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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. 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. Dying Suns by Lou Schreiber
This is the second book of two in the Xeno-Archeology space exploration series. The first book is $2.99, but both books are in Kindle Unlimited.
From Maria Korolov:
Since Dying Suns is the second book in the series, and the first book is in Kindle Unlimited, I decided to read that one, instead. It’s called The Ruins of Acheron and it begins with Captain Maron and his battleship, the Vanguard, dropping back into realspace in the outer belt of the Acheron system at the edge of known space.
The planet itself has been recently scouted by a drone, so he already knows its uninhabited, with no atmosphere or signs of life. A dead rock floating in space.
He can see clouds.
He goes to talk to the man in charge of the whole mission, a director with the Scientific Society, who seems to have expected this and wants a shuttle and security detail so that he can his assistant can go down to the surface. Apparently, there’s some politics involved that resulted in the actual data about the planet being kept secret from everyone, including Captain Maron. And the reason for the secrecy? There are alien runs on the planet. Signs of alien cultures have been discovered before, but they’ve all belonged to extinct species. These ruins may also belong to a dead civilization — and may also hold to answer to the biggest question of them all — what killed all the aliens?
The scientists and the security team head down to the planet. What do they find?
We don’t know, because the next chapter takes place on a totally different system. A xenoarcheology professor is giving a lecture at the ruins of the first alien civilization that humanity discovered. After the lecture is over, he gets a message — a powerful woman wants to meet him. She tells him that the Vanguard hasn’t been heard from in two weeks. She wants to claim the planet for her family, and she wants the professor to lead the expedition. It’s the last thing he wants to do, but he doesn’t have a choice.
I like the premise of this book, and it moves at a good pace. In fact, my only complaint about the writing so far is that the author uses the word “smirk.” I hate that word. I just ran a search and it shows up six times in the book.
I’m curious about what happened to the Vanguard — and what mess the professor is going to wind up in. There’s a good chance that I’ll continue reading this book this weekend.
9. Matched to Xycho by C. Y. Croc
This is the first of five books in the Monster Match fantasy romance series. The other books are $0.99 to $4.99 each, and the entire series is in Kindle Unlimited.
From Maria Korolov:
I’m not looking forward to this book. I can tell, right from the cover, that there’s going to be sex with monsters in it. Then, on the first page, there’s an author’s note warning about non-consensual activities and post-traumatic stress disorder.
It sounds absolutely horrible. But, also — I admit I’m a little intrigued.
Okay, so the book starts out with Vivienne, who’s signed up for the intergalactic space station dating app because she wants a better job. Apparently, the company she works for makes it compulsory because they don’t their employees to go crazy in space out of loneliness. Her match looks like a giant purple demon.
She can go back home to her over-populated planet with few job prospects and where her ex is hanging around. She can stay in her current job, where’s she’s totally bored. Or she can get a new job running a whole spacestation, where she’d get to meet new and exciting alien species and get a great boost to her resume when her five year stint is up. She decides to accept the job, and to go on dates with the monster — but she definitely has no plans of sleeping with him. No matter how good the app is at matching people.
I like Vivienne quite a bit. She’s tough, she doesn’t take any guff from anybody, she knows what she wants and she goes after it.
Then we switch to the alien’s point of view. His name is Xycho and he’s some kind of decorated warrior. He plans to stay as far away from Vivienne as he can. In fact, he’s already got a plan, where she’ll have half the space station and he’ll take the other half. Unfortunately, the only two livable cabins are right next to each other. Then he gets lost on the way to meeting Vivienne’s shuttle and the two of them wind up running into each other in the hallway. Literally running into each other.
And I like him, too. Darn it.
This book is shaping up into a fun, sexy bit of fluff.
8. Erasing Time by C. J. Hill
This is the first of two books in the Erasing Time time travel romance series. The sequel is $2.99, and both books are in Kindle Unlimited.
From Maria Korolov:
I’m not a fan of time-travel romance books. Well, except for Outlander. But who isn’t a fan of that one? I haven’t liked most of the other books in the genre, though. Well, except for Kage Baker’s The Company books. Those were pretty awesome.
But anyway, moving on.
We start in what seems to be a few centuries in the future. Cities are now covered by domes, there was a war with Chicago, people get their memories wiped if they annoy the government. Denver was destroyed in the twenty-third century.
And a guy named Echo is planning treason — and is planning his escape from the city where he lives. But before he can get away, a couple of enforcers come to get him. But they take him to a science lab, where the agency where he works is planning to use a new invention to grab some physicist out of the past. Echo thinks that this is going to turn out badly, and hopes the machine doesn’t work.
Then, in the next chapter, we meet Sheridan, a high school senior having problems with physics. Her twin sister is tutoring her. Her sister graduated from school early, very early, and is now a physics doctoral student.
While the girls are bickering a ball of light appears in the room and swallows them both up.
Sheridan and her sister wake up floating in the air, with strange men standing on the other side of a glass wall, staring at them. She doesn’t understand what they’re saying. Then one of the men steps forward and translates.
Echo can understand them as well — he’s some kind of historian — and tells them that they’re there by accident, that the machine didn’t work like it was supposed to.
We also learn that this is a one-way trip. And, also, Sheridan thinks that Echo is cute and Echo promises to protect her. Oh, and that the future is a dystopian authoritarian state.
I’m getting a feeling that this book is less like Outlander and more like The Hunger Games or Divergent — a dystopian young adult story. I don’t like young adults or dystopias. The teenage drama annoys me and the dystopian future depresses me, so I’m really not the target reader here.
But if you are — and plenty of people do like those books — this is an interesting twist on that basic premise.
7. Outback Spirit by Nicole R Taylor
This is the first of five books in the Australian Supernatural: Origins urban fantasy series. The other books in the series are $4.99 each, and the series is not in Kindle Unlimited. Nicole R. Taylor has been on this list before. We reviewed her books Arcane Rising in June, 2021, Beyond the Veil in December 2021, Wolf Called last June, and The Witch Hunter last August. And this book has also been on our list before — we previously reviewed it last November.
From Maria Korolov:
Eloise is traveling through outback Australia in a motorhome when it breaks down a few miles outside of a small town in the middle of nowhere. She’s able to get the engine started again, and the motorhome barely makes it to the town, where a mechanic tells her that she’s got a blown head gasket. It’s going to take time to order the part, and, with labor, it will take a couple of thousand dollars to fix it. She parks her motorhome at the mechanic’s and settles in to wait for the part.
Then we switch to the point of view of Kyne, who’s working on a seam of opal in a mine outside of Solace. He needs to go back to town for equipment. He goes to see the same mechanic where Eloise is now parked. The mechanic suggests that Eloise could use Kyne’s help, but Kyne just wants to borrow a jackhammer and be back on his way again.
In the next chapter, Eloise walks across the road to the pub, and when she steps on the white line in the middle of the highway, a tremor goes through her body. We find out that she’s been traveling all over the country in order to find out what she is — and that if she accidentally touches anyone, it makes them hate her.
She goes into the bar, and asks about work. Maybe bar tending, helping in the kitchen. They don’t need anyone. So she asks about helping the region’s opal miners and gets shut down. Then a woman, Vera, comes up to her. She runs a local shop, which also doubles as the post office, bank, and pharmacy. And she reads palms. She offers to read Eloise’s, but Eloise pulls her hands back, and runs out.
Then we switch to Vera’s point of view. She wanted to touch Eloise so that she could get a vision about her. She’s curious about what pulled her to the town.
It seems that there a lot of magical folks in the area. And I also get the sense that most of them are nice. Gruff sometimes, but nice. Eloise should open up to them more.
It’s an easy read and the local flavor of the Australian outback is very appealing. I might stick with it.
6. Starship Freedom by Daniel Arenson
This is the first of eight books in the Starship Freedom science fiction adventure series. The other books are $0.99 to $5.99 each, but are all in Kindle Unlimited. Daniel Arenson has been on this list before. We reviewed his book, Earth Alone, back in October of this year. And his Kingdoms of Sand epic fantasy box set was just on this very top ten list for three weeks in a row. This book has also been on our list before — we previously reviewed it this past February.
From N.T. Narbutovskih:
Starship Freedom is a horror-mashup that claims the lineage of Battlestar Galactica and Starship Troopers. An alien menace threatens to destroy humanity, and it’s only the crew of a derelict, decommissioned warship who can save the day.
James King is the commander of the Freedom, a ship that has long since been decommissioned. It’s now a living museum, complete with airshows and a gift shop. But when the aliens attack, they leave only the Freedom untouched, viewing it as little threat. King rallies his crew and prepares to take the fight to the enemy, despite overwhelming odds and a technology gap that will make his job that much more difficult.
Arenson pens all the gory glory of the Starship Troopers movie franchise while avoiding the finer points of the novel of the same name. His aliens are insectile, intelligent, and ruthless, while his heroes are larger-than-life and full of color. Unapologetically fast-paced, Starship Freedom still tosses in introspective moments that add a bit of flavor to the archetypes of his characters.
While the story is sound and the pacing decent, the overall prose tends towards the melodramatic. Arenson attempts to create a sense of terror and foreboding during the opening pages, however, the build-up is rushed, and I found myself growing bored with the many descriptions of how scared the character was. Additionally, the characters lacked the type of detail and nuance that would set them apart from caricatures, and the dialogue is stilted and awkward. This, along with the implausible layout of nations and power 200 years in the future, means that I personally won’t be continuing the book.
If you’re looking for a quick read that’s part horror and part low-threat military sci-fi, then you might enjoy Starship Freedom, which has five more books available after this first installment.
5. Karin’s Cloak by Robert Roth
This is the first of three books in The Mists of Cala fantasy series. The other books are $3.99 each. The first and second book are in Kindle Unlimited, but the third is not.
From Alex Korolov:
The book starts off with an action-packed battle. In the prologue, Prime Mage Emeric is leading a group of wizards in a battle against some green dragons and the men who ride them. His wizards are trying to repel dragon flame, and Emeric has to battle Gragon, who wields powerful under-magic from the dark land. Emeric sets off a powerful spell that teleports his magical staff a thousand miles away, but also blows up the entire citadel that Emeric and his mages are defending, leaving only a smoking crater.
After the prologue, we meet Sefen, who’s just returned home to his village and wife. He’s just returned from a meeting with other villages, who are preparing to resist the increased demand for food and resources that the governing magedom of Brandyn is placing on them. Sefen also catches up with his two children, who are getting close to entering their teenage years.
After hanging out with his family for a couple of days, Sefen leaves town to meet up with two friends — one a warrior and the other a scholar — who are going with him to petition the magedom not to demand too much from all the towns and villages. As they prepare to travel, a strong wind overtakes them, scares off their horses, and they hear howling. The three adventurers have to hide in some trees, where they have to fend off wolves that are climbing to attack them. One of them is injured when his leg is bit by a wolf, but they all make it through the attack. They go to find their horses, but unfortunately the wolves ate one of them, though the other two return.
The three set up camp for the night. Sefen’s on watch, when some kind of magical underwolf comes up to them. At the same time, a young wizard shows up and says he can hold off the creature for a while, but they have to make a run for it. Instead, they make battle, and Sefen kills the underwolf with his sword. His sword was a gift from his master, and it’s at this moment he realizes it’s a very special weapon, as no regular blade can kill an underwolf.
The author does a good job at setting an exciting pace for this story, and I’m also curious to discover more about this fantastical world and the dangerous beasts that inhabit it. It’s a fun read, and I definitely plan to keep going.
4. Under Falling Skies by Kate MacLeod
This is the first of six books in The Travels of Scout Shannon science fiction series. The other books are $4.99 each. The series is not in Kindle Unlimited.
From Sophie Gorjance:
Sixteen-year-old Scout makes a living for herself and her two dogs by running messages and packages between two of the largest cities on the planet her people have colonized.
In the opening chapters, she and the dogs are in the farmland between cities where they encounter a mysterious woman who calls herself Warrior and hints at a much wider universe than Scout currently understands. When they are alerted to a coronal mass ejection — an alarmingly common occurrence on this world, apparently — Scout and Warrior help each other find shelter, and from there, it’s off to the races.
The writing is fast-paced and engaging, and exposition is provided environmentally rather than giving us the ol’ info dump. Scout is an interesting character, and shows promise of becoming a grounded, relatable protagonist in what is shaping up to be a highly entertaining sci fi adventure. There are a few scientific aspects that make me go “is that really how that would work?” but I can already tell that listening to that little voice will not improve my reading experience, and it’s very possible that reading further will explain some of that stuff anyway.
If you like space adventures, characters who make sensible choices — at least thus far, I can’t speak for the whole book — dogs, or all of the above, I’d suggest giving this a read! I would love to come back to this and see where it goes after I finish the book I’m already in the middle of.
3. Genesis Code by Eliza Green
This is the first of eight books in the Genesis series. The other books are $4.10 to $5.99 each, and the series is not in Kindle Unlimited. This is the third time this book has been on our top ten list. We previously reviewed it in August of 2022.
From Maria Korolov:
The series is set in a future where Earth is governed by a repressive corporation called World Government, and hard-boiled investigator Bill Taggart is off in space looking for a so-called criminal alien race called the Indigenes, who may also have kidnapped his wife.
The guy drinks a lot of coffee, which I sympathize with. But in most other ways, I’m not a fan of the character. He’s bad at corporate politics, he’s judgmental, he takes pills so he doesn’t have to sleep, and he’s on the wrong side — humans have nearly destroyed Earth and are now colonizing a new planet and trying to kill off the native inhabitants. That puts the guy in a lot of difficult positions simultaneously — in his personal life, in his job, and when it comes to the biggest picture of human survival.
It’s a little depressing, to be honest. And this past year has been bad enough. I want a little light escapism in my reading these days. So I personally stopped reading before I got too far into it.
But if your idea of escapism is reading about people who are suffering worse than you — or, at least, suffering in different ways — then check this book out.
2. Perfect Pending by Lucia Ashta
This is the first of seven books in the Witches of Gales Haven urban fantasy series. The other books in the series are $2.99 to $5.99 each, but the entire series is in Kindle Unlimited. The seventh book is currently available for pre-order and will be coming out August 17, 2023. Lucia Ashta has been on this list before. We reviewed her book Magic Awakens last October.
From Maria Korolov:
I love cozy magical mysteries and the cover is certainly giving off a cozy magical vibe. Will there be a mystery?
Marla is fresh out of divorce court and is driving back to her home town for the first time in nine years with her two teenage children in the back seat. She has magical powers, and it time for her daughter to learn to use her magic as well — and her son will be coming into his magic soon after. She wants to have her aunts around to help out. They’re the real magic experts.
Her home town, Gales Haven, is full of magic users, and there’s a magic shield around the town keeping non-magical people from coming in. Fortunately, it lets both of her kids through.
Oh, and Marla’s old crush is still living in town.
But there’s political drama in town. One angry witch is convinced that the magic shield is fading — and wants a seat on the town council because her family is the sixth most powerful in town. Currently, the council is composed of representative of five families.
The council teleports to the edge of town to check on the shield spell, and it’s been weakened. Something has gone wrong, and it’s recent. Like, the past few hours recent. Like, maybe Marla or her kids have something to do with it.
I’m really enjoying the book so far, the setting, and the quirky characters that inhabit this town. I’ll definitely be finishing it this weekend. In fact, I’m on the tenth chapter already and am having a hard time pulling myself away to go back to my day job.
1. The Frozen Flame by Paul J Bennett
This is a box set of the first three of eight books in The Frozen Flame sword and sorcery fantasy series. individually these and the other books are $0.99 to $4.99 each. The series is not in Kindle Unlimited. This author has been on our list before, we reviewed his series Heir to the Crown back in July of 2022.
Ashes, the first book in this boxed set, takes place in a rich fantasy world full of magic, powerful mages and very unlikely allies. First, we meet a group of orcs who stumble upon the destruction of a human village. At first, they’re not sure what to do or what this could mean, but once the raiders are gone and they go looking for survivors, they end up finding Athgar, one of their closest human friends and traders.
They end up breaking the rules and bringing him back to their orc village only to discover that the fire spark runs through his veins. This means that he could become a powerful fire mage with if he gets the proper training. And after losing his village in such a traumatic way, he’s more than ready to learn how to control his new-found powers as long as they help him find the survivors that were taken away and avenge those that died.
Then, we’re introduced to Natalia, a powerful water mage that got recruited into a fancy school for powerful magic users when she was only ten years old. Ten years later, she has finally become a Stormwind and is more than ready to continue her training as a battle mage, but will she be able to do it when the price to pay is her freedom?
Personally, I wasn’t a big fan of the pace of the story. I feel like the beginning was a little too slow for my liking but besides that, the story was pretty good. I loved how we’re able to see the point of view of orcs at the beginning and how they eventually connect to the main characters. But let’s just say that what I read today wasn’t enough to keep me interested in the story or help me connect with at least one of the main characters. Still, I’d definitely recommend this for fans of high fantasy books with multiple points of view where the stakes are high and magic is everywhere.
Have you read any of these books? Are you planning to? Let us know in the comments!
And watch Maria and Sophie discuss all ten books in the video below: