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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. The Atlas Defect by A.J. Schudier
This is the third of eleven books in the NightShade Forensic FBI files X-files-style thriller series. The other books are $2.99 to $4.99 and are not in Kindle Unlimited. The eleventh book is currently available for pre-order and will be coming out this coming July.
From Maria Korolov:
For me, this book has a few strikes against it right from the start. First, it’s the third book in the series. I’d normally go and read the first book, instead, but it’s not free, and it’s not in Kindle Unlimited. Which brings me to the second strike. None of the books are in Kindle Unlimited. If I like them, it’s going to cost a chunk of change to read them all.
They do have a “look inside” for the first book in the series, Under Dark Skies, with five free chapters.
That first book starts out with FBI agent Eleri Eames being released from a hospital after three months. Her new boss at the FBI demanded that she be released early. She’s got a new case, a new partner with a particularly sensitive nose, and she’ll be working with a new unit — a unit whose name she’s not allowed to mention.
A missing child has been spotted in a cult in Texas. The missing child was connected to several similar disappearances, including one of a daughter of another FBI agent.
I normally like police procedurals very much. But the story starts very slowly. There are meetings, and paper work, and introductions, little of which is particularly interesting. The only lead they have is a woman who showed up in a Texas hospital, didn’t provide her full name, got treated for shingles, and disappeared again. So they fly to Texas, then go to the hospital, then visit the morgue to look at a dead body which might be connected.
There’s something mysterious about Eleri’s partner’s sense of smell — and about why she just spent three months in the hospital.
This is moving at a very deliberate pace. A lot of people like this book — it has thousands of five-star reviews. But it’s not for me. Well, not right now, anyway. I’ve read similarly-paced detective series before and enjoyed them very much, but I’m not in the mood right now for creepy and depressing story about missing children and cults. I want something fun and cheery, or something fast-paced.
Then I switched to the third book, The Atlas Defect. Eleri and her super-sniffer partner are still together, and on a new case, in a national forest in northern Michigan, in the winter. A human bone has been found in the area and there’s something odd about it, odd enough to send Eleri and her partner to investigate. Oh, and her partner is… I shouldn’t say. It gives away some of the story from the first book. Darn it. This is why I don’t like to start in the middle of a series!
The third book picks up right with the action, without wasting time in preambles and introductions. I like it very much.
My recommendation is to check out the first few chapters of Under Dark Skies and, if you like it, buy that book and the next, then get the third book for free. You’d be saving a little money.
2. Onslaught by Bowen Greenwood
This is the first of four books in the Exile War space opera series. The other books are $2.99 to $4.99 and are not in Kindle Unlimited.
From Maria Korolov:
Space operas are one of my favorite genres. I love reading about space battles, creepy aliens, and interstellar adventures.
The story is set in the far future, when humanity has spread far beyond Earth. Tia Dynn is the chief executive officer of the corporation that rules the planet Felicitas, and one of the three most powerful people alive. She’s at a political party when Langston, a telepath working for the Union of Human Space, arrives looking for a rogue telepath. Langston is very handsome.
Meanwhile, Tia is the spitting image of Langston’s great love. They flirt, even though the Union’s telepaths aren’t allowed to get involved with anyone without permission.
There’s some local politics, some gossip, then a wall explodes. In the middle of the carnage, Langston uses his mental powers to protect her and the rogue telepath shows up and attacks him.
Langston tries to talk him down, then there’s a battle between the two telepaths that involves balls of fire and bolts of lighting flung around.
Then Langston saves Tia from the building’s collapse. Many people die, in the single greatest loss of life in Felicitan history.
I’m getting the sense that Tia and Langston will eventually get together, even though both have very good reasons not to get involved with each other. For me, that’s a minus. On the other hand, the action is really good and I like the interstellar politics. But I’m not particularly engaged by either of these two characters, not enough, at least, to pay for the other books in the series.
3. Witch in Charm’s Way by R.K. Dreaming
This is the first of five books in the Witches of Brimstone Bay humorous magical mystery series. The other books are $0.99 to $3.99 and are all in Kindle Unlimited.
From Maria Korolov:
Cute cover. Kindle Unlimited. Magical mystery. All good signs for a fun weekend read.
Esme is taking a creepy train ride through the English countryside, headed for safety. Her great aunt left her a house in her will, a place for Esme to hide out and figure out what to do next. A house in Brimstone Bay, Esme’s hometown.
Seems that her husband is having an affair with her best friend.
Then, at one stop, a stranger gets on the train and sits down next to her. Esme doesn’t have much magic herself, even though she grew up in a magical community. But she knows a werewolf when she sees one.
When she gets to the house — more of a castle, really — her Aunt Adele is still around. Dead, but with enough makeup it was barely noticeable. After all, her aunt has cakes to bake and a cafe to run. Can’t let the customers down.
I like the beginning, it’s just the right combination of cozy, funny, and mysterious. I think I’ll keep reading.
4. Kings and Sirens by India Amare
This is the second of three books in The Blood Falls paranormal romance series. The other books are $0.99 to $4.99 each and are all in Kindle Unlimited.
From Maria Korolov:
In 1960, the strongest earthquake struck Chile and opened a barrier between our world and another. And something came through.
In the present day, Rhysa works in a university bookstore. She’s a student, a psych major. A woman in fancy dress comes in, looking for a new release, accompanied by her two brothers, one of whom is particularly attractive to Rhysa. The books are all sold out, but Rhysa has a copy hidden away. The customer, Gigi, promises to return and bring a cake.
When Rhysa’s back at work on Monday, Gigi comes in, bearing chocolate cake. She’s a grad student in anthropology working on ancient DNA.
Then there’s an accident outside. Or maybe an attack — someone might be after Gigi. One of her brothers is hurt. The one who Rhysa liked. Shot in the shoulder. Then something weird happens. She hears voices, feels paralyzed, feverish, in pain. She goes home, in pain, and passes out naked in a cold shower. When she wakes up, she’s in her bed, and Gigi is there. Gigi tells Rhysa that she’s now a vampire. She’s been living her whole life as a human, but, the previous day, the sight of Gigi’s brother’s blood had woken up her vampire side.
Gigi fills Rhysa in on who her parents are, and on her new powers and life as a vampire. Seems Rhysa’s the sole heir of the House of Axl, her father was dead, and her father’s family was at war with her mother’s family.
And there’s sex. Lots and lots of sex. And lots and lots of family drama.
Not my thing.
5. Wizard’s Rise by Phillip Tomasso
This is the first of four books in The Severed Empire coming of age fantasy series. The other books are $3.99 each and are not in Kindle Unlimited.
From Alex Korolov:
Wizard’s Rise is a classic sword and sorcery fantasy book about an evil king who must be stopped by an unlikely group of heroes. As a fan of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, I was drawn into the story right away, and if you’re a fan of high-fantasy adventure stories, this one could be worth reading.
King Hermon, the mountain king, is going to wage war to unify separate kingdoms under his rule, and he’s planning to use an army of wizards to do it.
Mykal, a farm boy who you learn very quickly is afraid of heights and spiders, and for some reason has a sword, dagger, and bow and arrows hidden inside a tree, has to stop him.
Mykal almost gets killed by sinister sea serpents while bow fishing in the ocean. One of them drags him in and he barely fights his way back to shore, where he randomly runs into Karyn, the daughter of King Aslom, who was the ruler of a kingdom that was destroyed ten years ago. She tells him she’s there to help him and that he might be the only one who can save the old empire.
6. Unbonded by D.K. Holmberg
This is the first of five books in the First of the Blades action and adventure romance series. The other books are $3.99 to $4.99 each. The fifth book of the series will be coming out in June. The entire series is in Kindle Unlimited.
From Alex Korolov:
Unbonded is a fantasy adventure story about a female warrior who’s on a mission. I read the first four chapters which introduced the characters and got the quest started, and I found it interesting enough to keep reading, especially the creepy blood-sucking sorcerer that appears at the end of chapter four.
Imogen has been trained from a young age to be a master sword fighter, and now she’s on a dangerous quest with her brother Timo to find and kill a powerful sorcerer named Dheleus.
If you like fantasy stories with a lot of fighting and magic, this one is for you.
7. My Funny Demon Valentine by Aurora Ascher
This is the first of three books in the Hell Bent paranormal romance series. The other books are $2.99 and $3.99 each. The entire series is in Kindle Unlimited.
From Amira Loutfi:
So Ash and his brothers are demons from hell. Ash is cursed so that all his senses are dulled and he is partially invisible to humans. He’s a lust demon, so that’s a serious problem. I am laughing just thinking about this premise. Do you know where the story is going? I think I do.
Ash and his brothers snuck onto Earth to party, but Ash is stuck on guard duty while the others have fun. They thought that going into human form and escaping — not sure yet what they have escaped from — would break Ash’s curse. But the curse is still going strong. He’s still color blind, the alcohol tastes like water, the music doesn’t sound good, and while ladies are physically able to look at him, he doesn’t really register in anyone’s mind.
Then he sees a performer on stage whose music makes him feel amazing. It’s a female. And they meet eyes for a second. As his brothers are ready to go, they try to invite him to an orgy. Woah. I would be happier without that part.
But then the performer on stage catches up to him and thanks him for listening to her music. All the demon brothers are shocked. She can see him? Whaaaaat!? Did you see that coming? I think I saw this coming from a mile away.
It’s predictable but I like it. What can I say? The characters are believable and it’s sucking me in. I recommend it if you enjoy paranormal romance with nightclubs, gritty characters, and cheesy humor. And I usually hate sexy paranormals in nightclubs. Usually, I pick up these free romance books because they tend to be highly structured and kinda predictable. By that, I mean that compared to the other Free Friday books, I feel that they have the least meandering.
I might be back.
8. City of Storms by Kat Ross
This is the first book of four in the Nightmarked fantasy series. The second book is $3.99, and the third and fourth books are currently available for pre-order and will be coming out this August and May of next year. The series is not in Kindle Unlimited. Kat Ross has been on this list before. Last November, we reviewed A Feast of Phantoms, the first of three books in Lingua Magika steampunk fantasy series.
From Maria Korolov:
In this world, people get magical tattoos called Marks, which suppress people’s worst impulses. But sometimes these Marks flip, and do the opposite, releasing inhibitions and causing people to do horrible, crazy things, up to and including murder. Alexei is a priest and his job is to hunt down people whose Marks have flipped, before anyone gets hurt. To help him, he has a kennel of Markhounds, dogs bred to smell the moment a Mark flips and to follow it to its source.
At first, I thought this was an epic fantasy, but then Alexei’s partner, Patrik, drives up in a car, smoking a cigarette. So not, epic fantasy. The names sound Russian, but are all slightly off.
I read further. Okay, they don’t seem to be our modern world either. They’re in something called Via Sancta, composed of four city states. The world has electricity and telephones, umbrellas and taxis and trams and waterproof mascara. But it also has knights and mages.
I’m getting very much caught up in the story. The tone and style reminds me a little bit of The Shadow and Bone books by Leigh Bardugo, which they recently made into an awesome Netflix series.
I recommend it. I think it’s worth paying money for.
9. As Witch Would Have It by Mara Webb
This is the first of twelve books in the Wicked Witches of Pendle Island cozy magical mystery series. The other books are $3.69 to $3.99. The entire series is in Kindle Unlimited.
From Maria Korolov:
Chelsea Moon’s life is falling apart, so she goes to her birth place, Pendle Island, and finds that she’s inherited her great aunt’s house, a pirate ghost, and talking cat familiar. Oh, and also she’s a witch. Then she finds out that her great aunt has been murdered — and that everyone on the island hated her. And there’s a curse on her family.
It’s a fun magical mystery, with a cozy island setting. The cat is fun, and so is Chelsea’s crazy cousin Lizzy.
I’m enjoying the books, and it looks like lots of other people have, too. And there’s twelve books in the series, and they’re all in Kindle Unlimited, so if you enjoy it, you’ll have enough reading material for a long time.
I’m liking it so far, and will probably stick with it. It seems like a nice, relaxing weekend read.
But if you confuse it with the other magical mystery with the dead great-aunt, I wouldn’t be surprised. Just remember, this one has a cat, and the other one has cake.
10. The Survivors by Dan Decker
From Maria Korolov:
First, a disclaimer. I’m not a fan of dystopian fiction. Now that we’re living in a dystopian nightmare with an insane pandemic, a crazy war in Europe, and a new horror unfolding nearly every week… I mean, who needs fiction when you’ve got reality?
So, for my leisure reading, I prefer something light, or something action-packed. Something to give me a mental break. To recharge the old brain batteries.
Morty is a college student. For some reason, he keeps large knives, a shotgun and other weapons in his dorm room. His roommate Pete used to look at that with disdain and rant about gun control but then Morty took him skeet shooting, and he started to loosen up. And, now that zombies are trying to break in through their dorm room door, Pete’s not complaining about the weapons any more.
They fight off the two monsters, Morty shooting at them with his shotgun, and purple zombie blood goes flying everywhere. Then Pete tells Morty that the zombies are actually Jen and Veronica, two women who they were supposed to go on dates with the next day.
I’m totally creeped out by all of this. And not in a good way.
Apparently, the zombies got loose from Pete’s research lab. He can’t reach anyone at the lab to send in a containment team. Pete thinks about calling the regular cops, but then he’ll get in trouble for the stash of weapons he’s got in the room. This is Texas, but there are limits, apparently.
I wouldn’t be reading this book anyway, but given the timing, it’s literally making my stomach hurt.
Have you read any of these books? Are you planning to? Let us know in the comments!
And watch Maria discuss all the books in the video below:
Edited by Melody Friedenthal
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.