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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. Justice in an Age of Metal and Men by Anthony W. Eichenlaub
This is the the first of three books in the Metal and Men series. The other two books are $2.71 and $4.22 each and are not in Kindle Unlimited.
From Maria Korolov:
Last week was a disappointment — I didn’t get into any of the ten books I reviewed. I have high hopes for this week, since there are several books that look promising.
From the cover, Justice in an Age of Metal and Men looks exactly like my type of book. So let’s get started.
Jasper Davis Crow, J.D. for short, is the sheriff of Dead Oak, Texas. He has a metal arm manufactured before neural implants were a thing. So right from the first paragraph, this isn’t the urban fantasy I was expecting.
So, it’s a hundred years after the collapse of the American empire and Texas is now an independent entity. Most people live in walled-off cities while a few try to survive in the untamed wilderness. JD gets a holo call from a farmer’s wife — her husband got drunk and was killed.
He gets in his self-driving flying police cruiser and flies out to the dead man’s ranch. The wife, who’s got four metal arms coming out of her back, says that her husband got drunk and was trampled by a herd of longhorns – longhorns that have bison DNA to make them bigger. Except for the man’s son, who claims it was murder, it’s an open and shut case. JD can go and get drunk, his work is done.
Except that when he gets back to the office, his new deputy, Contrisha Chin, gets in the way. The scans JD took show that the rancher wasn’t killed when he was trampled. He was already dead, from a heart attack. Which is fishy, since he was fully augmented. Plus, his memory chip is gone and though his belly was full of alcohol, he wasn’t drunk. She suspects he was tortured, then hacked.
She’s right, which pisses JD off. Now he has to investigate.
I like JD. I like Contrisha. Even though it’s not an urban fantasy, it has the same feel as one — it reminds me of the Dresden Files a little bit in style. This book is a keeper, and I’ll probably finish it this weekend.
2. Arcane Rising by Nicole R Taylor
This is the first book in the four-book series The Darkland Druids. The other books are $3.99 each, and are not in Kindle Unlimited.
Five Druid families flee a war-torn Earth and wind up on an alternate Earth, where they are rebuilding in a new world.
This series is set in the same universe as the four-book series The Crescent Witch Chronicles.
From Maria Korolov:
Gordan is fighting out of control brushfires in Australia when he sees a creature, a dangerous elemental soldier, a human-looking monster. He has to stop it before it gets to the rest of his crew, and then to someone named Elspeth. Maybe I should have read the other series first? The first book in that series, Crescent Calling, is free but the others cost money.
The monster wants to know where the girl is, and Gordon uses his magic to defend himself against the monster’s ability to generate heat. The monster says that Elspeth needs to go back to her people. Oh, Elspeth is his daughter. And he’s willing to risk everything to keep her safe.
That’s the introduction. Then we move on to Elspeth, and the story switches to the first person. Cops are her door. She knows what they’re going to tell her. As a daughter of a firefighter, she’s long been prepared for this kind of a visit.
She’s depressed after his death. She stops looking for work. She just wanders around. She doesn’t know anything about her origins, or who her mother is. Just that she comes from somewhere in Scotland. So, on a whim, she decides to head there.
I like her. I like the way she interacts with people, and the pacing of the story. I like the combination of action and thoughtfulness.
3. Unknown Omega by V.T. Bonds
This is the first book in the seven-book Alpha Elite Series. The rest of the books are $0.99 to $3.99 each and are all in Kindle Unlimited. The fourth book isn’t out yet, and has no scheduled release date.
The series promises sex and violence, set in a sci-fi world with supersoldiers, called the alphas, and oppressed women, called the omegas.
It’s a romance, so the point of view switches back and forth between the male and female protagonists. Oh, and it’s one of those romances where people mate for life.
From Maria Korolov:
The book starts out with a Seeck on a mission with a group of fellow covert operatives to rescue team members who have been taking prisoner and are being tortured. It reads like something out of James Bond. I could easily see it as an action movie.
Then we switch to the woman’s point of view. She doesn’t even have a name, and spends all day cleaning and cooking. Despite her awful situation, I like the fact that she’s extremely hard-working and conscientious and competent at her job, even though she’s not really there voluntarily.
I’m getting a “Handmaid’s Tale” vibe here. I can see her being played by Elizabeth Moss.
And I like it. I like it very much. I like both of the main characters, and though the premise is a bit out there, the author is pulling it off.
4. Traitor’s Masque by Kenley Davidson
This is the first book in the six-book series The Andari Chronicles. The other books are all $0.99 each and are all in Kindle Unlimited.
The series retells classic fairy tales, with this first one being a retelling of the Cinderella story.
From Maria Korolov:
Trystan’s beloved father just died, and she’s stuck with her stepmother and stepsisters.
She’s so bored with her life that helping the servants with their chores is starting to look like a fun activity. And she’s lonely, with no friends, and no dowry or marriage opportunities.
So, on her 18th birthday, she dresses up in stolen men’s clothes, and, with the help of old servants who’ve been with her since she was a child, sneaks out to go horseback riding. She’s going to the Kingswood forest, to the King’s Tree, where she once spent a pleasant day with her father.
Riding through the woods, another rider sees her. She tries to get away — she doesn’t want to get caught out alone, in men’s clothing. People already think she’s weird. And decorum is everything!
And her horse is fast. Well, not fast enough, it turns out, and the mysterious stranger catches up to her, and wants to know what’s she’s doing riding around in the woods. She’s offended. She’s not poaching, so he’s got no reason to stop her. He’s close enough now to see that she’s a woman, and tries to apologize. She’s not having it.
They have a very amusing conversation. It reminds me of Bridgerton. I loved, loved, loved Bridgerton.
I did not expect to like this book, but it turns out to be very delicious fun.
5. The Program by Charlene Hartnady
This is the first two books in the seven-book series The Program. The other books are $2.99 each and are all in Kindle Unlimited.
The books are stand-alone vampire romance novels. They are sexy, so if you’re prudish — you’ve been warned!
From Maria Korolov:
The premise is that vampire men want to mate with human women so they can have children and preserve the species. So the vampires create a “dating” program to match desirable human women with “elite” vampire men.
Cassidy is in debt, and stuck in a low-paying, dead-end job with a boss who’s a horrible sexual harasser. So she jumps at a chance to spent three days being bitten by vampires, with a promise of up to $45,000 a day in payment.
But there’s a risk. Being bitten by vampires isn’t the safest thing.
Personally, I’m more focused on the “up to” part. “Up to” could mean anything. It could mean $1. I’d check the fine print if I were her.
But the harrassing boss whips out his little weenie at her and she quits in disgust, so it’s not like she’s got too many options.
Meanwhile, York, a powerful and sexy vampire, is battling other vampires for the chance to be one of the ones who gets to bite the human women. Human women taste good. Plus, it might lead to some children. York doesn’t have to fight — he’s already in the program because of a personal connection — but he wants to fight anyway. He doesn’t want it to look like he doesn’t deserve to be there.
I’m guessing the two of them will get together.
The premise is absolutely ridiculous. So, of course, I can’t stop reading.
6. An Ignorant Witch by E M Graham
This is the the first book in the four-book Witch Kin Chronicles series. The other books are $4.99 each, are not in Kindle Unlimited, and the fourth book isn’t out yet — it’s scheduled to be released in September.
From Amira Loutfi:
Here’s the opening line: “My reputation as a ghost whisperer started with Alice and her family.”
Maybe I’m just a sucker, but I love a powerful opening. But I don’t believe the protagonist’s explanation for why she had no friends. I think she’s friendless because she doesn’t try hard enough to meet people.
You might enjoy it if you like supernatural action, though. In the first chapter, our protagonist decides to help a friend with a haunting and gets attacked by a doll possessed by a malicious spirit.
I skipped ahead to chapter 6, and I see that the sleuthing and exploring of the haunted family’s past continues. It’s cute and intriguing.
It’s likely to get better if I keep reading, but I’m actually kind of itching to get back to Neglected Merge.
Sorry, An Ignorant Witch. Good luck and goodbye.
7. Dark, Witch & Creamy by H.Y. Hanna
This is the first of seven books in the Bewitched by Chocolate series. The other books are $5.99 a each and are not in Kindle Unlimited. Also, the seventh book isn’t out yet — it’s due to be released in July.
From Maria Korolov:
Caitlyn was an abandoned baby, adopted and raised by an American family. As an adult, her search for her roots takes her to a little English village where she meets a handsome local aristocrat, rescues a kitten, and is dragged into a murder investigation. And, oh yes, she’s a witch.
If you’ve been reading my reviews here, you’ll probably know that I’m a big fan of cozy mysteries, so this series is right up my alley. The only thing making me hesistant at all about getting too much into the books is that, at $6 each, I’ll be shelling out $30 to read the rest of the series if I get caught up in it. Is it worth it?
It starts out with Caitlyn and her cousin Pomona eating scones at a tearoom, discussing Caitlyn’s plans to visit the village where she was found, Tillyhenge. But there was just a suspicious death in the village — it’s all over the news — and the local gossips are saying that it’s murder, and that supernatural forces are afoot. Pomona believes in the supernatural, and says she has a bad feeling about the whole thing. Caitlyn poo-poos her and gets in her rental car. Just as she’s about to leave, a old man shows up — he looks to be about a hundred — and tells her that he’s her vampire uncle, Count Victor Drakul. She thinks he’s someone who wandered away from a nursing home, especially when he tries to show her his fangs and they fall out.
But instead of finding someone who can help the delusional old man, such as someone back inside the tearoom, she just drives off. Not cool, Caitlyn. He clearly needed help. Especially because he insisted that he could turn into a bat.
Anyway, Tillyhenge doesn’t show up on GPS, so Caitlyn has to follow a paper map, and trying to find the right turnoff gives her a headache. When she finally gets to the village, she doesn’t know what to do. Turns out, she’s got no plan. Is she going to find a local historical society? The library? A town clerk? The local medical professionals? Nope. Her new plan is to get a room for the night and then wander around randomly talking to people.
But before she can do that, she’s accosted by a photographer. She suspects he’s a paparazzi. Her mother, who just died in a car accident, was famous. She ducks into a shop to get away from him, one of those touristy places that sell various herbal things. Of course, they don’t carry aspirin. The clerk offers her a soothing balm, or some willow bark tea, or maybe a magic spell. And Caitlyn the pushover lets her do a spell, thinking it’s going to be something harmless, but it grows leaves in her ears. The clerk tries to undo it, and instead gives Caitlyn a unibrow. Then the clerk’s mother, the shopkeeper, comes in, and does another spell that fixes everything. Why is Caitlyn agreeing to all these spells? Who knows.
Then the shopkeeper offers her some tea, which Caitlyn drinks before asking what’s in it. Of course she does.
It turns out to be willow bark tea, and it instantly cures her headache.
I don’t like Caitlyn. She’s a pushover. She doesn’t plan ahead. She’s got no self-confidence and no common sense. Maybe over the course of the book she’ll get all of those things, but I don’t have the patience to stick around and find out. Especially not when the rest of the books in the series cost money.
8. Neglected Merge by Eve Koguce
This is the first and only book — so far — by Eve Koguce, and is a fantasy romance set in a post-apocalyptic world. But don’t let the phrase “post-apocalyptic” fool you into thinking that this is a grim, depressing read. It’s not.
From Amira Loutfi:
Tauria has a boring though pleasant life. She works in an office, lives alone in a high-rise, and practices mindfulness on her way to work. That is, of course, until one day when a handsome “winged-one” makes a crash-landing in her apartment. He’s wounded, so, despite her mixed feelings of terror and physical attraction, she decides to let him hide in her apartment for two days until he can heal.
This is a fun read. It’s well-written, but it seems to be very much built on a teenage fantasy.
It’s moving slow so far, but it feels kind of like I’m watching an anime. If you enjoyed the pacing and innocence of “Garden of Words” you might want to download this one while it’s free.
I like the world. Seems like this utopia really tries to pamper citizens. However, I’m also starting to get the impression it may be an I-think-this-is-the-bad-place type of situation.
Tauria isn’t able to tell her coworker that her father is dying, and no one is able to form meaningful friendships or romantic relationships. Maybe the injured stranger in her apartment will help her break free, right?
I am delightfully intrigued.
9. Tales from Another World by Samuel Fleming
This is the first of a two-book series, Tales from Another World. The second volume is $0.99, and is not in Kindle Unlimited.
From Maria Korolov:
This volume includes seven short stories of magic and horror. And by short, I mean very, very short. The entire book is just 55 pages.
So if you’re looking for some short reads that won’t get in the way of all the socializing and carousing you’re doing now that you’re vaccinated, grab a copy.
My favorite of the lot is the one about the mermaids, “Under the Waters of Digsonee Strait,” which considers what ships must look like to mermaids. It’s a different take on their perspective than we normally see.
But again, I have to warn you, this is a very, very, very short book.
10. The Invisible Man Annotated by H. G. Wells
From Maria Korolov:
The Invisible Man was first published in 1897 by H.G. Wells, one of the fathers of science fiction. This is that same book. And, although the title may say “annotated,” I couldn’t find any actual annotations in this ebook version.
So why is it on the list right now?
Probably because the 2020 movie with Elizabeth Moss is available for streaming right now. It was released on HBO last September and many critics considered it one of the top ten movies of the year. It got an impressive 91 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. You can watch The Invisible Man on Amazon Prime for $3.99. I can’t find it on HBO Max, though, and the link to the movie’s page on the HBO site is broken.
Or, of course, you can read the book, for free.
Don’t let the fact that the book is more than 120 years old scare you off. It’s eminently readable, in that slightly stuffy, old-fashioned style.
Do you have other free books for us to check out? Email me at [email protected].
MetaStellar editor and publisher Maria Korolov is a science fiction novelist, writing stories set in a future virtual world. And, during the day, she is an award-winning freelance technology journalist who covers artificial intelligence, cybersecurity and enterprise virtual reality. See her Amazon author page here and follow her on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn. Email her at [email protected]. She is also the editor and publisher of Hypergrid Business, one of the top global sites covering virtual reality.