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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. Sneak Peek for Witch King by Martha Wells
This is a sneak peak of Witch King by Martha Wells. But you won’t get to actually read the sneak peak until March 21. So you have to click on it now, and it will be automatically delivered to your Kindle in two and a half weeks. And the full book won’t be available until May 30, though it’s also available for pre-order for $14.99.
From Maria Korolov:
This isn’t a book so much as a preview of a book — 34 pages, to be exact.
According to the description, Kai was murdered and his soul trapped. Then he wakes up, and discovers that a lesser mage is trying to harness Kai’s magic. He’ll need to use his magical abilities to find out why he was assassinated and what happened to the world while he was trapped. I’m looking forward to getting the preview on March 21.
This is Martha Wells’ first fantasy novel in over a decade. I didn’t even know that Martha Wells wrote fantasy. I know her as the hard sci-fi author of the Murderbot Diaries. Which are awesome. She won the Hugo, Nebula, and Locus awards and the books made it to both the New York Times and the USA Today bestseller list.
She does have another fantasy series up on Amazon, though, the five-book series The Books of the Raksura. Those books are all currently on sale for $7.59 to $11.49 each — normally $14.99. They’re not in Kindle Unlimited, but I just checked my Libby app and I see that my local library carries them, so I can read them for free. The books have excellent reviews, so I decided to check out the first one in the series, The Cloud Roads.
The story is set in a fantasy world. After a day of hunting, Moon enters a a camp run by groundlings. He’s hiding his abilities, pretending that he caught the animal by shooting it. He’d been traveling alone for a long time, and this group of groundlings has taken him in, and given him a tent to sleep in. In returns, he brings in the game that he catches.
Then one of the older residents of the camp reports that he saw something flying — a Fell. That night, Moon goes out after everyone is asleep. He wriggles under the fence, enters the jungle, and changes shape. He got taller, his shoulders broader. His skin grew scales. He grew claws and a tail — and wings. That’s the secret that he’s been keeping from everyone.
I like this book. It reads like a classic epic fantasy. Moon is a compelling character and I like him a lot. The book doesn’t have the sense of humor of the Murderbot Diaries, but is still extremely readable. I’ll probably finish it.
9. Pumpkin by Ines Johnson
This is the first of three books in the Cindermama modern fairy tale series. The other books are $3.99 each, and the series is not in Kindle Unlimited.
From Terrence Smith:
Ines Johnson’s Pumpkin is a retelling of the classic Cinderella story. Malika, who has the nickname “Pumpkin,” is a single mother who gets stuck doing favors for her two cousins, including taking them to the welfare office to get checks for the multiple children they have from multiple fathers.
It is at one of these meetings where she meets the sexy Armand “Manny” Charmayne. He comes off as giving a wolfish grin, though. His magical ability is to know the woman he was meant to be with by seeing a golden aura around her, which does not initially appear around Pumpkin. That isn’t going to change the fact that they will likely end up together.
The first encounter between these two involves a conversation about the welfare system and the people that depend on them. This was a thoughtful dialogue that I was not expecting, commenting on the mindsets that the recipients that rely on these systems and those who do not fall into. Judging by the review section, more thoughtful conversations will be had in the story.
This is not my kind of story personally, but it would be a good one for single mothers who are into Disney fairy tales.
From Maria Korolov:
First, a disclaimer. The cover looks like the book is a romance. I’m not a fan of romance. I prefer my escapist reading to be full of murder and mayhem, instead. But I have been known to sneak in the occasional rom-com, so I’m gong to keep an open mind.
The story begins with Pumpkin, a woman who hasn’t been on a date in a long time. She’s driving her car, and her two annoying cousins are in the back, being annoying. Neither of them has a driver’s license, so they guilt trip Pumpkin into chauffering them around.
She takes them to the welfare office, where they’re getting benefits even though they both get child support — and could get jobs. Then on the steps of the building, she bumps into a handsome man doing something with a voter registration drive and they have an extremely awkward conversation.
Pumpkin likes him but thinks that he’s way out of her league. After all, she’s a single mom with a dead-end job.
Then, in the next chapter, we switch to Manny’s point of view. Apparently, there’s a thing in his family where he can tell from the first glance if a woman is the right one for him. Until then, he’s keeping all his relationships short — under three months — to avoid disappointing too much the women he’s casually dating until he meets the one. Turns out, he’s running for mayor. And his backers don’t like the fact that he’s single. They want him to at least be engaged.
I don’t think I’ll be back to finish the story. I’m still cringing from the awkward conversation on the steps. Also, I’m not happy with the way her cousins treat her — and the fact that she seems to be unable to stand up for herself. I know that she’ll probably learn some self-confidence over the course of the book, and get the guy, too, but I’m too annoyed with her to keep reading.
Also, aside from the whole instantly-recognizing-his-true-love thing, there doesn’t seem to be much fantasy or science fiction in this story.
But I do like the fact that magic sparks don’t fly when our two protagonists first meet. It looks like they’ll actually have to work on it if they want to eventually have a relationship, instead of having magic do it for them.
8. The Eyes in the Dark by Chris Ward
This is the first of five books in the Tales of Crow genetic engineering science fiction series. The other books in the series are $4.99 each, and the series is not in Kindle Unlimited.
From Alex Korolov:
In his introduction, the author says this book is a horror-thriller set in Japan.
The story focuses on a bunch of high school students, which isn’t exactly my thing. I’d call it more of a high school drama with horror elements. Not counting the prologue, it appears there’s a long wait before you really get to the horror part of the story. Honestly, I never even got to the scary monster part before I got tired of reading this one.
In the prologue, an old mushroom hunter named Masanori is out picking mushrooms in the woods when he has a sudden encounter with a mysterious creature. I’ll tell you that things don’t end up going too well for him.
In chapter one, we meet Jun Matsumoto, a high school student who’s on a class trip to a remote study camp called British Heights, which is some kind of British-themed camp where the students can practice English with foreign staff. The entire first chapter describes the bus rolling up to the place and the students settling in. We get introduced to some of Matsumoto’s classmates and we learn about his angsty love-life with his girlfriend Akane. I feel a little old and creepy reading about a teenager’s romantic endeavors, so this first chapter wasn’t my favorite.
The second chapter is just about a mediocre rock band that’s travelling to a gig. The band gets lost and ends up at British Heights. Yep, that’s pretty much all that happens in this chapter.
I read a few more chapters, and it’s pretty much just more high school drama and meeting some new characters, but this book lost me by the start of chapter three. There’s a lot of talk about sex, and the only monster encounter happened in the prologue. I did a quick scan up to chapter 10, and there still weren’t any more monster encounters. I’m definitely not into this book and don’t plan to keep reading. If you’re looking for a lot of scary monster action from the get go, I don’t recommend this book. However, if you’re interested in the things high school kids get up to on a school trip, maybe you’ll like it.
7. Daughter of Time by Sarah Woodbury
This is the first of 20 books in The After Cilmeri Series. The other books are $2.82 to $12.99 each and are not in Kindle Unlimited. This is not the first time we’ve seen this book on the list. We previously reviewed it in August of 2021 and then again in August of 2022. The author’s other books have been on this list as well. This past May, we reviewed her Legends of Dark Age Wales, a box set.
From Amira Loutfi:
We begin with a brief guide to Welsh Pronunciation. Then, we have a cast of characters organized by Welsh, English, and American identities. The American is a time traveler named Meg. I’m already so happy.
I’m guessing this is about an American woman who travels back to the 1200s and gets caught in a love triangle with the prince of Wales and the prince of England.
Meg was born in 1975, so she’s about 46 years old now. But in the beginning of this story, she’s only 20. So, it starts in 1995.
“My husband’s body lay cold on the table in front of me.” Yes! That’s the first line. I love it. They had a daughter and he was physically abusive. She ran away and her mother took the two of them in. As she was prepping her new life, he pleaded with her to come back since he was dying of pancreatic cancer. She goes back. And now he’s dead. She’s relieved. And I am skimming the rest of this chapter.
The word “plop” occurs three times in this book. Just a fair warning.
Meg has a horrible car accident — in the same area as her abusive husband.
Meanwhile, Llywelyn is the Prince of Wales and he has been taking over a lot of land. I was just starting to get bored and then things got awesome. The Prince of Wales finds a mysterious moving carriage in the marsh. We can tell from the description that it’s a blue car. And there is a woman in the front seat out cold, but her little daughter in the back is fine.
So, it appears that this story is a lot like many of the other romances on Kindle — the point of view shifts between the male and female lead, and the male lead is a powerful cool guy and the female is just an average girl. But in this case, there’s time travel. And she has a daughter. Umm … If this is a love triangle, then why is there a kid?
Maybe to show that a single mother who hasn’t yet gotten her act together following an abusive marriage can also go on wild adventures where men compete over her? Ok, I respect that. It’s a nice fantasy.
It’s pretty cute imagining what the prince thinks is going on, knowing that this is going to end up as a love triangle. Maybe Meg’s ex will show up again and try to get her back? It’s a good book, but I have other things to read that I’m dying to get to.
6. The Secret Within by Sean Platt and David Wright
This is a standalone urban fantasy mystery. Both of the authors have had books on this list before. We reviewed another book they co-authored, Z2134, in July of 2022. And we reviewed Sean Platt’s Pattern Black, co-authored with Johnny B. Truant in January of last year and again last February. And we reviewed Burnout, also co-authored with Johnny B. Truant, last April. In fact, this particular book has also been on this list before — we previously reviewed it last month.
From Romel Madray:
The prologue starts off with a really intense scene between two characters named Jay and Anika and ends with a cliffhanger of Jay threatening Anika, who has locked herself in the bathroom.
In the next chapter, we meet the main character, Delaney West. She used to be a police officer, but now she’s a private detective running her business out of her tiny apartment. Delaney gets called in by Jay’s mother to investigate his disappearance, but she’s a bit unsure about the family and the situation. Despite that, she decides to give it a shot and quotes a price. In the end, she realizes it’s a waste of time and leaves.
Then, we cut to Anika who works at a crappy diner, barely earning minimum wage. She’s now clean from drugs. A man in a hoodie walks in, and she recognizes him as a familiar face saying, “long time, no see stranger”. I get the feeling that its Jay, but it is not explicitly stated.
Next chapter, there is a bit of backstory on Delaney, when she was seven years old and was raised by her father, a preacher. He used her as a sort of circus event to sell his church services, but there’s a weird incorporeal entity who meets her in the end and again we are left on at a cliffhanger.
Overall, I found the book to be really well-written, and I think fans of detective procedurals will like it.. The opening takes its time to give a backstory and world-building and each chapter ends with a cliffhanger, which I suspect will reveal itself through the rest of the book.
I found Delaney to be a relatable and believable character, and I enjoyed seeing her navigate through the world she lives in. Plus, it’s a relatively short read, so it’s perfect for when you want to dive into a story without committing to a long book and I will finish it off over the weekend.
From Terrence Smith:
The novel follows Delaney West, a private eye whose only companion is an orange tabby cat. She can discover people’s hidden secrets and feelings simply by touching them, which has helped with previous cases. She is also trying to leave behind a past with a father who was a pastor and a con man.
Her latest case involves the disappearance of a young man from a financially well-off family. His girlfriend has ties to a supernatural club.
Delaney immediately gives off the vibe of someone who has grown weary of her job, having seen her share of tragedy in her line of work. Still, she is willing to help those who ask for it, even if they aren’t the most decent people on the planet.
The protagonist is interesting enough to merit wanting to know how her story unfolds. While I do not plan on continuing to read this, others who are into the supernatural and detective stories should check this one out.
5. The Elder Stones Saga by D.K. Holmberg
This is a box set of the first three of eight books of The Elder Stones Saga epic fantasy series. The other books in the series are $4.99 to $5.99 each, but the entire series is in Kindle Unlimited. D.K. Holmberg is a regular on this list. Last month we reviewed The Book of Maladies series, Last January we reviewed The Dragon Rogues and The Dragon Misfits, last December we reviewed The Endless War series and his Elemental Academy series. Last November, we reviewed The Teralin Sword, a box set of the first three of six books in The Teralin Sword epic fantasy series. Last September, we reviewed his The Lost Prophecy box set. We reviewed The Cloud Warrior Saga box set back in July, and, later that same month, Path of the Flame, the first of five books in The Dragon Thief coming of age fantasy series. May of 2022, we reviewed Unbonded, the first of five books in the First of the Blades epic fantasy series. Finally, in April, 2022, we reviewed The Risen Shard, the first of eight books in The Chain Breaker epic fantasy series
In the first book of the series, The Darkest Revenge, we’re introduced to a world full of power, mysteries and tension. As an old enemy known as The Forgers gather their strength in hiding, we get to meet our main characters Haern and Daniel. While Daniel lives in the palace inside the city and is practicing to become a powerful council member in the future — just like his father — Haern lives in the ancient Aisl Forest at the outskirts of the city. With their very different upbringings and beliefs, it’s safe to say that they’re not close at all, in fact, they dislike each other.
Through the prologue and the first three chapters of the story we’re introduced to a lot of characters and the author does a great job at not making it confusing for the reader. Besides Daniel and Haern, we get to meet their families, see the differences and similarities in their everyday lives and see how they’re all connected one way or another. I really liked seeing how Daniel spends his days practicing his swordsmanship and his teleportation skills in order to impress his father while Haern tries to prove himself to his father as a forger of metal, showing that the only difference between our main characters is the fact that one is more powerful than the other.
I also found the magic system to be very interesting. In this world, people can be born with the ability to work with metal, read minds, see things at a distance, or teleport. Daniel can teleport and see far while Haern, on the other hand, can’t teleport, has only decent vision, and can barely get a hint of how people feel. I found it very original how all of this depends not only on your lineage but also to how close you live to the palace, and how deep the green in your eyes is. Which means that those with deep green eyes are more powerful than anyone else.
I admit that not much happened in these first few chapters but it was a great introduction to the world, the characters and the magic system. I am definitely interested in seeing these powers in action once the old enemy reappears so I will definitely continue reading this when I have the time.
4. The Dream Heist by Christina Farley
This is the first of two books in the Dreamscape thriller series. The sequel is currently available for pre-order and will be coming out November 14, 2023. The first book is in Kindle Unlimited.
From Christina Brown:
This book is a young adult fantasy starring Aria, a high schooler and intern at her dad’s sleep lab trying to retrieve the memories of dementia patients. Most importantly, her grandmother’s who is dealing with dementia. I found this a pretty fascinating premise. But the first couple pages start with a lot of characters at once and it’s hard to keep straight.
But once she enters the dreamscape, where she and the team try to basically discover and download their patient’s memories, it gets really interesting. There’s an Inception-like quality as the dream unfolds before them.
As they enter the dream, Aria senses something is wrong. They know nothing about the current dreamer and she discovers it’s a younger person, in fact someone from her high school.
I really like the premise, I did find Aria to be a little flat, at least initially, but if you’re into dreams I’d give this a shot. I think I’ll read a few more chapters and see how it goes.
3. Finding Obsidia by T.N. Watson
This is the first of three books in The Realm of Knowledge romantic fantasy series. The other books are $4.99 each, and the series is not in Kindle Unlimited.
From Melody Friedenthal:
Lexi is almost 18 and a senior in a Canadian high school. She’s in love with her next-door neighbor, Nixon, who’s a classmate. Odd choice of given name, I thought.
Given that this is clearly a young adult novel, I’m not going out on a limb to conclude that I’m not the intended audience. And yet, with fairly professional writing skill and a strong sense of anticipation built into the first few chapters, the author pulled me into the story.
Lexi and her younger brother accompany their parents and their scientific colleagues to remote and frozen Ellesmere Island, where the adults will be conducting seismic research.
A few days after arriving, Lexi goes with them via snowmobile to a place where they’ve placed tremor sensors. While the adults are off doing their thing, an earthquake rattles the land and Lexi finds shelter in a cave. The cave entrance is destroyed by falling rocks. But Lexi has an emergency lantern — her backpack has all sorts of helpful things — and, trying not to panic, goes exploring in order to find another way out.
What she finds is an enormous feline, complete with enormous claws. She runs. She trips. The cat attacks. She wakes to find herself in a luxurious and lovely room, her wounds healed. She meets the family that owns this place – and is disturbed to find that they are all unusually tall.
When she’s led outside, she’s shocked to see that the environment is tropical.
Where’s the ice and snowy landscape of Ellesmere Island? How did her wounds heal so quickly? What became of her parents? How can she get back to them?
Another potential love interest is introduced in the form of her rescuer, Kassius, who says he’ll help her but she’s sure he’s got secrets he’s not sharing.
One issue I have is that Lexi seems to jump to an unsupported conclusion about her ability – or lack thereof – to find her way to the other side of the mountain and back to her family.
I am enjoying this book and I intend to read the rest of it. This story will appeal to readers who enjoy apocalyptic stories, and adventures with, I’m guessing, a bit of teenage romance.
2. Shield-Maiden: Under the Howling Moon by Melanie Karsak
This is the the first of five books in The Road to Valhalla myth and legend fantasy series. The other books are $.99 to $2.99 each and are in Kindle Unlimited. This is the second time this book has been on our list — we previously reviewed it last March.
From Maria Korolov:
Hervor is a warrior who lives with her mother and grandfather and the rest of her extended family. Her grandfather is the Jarl, a local leader. She does have a good relationship with him, but saves his life, and that of the other family members, when they’re attacked in the middle of the night.
Despite her prowess with her axes, her grandfather wants her to do womanly, feminine things — and her actions saving his life don’t change his mind.
But Odin has given her a dream, a dream of a dwarven sword. As soon as her cousin Leif is back from the king’s court she plans to join him when he goes out on his raids.
I like Hervor. She’s tough and focused, she’s got great skills. She’s been going up into the mountains to train with a woman warrior who lives by herself, with her two pet bears. And I love the world building here. The Norse setting really comes alive.
I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the book.
1. Kaine’s Sanction by D.M. Pruden
This is the first of four books in the Shattered Empire space fleet science fiction series. The other books are $4.99 each, and the series is not in Kindle Unlimited.
From Tim McHugh:
After a prologue that gives us a taste of the deep space battles we can expect later in the novel, we jump ahead forty years. The story starts with Hayden Kaine, a cadet who is about to graduate from the military academy and receive his first posting. Kaine is your typical privileged kid, with an important, high-ranking father and mediocre grades. He seems to spend a lot of time drinking and cheating on his girlfriend, never worrying about whether his life’s plan will come to fruition, because, well, his father’s important.
Kaine goes on to learn secret information from his aunt about a previously unknown alien species that was discovered. He is then given an ambiguous posting on a ship that will be undertaking a secret mission. Kaine is set to have a run in with this alien species that could shape his future and who he is as a person.
We do learn that Kaine is deeper than he seems on the surface when he says goodbye to the woman who raised him, but this story seems to be setting up an arc for Kaine where he kills the privileged boy within and paves his own way.
The first few chapters are hinting at a story that I feel has a lot of potential. I could easily see it falling into one of those done-before troupes, but I have no reason to believe that it will. The writing is mostly good and I only have a few complaints. First, the dialogue is a bit corny in the beginning, I had trouble believing people actually talk that way. Second, in one of the early chapters there were multiple pages of info-dumps strung together which I never like to see.
I’m going to stick with this book for a little longer because despite my complaints, after the first few chapters, it is worth reading on.
Have you read any of these books? Are you planning to? Let us know in the comments!
Watch Maria and Terrence discuss all ten books in the video below: