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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. Heir to the Crown by Paul J Bennett
This is the first two of eleven books in the Heir to Crown sword and sorcery fantasy series, plus a collection of related short stories. The other books are $0.99 to $5.99 each, and the eleventh book is currently available for pre-order and will be coming out this September. The series is not in Kindle Unlimited.
From Amira Loutfi:
I have gotten three chapters in and still I’m not seeing any magic or science fiction. There is one little plant that drugs the protagonist in the prologue, but I’m not sure that’s enough to make it a fantasy!
The prologue opens with a grim and dark mob attack. It was delightful if you enjoy grim dark like me! In the first few chapters, we follow Gerald Matheson throughout his childhood. First, raiders murder his parents, and he gets picked up by a couple of soldiers. He proves himself as a fast-thinking fighter and so becomes a soldier himself. As an adult, he is one of the leaders of the city watch.
So it’s actually pretty good if you are aching for more medieval action. I just haven’t gotten to the fantasy part so I don’t know what the magic is like.
I probably won’t be back because the writing isn’t as good as what I’m used to and it’s also not extremely exciting to make up for the mediocre writing. There are a lot of other things I gotta read!
2. Infinity: A Bridger’s Origin by Stan C. Smith
This is the origin story for the six-book Bridgers post apocalyptic series. The other books are $2.99 to $3.99 each and the entire series is in Kindle Unlimited. This isn’t the first time Stan C. Smith has been on this list, in April we reviewed his book Genesis Sequence.
From Alex Korolov:
If you’re into scifi stories about people travelling to alternate worlds, this book could be for you.
The story takes a little while to get going, but I think it’s worth the wait, especially if you like the idea of humans travelling to brand new realities to find out what exists on a world that could be very different from our own.
Safetrek Bridging is the first company to use a new technology to bridge people to different versions of earth that diverged in evolution from the world we know.
Passerina and Scottie are two struggling professional fighters who’ve just been recruited and are in training to be bridgers, the people whose job it is to protect a small of team of people that’s travelling to an alternate version of earth.
They find out on the first day of their training that their new job is a hard one — and can easily have deadly consequences.
I think the concept for the book is a cool one, and I’d definitely read the whole book. I read about a third of it in one sitting and I don’t plan on stopping.
3. Underneath by Robbie Dorman
This is a standalone book of horror and suspense by Robbie Dorman. The book is usually $4.99 but today it’s free, and it is in Kindle Unlimited.
From Maria Korolov:
A team of scientists go to Antarctica to uncover something creepy. I’ve seen this story before. I didn’t like it — I don’t like creepy suspenseful horror.
So I’m going to guess that the book is going to be too scary, and I’m not the target reader here. But I’ll give it a stab anyway.
Mary Jensen is looking for work, and an ex who works for the oil industry calls her up. He’s in Antarctica. Not drilling for oil, but still drilling — drilling through the ice. Their last medic walked off into the cold and died. And Mary’s a medic. She needs the work, and her transport was booked within the hour. They really needed somebody.
She’d never been to Antarctica before. The North Atlantic, yes. But not Antarctica. She flew from Chicago to Los Angeles, and, from there, to New Zealand, then got on a plane with a few other contractors headed to McMurdo Station.
From there, a helicopter was waiting for her to take her to Tau, a flight which would take a few hours.
The story starts slow with details of the trip.. But since I read the blurb — and saw the cover — I know that creepy stuff is coming. So I’m reading with a sense of foreboding.
She asks a fellow plane passenger, and then her helicopter pilot, about how common it is for people to just walk out onto the ice and freeze to death. They say that they haven’t seen that before, but caution against cabin fever.
Once she arrives, her first job is to help get the frozen body of the guy she’s replacing onto the helicopter so that it can be flown out.
The story is super readable. But, like I said, I’m slightly creeped out by the fact that I know something bad is going to happen. If you like this thing, I give this book a big thumbs up.
Me, I’m going to stop reading before it gives me nightmares.
4. Magic Inc. by Martha Carr and Michael Anderle
This is the first of eight books in The Evermores Chronicles cozy mystery series. The other books are $4.99 each and are in Kindle Unlimited. Martha Carr and Michael Anderle have been on this list before with their book we reviewed back in May, Return on the Raven.
From Maria Korolov:
Like the previous book, this one also starts with someone drilling down. Except in this case, the thing doing the drilling isn’t a research group but a talking mole. Accompanied by a gnome hired to break into a secret underground chamber and steal something valuable.
It’s a fun beginning and, of course, things don’t go as the gnome planned.
In fact, things go very very badly. So badly that all the people living in that world are now at risk.
Then, in the next chapter, the point of view switches to a different world, our world, where Fran, a computer programmer, is fired from her job. She’s not just a computer programmer, though. She’s also got some magical abilities.
Abilities which, I’m guessing, are going to come in handy for saving that first world, the one with the talking moles and the unlucky gnome.
This is a light, fun read. I’ve liked other books by Michael Anderle, and I can see myself finishing this one this weekend.
5. Guardian by W.J. May
This is the first of three books in the Royal Guard superhero fantasy series. The other books are $3.99 each and are not in Kindle Unlimited. This isn’t the first time W.J. May has been on this list. We reviewed The Kerrigan Kids in April 2021.
From Maria Korolov:
There’s a woman with a gun on the cover, and W. J. May is billed as a USA Today bestselling author. Both of these are very good signs, in my book.
We start out with Amber, who’s studying martials arts, and isn’t too good with a saber. Her instructor, though, says she will be able to beat him one day.
Amber just got accepted to Florida State. That means that she’ll be leaving her home town of Seattle to go to college, and her instructor, Stass, isn’t happy about that.
The reason he cares is that he raised her for the past eight years after he found her alone in the mountains. Amber doesn’t know who her parents are or anything about where she came from. It’s all a big blank in her memory.
On her way out for Thai food, she comes across an old man getting mugged. There’s no time to call for police. She throws herself into the situation to defend the old man. The mugger is bigger than her, and he seems to be winning when one of her kicks sends the bad guy flying ten feet away.
Even though she won the fight, Stass is annoyed with her for taking the risk.
When she comes home from school the next day, Stass’ sword is missing from the studio, and their apartment is a mess. There’s been a battle, or it was ransacked. Staff himself is bleeding, and Amber calls 911.
As Amber tries to keep pressure on the wound while she waits for paramedics to arrive, Stass tells her that he knew her parents, and that he promised her father that he’d protect her.
Then, at the hospital, someone who claims to be a friend of Stass shows up looking for her. He used to work with Stass back in his private security days. And, when the doctor tells her that Stass is dead, the supposed friend steps in to take care of her, since she’s not yet 18, and offers to handle all the arrangements.
Sounds suspicious to me. To Amber, too.
I might come back to this book, though I don’t normally like young adult novels.
6. Mountain Magic by Haley Weir
This is the complete box set of the four-book Mountain Magic paranormal romance series. These books are usually $0.99 each, but today they’re free. The entire series is in Kindle Unlimited. Haley Weir has been on this list before, in November 2021 we reviewed The Dragon’s Midlife Mate, another paranormal romance series.
From Maria Korolov:
I’m not a fan of romance books. I’m not a fan of shifter romance. I’m not a fan of books that have alpha males in them — the whole alpha and beta thing is a myth, people, that’s been completely debunked. And I’m not a fan of fated mates books.
So you could say that I’m not the target reader here. And you’d be right.
Plus, the book is told in the first person present tense. Not my favorite style.
Juniper has just bought a van, given up her high-rise Seattle apartment, and quit her morally-questionable though high-paying job. So she’s going to try the van life for a while.
Her first stop is out in the middle of a forest, where she sets up camp, and feels like she’s made the right decision. Until her generator decides not to start. She passed another campsite on her way, though. So she grabs a flashlight and starts walking in that direction.
Emmet is the first guy she comes across. We switch to his point of view for this chapter. He’s surprised to see someone so deep into the forest. He’s from a clan of bear shifters, and they’re not fond of humans.
And she asks him for help. She wants to live out in the woods, she tells him, but her generator is broken, she doesn’t know how to light a fire, and there’s a stove in her van but she doesn’t know how it works.
He goes with her and fixes her generator for her and she offers him a drink. When their fingers touch, he feels a shock. Something unusual is happening between them.
I bet I know what it is. And I’d rather not go there, thank you very much!
But if you’re into woman-on-bear action, this is your lucky day.
7. Tristan by Jennie Lynn Roberts
This is the first of four books in The Hawks romantic fantasy series. The other books are $2.99 each and the entire series in Kindle Unlimited.
From Maria Korolov:
Tristan has just been promoted to captain of the palace guards, and his friend Val is now in princess Alanna’s personal guard. Val is the beloved oldest son of an important father. Tristan is the unwanted only child of a minor baron. But they were friends. Though their friendship had been strained lately.
Oh, and Val has wings, and Tristan has an inner beast.
They’re accompanying the princess and the king to some secret political meeting when their whole party is ambushed, the king assassinated, Val gets the princess away from the battle, and they disappear.
But the arrows fired by the attackers have markings on them — they belong to princess Alanna’s people. Tristan is convinced that Allana lured them all into a trap.
Prince Ballanor, Alanna’s husband, who had decided against coming to the meeting, is now king.
Ballanor says that the princess has already been captured, as was Val. They were in it together, he says. Now they’ll go to war against Alanna’s people. Which was what Ballanor has been arguing for all along.
And Tristan is going to be shipped away. After all, he let the king die. And he was friends with the traitor Val. It’s not like anyone could trust him anymore, either.
Next we switch to the point of view of Nim. A young woman, flying away from pursuers with a wounded wing. She’s carrying Tristan’s ring. She had loved him once.
Back to Tristan. It’s weeks later. His original two-hundred-strong company is now down to a squad of just eight men, and they’re hunting poachers out in the middle of nowhere. He’s even grown a beard.
Then he gets new orders. His position can be restored, if he can hunt down and bring back a traitor who helped Val betray their country — Nim, Val’s little sister.
It’s a great beginning. The story pulled me right in, and I’m having trouble putting this books down. Plus, the rest of the series is in Kindle Unlimited. The odds are very good that I’ll be reading more of it this weekend.
8. Heart of Thorns by Leigh Kelsey
Th is the second of five books in the Fae of The Saintlands metaphysical fantasy series. The other books are $3.99 to $4.99 each. The fifth book is currently available for pre-order and will be coming out Jul. 6, 2023.
From Amira Loutfi:
We’re not going to review the second book in the series, because we don’t want to give away any spoilers for people who haven’t read the first book yet. If you’ve read the first book, you probably already know whether you like the author and want to read the second book or not.
Meanwhile, here’s my review of the first book, Heir of Ruin.
I predict the protagonist will have a bland personality.
Maia’s aunt Ismene is the queen of the Vassal empire and has been using her magical abilities to crush all opposition to her reign. That seems fine, except that Queen Ismene is cruel and hateful. Maia finally takes a stand against her when commanded to kill a prince. She flees her aunt and winds up in the company of the sapphire knight Azrail and his gang, a crew known for upending the crown’s plans.
The first scene is excellent. Azrail, a mildly powerful fae who burns for revenge against the crown, is attending the execution of an eight-year-old girl in the city square. He and his friends had been up all night preparing to disrupt it and rescue the kid. I don’t want to spoil the scene, since I enjoyed it so much.
There is a type of magic in this world called saintslight, which is powered by saints. Azrail can use earth magic, which sounds a lot like bending in Avatar the Last Air Bender. Another of his friends can shoot gold — or something that looks like gold — like a whip out of her hands. The ruling family of the Vassal empire has wings they hide with magic. And Maia has the ability to crawl inside others’ minds and drive them crazy.
The fighting sounds exciting, but I don’t think I’m particularly interested in any of the characters just yet. And the tone is a bit serious.
I recommend this book for anyone who likes high fantasy, magic systems used in fighting, and romance. I haven’t gotten to the romantic part yet, but the authors promises that there will be a slow-burn romance and that it will be fantastic.
I’m not coming back, though.
9. Destined to Run by J. Kearston
This is the second of six books in the A Shifting Society urban fantasy series. The first and second books are both free today and the other books in the series are $3.99 each. The entire series is in Kindle Unlimited.
From Maria Korolov:
I didn’t realize that this was the second book in the series when I started doing the review, or I would have gone back to the first book, Destined to Hide, which is also free today. But I was able to follow the story well enough, anyway.
Rin — short for Karina — is a 23-year-old, living at home with her father, in a future world where most of the top predator animal species are extinct. Since nature abhors a vacuum, new predators have appeared to take their place — vampires, mages, and shape shifters. Many people don’t take kindly to them. Rin herself lives in a nice neighborhood where shifters don’t come.
Until one night an ocelot, fleeing pursuit, runs up a tree and jumps into her bedroom window. She hides it from her father and tends its wounds.
Rin is waiting for the housing prices to improve before she can move out, which sounds relatable. But she also seems extremely dependent on her father for money. To explain away the blood on her clothes and carpet, she tells her dad that she had a bad period, and he gives her his credit card so that she can go and buy new bedsheets. And he warns her not too go too far, or to call for an escort if she does, because he’s worried about her safety.
So now she’s going to try to keep an ocelot alive, which is against the law, while keeping it hidden from her father and the housekeepers, until it heals enough to shift. Plus, she’s got annoying acquaintances to fend off.
As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not the target audience for young adult novels, and Rin’s problems don’t seem particularly urgent to me. The book is very readable, but it starts out a little too slowly for me.
If it’s your thing, I suggest that you start with the first book in the series, Destined to Hide.
10. Her Captive Wolf by Kristen Strassel
This is the first of six books in the Sawtooth Shifters paranormal romance series. The other books are $3.99 each and the series is not in Kindle Unlimited.
From Maria Korolov:
Shadow is a werewolf. He and the other wolves in his pack — and the wolves in a neighboring pack — have been captured by a guy named Ryker who wants them to fight in dog fights. He keeps them chained up, away from the moon, under fed. The female wolves have been sold off to the highest bidder. It’s been six months, and the wolves are in bad shape. Now another fight is scheduled, and Ryker is going to set the weakest wolf from his pack against one of the strongest one from the other pack.
The winner is promised his freedom, so the other wolf is highly motivated. Though its doubtful that Ryker is going to keep that promise.
In the next chapter, we meet Trina, who runs a no-kill animal shelter. She’s heard about the dog fights, but it’s taken her time to get enough people together. Now she’s in the audience at the dog fight, together with some cops from a nearby town. They’re waiting for the fight to start so that they can get Ryker in the middle of his crime.
She saves the smallest dog. The big one gets away, And they’re able to rescue the others.
When the vet comes the next day, she finds out that they’re not dogs, but wolves.
In this world, the female wolves all get sold off. At first I thought it was because they’d been captured by the bad guy, but apparently that happens to all of them. I don’t understand the dynamics of this society. Anyway, Shadow falls in love with the Trina, the woman who rescued him, and decides she’s going to be his mate.
After a week at the shelter, they’re healed up well. But in another week, it will be the full moon. And they’ll all turn human. Meanwhile, Ryker’s men have attacked the animal shelter, breaking the windows, and some of the local residents are mad at Trina for stopping the dog fights.
The story is readable, and I could see myself sticking with it if it was my kind of thing.
Have you read any of these books? Are you planning to? Let us know in the comments!
And watch Maria talk about all ten books in the video below: