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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. The Magelands Epic by Christopher Mitchell
This is a box set of the first four books in the eight-book The Magelands Epic fantasy series. The other books are $4.99 each and are all in Kindle Unlimited.
From Amira Loutfi:
On Star Continent, there are five regions, each populated with five different types of humanoids. Three of them are descended from apes, one from amphibians, and one from reptiles.
Shella belongs to the humanoid group that has descended from reptiles. Her family is large because this race of people tends to give birth to about a dozen babies at once. Their region is suffering from overpopulation and government policies are intrusive and controlling. Citizens need a special license to have children and they are forced into certain careers depending on their talents. Shella, for example, happens to possess great magical abilities. Even though she is clearly a lazy person, she is forced to work as a flow mage at the local sewage and waterworks plant. Of course, she is dissatisfied with this arrangement and longs to be alone. Shella is tempted by a high-paying offer from the government to work on a project that has already wasted a lot of money.
I really enjoyed reading this and I love how the author is building out the world. It is an epic fantasy and the first plot thread that I can see developing is character — i.e. if we don’t see Shella grow to embrace her challenges — or for her to finally get to be happily alone and lazy — then I’m going to be distraught. In spite of her lazy attitude, we can also see that she loves her family and doesn’t want to part from them. She says that she will help her sister write up another application to have children even though she knows that the government won’t allow it.
I will be back for sure. I want to know how the story unfolds and what the other races and regions are like. This is exactly my kind of story. I enjoy a blend of novelty and plot and various literary devices.
This would definitely be a buy, even if the entire box set wasn’t free today.
2. Code Breakers by Colin F. Barnes
This is a box set of all four books in the Code Breakers dystopian future sci-fi series. The books are normally $4.99 each but are all in Kindle Unlimited.
From Maria Korolov:
I’m not the target audience for dystopian futures. I’m getting enough dystopian future in my regular life right now. When it comes to escapist reading, I prefer something as unlike reality as possible!
So, that aside, let’s get into it.
We start with Gerry Cardle. It’s 2153, and he’s drawn the losing ticket in the lottery. Oh, no. I hate the “losing ticket in a lottery” trope. Okay, I liked The Hunger Games, but not any of the other books in this genre.
Gerry has a wife and a daughter, so he’s certain that the death lottery result was all just a big mistake. He’s the first on the exemption list. In fact, he’s the guy who created the algorithm for the death lottery.
Turns out, he’s been hacked, and he’s only got a week to live. But some rebels find him, and say they can help.
He learns that there’s some kind of nasty virus going around, taking over people’s AIs, starting with Gerry’s boss. It’s after the algorithm. If the virus gets to it, it could kill anyone — including the rulers of this dystopian society.
I’m not going to keep reading, because, first, like I said, I’m not really in a mood for dystopian fiction right now, and, second, Gerry doesn’t appeal to me as a character. He comes across as a bland, normal guy who is suddenly caught up in horrible events beyond his control. But if you enjoy these kinds of stories, then this book has a lot going for it. It’s readable, and it has some interesting things to say about letting technology control so much of our lives.
3. Cold Solar by Anthony Robinson
This is the first of three books in The Inner Solar War dystopian future series. The other books are $2.99 each and are all in Kindle Unlimited.
From Maria Korolov:
First of all, based on the cover, this is my kind of book. My only quibble with the cover is that the book title is in smaller print than the series title. The two should be switched around.
The story starts out in 2048, at a sword fighting match at the L.A. Convention Center, where Marcus Bowen wins the fight.
Turns out, he’s a high school history teacher. In the mid-2020s, the global economy collapsed, major corporations had to bail out countries, and finally a giant conglomerate took over the whole planet. Meanwhile, private corporations had been establishing operations on Mars, terraforming the atmosphere, mistreating the colonists until finally the colonists revolted and won their independence. The new government structure is based on medieval feudalism.
He mentions democracy during a lesson, and the school principal warns him not to do it again.
Meanwhile, on Mars, crops are dying and the new government is putting people into suspended animation in order to conserve resources. Princess Elaina, a teenager, asks her father, the King, to allow her to serve as the ambassador to Earth, the first ambassador that the new government will send. Mars can no longer survive on its own, and needs help from Earth.
I’m confused by this. Mars has advanced genetic engineering, more advanced than anything available on Earth. They have the technology to terraform the planet in two decades. I don’t understand why they need Earth’s help at all. And if they do, why the King is sending his sheltered teenage daughter to handle the negotiations. It’s all a little over the top — but in a fun way.
Then we’re back to Marcus. His father is the CEO of the giant corporation that runs Earth, and they’re not on the best of terms. Intriguing!
The story is engaging and moves along at a rapid clip, and the premise is pretty unusual. The juxtaposition of the medieval society, with its knights and its royalty, and the high-tech future is unexpected and amusing. I can see this as a fun weekend read. Plus, the other books are in Kindle Unlimited. Bonus!
4. Witchy Whiskers by Danielle Garrett
This is the first of four books in the Nine Lives Magic cozy paranormal romantic mystery series. The other books are $.99 each and are all in Kindle Unlimited. The last book is $4.99 and is scheduled to be released later this month.
From Noreen Brenner:
Cora Hearth is a witch who owns a store that sells objects with magical properties. An intriguing and handsome man, who turns out to be Cora’s love interest, enters her store wanting to buy gifts for his mother. Cora chooses a candle that creates the illusion of being in Hawaii, with a gushing waterfall in the background and soft fairy lights twinkling above.
The writing is quite beautiful, lush and imaginative, with lots of visual imagery and sensory imagery in general. I especially liked her description of the scene when a magic candle is lit.
In this world, being a witch and having a cat as a familiar is accepted. People come to her store knowing she is a good witch, and intend to buy objects that have magical properties. Cora is a witch who not just wants to be a witch, but has actual powers. And her cat familiar can even talk and has a strong personality, being grumpy and sarcastic.
Complications quickly ensue. Cora’s ex-husband is back. They parted ways amicably, but he complicates matters when he shows up at a point in time when she is interested in another man. And of course, since there’s a mystery, there’s a murder.
I personally prefer science fiction, and won’t buy the other books in the series, however, I give this novel a solid seven out of ten for magical fantasy romance. I definitely recommend it for fans of that genre.
5. Birth Of The Phoenix by Jessica Wayne
This is the first of five books in the Rise Of The Phoenix urban fantasy series. The other books are $.99 each and are not in Kindle Unlimited.
From Maria Korolov:
Urban fantasy is one of my favorite genres, especially when there’s an ass-kicking protagonist involved.
The book starts with Anastasia in the middle of a destroyed city. Buildings are now rubble, and her best friend, Dakota, seems to be dead. Then a stranger in a crimson robe appears and tells her that she was responsible for the destruction of her city.
Was that a flashback? A nightmare? A vision of the future? We don’t know.
In the first chapter, Anastasia is sharing an apartment with Dakota. They were neighbors growing up, and have been best friends all their lives. But Anastasia has a secret crush on him.
Now her parents are coming to visit. She can’t say no, because they help pay her bills. But at least she’s not living at home anymore, with her alcoholic, abusive father.
She works at a used car lot owned by her father’s golf buddy and is studying creative writing at the local community college. Her parents help pay some of her bills, but they refused to pay for college, even though her father was the ADA for Seattle, and they can afford it.
Oh, no, it’s a young adult story. I hate those, because I hate young adults. Take Anastasia, for example. I feel like yelling at her to leave town, stop seeing her abusive parents, get a job that doesn’t depend on her dad, pick a state with good health insurance where she can get some therapy — I recommend Massachusetts — then apply for financial aid as soon as she establishes residency and go to college. Also, I want her to get off my lawn.
Am I old and grumpy? Yes. Yes, I am.
Anyway, she actually does quit her job at the used car dealership. Good for her. And when she does, the owner tries to assault her — and, seemingly by coincidence, a pile of books comes crashing down and distracts him, giving her an opportunity to escape. I’m guessing that it will turn out that she has secret magical powers. Oh, and Dakota finally kisses her. Looks like her life is starting to turn around.
I spoke too soon. The next morning, her father shows up at her apartment with a goon who knocks her out and kidnaps her.
I can see sticking with this book. It’s not my thing, like I said, but the story is definitely pulling me in anyway.
6. Prophecy by Amanda Lynn Petrin
This is the first of three books in the The Owens Chronicles young adult urban fantasy series. The other books are $3.99 each and are not in Kindle Unlimited.
From Amira Loutfi:
This is an urban fantasy world where there are magical people called “gifteds” who are immortal until they finally accomplish their main goal. Lucy has two gifteds that her mother had requested keep her safe.
She’s got a sealed locket from her grandmother who told her to wear it every October. She’s also got a crescent moon birthmark on the back of her neck, just like the set of fancy dolls that her grandmother had.
At the age of five, Lucy loses the last of her family — her grandmother — and is then put under the guardianship of her home’s groundskeeper and his wife. That’s when she meets the two gifteds. The conversation between them makes it sound like they have seen her a couple times in the future already.
According to the description on Amazon, there will be a troop of gifteds whose main goal is to kill Lucy. This threat and the family mysteries are the main plot points that I can see so far, although I didn’t actually get to the part that mentions anything about a troop of killer gifteds.
I won’t be back. This is moving slowly and there is a lot of affection and warmth between the characters. That always bores me, but I can see how others like it.
7. Brandon’s Mate by Anastasia Wilde
This is the first of seven books in the Wild Blood Shifters paranormal romance series. The other books are $0.99 to $3.99 each and are all in Kindle Unlimited. The author is a regular on these top ten lists. In May, we reviewed a box set of all three books in the Silverlake Shifters series. In August, we reviewed Kane, the first book of the three-book Silverlake Enforcers series. In June, we reviewed Dragon’s Rogue, the first book in the three-book Wild Dragons series. Finally, in November, we reviewed Red Dragon’s Heart, the fourth book in the five-book Darkwing Dragons series.
From Amira Loutfi:
Six years ago Brandon left his panther pack and formed another one. But just before he left, he took a necklace that his neighbor Kitty had given him. Six years later, we learn that Brandon was a bad leader and his pack members died one-by-one. Their ghosts are stalking him, and Brandon wants revenge before he totally loses control of himself to his panther.
Meanwhile, Kitty is having telepathic nightmares about Brandon, even though he abandoned the pack and her six years ago. I’m guessing they are fated mates. Kitty and Brandon grew up together and have always had a telepathic connection — they could always sense when the other was in trouble. Brandon has always been very troublesome, and throughout the years, Kitty could pick up on it, but never felt that he actually needed her help.
This evening, the wolf inside her is ordering her to go out and find him. She texts him, and he doesn’t respond — he never does. But that doesn’t stop her.
It’s very fast-paced. The writing style is grim and gritty. It’s got strong shifter vibes. And I like how Kitty is taking action to find Brandon. It’s a weird premise, but I’m used to it and I can get behind it well enough to keep reading.
I’ll probably be back.
8. Gods & Ghosts by Cynthia D. Witherspoon
This is the first of four books in the Gods & Ghosts urban fantasy series. The other books are $2.99 each and the second and third are not in Kindle Unlimited but the fourth one is.
From Amira Loutfi:
In the first line, Eva Mcrayne writes “Elliott Lancaster is trying to kill me.” He has already succeeded in killing her once, but then the god Hermes allowed her to return to life. Eva’s biological father is the Olympian God Apollo. She has otherworldly powers and a trainer to help her figure them out. In spite of these seemingly powerful connections, Eva still works with the above-mentioned Elliott on a paranormal television program called Grave Messages.
She is going to work on a new filming project in North Carolina for a week, and her father, Apollo, wants her to live in a large estate with a bunch of other odd beings and students while shooting.
You might think I know all this because I read deeply into the book, but I didn’t. Instead, the prologue contains a huge infodump. That means that I know all this data about the story without knowing how it is relevant to the plot or why it is interesting.
The first chapter is a conversation between kids at the large estate in North Carolina where Eva will be staying. They are bored. Then they learn that Eva will be coming that day and the conversation starts to sound like another serving of infodump. The main point of this scene is just to let us know that there are three cute teenage kids staying at the estate with different reactions to the news. They are all going to travel together to the airport to pick her up. They are called “eleventh percenters.” I am not curious about what that means.
I won’t be back. There is too much infodumping and the pacing is very slow. Despite the drama in the infodumps, I’m not seeing much tension in this opening. It has been torture trying to get through the first chapter. Sorry, guys!
9. Between Ink and Shadows by Melissa Wright
This is the first of three books in the Between Ink and Shadows epic fantasy series. The other books are $3.99 each and are not in Kindle Unlimited. The third book is due out next month.
From Maria Korolov:
Nim was born to be a thief, indebted to a magical organization that has her tied to society’s dark underbelly. But she wants to get free.
Her father used to be high up in court society, close to the king himself, but got tangled up in a dark bargain that cost him his station and his freedom. But at least he didn’t get hanged, even if his daughter did end up with his debt.
In this world, magic is illegal, which means that it’s the criminals that use it. Nim herself is only human, but the criminal who holds her debt is one of the most powerful magic users. But the interest on the debt means that she’ll never be free. Her next task is to steal something from the king’s seneschal. It’s an impossible job. The seneschal was second to the king, and the man responsible for hanging those associated with magic. He’s the head of law and order in the country. But if she fails, she’ll lose what little freedom she does have.
I like Nim, I like the story, and am looking forward to reading further as she finds a way out of her predicament.
10. Outback Outbreak by Frank Tayell
This is the first of five books in the Life Goes On zombie apocalypse series. The other books are $3.99 each and are not in Kindle Unlimited.
From Marie Ginga:
Grobotnik, a police officer who is also a combat vet, civilian contractor, and mercenary, is brutally interrogating a man when his boss gives him a new assignment. He quickly murders his prisoner and considers framing the guy he just hired to gather a team for him. And that’s just the prologue.
Pete Guinn and Olivia Preston are friends who want to be more than friends and who work for a carpet store which was just bought out by a billionaire. The new owner plans to close the store for two weeks, send Pete for training, and then reopen it with Pete now promoted to district manager.
Except Pete doesn’t get sent for training. The billionaire wants him to go find his sister and convince her to run to the billionaire’s employ.
It’s a fast-paced story, which I really like. The characters are lively and relatable. I like it so far. I’ll continue with it.
Have you read any of these books? Are you planning to? Let us know in the comments!
Watch Maria and Amira discuss the books in the video below: