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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 and publishers 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 Free Friday videos — email me at [email protected].
10. Dark Fangs Rising by C. Thomas Lafollette
This is the first of nine books in Luke Irontree & The Last Vampire War urban fantasy series. The other books are $4.99 each, and the series is not in Kindle Unlimited. This is the first time the author has been on our list.
From Maria Korolov:
The cover does have an epic fantasy feel, but I’m a fan of epic fantasy as well. So either way, actually, I’m good.
The story begins with Luke sensing a vampire. The vampire, in turn, is about to victimize a poor woman when Luke interrupts him.
Luke is wearing a baggy black hoodie and jeans, so I guess this is set in the modern day. But he’s carrying a sword, and there’s that vampire thing, so it’s urban fantasy.
But wait, Luke’s got it all wrong. It’s not the man who’s the vampire, it’s the woman. Luke pretends to be a slightly drunk lost tourist and asks her for directions. As she attacks him, he pulls out his sword, cuts off both her arms, and stabs her through the heart with a magic wooden blade that kills her and turns her whole body into goo.
Luke puts the would-be victim into a cab and heads home, where his cat is waiting for him.
And we get some backstory. Luke lives in Portland, where he moved sixty years ago because he wanted to avoid vampires. But they keep showing up — and his duty is to kill them when they do. Also, he’s nearly two thousand years old.
In the next chapter, it’s a day later and Luke heads out for dinner and a beer at his local watering hole. His food arrives at the same time as three undead creeps and start looking for victims. Eventually, they single out three women and hypnotize them into leaving with them. Luke follows them into the alley behind the bar, and Pablo, a bartender, also comes out with him, even though Luke tells him not to.
As Luke start chopping off vampire heads, Pablo grows fur and fangs. The two of them mop up the vampires and head back into the bar.
Turns out, Luke knows that shifters exist, but not that Luke was one. And Pablo has no idea that vampire hunters exist. We learn that Luke is human, and was born in Rome in 86 A.D. He was a soldier in the Roman legions and killed his first vampire then.
Then we see Luke arriving at Pablo’s house, holding a bottle of wine. He’s there to meet the rest of Pablo’s pack. I like the fact that the leader of the pack is a woman, and a lesbian. Plus, Pablo himself is gay. I like that. I’m a little tired of all the macho, he-man types of shapeshifters we normally see on the bestseller lists. And we get more backstory. Turns out that the werewolves didn’t know about Luke all this time because he normally leads a pretty boring human life. It’s only recently that the vampires have showed up and forced him out of retirement.
A tree comes down in the street, taking out power, due to some heavy wind, and everyone decides to stay over as Pablo and his husband get candles and light a fire. It’s the first time Luke has spent this much time around people in a very long time.
Meanwhile, the vampire attacks are increasing. There must be a lot of them around — Luke will need to track them to their source. Until he can, he’s just out patrolling, taking out every vampire he can. He’s tracking one vampire and his victim when six others jump out at him. It’s an ambush. To his surprise, the vampire’s victim get into the action, and stakes one of the vampires, then helps Luke fight the others. After the battle, she introduces herself as Delilah and they make plans to meet up at Pablo’s bar the next night.
At the bar, she tells Luke that’s been in town for three weeks, hunting vampires, and she let one get away. That must have been why the vampires set up the ambush — they knew who she was. She suggests to Luke that they team up, but he turns down the offer. He doesn’t want the responsibility, and he doesn’t want to see her get killed now that the vampires know who she is. He suggests that she leave town.
Then a whole army of vampires ambushes Luke. The only reason he survives at all is that they want him alive, to take him back to their leader.
The writing flows smoothly, and the pacing is great. The characters all come off as a little bland, but they’re likable enough, and the story is compelling and sucks you in. Plus, there’s vampires, werewolves, vampire hunters, and plenty of action. I’d stick with it if the rest of the book were in Kindle Unlimited — and if I wasn’t currently in the middle of another series.
9. Crimson Sun by SK Prince and Sara Thorn
This is the second of three books in the Blood & Shadows paranormal romance series. The other books are $4.99 each, but they’re both in Kindle Unlimited. This is the first time the authors have been on our list.
From Maria Korolov:
As soon as I started reading this book, it was clear that it was picking up in the middle of the story. Luckily, the first book in the series — Crimson Night — is in Kindle Unlimited, so I decided to read that one, instead.
Scarlett’s mother was killed by a monster 17 years ago, right before her eyes, when she was still a child. She still remembers it vividly, as if it just happened. And ever since that day, she’s wanted to make the monsters pay.
Today, Scarlett is a cop in New York City’s Hell Kitchen, where the vampires now rule the night. They went public a few years prior, and a special task force was created to hunt down those vampires who broke the rules. It’s called the Paranormal Task Force, and Scarlett is a lieutenant on it. She gets to hunt down the worst of the worst, and carries a bunch of cool weapons that can take down or kill vampires.
The story starts with her and her team headed to a hostage situation.
I like the police procedural aspects here. Scarlett is a capable commander, her team knows what they’re doing, they’re efficient and thorough and get the job done well.
The style of writing, the pacing, the action reminds me of the Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter books — the early ones, where Anita was still hunting vampires and not so busy dealing with her boyfriends’ personal dramas that she had hardly any time to kill anyone. Men, amirite?
Anyway, back to the book.
The twist here is that two of the hostages are other vampires — the good kind. Or, at least, the kind who are pretending to be good.
But there’s even more to the situation that makes it unusual, so Scarlett decides to investigate. Seems that something weird is happening with the city’s vampires.
Then we switch to the point of view of Draven. He’s a vampire, and he’s recently arrived to New York to investigate why vampires are disappearing, or going mad and attacking humans — and other vampires. It seems that there’s a new type of predator around, and vampires are its prey.
Because of the change in point of view — and because it says so, right in the description — I know that there’s a romance coming between these two characters. That’s a bit of a downer. I hate the mushy stuff.
But Scarlett is pretty hard-boiled. I can tolerate a little romance if there’s a lot of killing to make up for it. And this book promises to offer that in spades. I’m going to stick with it.
8. Something by Dakota Krout
This is the first of three books in the Full Murderhobo fantasy series. The other books are $5.99 each, but they’re both in Kindle Unlimited. This is the first time the author has been on our list.
From Maria Korolov:
The story starts in a tavern, where a bard named Zed is trading storytelling for food and lodging. And the story he’s going to tell is that of Luke, the Muderhobo — and why their whole civilization is about to end.
That was the prequel.
In chapter one, we meet Luke. He’s a leatherworker who lives in the Hollow Kingdom. A war has just broken out, and the kingdom is looking for conscripts. Luke’s village is the site of new keep that’s being built, and business is good. Luke’s father, mother, and his sisters are all put to work making new boots for the army.
The only downside of all this is that army needs conscripts. Both regular soldiers and magical ones. And they’re testing everyone for magical abilities. Luke turns out to have them. So do two of his friends.
I also like the fact that the series is in Kindle Unlimited. I’ll probably be sticking with it.
7. Greenwood Cove by Celia Roman
This is the first of five books in the Sunshine Walkingstick urban fantasy series. The other books are $2.99 to $4.99 and are not in Kindle Unlimited. This isn’t the first time the book has been on our list. We previously reviewed it in October of 2021.
From Amira Loutfi:
This book doesn’t seem to have actual graphic scenes in it, but the narration is pretty lewd. It’s about a hillbilly monster hunter in a small town who is grumpy about things that happened in high school.
Something called a pooka took Sunny’s son when he was a baby. Google says that a pooka is a Celtic demon. That is what got her into the monster-hunting business. That and her parents — she had learned how to track from her father and how to kill from her mother. Oh yeah, and her mother killed her father and is in prison now.
The writing style is also a bit confusing. The point of view character uses several terms I’m unsure of … and she sounds like a hillbilly.
I don’t like it when the characters just start lusting after each other senselessly. And that is happening here in this story. The protagonist is sitting across from Riley, a man that she had been close to when they were children. He has a reputation with the women of the town for being really hot.
Riley is trying to hire her to take out a monster that is bothering his ex-girlfriend. Even though Sunny needs the money, she refuses because she is holding a grudge against her. A grudge that started back in high school.
I feel that the characters are pretty well-developed. Sunny still feels inferior to Riley and his girlfriends, so in a sense, she is stuck in the past. She also thinks about her son a lot — which is understandable. But this grudge! Like ugh. Let it go, Sunny! Just do your job and take the money!
So, if you can get past the lewdness and the confusing language, then you will be able to enjoy this story. It’s pretty believable to me. All the parts fall together nicely.
I won’t be back though.
6. The Umbra King by Jamie Applegate Hunter
This is the first of two books in the Vincula Realm fantasy romance series. The other book in this completed series is also free today. This is the first time the author has been on our list.
This book starts out with a list of content warnings.
If you’re into dark books and can handle the main character being hell-bent on revenge and becoming a serial killer for it, I definitely recommend this. But if you can’t handle graphic descriptions of violence and death, maybe don’t.
Now that that small warning is out of the way, let’s talk about the book.
At the beginning, there’s a guide of the world and the different kinds of mystics that inhabit it, which is actually great for these kinds of books.
During the first few chapters, we’re introduced to Rory, our twenty-five year old main character who is a fae. She is light on her feet and stronger and faster than other mystics, and she can also see the color of people’s souls whenever she comes close to them. The colors of their souls vary between shades of pink, purple, white, gray and black.
This whole soul thing is interesting because it’s the only time that Rory is able to see color, since she was born with a rare condition that gave her gray-scale sight. Which means she only sees the world in shades of black, white and gray, and so did her twin sister Cora — but Cora was murdered years ago by a mysterious man known as Bane, who is a Merrow — a mystical whose ability is to steal souls.
Ever since, Rory has kept a low profile — during the day, at least. She secretly spends her nights as a serial killer or a vigilante or however you want to call it.
She kills people with black souls to protect other people on the streets, but let’s just say that not everyone sees it like that.
None of her friends know about it and the tension and stakes in the world only get higher as Rory ends up meeting and interrogating one of the men who killed her sister.
Overall, the story that comes to life in this book is pretty dark but it’s also fascinating.
I love the different types of mystics that we get to meet, how we get to learn about their abilities, their souls and how they work as a society. I really can’t wait to continue reading this and I’m dying to know more about what will happen next when Rory gets caught for her murders and is sent to the Umbra realm, which is like a prison.
I definitely recommend this if you like dark urban fantasy books and don’t mind the violence.
5. Aeternum by Jamie Applegate Hunter
This is the second of two books in the Vincula Realm fantasy romance series. The other book in this completed series is also free today. This is the first time the author has been on our list.
From Maria Korolov:
This is the sequel to the The Umbra King, so if you liked that one, you should pick this one up as well while it’s free. According to the description, it’s not meant to be read as a standalone, and I don’t want to give away the plot and spoil it for you guys, so we won’t be reading the first chapters and reviewing them.
Instead, I’m going to tell you a little bit about the Realms of Aether multiverse, where these stories are set. The author has other books set in the same universe, including the standalone book Silenced Fate, which is in Kindle Unlimited. It’s a retelling of the Little Mermaid story. The author recommends reading that book after finishing the two Vincula Realm novels and warns that it’s not suitable for people under 18 due to mature language and situations. I guess that means that there will be sexy times in the book.
There’s also the Royals of Rodina trilogy that’s also set in the same universe, and also in Kindle Unlimited. Each of the books has hundreds of good reviews, and the first book has more than 900. So people like it. Nonetheless, the author plans to take them all down later this year for some major rewrites.
I guess she feels like she can do better. I guess I can see it — The Umbra King has more than 2,000 positive reviews, and the sequel, Aeternum, has more than 800. The number of reviews typically drops with subsequent books because people probably don’t want to repeat what they said previously, so the fact that the first book has more reviews than the sequels is not necessarily a bad sign.
4. Cupcakes, Trinkets, and Other Deadly Magic by Meghan Ciana Doidge
This is the first of nine books in the Dowser cozy magical mystery series. The other books are $4.99 to $5.99 each, and the series is not in Kindle Unlimited. The author has been on our list before. We previously reviewed this book in February of 2022. And, this past April, we reviewed I See Me, the first of three books in the related Oracle paranormal romance series.
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.
3. The Irish End Games by Susan Kiernan-Lewis
This is a box set of the first three books in the 12-book post-apocalyptic series The Irish End Games. The other books are $3.99 to $4.99 each, and the series is not in Kindle Unlimited. This is the first time the author has been on our list.
From Maria Korolov:
I’m not the target reader for this book — I’m not a fan of post-apocalyptic stories. Unfortunately, our regular apocalypse guy isn’t available today, so this one’s on me.
The story starts with an American family on vacation in Ireland. Mom, Dad, and a ten-year-old son. They’re trying to reconnect, and so left their electronics at home.
But instead of the cottage they expected, what they find is something much smaller, and with only one bed. On the plus side, it’s got a barn and horses. They decide to make the best of it.
In the morning, the son turns on the TV, and notices that something is wrong. The parents send him outside to play and watch the news. There’s been a series of nuclear attacks against the United States. Then they see a flash in the sky. They decide to drive to the nearest town to see if they can learn anything, but when they get into the car, it doesn’t start.
The television is out as well, so they decide to walk the ten miles into town. The mother isn’t enthused about riding three horses they don’t know. What if one of them falls and breaks something? How would get help?
They get to town, and there’s a store there, but the shelves are mostly empty. The store owner knows where they’re staying, though, and tells them that there’s a stock root cellar, and a goat and a sheep. They buy what they can, get lunch at a restaurant in town, then start walking back to their cottage.
The next day, they find the root cellar. There are potatoes there, and some wine, and flour, and feed for the horses, and some canned meat.
They figure out how to feed the horses, find the goat, clean up the stalls. They ride and visit the neighbors, who feed them and offer to help. When they get home, they discover that while they were gone, someone broke into the cottage and stole a lot of their stuff.
This is a slow beginning but super creepy and ominous. The family seems really nice and totally unprepared for surviving on a farm. The book is very readable, and if you like stories where an electromagnetic pulse takes out all electronics and people are forced to revert to an old-fashioned life in order to survive, you will probably enjoy this one.
2. The Azure Kingdom by Michelle Dare
This is the first of four books in the Iridescent Realm fantasy romance series. The other books are $5.99 each, and the series is not in Kindle Unlimited. This is the first time the author has been on our list.
From Tim McHugh:
This is a fantasy book that takes place in a world parallel to ours. I love high fantasy and anything magical but this book is clearly targeting lovers of romance, which is not my area of interest. Still, I think I am a fair audience for this story overall.
The story starts in our modern world.
Alison is a young woman who recently lost her mother, the only family member she had ever known, and inherited an antique store that she isn’t all that interested in. She runs the store only because it was her mother’s but she is otherwise just drifting through life. She dreams every night of being lifted off her feet by a handsome knight who has a tamed dragon.
In the first chapter, while dealing with customers, Alison finds a key in an old dresser and a letter from her mother. The letter tells Alison that this key leads to a parallel world, a world that her mother has visited. This world is presumably where her father lives.
After some soul-searching Alison takes the keys and uses it on an old door that takes her to the alternate world. She falls through into a medieval world and immediately runs into a group of knights, one of whom is the man from her dreams — he has also apparently had dreams about her.
Once they get acquainted, she asks about her father. The knight is immediately stricken when he hears the name because her father is a man with a very dark reputation.
I stopped reading here, but Alison will have to grapple with the truth about her father and her birth while she goes on a romantic journey with the knight from her dreams.
My initial thought was that this novel is very well written; the author’s descriptions are eloquent and detailed, and the story flows very smoothly. The world seems very interesting and I like the drama that is building around her father. A couple of plot points, however, come along a bit abruptly for my taste. Alison stumbles upon the key before there is much of a setup and she happens upon her dream knight before there is any build up of tension. Besides those few problems, there is not much to complain about.
If you’re a lover of romance fantasy, this book should be on your list.
1. Day Zero by J.W. Griffin
This is the first of three books in the Endpoint science fiction adventure series. The other books are $0.99 to $2.99 each, and the series is not in Kindle Unlimited. This is the first time the author has been on our list.
From Sophie Gorjance:
This book is set in a future where humanity has become spacefaring and has encountered a number of alien species, some benevolent, some much less so.
Ryan McBain is the last human survivor after one of these enemy alien civilizations wipes out the Earth and all her colonies.
It’s a neat premise, and seemed promising, but the writing style is really throwing me off. Despite this being the first book in the series, the prologue and first chapter are more like a recap of a previous story, and the narration jumps between time periods and perspectives rapidly, and not in a way that seems to serve the narrative.
There are aspects that I appreciate: the military lingo reads as authentic — to a non-expert like me at least — and there are several short women who are respected for their success, which I appreciate for personal reasons. But that’s not enough to keep me reading this time.
Have you read any of these books? Are you planning to? Let us know in the comments!
Or watch Maria, Tim and Sophie discuss all ten books in the video below: