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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. The Blood Covenant by Emily Bex
This is the first of six books in The Medici Warrior Series of paranormal romance. The other books are $.99 to $4.99 each, but they’re all in Kindle Unlimited. This is the author’s first appearance on our Free Friday list.
From Maria Korolov:
I’m not a fan of paranormal romance, and especially not a fan of romances with inhuman vampires. I do like urban fantasy, though, where those vampires are staked to dust. Vampires creep me out. Especially the part where they live forever and date young women. What, nobody your own age wants to have anything to do with you? Maybe you should work on that, dude.
Alec is a senator, with plans for running for president. And a day-walking master vampire living undetected among mortal humans.
Shade is another master vampire, a warrior. The two have known each other for centuries. Shade lives in Europe, but has come to the U.S. to expand his territory. And to sell wine. He’s known for his vineyards and produces both the regular kinds, and a special vampire wine made with human blood. But, most importantly, he the head of a group of vampire warriors. Alec has hired him to whip his hired mercenaries into shape. In return for Shade’s help, Alec will give him a 3,000-acre property in Virginia, which includes vineyards, plus a 4,000-acre property in Napa Valley.
Shade is at a party with Alec, other vampire, political allies, and other Georgetown types when he spots a hot woman. He’s normally attracted to female vampire warriors, but there’s something about this woman… This one is named Kate, and she’s a mortal.
So. Several centuries young than he is. Also, he’s a mind-reading, teleporting immortal vampire warrior who’s also ridiculously wealthy. Talk about a power imbalance.
Kate works in marketing, and Shade scares her. For a good reason, obviously. She flees the party as fast as she can. Shade, of course, proceeds to stalk her. He finds out where she works, where she lives, and teleports right into her condo and makes himself invisible.
Oooh, I hope she gets to stake him dead.
Anyway, she gets home and undresses, while having the creepy feeling that somebody is watching her. Then she gets into bed and calls her best friend, and tells her all about the hot guy she met that night. No! She’s interested in him!
Kill him, kill him, I say!
Meanwhile, Shadow is hanging out in her apartment, invisible, watching her undress, listening in to her conversation, then watching her sleep. He even uses his telepathic skills to project himself into her dreams.
Wow, I am so creeped out.
I can see how this could be sexy to someone, but not me. I’m out.
9. Black Magic’s Prey by Kristin McTiernan
This is the first of four books in the Siren Song urban fantasy series. The other books are $2.99 each, but they’re both in Kindle Unlimited. There’s also a prequel, Beyond the Veil, which costs $.99 and is not in Kindle Unlimited.
From Tim McHugh:
This book takes place in the Dallas, Texas area. I usually prefer high fantasy, but this book has an interesting touch of magic, so I’d say I’m a good target audience for this one.
Tess is a young woman whose life has been shaped by a stalker she’s had for fifteen years. She lives in a trailer, ready to run at any moment. She never has the chance to set down real roots, but she did finally make a friend in this particular trailer park.
In the first chapter, Tess tells us about her life and talks with her friend, then she goes to work as a human resources rep where she has to deal with her boss’s most recent sexual assault allegation. It’s in his office when an odd feeling comes over her and she loses control of her body. She watches herself stab her boss through the hand with a letter opener.
This is when we realize her stalker has found her and that he has a magical hold over her. He has some sort of power that we don’t yet understand but it seems he has the ability to control her actions. In the next couple chapters, Tess deals with the police and getting back home, but in the rest of the book we can expect her to deal with her stalker by trusting a man who might be even worse.
I love this character. She is beautifully flawed and gray as someone with her past would be. She is utterly realistic about people and only slightly pessimistic. She has complex thoughts about her sexuality and seems to be exploring that with her friend. In summation this character is real.
The writing is also very good — the descriptions are subtle and it really feels like we are in Tess’ head. There are a few info dumps but even those don’t pull you out of the story. I would also like to see more dialogue but I expect that to pick up as we go.
My only real complaint is the cover because it doesn’t do the writing any justice.
If you’re into subtle magic, complicated characters, and morally questionable actions, you should check this book out.
8. Breath by Victoria Dougherty
This is the first of three books in the Breath epic fantasy series. The other two books are $4.99 each, and only the second one is in Kindle Unlimited. This is the author’s first appearance on our Free Friday list.
From Sophie Gorjance:
This is a fantasy novel set partially in the ancient past and partially in what seems to be the present, all narrated by a woman named Sherin.
Sherin and her lover, Nif, are beings called Nin’ti, and have been reincarnated over and over throughout the ages, never living to the age of eighteen. The past sections detail their first lives in the ancient civilization of Rah’a and how their society crumbles at the advent of a horrific plague — huh, can’t relate! The present day introduces new characters, archeologists Neville, whose family has been under Sherin’s watch for generations, and Jordie, his assistant, as they uncover the lost and forgotten remains of Rah’a. Together, they must ensure that the fate that befell those people is not repeated in the present.
I found the opening chapters of this book both interesting and frustrating. Daugherty clearly put a lot of thought and effort into worldbuilding her ancient city, and as a nerd myself, I really enjoyed that.
But by the fourth chapter in, I was still unclear on the central goal of the plot, and we had yet to meet Nif. I also found the archeology in Neville and Jordie’s — sparse, thus far — sections a bit too hand-wavey for my tastes. For instance, Rah’a is pre-Sumerian, but by how long? By context clues I’m pretty sure it’s located in present-day Egypt, but there is no indication on whether these cultures were related in any significant way.
Of course, these are aspects that may be explored more fully as the book progresses, but I was frustrated by the lack of groundwork being laid in the opening chapters. Sherin herself is an engaging character, but thus far has been a rather passive protagonist.
Someone with more patience than me may very much enjoy finding out how these concerns resolve themselves, and if the slow-burn romance aspect is a draw for you then I think you should give it a whirl, but I’m going to put this book down now with absolutely no hard feelings.
7. Prometheus Outbound by Steve Ruskin
This is the first of three books in the ExoRok Rebels space opera series. The other books are $.99 and $2.99 each, but they’re both in Kindle Unlimited. This is the author’s first appearance on our Free Friday list.
From Melody Friedenthal:
Noemi Ochana is a crew captain of a spaceship. For her crew’s mining work, she needs cargo mechs. The story starts with her checking out some new mech models in a showroom on Aikkan Station, which orbits the planet Aquitania. The mechs are designed to manipulate heavy freight throughout this solar system. A salesman is giving Noemi a hard sell; he’s in competition with the many different dealers who serve the space-going community and which have set up displays of their wares in the Station’s cargo bay.
Later we learn that Aquitania is part of the Ternion Empire.
Aquitania has a prince, Aedar, who is not supportive of the new centralized credit system. I suspect we will see a romance develop between Noemi and this prince…
The salesman doesn’t know what to make of Noemi, who is both a female crew captain and a female company foreman. He is reluctant to take her word that her company, ExoRok, can pay for his expensive machines, or that she has the power to authorize payment.
Geez, are we still dealing with misogyny in the far future of this novel?
But Noemi has an alternate means of payment – pure platinum, and this the salesman likes very much.
In chapter two, Noemi compares the appearance of the mechs to the skeletons of extinct gorillas and orangutans, which, she knows, lived on Earth in the distant past. Fair enough. But then the author states that they were “humanity’s ancestors.”
I hope this grievous mistake is that of the protagonist and not of the author. Humans are apes. And we are not descended from either gorillas or orangutans.
The salesman invites Noemi to try a test-run. She climbs into one of the new models, called an Aurochs. She’s impressed with the haptic controls and responsiveness of the machine. Which leads to haggling over price. It turns out pure platinum, in quantity, is quite a bargaining chip.
Then we learn that Prince Aedar is one of a group of autocratic trillionaires who run the system – for their own families’ benefit. However, since Aedar started off as a spacer and wasn’t “to the manor born”, he’s given a lot more respect from the hoi polloi than the other princes.
Hmm, more evidence of a romance-angle in the plot.
And now we have an antagonist: Aedar’s fellow prince, Jotheront, who is working to centralize power within his family. He’s also a casual user of women and not above killing defenseless animals.
This book reads smoothly and has an intriguing beginning. We have a likable, clever, and strong female protagonist, the hint of a potential romance, a bad guy, and a space-opera setting. All good! So far, I’m enjoying this book quite a bit and I expect to finish it.
If you enjoy these elements, I’d give Prometheus Outbound a try.
6. The Darkest Vampire by Juliana Haygert
This is the first of three books in Rite World: Vampire Wars paranormal romance series. The other books are $4.99 each, and the series is not in Kindle Unlimited. There are several other interconnected series set in the same universe, including Rite World, Rite World: Lightgrove Witches, Rite World: Blackthorn Hunters Academy, and Rite World: Night Wolves. The author has been on this Free Friday list before. In April of 2021, we reviewed Heart Seeker, the first book in the six-book The Fire Heart Chronicles series. And, this past February, we reviewed Winter King, the first of four books in The Wyth Courts steamy fantasy romance series.
Lavinia, is a twenty-year-old witch who, ever since her parents were brutally murdered, has been living in a small town just outside of Portland. During the last few years, she has spent her days working as a barista in a local tea shop, using what little she can of her powers to improve their business. But she has also spent her time stealing from their richest customers and doing her own little paranormal investigations. Her magic has been diminished because of a blood promise her mother casted upon her before dying, forcing her to live her life as a normal human, and she wants that to change.
She wants to remove the blood promise and get her powers back in order to avenge her family and protect herself from whatever is hunting down the supernatural in Portland. But when removing the blood promise turns out to be more complicated than she anticipated, she will find herself forced to work together with other supernatural beings in order to be able to move on with her plans.
The first few chapters of this story give you a great introduction of the world, the characters and what their ambitions are. I really enjoyed the fluid writing, the fast pace of the story and just how natural it feels as an urban fantasy.
After discovering our main character can’t get rid of the blood promise blocking her powers with simple magic, I’m now more than interested to know how far she’ll go to avenge her family so I’ll definitely continue reading this. Plus, let’s not forget that someone or something is hunting down the supernatural, making the whole story a lot more interesting.
5. The Calypso Mystery by T.S. Falk
This is the last book of five in The Ancient Secrets technothriller series. The other books are $2.99 each but are all in Kindle Unlimited. The author has been on this list before. Last June, the second book in this series was also on this list.
From Maria Korolov:
Since this is the last book in the series, and the first book, The Ancient Code, is in Kindle Unlimited, I’m reading that one instead.
The Ancient Code starts out with Elliot Brand, a techno-archeologist in his forties, studying ancient ruins in Afghanistan. He’s running out of time to finish his work, using laser scanning to create a precise three-dimensional map of a tomb. The US forces would leave the area in a few days, and it wouldn’t be safe to stay any further.
He’s almost done when he gets word that the Taliban has taken Kunduz and their forces are heading towards the village where he’s doing the excavation.
He’s forced to grab his laptop and leave the drones and the rest of his equipment behind in order to get to the airport in time. There’s a very well-written and action-packed chase to the plane in time.
Then he’s back at the University College of London, teaching a class in how to use cutting-edge tech in archeology. And I loved this part as much as I did the chase through the desert.
This is exactly my kind of book. And, from what I’ve seen of it so far, I’m going to love it. I like the main character, I like the author’s writing style, and I like the pacing. It does take a couple of chapters to get to the main story. A mysterious benefactor hires Elliot to find another missing archeologist, Elliot’s old mentor. The only clue is a mysterious object that’s more than million years old that could not have been produced even with today’s technology.
Elliot’s old mentor has gone over the crazy conspiracy theory side and haven’t been in touch for years, but the money is good, and the mysterious object is intriguing, so Elliot takes the job. The problem, though, is that the rich guy’s investigators have already turned over every possible rock looking for the missing archeologist. Elliot doesn’t have much to go on.
I like this book very much, and will probably finish it this weekend. It has a very strong Indiana Jones vibe, and I’m picturing Harrison Ford while I’m reading it.
4. Witch Way to Murder & Mayhem by Jane Hinchey
This is the first of six books in the Witch Way cozy magical mystery series. The other books are $4.99 each, and they’re not in Kindle Unlimited. The author has been on our Free Friday list before. In March of 2022, we reviewed First Blade, the first of three books in the Awakening urban fantasy series.
From Maria Korolov:
Harper, just promoted to head librarian, was living in the big city when she caught her then-fiance cheating on her. She turned the guy into a snake, a monkey, and a rat — and her witch’s license was revoked as a result. Plus, she got fired.
Now she’s back in her home town, living with her grandmother. The local bookstore is up for sale, and her grandma urges her to buy it.
The purchase goes through, Harper signs the papers, and she comes to the bookstore to get the keys from the real estate agent, an old childhood nemesis — and finds the agent dead on the floor.
The investigating detective is, of course, tall, dark, and handsome. Too bad he’s already seeing someone, a fellow cop.
But at least she’s got her grandma and her two best friends — another witch, and a vampire — help keep her spirits up.
She’s a suspect in the murder, and wants to clear her name. Fortunately, the detective asks her to help with the investigation, to use her research skills to track down which poison was used to kill the real estate agent. He’s got a lab working on it as well, but it will take time to get those results. He’s hoping that she can be faster.
Also, he’s fine with her being a witch with a suspended license.
I’m torn about this book. On the one hand, I love everything about the premise. The protagonist owns a bookstore, can do magic, has supportive friends and family, and has to solve a murder. I know, I know, I’ve read this same story a million times before but I’m always up for another go.
But, on the other hand, the way Harper is brought into this investigation is a little too convenient and implausible. There’s also no particular reason for her to be a suspect — and, if she is actually a suspect, even less reason for the detective to ask her to help with the investigation.
Bottom line? If I didn’t have anything else to read this weekend, I’d happily finish this book and would probably enjoy it. But it’s not quite compelling enough to pull me in and make me drop the other books I’m reading right now.
3. Al Clark by Jonathan G. Meyer
This is the first of five books in the Al Clark sci-fi series. The other books are $3.66 to $4.99 each and the series is not in Kindle Unlimited. The author has been on our Free Friday list before — we previously reviewed this book in September of 2022.
From Maria Korolov:
I love hard sci-fi and I love books about settling new planets. So I’m very optimistic about this novel.
He wakes up in a box not much larger than his body, with only a little light coming from a pinhole above his head. There’s an alarm blaring somewhere. He opens the lid and climbs out into a tiny gray room and turns off the alarm. He’s wearing a uniform that he doesn’t recognize. And he can’t remember his name or where he is. Or who he is. He leaves his room and when he looks back at the door, he sees a name written on it — Al Clark. So he must be Al. He wanders around, and eventually finds a keycard and a handgun, and things start coming back to him. For example, he knows about the gun and how it works and how to use it. He finds food and water and battery chargers and eventually a spot where he can see out — to space. He must be in a space station, one large enough to rotate and have gravity.
So where are all the people? And why couldn’t he find a single working computer?
The opening of this book reminds me a little bit of Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir. It’s matter of fact, but suspenseful. I’m liking it so far and will probably stick with it.
2. Once Upon a Viking by Demelza Carlton
This is a box set of three books from the 27-book Romance a Medieval Fairytale series: Appease: Princess and the Pea Retold, Blow: Three Little Pigs Retold, and Return: Hansel and Gretel Retold. All the other books in the series are $4.99 each, and the series is not in Kindle Unlimited.
Demelza Carlton is a frequent flyer on this list. Last month, we reviewed Ocean’s Justice, the first book in the six-book Siren of War fantasy series. In March, we reviewed Stone Guardian. We also reviewed many other books in Romance a Medieval Fairytale series, as they hit a free price promotion.
From Amira Loutfi:
Blow is a retelling of the Three Little Pigs, but in this version, the wolf is a cute prince, Rudolf, who has been separated from his lover by his political responsibilities when a war breaks out.
The story starts with them as children and we get to know the characters a bit. Rudolf seems kind and mature. He withdraws from a play fight that he feels isn’t fair due to his superior training. When he hears three girls are missing, he runs in a genuine panic to find them.
These three girls are then nicknamed the Three Little Pigs thanks to Rudolf. And even a decade later, they are unable to live it down.
Portia is the eldest and her puppy love for Rudolf is actually pretty cute. Rudolf then finds himself in a situation where he must lead his father’s army to take control of Portia’s homeland.
There is a good chance I’ll read this one all the way through. I like the medieval time period and the recurring themes of the classic story of the Three Little Pigs.
1. Frozen Homestead by Marie Wilkens, Robert J. Walker, and James Hunt
This is a box set of six books from the 50-book EMP Survival in a Powerless World series. The other books are $3.99 to $4.99 each but are all in Kindle Unlimited.
Outrun the Night by Marie Wilkens, The Coldest Night by Robert J. Walker, Off The Grid by Robert J. Walker, and the three-book Surviving the Collapse Omnibus by James Hunt. We have reviewed books by all these authors before. Many, many times. Too many times to list. They are super popular.
From Alex Korolov:
This box set is definitely a good collection for fans of EMP fiction. For those that don’t know, EMP books are a type of apocalyptic fiction where an electromagnetic pulse wipes out pretty much all electronic devices — including modern planes and cars — leaving everyone to fend for themselves.
Jack’s an office worker who is constantly interrupted by his boss Bill. In the first chapter, Bill tells Jack that a superstorm blizzard is coming in very soon. Just after this announcement, all the power goes off in the office building and their cellphones go dead. Yep, it’s an EMP. Cars are piled up outside, and all the traffic lights in the city are dead too. Jack tells Bill to get everyone out of the building, and that’s he’s going to go and find his family. At the end of the chapter there’s a blinding flash and a deafening blast that knocks Jack unconscious.
As far as first chapters for EMP books, I like this one. There’s a giant blizzard coming in, and the EMP hits within the first few pages, so there isn’t a slow build up. Also, there’s some kind of exciting explosion or something like that, so the book starts off with a lot of action. I find some EMP books a little slow, but not this one. I’ll keep reading.
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: