Daniel Arenson has been on this list before. We reviewed his book, Earth Alone, back in October of this year.
From Maria Korolov:
We start out with Maya, a young woman with magic powers and an evil older half-sister. The older sister, Ofeer, is a product of rape — their mother had been attacked by invaders. Now the invaders are back again, and they nearly destroyed the country the first time around. Maya’s family are the rulers, and her older brother will eventually inherit the kingdom — if it survives. Oh, and magic powers are illegal here.
I did not like Maya. She seemed to be one of those “too stupid to live” people. Knowing that magic is forbidden, she still uses it to heal a sick dog. Out in public. Without checking if anyone is watching. A prince — one of the invaders — shows up and kills the dog for a laugh. And Ofeer and the prince laugh about it. I don’t like seeing a sick dog mistreated. I don’t like the way that Maya seems nice, but is lacking any common sense. And Ofeer is just evil. I didn’t like anyone in this first chapter.
Then we switch to the point of view of one of Maya’s siblings, Epher, the older brother who’s in line to inherit the kingdom. He’s worried about the enemy fleet that just showed up. And he’s also bickering with his two other siblings — this is a large family! — one sister is a fighter, and she just wants to kill everyone, again with no thought of consequences. And there’s also another brother, who just likes to drink and have a good time. Also with no thought of consequences. Epher is the only one of the lot who seems to have any common sense, and he’s burdened by the guilt of hearing his mother’s screams as she was raped when the invaders were here the last time. But he comes across as a little too pious and sanctimonious. He’s a bit of a scold. I sympathize with him — I’m the oldest kid in my family, too — but he’s not exactly fun to spend time with.
Then we move to the point of view of Ofeer, the evil sister, as she seduces the invading prince right in front of Maya and the prince’s solders and then has sex with him. She’s sick of her family and of their stupid little kingdom and wants to go live in the big evil empire with all the cool people.
Then we switch to the point of view of Marcus, the evil emperor of the invading empire. He’s got ten thousands slaves marching to their doom, prisoners being crucified right and left, all the horrible excesses of Rome. And here is where we learn that the country that Maya is from is a place where people get circumcized. So I’m guessing this is an allegory for the story of Israel in Roman times.
I’m not personally opposed to this setting. I’ve read other speculative fiction books set either in historic Rome or in similar cultures and I liked them. But this particular series of books is a little too grim and depressing for me. There’s just horrible suffering in every direction, and in my escapist reading I like to get a little break from that kind of thing. Especially since that’s all we see on the news these days.
But if you like your epic fantasy on the grim side — and plenty of people do — then I do have the say that the writing style is very compelling and the book pulls you in. The story moves along at a good solid clip, and there’s plenty of tension and high stakes right from the start.
9. The Kerrigan Kids by W. J. May
This is the first three books in the 12-book The Kerrigan Kids series from the USA Today best-selling author W. J. May. The others cost $3.99 each, are not in Kindle Unlimited. This collection includes the YA books School of Potential, Myths & Magic, and Kith & Kin. The series is a continuation of the 12-book The Chronicles of Kerrigan series, the first book of which, Rae of Hope, is also free.
The author is a regular on these lists. We first reviewed this particular box set back in April of 2021, then, in June, we reviewed Omega Queen, a box set of the first three books book in the ten-book Omega Queen Series. And, in November, we reviewed Mending Magic, a box set of the first three books in the six-book Mending Magic Series. In December, we reviewed The Chronicles of Kerrigan Box Set, which is the first six of twelve books in The Chronicles of Kerrigan. All of the other three box sets are still free.
From Amira Loutfi:
Guilder University is a magical school where powerful students use their magic to rebel against learning. And according to the narration, all the students hate the school. You enter at age 13 and remain till you are at least 18 years old. Aria, our protagonist, suffers from living under the shadow of her parents who saved the world several times, reshaping the magical community.
She has several friends who suffer from the same condition. Because of their parents’ incredible success, there’s no more work to be done.
She’s got a magical “tatu” on her lower back. Having “ink” in this world is a sign of power. Aria’s father (one of the seven saviors) is said to have possessed “unprecedented power.” Her uncle, and the father of another friend of hers, also played a role in changing the world for the better by his unmatched prophetic sight.
Because they were all raised together since childhood, Aria and her friends form a gang at the school and they constantly flaunt their high status by disrupting class and violating school rules.
And there’s no explanation within the first chapter as to why and how all these powerful students are stuck at university.
I don’t think I really got the plot, but I’m not really feeling any of these characters.
8. Velvet by Lisette Marshall
This is the first of three books in The Princess & The Spy medieval fantasy romance series. The other books are $3.99 each, but the entire series is in Kindle Unlimited. Lisette Marshall has been on this list before, we reviewed her book, Iron, back in September of this year.
From Romel Madray:
Viviette, the 19-year-old princess of Peaks, has returned home after three years at the Copper Coast court. She enjoys playing politics and strategy, and is known for her ambition, reminiscent of Lady Macbeth. However, there is trouble brewing in the kingdom as two neighboring kingdoms are on the verge of war and Peaks is caught in the middle. Everyone hopes that Viviette’s time away has made her more docile, but she is merely playing along with these expectations. Jaghar, the kingdom’s spymaster, is aware of Viviette’s desire for power and wants her to be married off to make his life easier.
One night, Viviette leaves her room nearly naked and finds herself in a secret corridor in the castle, where she is caught by Jaghar while eavesdropping on a secret meeting. It becomes clear to Jaghar that Viviette is no longer the child he once knew, and he is attracted to her. At a banquet, Viviette and Mauno, an old acquaintance, sneak away into the garden where they have a bit of banter and Mauno kisses her. Jaghar realizes that they have disappeared and catches up with them. He wants to kill Mauno, but decides against leaving a corpse in the garden. He is upset with Viviette, but she has been playing games with Mauno to figure out his kingdom’s strategy for Peaks.
Jaghar is attracted to Viviette and cannot hide it from himself. He also believes that she has a natural inclination towards spycraft and plans to introduce her to the room of masks.
This book is well-written, with good pacing and tension that keeps the reader interested. The strong female character’s duplicity is intriguing, and the attraction between her and Jaghar is one-sided, with him being attracted to her.
7. The Dragon Keepers of Dumara by Jessica Kemery
This is the first of three books in The Dragon Keepers fantasy series. The other books are $4.99 each, but the entire series is on Kindle Unlimited.
From Maria Korolov:
I’m a big fan of the Dragonriders of Pern books. I read them when I was myself a teenager, and fell in love with that world and its people. So the title of this book pulled me right in.
Mila’s father is the Dragon Keeper of Dumara. He worked for the king, caring for the dragons, just like his father did, and his grandfather did, and so on and on for generations.
The previous night there had been a battle between dragons, and dragons usually fought to the death. The sound of the battle and the flashing of magic and light had woken her up just before sunrise.
Now she and her father are out in the valley, looking for the injured, or dead, dragon. They find her in a clearing at the bottom of the valley. The dragon’s mate has found her, too, and is now lying next to the dead dragon’s body, cradling her with her wings, crying.
The other dragon is injured. It had joined the fight, but not in time to save his mate. Then more dragons from the dragon clan arrive and carry the body of the dead dragon back to their nests under the castle.
Her father heads back to the dragon caves, and sends Mila off for medical supplies. She goes back to their shop, where they sell dragon-related items and healing potions. The shop is closed. Their assistant shopkeeper had to shut the doors because of royal order — all business had to close due to the death of the queen.
She mixes up some more medicine, fends off the assistant shopkeeper’s advances — he wants to take her out on a date and she’s not interested in dating — and packs up everything she and her dad are going to need to treat the dragon.
I like her very much. She’s practical and no-nonsense. She knows she’s going to be the Dragon Keeper one day, and is looking forward to it.
When she gets back to the dragons with the supplies, she learns that there’s a big secret at the center of the kingdom, having to do with the dragons and the royal family. I’m not going to spill it, though you might have already guessed.
I like this story very much. It’s nice. Nice with a capital “n.” Mila is nice. Her father is nice. The royal family is nice. The assistant shopkeeper who’s got a crush on Mila is nice about it. The book does remind me of the Pern series, and also of Diana Wynne Jones books, like Howl’s Moving Castle.
I’m looking forward to finishing this book this weekend, and reading the rest of the series as well.
6. Displaced by Bridget E. Baker
This is the first book in the seven-book Birthright series. The other books are $0.99 to $4.99 each and are not in Kindle Unlimited.
From Maria Korolov:
Chancery is an evian, whatever it is, seventeen years old, living on an island in Hawaii. Her mother is an empress, and has ruled for nearly nine hundred years. Chancery was born with some kind of disability and should have been killed at birth, but wasn’t. So — these aren’t nice people.
Her best friend, Lark, is secretly half human. If the other evians find out, they’ll kill her. Again, not nice people. Lark is a year old than Chancery, and wants to be accepted into the intelligence subsection and get to go out and live among the humans. But it’s competitive. If she defeats Chancery in a challenge, she’ll get a spot for sure. But people won’t believe that their battle was real, not staged, not unless they have a big public falling out first. Plus, Chancery isn’t enthused about throwing a fight to someone as far down in the pecking order as Lark.
If Lark can’t get into the intelligence subsection, she’ll be stuck working for her Uncle Max, restructuring corporations all day long.
I’m so confused. I have no idea what’s going on.
Anyway, Chancery is third in line for the throne, right behind her evil twin.
And, oh, all the human rulers on the planet know about the evians. Chancery’s mother’s birthday is coming up, and the US president, and a bunch of other global leaders, are coming to pay their respects. Turns out, they’re just the figureheads for the evians. But most humans don’t know the evians exist. The evians are like secret gods, playing with human fates on a whim. Oh, and Chancery seems to have a crush on her evil twin sister’s boyfriend.
I don’t like Chancery. I don’t like her mother much, I don’t like Lark. I’ve gotten old and grumpy and hate teenagers and their problems.
5. Realm of Dragons by Morgan Rice
This is the first of eight books in the Age of the Sorcerers sword and sorcery fantasy series. The other books are $2.99 to $6.99 each, and the series is not in Kindle Unlimited. This isn’t the first time Morgan Rice has been on this list. We reviewed Transmission in March, earlier this year.
From Terrence Smith:
This book is an epic fantasy adventure about a teenage boy from a commoner family who dreams of becoming a knight, a teenage princess in an arranged marriage, and dragons falling from the sky.
The story reads off as a checklist of fantasy story tropes, including a chosen one and a prophecy. The setting is also one that fantasy readers have likely heard of before: a kingdom divided between royalty and rich and poor social classes.
The writing style is fairly bland. It focuses on story description and character background, which ends up pulling you from the experience. This is frustrating, since the bones of an interesting story are there.
Since this book is free on Amazon, there isn’t much to lose in checking it out. The first three chapters set up cliffhangers a plenty, so it looks like there should be more to see. Personally, I do not think I will be continuing with this.
4. Mirrors and Monsters by Demelza Carlton
Demelza Carlton is a regular on this list. This past October, we reviewed Ocean’s Justice, the first book in the six-book Siren of War fantasy series. In September, we reviewed Heart of Steel, the first of five books in the Heart of Steel paranormal romance series.
We also reviewed several books in her 27-book Romance a Medieval Fairytale series. In July, we reviewed Embellish: Brave Little Tailor Retold. Hunt: Red Riding Hood Retold, we reviewed in April, and, also that month, we reviewed Blow: Three Little Pigs Retold, then, in May, we reviewed Melt: Snow Queen Retold and, in September of 2021, Dance: Cinderella Retold. A box set of the first three books in the series was also on this list this past April.
From Carla Nordlund:
This is a somewhat unique review, as this book is a short story collection rather than a full-length novel, spanning several romance tropes across the fantasy and paranormal romance subgenres. The opening story introduces us to a Beauty and the Beast retelling, “Enchant.” Zuleika is a young enchantress just coming into her power after her mother’s untimely death. When the arrogant and demanding King Thorn demands a curse from her, Zuleika creates the worst curse she can imagine: a mirror that curses the beholder to show outwardly their worst and darkest traits, extending from their physical body to their kingdom. Although I only read to the portion where Zuleika delivers the curse to King Thorn and is imprisoned, I assume that she will escape and run into the ruler—the Beast—cursed by her mirror.
I then broke the rules of Free Fridays a bit. Rather than reading straight on, I jumped into the middle of the book to read “The Gargoyle and the Archaeologist,” a paranormal protector romance. Maria is an archeologist who is forced to return to her hometown of Perth after her parents’ unexpected deaths. While walking through their desolate manor house, used as an office, Maria runs into a huge spider’s web. Her screaming calls Dunston, a gargoyle protector of the house and its inhabitants. Dunston and Maria feel an instant attraction, although she refuses to believe he is a gargoyle, chalking it up to grief and severe jetlag. Nevertheless, Dunston continues to protect and help Maria throughout the week as she sees to her parent’s affairs before leaving to finish her archaeology dig. Despite a very sexy moment involving the macarena dance, Maria and Dunston never give into their instant attraction. When Maria returns after several months, she hopes to again see Dunston, but he never appears, as she never formally calls for his aid.
All six stories in this collection are lead-ins for Carlton’s longer works in her “Romance a Medieval Fairytale” series. Although the Beauty and the Beast retelling didn’t really catch me, I’m glad I decided to skip around and find “The Gargoyle and the Archaeologist,” as I found the opening paragraph truly engaging and had a lot of fun reading a “mini-romance” in just a few pages. For any fantasy or paranormal romance fans, these are quick reads perfect for a work or lunch break, and you can pick and choose from your favorite tropes and subgenres to find a story that’s a perfect fit for your romance tastes.
3. Ravenite by Alicia Rades
This is the first of four books in the Vengeance and Vampires urban fantasy series. The other books are $4.99 each, and the series is not in Kindle Unlimited.
From Maria Korolov:
Urban fantasy is one of my favorite genres. I love stories where kick-ass female protagonists kill a lot of things. Or male protagonists. Or any gender, really. Stories with a high body count that don’t take themselves too seriously. Maybe that says something about me, I don’t know, but give me a cover that has a person in tight clothing holding a weapon, and I’m guaranteed to open it.
And the first sentence of this book did not disappoint: “Vampires are easier to kill after you’ve pecked their eyes out.”
Yeah, that’s what I’m talking about.
The story is told from Rachel’s point of view. She’s the vampire hunter, and she talks like an old film noir detective. For example, she says: “I was a sucker for vampires looking for a stake through the heart. They usually found it.”
Anyway, she’s out hunting vampires in dark alleys in a bad part of the city. She’s looking for something called the Soulless, who have her sister, and she’s going to keep killing vampires until she finds a lead.
Oh, and she’s got super strength… and she’s a shifter. Unfortunately, tonight’s vampire manages to stab her with a dagger poisoned with vampire blood and gets away, leaving Rachel in bad shape. She’s forced to accept help from a stranger. A handsome stranger. One who is himself a shifter. He carries her back to her apartment, where she does a spell that helps heal the wound. And he promises to keep her secret. Apparently, in this world, killing evil vampires is a crime, no matter how evil they are. You’re supposed to wait for the police to arrest them and hold a trial.
The vampires appeared eight years previously, at the same time as magic. The Soulless were the worst of them.
Turns out that the guy who saved her has his own reasons for looking for the Soulless vampires, so he and Rachel decide to team up. I like Rachel. I can tolerate the handsome stranger guy. I mean, every action movie has to have a love interest, right?
So I’m going to keep reading. And, judging by the writing in the first couple of chapters, I might well wind up shelling out my own cold, hard cash for the rest of the books in this series.
2. House of Matchsticks by Elisa Downing
This is the first of three books in the House of Matchsticks young adult fantasy series. The other books are $2.99 and $3.99 each and are not in Kindle Unlimited. The author has been on this list before. We previously reviewed this book in February of 2022.
From Maria Korolov:
I’m not the target audience for this book, either. I don’t like young adults. But this book definitely grabbed my attention. I had trouble pulling away from it to go on to the next one on today’s list.
It reminds of the Shadow and Bone books by Leigh Bardugo.
The story begins with the Collector. He’s like the grim reaper, and he goes around collecting souls. He shows up to collect the soul of a woman who’s escaping a burning factory and the monstrous man chasing her. The woman is carrying a baby and tries to get away on a boat but the man catches up to her and kills her. The Collector takes her soul but, even though he’s not supposed to, he gives the boat a push and saves the baby and the locket the woman tucked into its blanket.
Sixteen years later, the baby is all grown up. I’m guessing she’s the baby because she’s wearing the same locket from the first chapter. He name is Isaline, and she was raised in an orphanage, then sent to a school for guards. It’s time for her to take the final exam before graduation.
Meanwhile, the monstrous man from that first chapter is now the king, and he’s got the power to create magical clockwork creatures. In fact, he’s partially clockwork himself. He made some kind of deal with something evil sixteen years before, a deal which has granted him a magical power. He’s been killing off all the other noble houses.
The story is incredibly compelling, the world building is superb, and I want to keep spending time with all the characters. Enough to spend a couple of books on the other two books in this series? I think so.
1. Outcasts of Earth by James David Victor
This is the first of nine books in the Outcast Marines space fleet science fiction series. The other books are $0.99 to $3.99 each, but the entire series is in Kindle Unlimtied. James David Victor has been on this list before, we reviewed his book, Mercury Blade, last June.
From Alex Korolov:
Outcasts of Earth is a sci-fi story about a bunch of convicts turned space marines.
In the prologue, Solomon Cready is hiding out in Hong Kong when his hotel room door is knocked down by police robots, or maybe cops in exosuits, not totally sure, but they do have robot dogs. He’s been arrested for murder and is getting sent to a penal colony on Titan as punishment.
The first two chapters follow Solomon as he and some other inmates go up a space elevator to a space ship, and also meet their warden, a big jerk named Coates who electrocutes one of the prisoners to exert his authority.
It turns out the Department of Justice and Defense has other plans for Solomon, who’s put into hibernation on a space ship, but wakes up on Jupiter’s moon Ganymede and finds out he’s part of a work rehabilitation program, called the Marine Expeditionary Force, or MEF, also known as the Outcasts. It also means that instead of his original life sentence on Titan, he’ll be free in 12 years — if he survives being a space marine.
While this story doesn’t seem particularly unique or outstanding so far, I think it could be a fun read for someone looking for a space adventure story. I’m on the fence about whether I’d keep reading, but maybe I’ll pick it up again if I’ve got nothing else going on.
Have you read any of these books? Are you planning to? Let us know in the comments!
And watch Maria, Romel and Terrence discuss all ten books in the video below: