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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.
There are a lot of books to go through, so this week I’m being helped out by Amira Loutfi, our reviews editor.
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. After the Ending by Lindsey Pogue and Lindsey Fairleigh
This is the first book in the The Ending dystopian science fiction series. The other books are $3.99 to $4.99 each and are not in Kindle Unlimited.
From Maria Korolov:
According to the book’s prologue, 90 percent of people on the world have died. Survivors have developed unbelievable abilities. And the protagonist has found love with the least likely person.
I don’t mind the unbelievable abilities, but massive death tolls — and romantic plots — are not my thing. So normally, I’d put the book down right then and there.
Anyway, after the prologue, the book starts right in with a flu that’s much worse than normal, sending people to the hospital. And there’s hand sanitizer. Lots of it. I guess the post-Covid novels are finally arriving.
Hold on a second, let me check the publication date. This book came out in 2013.
Over the course of the first couple of chapters, people are getting sick left and right, going to the emergency room, dying. Danielle and Zoe, the two protagonists, and sympathetic characters. I don’t like seeing them surrounded by all the horrors. Zoe’s roommate dies. So does Danielle’s boyfriend and best friend.
And both Zoe and Danielle get sick. Very sick. And the symptoms sounds way too close to Covid.
I can’t read this. It’s just too close to reality.
2. Order of the Omni by Penny Knight
This is the first of three books in The Immortalies urban fantasy series. The other books are $2.99 and $3.99 each and currently available for preorder. The second book is coming out later this month and the third book will be released in May of next year.
From Maria Korolov:
The cover text is a little difficult to read. Maybe it’s just me. I probably need new glasses. But, fortunately, I adjust the font of the e-book itself to my preferences.
Elita is suffering from frequent headaches, pain and creepy dreams. Maybe its nothing. maybe it’s a brain tumor. Either way, she’s got a job to do. She’s driving from the doctor’s office to work when there’s a car accident right in front of her. She’s not supposed to be driving, but it’s just a short hop. She takes pictures of the accident then heads off. She doesn’t have time to hang around and give statements just now.
Elita is a private investigator. Her current assignment is to take pictures of a guy and his mistress at a nearby hotel, and she wants to get there in time to set up her equipment.
I like her very much. She’s competent, organized, and isn’t going to let a possible brain tumor get in the way of her doing her job. And I like the urban fantasy genre.
But then, fourth chapter in, the point of view switches to a hot guy with some kind of mystical powers who’s strangely drawn to a tattoo on Elita’s neck. Because it’s some kind of mystical mark.
Frankly, I’m disappointed. I’m in the mood to read about a kick-ass private eye battling supernatural monsters. I think I’ll keep reading, though. I can look past a little romance if there’s enough bad-assery.
3. The Last Necromancer by C.J. Archer
This is the first of ten books in The Ministry of Curiosities historical fantasy series. The other books are $2.99 to $4.99 each, and are not in Kindle Unlimited.
From Maria Korolov:
Charlotte, 18, has been passing herself off as a 13-year-old boy on the streets of Victorian London for the past five years. Her father, a vicar, kicked her out of the house because she brought her dead mother back to life. Turns out, she’s a necromancer. Then she is forced to use her ability once more in order to escape a fate worse than death, and, pretty soon, everyone is looking for her.
I read this book half-way through over lunch today before I remembered that I had to get back to the other books on this list.
It’s a slow-paced book, and most of the first half is a game of psychological cat-and-mouse between Charlie and a man named Lincoln who heads up a mysterious organization dedicated to exploring unusual events and protecting England from paranormal enemies. But it was gripping and I couldn’t put it down. Lincoln was a little too mysterious, brooding and handsome for my taste. If you’ve been reading my reviews for a while, you’ll know how much I hate the mushy stuff.
I know that Charlie and Lincoln are eventually going to get together. I’m hoping they won’t, that Charlie will find her own path in life and create her own identity. And, if she does sleep with him, it would be on her terms, not his. I’m not optimistic, but the writing is fantastic, and I plan to keep reading it.
I plan to keep reading even though the rest of the books aren’t in Kindle Unlimited.
4. The Last Commercial Ever by George Ellis
This is a standalone book of dystopian science fiction. If you enjoyed book, the author, George Ellis, has several other books available.
From Maria Korolov:
It’s a grim premise and hits a little too close to home: a commercial that aired on the Super Bowl killed people, then began spreading on viral videos and killed even more. Kip, the guy who created the commercial, is one of the few people left alive because, ironically, he was on the phone fighting with his girlfriend when it first aired.
Kip wasn’t responsible for the deaths themselves. His commercial had been infected with something called “The Message” by a group called “Western Course,” an extremist organization.
I’m not getting caught up in the story, and Kip as a character doesn’t appeal to me, personally.
But, most importantly, I’m seriously not in a mood to read anything about dystopian futures, extremist conspiracies, and massive death tolls. I get enough of that on the news as it is.
5. Artifact by Joshua James
This is the first of four books in the Saturn’s Legacy space fleet science fiction series. The other books are $0.99 to $4.99 each but are all in Kindle Unlimited. The fourth book in the series, Awakened, is currently available for pre-order for $5.99 and will be coming out in April of next year.
From N.T. Narbutovskih:
Saturn is going to be a place of mysteries for many hundreds of years, even assuming we get off the Earth post-haste. Artifact capitalizes on the gas giant’s place with a story about a strange artifact discovered on a small moon circling Saturn. This, plus another secret, makes Enceladus the moon a focal point for the convergence of all the military forces in the solar system.
This books starts with a somewhat confusing mashup of ancient civilization and high-tech relics. A king, who is a god, although not really, but then again maybe he is, it’s confusing as to what they are defining a god as, has to shoot down some space ships with a bow and arrow while his helper hides a secret tablet. Once it’s hidden, the not-god-kind kills everyone in the city and the ships above with a pocket nuke that they aliens (gods?) in the ships above gave to him the last time they came to town. It’s a lot of action, and while some of the speeches drag quite a bit, it’s a punch introduction to an ancient mystery. The author gives us a handy time stamp that these events are occurring in Mesopotamia around 2200 BCE. So, ancient aliens all around!
We then fast forward to 2061 and the story starts in full. Apparently, Western and Eastern tensions have continued pretty much status quo politically, because our intrepid hero is a marine in the United States Space Corps, stationed on guard duty on Mars. At what I can only call a rapid expansion, the Chinese and Russians are apparently also not to be left out of the space race, so we have a very familiar political environment to what we live in today.
I enjoyed the premise of this book, and while the writing dragged in places. I didn’t catch any glaring issues with point of view or unforgivable errors in physics or logic. The only true critique I had that kept me from being fully immersed in this book is that the lack of evolution in the political situation rings pretty hollow to me. That and the incredibly rapid advanced in technology that would be necessary for a lot of the tech level in a mere 40 years seemed a bit of a stretch. The action scenes were well thought out, however they also seemed to drag due to a slight excess of description.
For fans of thrillers with a military bent in a near high-tech future, Artifact will be a great addition to your shelf. Mystery, a little bit of mayhem, and plenty of undiscovered secrets.
From Noreen Brenner:
All I can say is wow, wow, three times wow! This novel is utterly fascinating. I have read the first two chapters and am so eager to know how the story continues, that I am chomping at the bit while writing this review. Heck, as a matter of fact, I plan on reading the entire series of novels.
I would say the story is as good as the narrative of Stargate-SG 1, but just perhaps even better.
The prologue is unbelievably intriguing and sets the stage for a highly suspenseful plot. The story begins in the world’s first city, Ur, called Ur-An in the novel, in ancient Mesopotamia, in the year 2219 BCE. Naram-Sin, King of Ur-An, successfully battles non-humanoid aliens with two powerful weapons. The weapons had been helpfully given to him by a group he called “the other gods,” who had taken him up into the sky previously, in their heavenly chariots aka spaceships.
Before he vanquished the hostile aliens, the king assigned his right-hand man, Enli, the task of hiding an incredibly important object that was given to him, the king, by the other gods, so that the enemy species could never find it.
Chapter one introduces the first of the two main protagonists, Corporal Carpenter Lowell, an American stationed as one of US Space Corps’ soldiers on Mars in the year 2061. His group’s task is to guard a team of archaeologists looking for an artifact in the exoplanet’s red soil. Evidently, the Chinese space force is also looking for the artifact, and makes an appearance at the archaeological site with two cloaked spaceships, that fire on the dig. Lowell fires back. The archaeologists are all killed in the course of the fracas, but Lowell suspects foul play on the part of his superior, Lieutenant Larry Munroe. He thinks Munroe assassinated the archaeologists, to get his hands on the Martian artifact. Later in the book, we learn that Lowell complains about Munroe’s actions, but instead of being praised for telling the truth, Lowell is demoted, and sent to Enceladus, Saturn’s Moon. And hey presto, that is where another artifact is found, the most important artifact in the book, and where the main action takes place. Many of earth’s space forces rush to Saturn’s moon, including American, Russian and Chinese forces, who are at loggerheads with each other with regard to the artifact.
In chapter two, the second main protagonist, Peter Chang, an American archaeologist, discovers the artifact that King Naram-Sin of Ur-An had asked Enli to hide, and that Enli had buried in the ground. Peter has a talent for ancient languages, and is able to read the cuneiform text written on the flat metallic tablet. The cuneiform document talks about Saturn and clearly shows that an advanced space-faring civilization had interacted with the Mesopotamians. Peter’s boss, the archaeologist Professor Keating, immediately recognizes the significance of the artifact, and tells Peter that he will be hired to work on a project connected to it.
It goes without saying that I give this novel five shiny stars. It’s a rare find, the author’s oeuvre is a gem among Amazon’s science fiction offerings.
6. Darkness Watching by Emma L. Adams
This is the first of five books in The Darkworld coming of age urban fantasy series. The other books are $3.99 to $4.99 each and are not in Kindle Unlimited.
From Maria Korolov:
The title of the first chapter is “Doomsday” and the first page starts right out with Ash’s best friend telling her that there’s supposed to be a zombie apocalypse that day.
Ash is on her way to her school’s annual careers talk. Tomorrow, she has her interview with her top-choice university. So she’s a student. Frankly, with few exceptions, I don’t like books about students. I didn’t enjoy school very much and don’t like reading about it.
Then, in the middle of the assembly, Ash sees a demon. Or maybe a ghost. Nobody else does. Ash thinks she’s losing it due to stress. Going nuts is not going to do her academic career any favors.
The next day, right during the interview, she sees another demon and runs out screaming. No surprise that the university doesn’t accept her.
Instead, she gets acceptance by a college she doesn’t remember applying to — Blackstone University.
This is taking me back to my own college admissions process. I didn’t enjoy it much the first time around. I don’t think I’ll be sticking with the book.
7. Silver Spells by Kate Moseman
Silver Spells is the first of four books in the Midlife Elementals urban fantasy series. The other books are $0.99 to $3.99 each and are all in Kindle Unlimited. This is the second time this book has been on this list. We previously reviewed it this past February.
From Maria Korolov:
When not reading books about kick-ass women killing people and space battles, I thoroughly enjoy cozy magical mysteries.
In this one, Luella is a social media manager at a sunscreen factory. Her daughter has just gone away to college. And she gets fired. No explanation, nothing. As she’s packing up her stuff, a strange white dog runs into the building and runs out again. Only Luella and her two best friends see it — the other employees don’t react at all.
Her boyfriend implies that it’s her own fault she got fired, despite her good performance reviews, and she dumps him on the spot. Good for her.
Now she’s living in an apartment she can no longer afford, with college bills that she can no longer afford to pay, so she jumps at an opportunity to live rent-free house-sitting for her mom’s friend while she job-hunts.
And the weird stuff just keeps piling up. I’m seven chapters in, and there’s still no sign of a mystery. Other than the obvious one about what’s with all the magic happening to Luella and her two friends. But I’m enjoying it very much, I like the characters and the sunny Florida setting. We’re buried in snow here where I live in Western Massachusetts, so I can use some sunshine, even if it’s just in a book.
8. Bound by Earth by Quinn Loftis
This is the first of three books in The Nature Hunter’s Academy teen and young adult urban fantasy series. The other books are $3.99 each and are not in Kindle Unlimited.
From Maria Korolov:
Yet another book about young people at a magical academy. If you like this genre, this is a good week for you.
If you’re me — not so much.
At this school, which is called the Terra Academy, all the students are orphans with the power of Earth. They are there to learn how to protect Mother Gaia. Mother Earth.
Jax is in a hospital, visiting a girl who’s been injured by a dark elemental. She’s only 13, and her parents had been killed. Jax pledges to protect her and calls on Mother Gaia to grant the girl her protection.
That was the prologue. Chapter one begins with the girl’s point of view. Her name is Tara, and she’s been sent to live with a foster parent. She’s all alone in a new city. Jax is there, watching over her, but from a distance.
It’s a slow-paced start. Tara’s story is sad, and I’m not a fan of sad books. When it comes to leisure reading, I prefer something fun instead.
9. The Return of Raven by Martha Carr and Michael Anderle
This is the first of eight books in the WarMage Redux high fantasy series. The other books are $4.99 each and the entire series is in Kindle Unlimited. This is a continuation of The Never Ending War series.
From Amira Loutfi:
Raven is graduating from magic school. The first few chapters take place at the graduation ceremony. It reminds me a lot of Harry Potter. There seems to be characters based on the Weasley family, Professor Dumbledore and Professor McGonagall.
The school exists in a kingdom where magic has recently been tamed and dragons have been freed. Every student has an animal familiar. Raven’s is a dragon which most people find alarming and dangerous.
Two wild dragons attack the ceremony and Raven’s familiar and his dragon friends chase them away. The Dumbledore-inspired headmaster says that it’s not a problem. In other words, this book has a slow start.
I probably won’t be back.
10. A Distant Earth by Nick Iuppa and John Pesqueira
This is a standalone book about politics and superheros. If you like the book, Nick Iuppa and John Pesqueira have several other books available.
From N.T. Narbutovskih:
The premise of this book is that aliens have come to Earth looking to recruit some indigenous people to populate a paradise they have found, full of life but without any intelligent life. Unfortunately, despite their advanced technology they wind up mired in the plastic at the bottom of the ocean. They still want to save some people from climate change, but then their female Captain falls for a right-wing extremist climate denier who also has set up a militia.
The writing is unremarkable, with a significant and in my opinion unnecessary use of all capital letters. The story is somewhat rote and reads more like the script for a pulp rom-com TV show than a science fiction novel. Whatever the characters do and care about is secondary to the political commentary, which overshadows everything in this book like a fist waiting to strike. Whatever your political leaning, the drawn-out scenes of the villainous far-right extremist are going to bore you almost instantly, and I found myself only a few pages in before I couldn’t handle any more textual shouting. All capital letters and the word “shout” are definitively redundant. Add in the smattering of fourth-wall breaks to create context and the present tense in which the entire book is written, and I really just could not enjoy this work at all. As a work of satire, it might be passable, but I just couldn’t get past the writing quality and the heavy-handed liberal politics.
If you have a high tolerance for poor writing and are willing to skip over large parts of the story, you may enjoy this celebration of the Democratic platform and vilification of conservative views. I, however, will not be reading any further.
Have you read any of these books? Are you planning to? Let us know in the comments!
Or watch Maria discuss all ten books in the video below: