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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.
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. War from a Distant Sun by Anthony James
This is the first of seven books in the Savage Stars space opera series. The other books are $0.99 to $3.99 each and are all in Kindle Unlimited.
From Alex Korolov:
If you enjoyed The Expanse on Amazon Prime, then this book is for you.
It’s a sci-fi space opera, and the whole first chapter is about a scrappy warship coming face to face with a superior enemy.
The Finality is out on a mission in the middle of nowhere, near the planet Sarus-Q, and Captain Carl Recker has a problem. A Daklan destroyer, and it looks like a bright new shiny model with advanced technology, has unexpectedly shown up.
The battle starts very quickly, and things look bleak for the Finality, as the enemy ship deflects their attack and launches its own missiles, which seem to hit their mark just as the first chapter ends.
I like sci-fi adventure stories, and this one starts right off with a spaceship battle. If the rest of book of the book is anything like chapter one, it should be a fun, fast-paced read.
From N.T. Narbutovskih:
War from a Distant Sun is a fast-paced military science fiction story about a future where humanity struggles against a war-like alien species. Unfortunately for us humans, the war seems to be going fairly poorly. Between a lack of economic prosperity and what can only be described as disappointing leadership at the higher echelons, one man stands between certain destruction and uncovering the ancient secrets of an alien race that may be humanity’s only hope.
This book does not try to be something that it is not. Paper-thin characters and moderately clunky dialogue deliver what I can only describe as some pretty straightforward spaceship versus spaceship action. If you can get by the tendency of characters to say things to each other that they already know, there’s the core of some very decent space battles to be had here.
After taking an assignment that was supposed to be a scouting mission, the main crew is attacked by a state-of-the-art enemy warship and it does not go well. The author has done a good job setting up the classic science fiction feel of hostile alien worlds, and non-human species that are out to kill us. I was disappointed by the fact that the aliens are pretty one-dimensional. Them bad, us good, the end. I would have to see more development and reasoning behind the conflict that has supposedly taken all humans to their knees.
Regarding the military action itself, I was pleasantly surprised at the well-blended naval and aerial influences in the combat scenes. Ships tend to do things that make sense, the missiles seem to be a hybridization of torpedoes and good old fashioned self-guided munitions, and the countermeasures make at least a nod towards autonomous technology.
Personally, I do not think I’ll be continuing this series simply because the quality of the dialogue was low, and there was an abundant reliance on jargon. Referring to enemy missiles by their official name and number every time in the height of an engagement just really took me out of the action. Additionally, I prefer my characters to be a lot more well-rounded, and to have their own unique voices. If you took out the dialog tags and other clues surrounding the words themselves, I would be hard-pressed to be able to distinguish one character’s speech from another.
If you’re into a low stakes and fun fast-paced military adventure, and you don’t mind skipping over a bit of dialogue here and there, I think this would be a great option. I did not read deep enough to figure out what the larger political landscape is, however, be prepared for incompetent higher-ups and bureaucracy that brings down an otherwise effective military, just from the first few pages. As the trend has been with a lot of these free military science fiction books I have read recently, just don’t think too hard!
2. Love Beyond Time by Bethany Claire
This is the first of 19 books in the Morna’s Legacy Series of time-travel romance. The other books are $3.99 to $5.99 each and are not in Kindle Unlimited. The 19th book is scheduled to be released this April.
From Amira Loutfi:
Bri is a modern-day schoolteacher from Texas who joins her hot-shot archaeologist mother in Scotland for a dig to uncover the mystery of how the royalty in Conall Castle were murdered. It’s known as the tragedy of Conall Castle.
From there she is transported to 1600s Scotland, where she picks up another woman’s life. This woman is going to marry one of the Conalls, and he hates her, but then — after she switches bodies with Bri — he is astonished to find himself falling in love.
The body switch happens due to an enchanted plaque that is designed to make Conall’s fiancé switch bodies with an identical woman from the future.
Oh man, so mystery is a big part of this plot, too. I like how it’s been crafted — all the major pieces of the story fit together like a puzzle. First, we have the mystery of the tragedy at Conell Castle, then the bodies switch, and then the stakes raise when Bri falls in love — which motivates her to solve the mystery and prevent the tragedy from happening.
The writing style is great, and it’s very exciting when we suddenly switch to 1645 Scotland and get to see the Conalls for the first time pacing nervously and discussing politics. The sense of humor is similar to how I like to write! Which is to say — the narrative style itself is not funny, but the incidents and characters are.
I’m guessing that the woman Bri switches bodies with will show up again at the end… right? That would really tie it all up. I’m so down for this. I’ll be back for sure.
3. Dowser Series by Meghan Ciana Doidge
This is the first of three books in the nine-book Dowser cozy magical mystery series. The other books are $3.99 to $4.99 each and are not in Kindle Unlimited.
From Amira Loutfi:
Jade works at a cute bakery called Cake in a Cup in a magical area of Vancouver.
The magical system is neat — vampires are rare and ghoulish and their skin is sensitive to sunlight. Jade is a half-witch and her only magical ability is to see magical things like vampires and wards. The bakery itself has a magical ward covering it which prevents harmful beasts like vampires from coming in. And Jade and her sister are both so low-grade in magic that they can’t even practice spells. I like this limitation on magic and it makes me wonder if either sister will grow in magic, or if they will meet another mage who blows their minds.
Jade also loves to collect and string together trinkets with small imprints of magic. She’s done it since childhood and it’s always been an impulse, with no reason or logic behind it.
Now for the plot threads. First, there’s a mysterious appearance of a vampire at the cute bakery — even though Jade knows there’s nothing magical about the bakery itself, aside from the ward. There are several mild indications that romance may brew. And finally, the vampire suddenly appears outside her balcony holding up one of her trinkets. This freaks her out, but she acts brave. The vampire warns that next time he’ll come inside her home.
It’s pretty awesome. I will probably be back.
4. In Your Dreams by Robert Sanborn
This is the first of two books in the series titled, straightforwardly enough, An Urban Fantasy Thriller Series. At least, that’s its listed title in Amazon. It looks like the real series title is League of the Moon. The other book is $1.99 and is scheduled to be released in March.
From Maria Korolov:
Based on the book cover, I’m expecting this book to be something like Twilight. I did not like that book, nor did I like the movie. So, I’m thinking that I might not be the target audience for In Your Dreams.
It starts out with Henry, who’s been having nightmares of being a woman in a nightgown, chased through the woods by people with torches. Then, one morning, he finds pine needles in his hair. He just moved to Salem, Massachusetts and works in the ER department at Massachusetts General Hospital.
His dreams feel real, and now he’s starting to see them from the point of view of one of the pursuers, as well. He talks about the dreams with a barista he knows and makes a date to discuss them with her further over dinner. Meanwhile, someone is watching him. Someone who knows what Henry’s been dreaming about.
It’s his day off and takes a walk through Salem and talks to random people he meets on the street. I go to Salem a lot — it’s not that far from where I live and they go all-out for Halloween every year — and not once have random pedestrians struck up conversations with me. So immediately I know something strange is going on… Anyway, this random couple walking their dog tell him that their dog protects them from having bad dreams at night.
Creeped out, Henry goes back to his apartment and decides to take a nap before his dinner date — and record himself sleeping with his GoPro camera. Just to make sure he’s not sleepwalking. After all, those pine needles had to come from somewhere.
The camera records him flailing around in bed, crying, and talking about needing to escape.
Meanwhile, we’re also getting the point of view of the people stalking him. They’re not just following him around in real life. One is also astral-projecting himself into Henry’s dreams.
This books isn’t anything like that I expected. It’s a light, breezy read, and Henry is an appealing character. I like the balance of light-hearted humor and the creepiness, and I like the Salem setting. I might keep reading.
5. Stars Like Cold Fire by Brent Nichols
This is the first of three books in the Alien Sky space opera series. The other books are $0.99 to $3.99 each and the second is in Kindle Unlimited but the third book isn’t.
From Alex Korolov:
This is another futuristic sci-fi space story, but I was disappointed with the lack of spaceships in the first chapter.
Instead, chapter one is about a platoon taking their final exam to become officers, after which they’ll probably all board spaceships and go off on exciting adventures.
Not in this chapter though.
The main character, Jeff, apparently doesn’t get along with the rest of his platoon because he’s Chinese, I think maybe because they think he’s privileged or has some unfair advantage because of his background.
Anyway, I found the first chapter a little boring, and I wouldn’t be too inclined to keep reading. The book might be more exciting as it goes along, but the first chapter didn’t do it for me.
From N.T. Narbutovskih:
Stars Like Cold Fire is a significant departure from a lot of the straightforward spaceship battle science fiction that you’ll find in this subgenre of military sci-fi. It follows a main character who is just graduating from the naval Academy and beginning his career. His family has a history that makes him a symbol to the anti-fascist movement, and that apparently makes him a target for, you guessed it, the fascists. After getting attacked and nearly killed, his superiors make the questionable decision to give him command of a starship, ostensibly in order to get him away from the danger of being assassinated on the street. After that, he must figure out how to lead a crew that doesn’t respect him and prepare for a war that is coming soon.
The prose of this book is decent, and the author does an okay job of not trying to dump a whole bunch of story details on you right off the bat. During the opening chapters, I did get a little bit of the feeling of the author trying to get as much information over to me as he could, but it was interspersed with decent pacing and some good dialogue. This has the potential to be a great book.
If you’ve read any of my reviews for military sci-fi in the past, you’ll know that I’m a bit of a stickler for realistic plots and setups. And that’s why this book really didn’t do it for me, despite good characters and decent dialogue. The idea that the response to someone trying to kill him would be giving him his own command, just out of the academy, is a little bit too far beyond what I would be willing to believe. I remember when I was a brand-new lieutenant, fresh out of the academy, and no one in their right mind was going to put me in charge of anything more expensive than a golf cart.
The other piece that broke the story a little bit for me was the overt references to current-day politics. Now I think sci-fi is a fantastic vessel for exploring all kinds of things, from politics to government structures to relationships and human interaction. But the whole reason to put this sort of thinking and ideas into this genre is to divorce them from current day happenings, which allows you to take an objective look and really analyze ideas based on their merits, not based on the feel of modern day. So, was the political structure believable? Decently. But it had a few too many references and call-outs for me to take it as anything other than overt commentary.
If you don’t care about politics, and you don’t mind glossing over logical decision making from the higher-ups in the military command, the tight-in storytelling with the lead character is quite good. The pacing is solid, the dialogue is good, and I have every confidence that the action will make sense as well.
6. Once Upon A Time by Demelza Carlton
This is a collected set of the first three books in the 25-book Romance a Medieval Fairytale series: Enchant: Beauty and the Beast Retold, Dance: Cinderella Retold, and Fly: Goose Girl Retold. The other books are $3.99 each and are not in Kindle Unlimited. But it seems that different books in this series may get a free promotion, at various times, so if you’re a fan — but don’t want to spend money — keep checking back.
Demelza Carlton is a regular on this list. We also reviewed other books in that same series. In July, we reviewed Embellish: Brave Little Tailor Retold, another book in the same series. 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, Dance: Cinderella Retold.
Here’s our review of Dance: Cinderella Retold:
From Amira Loutfi:
Oh man, we start here with some serious loss and grief. The mother died, leaving Mai all alone and her father then forgetting she even exists. He’s overcome with grief and has forgotten his promise to his dying wife. Mai remembers that her promise to her mother was to take care of her father. She has a strong sense of duty.
Good, I like characters with a sense of responsibility.
Her father had promised his wife that he would teach Mai the martial arts. And he isn’t doing it. She asks him to teach her to fight and he says no, it’s only for highborn sons. Talk to the hand, female girl-child.
All she has to do is remind him and he gives in. I wonder why she didn’t try that sooner? But anyway, he starts training her in fighting every morning.
The father leaves on a journey. Mai prays to her mother for his return.
The father returns home with a new wife. She’s preggo. And as Mai grows up, she treats her like she’s invisible.
This is written like an old fairy-tale, it’s concise and a little stuffy. I’m into it. I’ll be back for more of this.
7. Roswell: First Contact by Tony B. Richard
This is the only book in the Earth’s Secret Alliance – Malcolm Dow series. But given the fact that “episode 1” is right in the subtitle, there will probably be more books to come.
From Maria Korolov:
When I think of Roswell, I think of the TV show with angsty teenage aliens.
That’s not what this book is about. Whew.
It starts in 1947 New Mexico. Malcolm Dow, an Army private, sees a flying saucer crash and when he and his unit go to investigate, they find the wreck with three small alien bodies in it.
Turns out, the alien bodies are just dummies. When Malcom is by himself, picking up pieces of the craft’s parachute, he meets the actual alien, Ambassador Geogram from planet Zalma. Turns out the aliens need human help. They’re pacifists but are under attack. They want Malcolm to be their go-between with human authorities.
This book almost feels a parody of a story from the 1950s, with the cliched alien names and the hokey premise.
I don’t think I’ll keep going. The book is readable, but the high degree of cheesiness makes it hard for me to get into the story. I think it could be fun if the story was told in a more self-aware style, playing the cheesiness for laughs.
8. Daughter of Time by Sarah Woodbury
This is the first of three books in The After Cilmeri Series. The other books are $2.99 each and are not in Kindle Unlimited. This is the second time we’ve seen this book on the list. We previously reviewed it in August of 2021. The following is from that review.
From Amira Loutfi:
We begin with a brief guide to Welsh Pronunciation. Then, we have a cast of characters organized by Welsh, English, and American identities. The American is a time traveler named Meg. I’m already so happy.
I’m guessing this is about an American woman who travels back to the 1200s and gets caught in a love triangle with the prince of Wales and the prince of England.
Meg was born in 1975, so she’s about 46 years old now. But in the beginning of this story, she’s only 20. So, it starts in 2000.
“My husband’s body lay cold on the table in front of me.” Yes! That’s the first line. I love it. They had a daughter and he was physically abusive. She ran away and her mother took the two of them in. As she was prepping her new life, he pleaded with her to come back since he was dying of pancreatic cancer. She goes back. And now he’s dead. She’s relieved. And I am skimming the rest of this chapter.
The word “plop” occurs three times in this book. Just a fair warning.
Meg has a horrible car accident — in the same area as her abusive husband.
Llywelyn is the Prince of Wales and he has been taking over a lot of land. I was just starting to get bored and then things got awesome. The Prince of Wales finds a mysterious moving carriage in the marsh. We can tell from the description that it’s a blue car. And there is a woman in the front seat out cold, but her little daughter in the back is fine.
So, it appears that this story is a lot like many of the other romances on Kindle — the point of view shifts between the male and female lead, and the male lead is a powerful cool guy and the female is just an average girl. But in this case, there’s time travel. And she has a daughter. Umm … If this is a love triangle, then why is there a kid?
Maybe to show that a single mother who hasn’t yet gotten her act together following an abusive marriage can also go on wild adventures where men compete over her? Ok, I respect that. It’s a nice fantasy.
It’s pretty cute imagining what the prince thinks is going on, knowing that this is going to end up as a love triangle. Maybe Meg’s ex will show up again and try to get her back? It’s a good book, but I have other things to read that I’m dying to get to.
9. Buying Tiran by RK Munin
This is the second of six books in the Hissa Warrior Series urban fantasy series of romantic sci-fi. The other books are $0.99 to $2.99 each and are all in Kindle Unlimited. The sixth book is due out this coming August. In December, we reviewed another book by the same author, Loving Captivity, the first of four books in the Human Pets of Talin series.
From Maria Korolov:
I reviewed Loving Captivity and I was creeped out by the whole premise — aliens keeping humans as slaves, and the humans liking it. I understand that books like this are meant to be escapist fun, not social commentary, but I have a hard time with slavery.
In this book, the roles are flipped — it’s the alien who’s the slave.
Mara Lost is the captain of an independent freight hauler in a part of the galaxy where humans are rare. She’s at a slave auction in hopes of finding her sister. She usually tries to spend as little time at these things as she can, just long enough to find out if her sister is there. But this time, she sticks around. Her attention is drawn to a big, muscular slave. He’s beautiful and sculpted, and will probably be useful for agricultural work, but half beaten and starved, probably dead within a few months.
Nobody wants to buy him, not even at the lowest bid. He’ll be more trouble than he’s worth. Finally, Mara steps up and buys him. The auctioneer keys the obedience collar to her commands
Okay, I had trouble pulling myself away from this book. I admit it. It’s addictive. And I’ll be embarrassed it to admit it, but I might come back to it.
10. Her Alien Priest by Michele Mills
This is the first of three books in the Monster Bites romantic sci-fi series. The other books are $2.99 each and are in Kindle Unlimited, though the third book isn’t out yet. It’s scheduled to be released in March.
From Amira Loutfi:
The blurb of this book contains a warning — only read this if “you enjoy a taste of the profane, satanic-looking heroes and curvy-girl heroines.” That sounds just as much like an advertisement as a warning.
Lorelai yearns for romance and intimacy. She reads contraband romance ebooks in a community of religious snobs. The stories she describes sound suspiciously like those that appear on these top ten Free Friday books … it’s clearly not our world, though, because she only gets them on the black market. The fact that she’s overweight is also looked down upon in the community.
Her family is oppressively religious, and they decided to send her to a nunnery when she was caught pleasuring herself. The logic there is that her reputation had been so damaged that there was nothing else she could amount to.
In the second chapter, we meet Cabal — a priest from the planet Sal who has taken vows of silence and celibacy. In the very first scene, Lorelai has been thrown to the ground in front of him. He’s immediately smitten. And we also learn that he is some sort of fire mage. Other aliens view him as a monster.
So far, this is very good. I feel sympathetic to Lorelai. She is judged even by her family for reading romance and being fat. I like the fact that instead of accepting the concept that she is not good, she feels that her environment might be wrong. I think it makes sense for an outcast to have those kinds of thoughts.
I recommend it. I will probably be back, too.
Have you read any of these books? Are you planning to? Let us know in the comments!
Or watch Maria and Amira discuss today’s books in the video below: