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. The Ashavan by James Parrish
This is the first of what will be the Across the Asha action and adventure science fiction series. Usually it’s $0.99 but today it’s free. This book is in Kindle Unlimited.
From Maria Korolov:
I like the subtitle of this book: “The Secret History of the Multiverse.”
Yes, I’m a big Marvel fan. No, I don’t think that the multiverse actually exists — the idea of a new universe popping into existence every single time anyone makes a decision seems a little … wasteful. Where is all that energy and matter coming from? Plus, if universes fork at every single decision, then we’d have an uncountable number of universes within minutes. Then each of those universes will spin off their own decision trees, and so on. And even if you could figure out a way to navigate between them, there would be an infinite number of universes to go to. Including an infinite number where everything on Earth is absolutely identical, because the decisions weren’t made here, but by some alien living billions of light years away.
I mean, don’t even get me started.
The way I think of multiverse stories is the same way that I think of magic. It’s a metaphor for the human experience. It’s a way to tell stories about the significance of the decisions we make. And it’s fun. Who wouldn’t love to visit a parallel universe?
Mike is trapped on an island. Four nights earlier, he was in bed in his pajamas. Now, he’s naked in a jungle, being eaten by bugs. Some of these bugs were as large as his hand. He’s starving, and the previous day he tried to eat one of the bugs and got really sick. He doesn’t know where he is and how he got there.
He just woke up in an ocean and had to swim to this island. He thinks that someone had drugged him, put him in an airplane, and dropped him into the water close enough to the island to swim over. He was lucky he hadn’t drowned.
And he knows who did it, too. A criminal gang he’d testified against. Or maybe he’s just gone insane. After all, he had been known to sleep walk before. Plus, there are three moons in the sky.
So he found water, learned to eat worms, made a giant SOS sign from rocks, and watched for airplanes. Then he sees sails in the distance. It’s a wooden sailing ship. He runs along the beach towards the ship. Then he sees a group of seven men on the shore. One of the men gets shot, and the other see Mike and start chasing him, yelling at him in a foreign language. Mike is found, and just before he’s killed, someone shoots the head off of the sailor.
Then we switch to the point of view of the man who saved Mike. It’s someone named Captain Zuberi, and he’s been sent specifically to find Mike. He’s even memorized a few words of English.
Zuberi fight off the other sailors and drags Mike to the other side of the island, where he’s got a ship of his own waiting.
Zuberi tells the other sailors to guard Mike with their lives, and we find out that his native language is Latin, and the other sailors are part of a group called the Dragon Guard. They are equipped with single-shot muzzle-loaded rifles.
Eventually, Mike realizes that his rescuers speak Latin, and thinks that they might be reenactors. Though the rifles are confusing.
Then, in the next chapter, we get yet another character’s point of view. Lily has been fished out of the sea eight years before, and was adopted by a noble family. Also she now has magical abilities.
Apparently, this happens a lot.
I like the premise and the world building. I even like the characters. The one thing I’m having a hard time with is that the point of view keeps changing. Not from one chapter to the next, or from one scene to the next, but from one paragraph to the next. The point of view is literally bouncing around everyone’s heads. It is very confusing. But, other than the point of view problem, the book is extremely readable. I don’t think I’ll be sticking with it, though.
9. Mark of the Gods by Kris Faryn and Jules Lynn
This is the first of five books in the Muse Island urban fantasy series. The other books are $3.99 each, but the entire series is in Kindle Unlimited.
From Maria Korolov:
Piper is a doctor at the North Texas State Hospital for the Insane. One of her patients is a serial killer who believes that Zeus, Thor, Poseidon and Osiris are real and speak to him.
She herself suffered from hallucinations as a child, which makes her more empathetic. But she knew the difference between what was real and what wasn’t.
This is their last session, since Piper had recommended that the man is fit to stand trial. And he creeps her out.
Also, he says something in the session that alludes to the hallucinations she used to have. And the birthmark on her leg feels warm when he’s there. It’s the same birthmark that the man’s victims had.
Then she goes home to her apartment, which she shares with her little sister, who has cancer. She needs a bone marrow transplant and Piper isn’t a match. They don’t know who their parents are. Someone had broken into their apartment and left an envelope on the table. An envelope containing Piper’s birth certificate. And there’s a sticky note on it, signed by the serial killer from earlier in the day.
I like this story. It’s extremely readable, and Piper and her sister are extremely compelling characters.
But I’m super freaked out by the serial killer. This is a tense, scary story. A little too scary for me, maybe.
8. The Ascendant Wars by Rhett C. Bruno
This is the first of three books in The Ascendant Wars space opera series. The other books are $0.99 and $4.99 each, but the entire series is in Kindle Unlimited.
From Maria Korolov:
Military sci-fi is one of my favorite genres. I’m a former war correspondent — seriously! I reported from Chechnya and Afghanistan and a bunch of other places back in my younger, more energetic, and I’m-going-to-live-forever days — and understand both the excitement of military adventure and the horror that it entails. There’s a thrill, an adrenalin rush, to risking your life for something crazy important, like saving humanity from alien invasions. And, since the wars are set in distant galaxies in some theoretical future, you don’t have to feel guilty about enjoying them.
This particular book is set more than 2,000 years in the future, in a star system fifty light years from Earth. Perfect!
Rylan is a commander who’s been working undercover for over a decade. Today, he’s meeting with an informant at a cafe. His wife and two daughters are back home, and they want him to quit his job. Stupid families. Always getting in the way of a good time. I had to quit being a war correspondent when I got pregnant, so I sympathize with this guy.
His contact is a former gangster who wants more money in return for some new information he’s dug up. The enemy has gotten their hands on some devices that allow humans to mount heavy weapons on civilian ships, and even use nukes against habitats. They’re in the middle of the conversation when Rylan’s personal communicator goes dead. Looking around, he sees that everyone at the cafe has lost access, and he drags his contact out the back door.
In the alley, they’re shot at. This is followed by a tense chase scene. Rylan and his fat, out-of-shape informant have to evade both the enemy assassins and the local police.
I love this beginning, and I’m very impressed by how the first chapter ends. The world building is fun and I’m invested in seeing what happens to Rylan.
Then, in the next chapter, we switch to the point o view of Scott Carrick, a lieutenant. He’s on a space station in orbit around a planet, and his annoying virtual assistant wakes him up. He’s about to go somewhere on a spaceship and there’s a little banter between him and his assistant about his schedule. Then we get a flash back to six months earlier. Scott is in the middle of a rocket attack. People are dead and wounded all around him. Scott himself suffers severe injuries. The description of the battle feels authentic and immersive.
It looks like Scott was part of an advisory group trying to restore peace to a colony. Ever since that attack — and the deaths of nearly everyone on his team — he’s been having trouble connecting to people. I don’t blame him.
Then, in chapter three, we meet Aila, a lieutenant third grade, who’s assigned to the same ship that Scott is going to be on. She’s excited. And a newbie. People still mistake her for a teenager. I’m enjoying seeing the ship for the first time through her eyes.
So, I’ve met three people so far — four, if you count Scott’s annoying virtual assistant — and I like them all. I think I’m going to enjoy reading this book very much. Plus, the series is in Kindle Unlimited. Score!
7. The Chain Breaker Box Set by D.K. Holmberg
This is the first three of twelve books in The Chain Breaker fantasy series. The other books are available for $4.99 but the entire series is in Kindle Unlimited. Book eleven is due out next week and the last book will be coming out in August. Both are available for pre-order. We previously reviewed the first book in this box set, The Risen Shard, in April of 2022. And the author has been on this list many times before Last March we reviewed The Elder Stones Saga, Last February 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, and finally May of 2022, we reviewed Unbonded, the first of five books in the First of the Blades epic fantasy series.
From Maria Korolov:
The first book, The Risen Shard, starts out with plenty of action. Gavin is a mercenary, and he’s trying to break into a very well-guarded house to get to someone. He has help — his friend Wrenlow is communicating with him via a magical earpiece, giving him directions. Still, he has to fight his way in, battling unexpectedly skilled fighters.
It’s a difficult job. In fact, most of his jobs lately have been difficult, thanks to his new, mysterious employer. Maybe it was time for him to move on to another city. Or find out exactly who it is he’s been working for and do something about the way the employer had been threatening him and his friends.
I like the writing style. It’s fast-based, heavy on the action. And there are a tantalizing hints about Gavin’s past. Plus, I enjoy spending time with a main character who’s decisive and competent.
I’m looking forwarding to learning more about the politics of the world and the magic system.
6. Midlife Mountain Magic by Renee Brume
This is the first of four books in the Midlife Mountain Magic urban fantasy series. The other books are $2.99 to $4.99 each, but the entire series is in Kindle Unlimited.
From Christina Brown:
Elizabeth leads a comfortable yet loveless life married to a dentist. When she discovers her husband sleeping with his new hygienist she goes off the hook in a very satisfying way. This includes unknowingly setting fire to her husband’s office and driving his BMW into a lake. Perhaps not the wisest choice because she ends up in jail with a multitude of charges from her jerkwad husband.
This is when good old mullet-sporting dad comes to bail her out. Elizabeth has no idea how the fire started literally from her fingertips, but her dad clearly knows more as they move her out of her back home to the mountains of West Virginia.
I love that the main character is in her forties and if you’re looking for something with some promise of jerky ex revenge and I have a feeling this will deliver.
5. Chasing Fae by Cady Hammer
This is the first book in the Chasing Fae fantasy trilogy. the other books are $2.99 and $3.99 each. The series is not in Kindle Unlimited.
From Maria Korolov:
It’s the week before the Winter Solstice, in the Middle Realm. Grace’s older brother has been on a mercenary expedition for the past six months, but is due home any day now.
There’s a knock at the door, and her mother asks Grace to answer it. There are Fae outside, and Grace panics. They’re bringing bad news. Her brother has died.
Her mother collapses, but Grace runs to her room and finds her bracelet, the last gift she ever got from her brother, and cries.
In the next chapter, it’s two months later, right after the funeral. They were told that he had stepped on a mine while on patrol and there was nothing left of his body. Then they got Leo’s dagger in the mail, in a package from the Upper Realm, the land of the Fae. Now Grace suspects that there is something fishy about his death and she wants to go into the Upper Realm to investigate.
She’s been taking combat lessons and talks her brother’s best friend into helping her get the supplies she needs.
Then she spends the next ten months training, working out at the biggest gym in the city, learning hand-to-hand combat and weapons.
I’m having a hard time figuring this setting. They have Fae. Do they have magic? Modern technology?
In the third chapter, I find out that they have magic potions that allow people to cross the barrier to the Upper Realm. And a gun that shoots grappling hooks.
I’m having a little bit of a hard time getting into the book, because it’s written in the first person, present tense. That’s a common style for young adult novels, but it always takes me out of the story at the beginning.
Plus, I don’t understand her motivation to risk her life. She doesn’t really have much evidence that her brother is still alive. Mostly likely, he died in some other way than how the Fae said. But finding out isn’t going to bring him back. And she certainly acts like she thinks he’s dead. So why is she going?
4. Dead City by Sean Platt and Johnny B. Truant
This is the first of three books in the Dead World techno thriller series. The other books are $2.99 each, and the series is not in Kindle Unlimited. Both authors have been on this list before. We reviewed their books Pattern Black last February, and Burnout in April 2022. We also reviewed Sean Platt’s The Secret Within coauthored with David Wright this last March.
From Tim McHugh:
This book takes place in a post-apocalyptic America, after a disease has turned much of the population into undead zombies. I enjoy dystopian books but usually I like to see a unique angle from them. From what I read, this seems to follow a classic zombie trope so it’s not what I’ll usually pick up.
The first chapter starts with Alice Frank, a reporter who is traveling to a base in Yosemite for reasons that are unclear in the beginning, but it seems to have to do with research she’s doing into a company that produces a cure to the zombie disease.
I read the first five chapters, and the whole time Alice is just getting herself situated at this human base. She flies there on a helicopter, gets a uniform, talks to a colonel, and we don’t get much of an idea about what the plot will be. I had to look at the book description because I found myself unable to piece it together. Throughout the book we will meet a man named Ian who has invented the cure to the disease, but as his company produces it, Alice will figure out that it might not be a cure but a giant conspiracy.
The first five chapters move at a very slow pace. Even though the chapters were short, I feel they could have conveyed the same information much quicker. I also found myself wondering what was even happening because there is a lack of detail. I don’t know who Alice is, where she is going, what the crisis in the world actually is. And the dialogue is very surface level and doesn’t reveal anything about the city she is going to.
I am not going to finish this one. It is not my favorite genre in the first place and I am not a fan of the writing style. If you do like books about the undead, you might want to try this one, because even though I did not see much of the plot in the first five chapters, there might be an interesting conspiracy here for Alice to unravel.
3. Summertide by Charlotte E. English
This is the first of six books in The Wonder Tales fantasy series. The other books are $3.99 each, and the sixth book is currently available for pre-order and will be coming out July 4, 2023. The series is not in Kindle Unlimited.
From Maria Korolov:
The story starts out in a Tree, a tree so big that it takes a few minutes to walk around it. Enough people live in this tree to fill out a small village.
One of them is Mother Gantry. She doesn’t like heights, so she lives only a few feet off the ground. The Tree is on the outskirts of a prosperous town. It feels like a fantasy town, with wool-merchants and horses.
Then one day the whole tree starts shaking. Mother Gantry looks outside, but the town seems normal. It’s not an earthquake.
Then stuff starts falling from the tree — berries, apples, plums, cherries, acorns, chestnuts. I guess this is the kind of tree that grows everything. Then a root comes up and comes down in a different place. Then more roots. People living higher in the tree start to panic as they realize that the tree has decided to walk somewhere.
The tree walks past the town. The tree has been growing in one place for a while, possibly even since Mother Gantry was a little girl.
Then, as the tree’s residents are deciding what to do — should they hop off and leave all their stuff behind? — they decide to climb higher up into the tree, where the Wizard lives. Maybe he knows what’s going on, though nobody’s seen him for a while.
I love this beginning. It reminds me of Howl’s Moving Castle and other books by Diana Wynne Jones, with the same kind of writing style and sense of humor.
I like it a lot.
2. The Grid’s Collapse by Colton Lively
This is a standalone book of EMP survival. Usually it’s $0.99, but today it’s free. This book is in Kindle Unlimited. If you like this book, the author has others available, and they are all in Kindle Unlimited.
From Alex Korolov:
If you’re into prison dramas and EMP stories about electromagnetic pulses that wipe out all electronic devices, this book could be for you.
I read the first four chapters, and there was plenty of prison drama, but unlike many other EMP stories I’ve reviewed, I never made it to the actual part of the story where the EMP hits. In many EMP books, the EMP has either already hit or does so in the first chapter or two.
In Chapter One, we meet Beth Alton. She’s spent nearly four years at a correctional facility in Oklahoma and she’s going to be released in just a couple of months. We learn in this chapter that her cell mate Angie is protecting Beth in prison, but in exchange she’s getting stuff from Beth’s commissary. Since Angie knows Beth is about to be released, she demands triple payment to protect Beth for the next couple of months or she’ll kill her, and Angie doesn’t care because she’s already stuck in prison for life.
In Chapter Two, Beth is summoned by the prison’s warden. He tells her that he thinks her cell mate Angie is smuggling contraband, and he wants Beth’s help in catching her, or he won’t release Beth from prison when she’s supposed to be be let out. Beth doesn’t want to do it, but she doesn’t have much choice.
In Chapter Three, Beth gets a visit from her sister Danielle. In Chapter Four, Angie asks Beth what her visit with the warden was about, and tells her she’ll kill her if she finds out that Beth is snitching on her.
That’s as far as I got. I never made it to the actual EMP part of the story, but I enjoyed the prison drama, so I’d keep reading.
1. The Contingency by G J Ogden
This is the first of four books in The Contingency War space opera series. The other books are $0.99 each, but the entire series is in Kindle Unlimited. G J Ogden has been on this list before, last March we reviewed Descendant of War.
From Maria Korolov:
Another military sci-fi book — awesome!
Casey is a space ship pilot who wears sequined purple sneakers and who likes to play pranks on her fellow crewmembers. She’s one of four people on a deep-space recon ship thousands of light years from Earth. They’ve been on this particular mission for nearly four years. They only have two more weeks left and have been to thirty systems so far, and found nothing. They’re looking for any sign of an enemy empire. They launched a war against humans and killed billions of people. Humans retaliated by killed all the aliens they could find, including nuking their home world.
Ships and planets are connected via the Fabric — an alien version of the Internet built countless thousands of years before by those same aliens. The Fabric allows for faster-than-light travel and communications.
Then she gets an alert on her console. A signal has been detected. There’s a 20 percent probability its from the aliens — and rising.
In the second chapter, we meet the captain. He learns that the signal has been detected. The probability that it’s an alien is now up to 53 percent, and still rising. The signal is coming from an uncharted area that nobody has visited before. They decide to go and investigate. Aliens take precedence over the fast that their mission is almost over.
They make the jump, and find a dead planet. If there’s anything left on it, it’s microbial in size. They trace the signal to one of the planet’s three moons, to an isolated communications tower hidden inside a bunch of rocks.
The crew is puzzled about why the aliens would put a single tower in the middle of nowhere — and why the signal has only now been detected. Maybe it was turned on recently, they think. They find a cave nearby and take their ship into it, then encounter sentry drones.
Should have sent in their own drones first. Why do sci-fi characters keep forgetting that they have computers?
Anyway, they easily evade the drones, then blow them up. They suspect that the reason the drones were having a hard time maneuvering is that they’re old and head back to the cave, which is actually an entrance to a lava tube. The local rock is blocking their sensors.
So, again, they decide to fly their ship in. There’s a large cavern at the end of the tunnel, an apparently abandoned starship base, and a faint power signature. Then a watch tower comes on line and they get shot. They’re forced to land on one of the landing pads below.
They now have to repair their ship. Plus, there’s more bad news — they’ve lost their link to the Fabric. Earth will probably think that their ship has been destroyed. It might be months before they send out a mission — if they send one out at all.
I like this beginning, I like all the characters, and I like the pacing and the tension. I’ll be sticking with this book.
Have you read any of these books? Are you planning to? Let us know in the comments!
Or watch Maria talk about all ten books in the video below: