Some articles may include Amazon affiliate links. All proceeds go to helping us pay for original stories and to support writers of speculative fiction. Read more here.
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 Lost Star by Odette C. Bell
This is the first of four books in The Lost Star, a space opera series. The other books are $2.99 each and are not in Kindle Unlimited.
From Amira Loutfi:
Cover — totally awesome. Love the facial expression of the lady on the cover and how she’s holding those two thin swords. It doesn’t look like a romance. Looks instead like a sci-fi adventure. And there are only eight chapters! I always think it’s cool when an indie author breaks the mold.
Ava is in the midst of a “locks” ceremony in her temple. All the other priestesses are gathered and the head priestess is guiding Ava through a litany that confirms her commitment to their way of life. It’s a very big commitment. It sounds like she’s committing her whole life to serve the temple. Internally, Ava is planning her escape. She doesn’t want all the responsibility. She would much rather just be normal. At first, I thought this sounded selfish.
In this ceremony, Ava is getting new bracelets called locks that will dim her power. The new locks are huge.
These priestesses are the guardians of the people of Avixa — but not that type of guardian. Instead, this temple is charged with keeping the rest of the Avixan race under control since they have a history of terrorizing the rest of the Milky Way galaxy. That’s what the locks are for, too — they prevent the priestesses from going berserk.
And now that Ava has new locks, she’s able to leave the planet to continue to work among the stars.
Wait, what? Suddenly the author admits that the priestesses aren’t needed anymore. Avixa has a well-functioning democracy that keeps the peace. So all the litanies of commitment she was just reciting don’t make any sense. She actually has no responsibility towards anyone. But isn’t this character arc all about a priestess escaping responsibility? I’m so confused and I don’t like it.
It seems to me that instead of escaping from responsibility, she’s escaping from a controlling cult!
It’s not for me. But other people like it a lot!
2. A Savage Spell by Shannon Mayer
This is the fourth of five books in The Nix Series of urban fantasy books. The first four books are all free today. Book five, which was released this week, is $3.99 but is in Kindle Unlimited.
From Maria Korolov:
I’m not going to start reading this book today. Because I know, 100 percent, that I’m going to be reading it over the next few days and I don’t want to spoil anything for myself.
I’d be reading them all even if all her books weren’t in Kindle Unlimited and I had to pay full hardcover prices.
The author is really that good. I’m honestly amazed I haven’t heard of her before. Have I been living under a rock?
If you like kick-ass heroines who are competent and deadly with a tragic past and dangerous families and enemies on all sides — which I do — then this is the series for you. I did start reading the first book, and had to tear myself away a few chapters in to finish this post.
Scroll down to read my review of the first chapters of the first book in this series, Fury of a Phoenix.
3. The Fallout by James Hunt
This is the last book of the five-book EMP Post Apocalyptic Survival series, a post-apocalyptic thriller. The rest of the books are $3.99 or $4.99 each but are all in Kindle Unlimited.
From Maria Korolov:
The book starts with Ben dropping off his kids for a sleepover, then heading home to his wife. They’ve got a romantic evening planned, just the two of them. Then the power goes out. In the house, but also their phone batteries are dead. Ben checks the fuse box, then, suspecting the worst, goes out to his truck. Yup, it was an EMP. He’d been planning for just such an emergency.
Now, if my lights went out, as well as my phone and my car battery, I’d put it down to an extremely unfortunate coincidence. But Ben knows it’s an EMP, and luckily, he’s prepared. But maybe it’s not because he’s a survivalist nut, but because he’s a first responder I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt.
Nope. Once he realizes it’s an EMP, he immediately goes to grab his to-go bag and his guns. The next step is for them to grab their younger kids from their sleepover and then meet up with their daughter at a pre-planned rendezvous point. Again, if it was me, I’d be heading back to work, to help out with the emergency, and let my spouse collect the kids. It’s probably going to be all-hands-on-deck at the firehouse.
His neighbor also works at the firehouse, in a more junior capacity, and Ben tells him to grab supplies and go back to the house. Again, instead of doing something productive. Oh, no, Ben’s been regularly getting training from ex-military folks at some survivalist thing for the past three years.
Basically, Ben thinks that the minute things go back, people are going to immediately descend into savagery. I guess he plans to get there before everyone else does.
I do not like Ben. I don’t like his self-centered, selfish approach. I do not like that his first instinct is to kill people. And that he has no faith in humanity.
He and his neighbor walk into the city to get his kids, when a sniper starts shooting people. It’s Friday night, and there were a lot of folks outside anyway, and now there were more because everyone was confused about what was going on. Ben uses his hunting skills and survivalist training to figure out where the sniper is and the two of them fight and Ben stabs the sniper to death. When he pulls off the sniper’s mask, he sees that the sniper is American, and the guy’s driver’s license is from a local town. Ben takes the sniper’s weapons. The sniper also has a working radio — it must have been protected from the blast.
Meanwhile, Liz’s wife is back home, taking inventory, helping one neighbor who’s pregnant, and another whose husband is in trouble with the local lowlifes. I like Liz better than Ben, but overall the book is putting a very sour taste in my mouth. Especially with what’s going on in the world right now, the last think I want to do is read a book about some crazy anti-social survivalist types who turn out to be right.
4. Blood of a Phoenix by Shannon Mayer
This is the second of five books in The Nix Series of urban fantasy books. The first four books are all free today. Book five, which was released this week, is $3.99 but is in Kindle Unlimited.
From Maria Korolov:
Since I won’t be reading the first few chapters of this book — I’ll wait until after I’ve finished the first book in the series — let me tell you a little bit about Shannon Mayer herself.
From her bio, she lives in Canada on a farm with livestock. She’s married, and has a son, and is into archery.
Her books have also made the USA Today bestseller lists.
She explains that she worked shoeing horses for a living and wanted to have children, so she needed another source of income for when she got pregnant.
Before she started writing seriously, she took several writing and editing courses, she said.
5. Rise of a Phoenix by Shannon Mayer
This is the third of five books in The Nix Series of urban fantasy books. The first four books are all free today. Book five, which was released this week, is $3.99 but is in Kindle Unlimited.
From Maria Korolov:
In that interview that I mentioned above, Mayer talks about her writing process. I’m always fascinated by how writers do the stuff that they do, because it’s so personal to everyone.
Mayer started out as a pantser — writing without outlining, by the seat of her pants. Then she realized that if she was going to do it for real, she was going to have to learn how to plot. She started out by following the book The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler. Which is not available as an ebook, and not in my local library. So I ordered an actual, honest-to-goodness print copy. Hey, I’m a writer. It’s a business expense.
Another thing she does after she writes her outline, a very detailed outline, is that she sends it to an editor for review before she starts writing.
“It’s probably been one of the best things I could have done, and I know it wouldn’t work for every author,” she said. “But anytime I’ve been insecure about my writing I’ve leaned on my editors to help me find the holes in it. That’s their job, and I expect them to tell me when I’m writing crap.”
6. Fury of a Phoenix by Shannon Mayer
This is the first of five books in The Nix Series of urban fantasy books. The first four books are all free today. Book five, which was released this week, is $3.99 but is in Kindle Unlimited.
From Maria Korolov:
I’m a big fan of urban fantasy with kick-ass heroines.
In this series, Nix runs a horse ranch in Wyoming. Twelve years ago she’d escaped from her previous life as a killer of a monsters and moved to Jackson Hole, but she’s still paranoid that people will come looking for her. Namely her abusive father, who made a deal with the devil, or her other horrible relatives.
She’s made a new life. With a new name, and a nice, normal husband, and a son. But they’re attacked on the way home from a Christmas party, and her son and husband are killed.
Who killed them? And why was she left alive — when she was the most dangerous one? Maybe her husband wasn’t as nice and normal as she thought, and was keeping secrets of his own.
I love the writing here. Powerful, perfectly paced, compelling. I’m not surprised that the author’s made the New York Times bestseller lists. From the first chapter, she’s now on my must-read list, up there with Kim Harrison and Kelley Armstrong.
7. The Desert Cursed Series by Shannon Mayer
This is the first three books in the nine-book The Desert Cursed Series of USA Today-bestselling epic fantasy books. The other books are $3.99 each and are all in Kindle Unlimited. The ninth book is due out in April of 2022.
From Maria Korolov:
I have high hopes for this book, since I loved the beginning of Fury of a Phoenix so much.
This book is a little different in style and not as serious. Which kind of makes sense — Fury of a Phoenix started out with the main character losing her husband and son. Not a good time for jokes.
The first book in the series, Witch’s Reign, starts out with Zamira Reckless Wilson riding a horse, being chased by giants. Yup, her middle name is actually Reckless — her ex-marine dad picked it out.
She and her best friend Steve are trying to take a jewel back to the Stockyards. They stole the jewel from the evil ice witch who’s been keeping the land trapped in a state of permanent winter.
Luckily, she’s carrying a grenade launcher.
Unluckily, Steve gets snagged by the giants and their queen.
Zamira tries a bluff to get the giants to chase her instead.
And I love this book. I like her attitude, her snark, and the fact that she carries grenade launchers.
8. The Dragon’s Midlife Mate by Haley Weir
This is the first of four books in the Cress Dragon Shifters paranormal romance series. The other books are $0.99 each and are in Kindle Unlimited. The fourth book is due out later this month.
From Amira Loutfi:
So there are two big parts of this story that I’m already excited about — dragon-shifters and a magical little town. There are a few other weird elements which I’ll describe below.
The point of view for each chapter switches between Ariah and Zachary for maximum emotional impact. Worked on me.
Ariah is running away from an abusive relationship, but, thankfully, we don’t spend a lot of time on that. She just explains it to us in a couple hundred words in the first chapter as she’s walking out of the city. Nice! And I like how it sort of makes sense. Her husband, Marko, gradually was getting meaner and meaner, and one of the steps along the way was a moment where she shifted her finger into a dragon claw to pick a lock for him. He used her dragon identity to manipulate her.
Ariah is 42 years old and Zachary is 47. They meet in the small town of Cress, at three in the morning, when Ariah sits on the doorstep of a rundown pub. The door opens and it’s Zachary — also a dragon shifter. Hunters killed his parents when he was a teen and he spent the past three decades in Cress. He can tell immediately that she’s a dragon shifter too and he reassures her that it’s safe in Cress because “nobody hunts dragons” there. He seems sweet. I think Ariah should go for it.
She starts working for him in the pub. Zachary’s perspective makes her seem like a skittish little baby goat. He’s watching her grow comfortable.
Instead of this relationship, I am actually more curious about what makes this tiny town so safe for dragon shifters. The population is half human and half dragon shifter. So I wonder how it keeps safe from the violent hunters nearby, and if there are any neat legends about how the town started.
This is really cozy to me. It’s not the usual shifter romance. It’s not funny. It does give me warm feelings, though.
Instead of learning about how the town is safe, Zachary brings Ariah to an old dragon den. It’s just for fun. They both transform into dragons and cuddle together all night. The next day, Marco, her ex-husband, kidnaps her and leaves a ransom note for Zachary.
The oppressed mage trope is strong here. It sort of annoys me because powerful people are not usually oppressed. It’s actually the people without power who get oppressed. In real life, people who oppress others often try to paint themselves as helpless victims to escape accountability for their actions. So that’s why this trope sort of irks me — it represents a fundamental misunderstanding of power that has real-world implications.
It’s just fiction, though.
Is it for me? Not really. But I can see why others like it. It certainly is sweet.
9. Witch of the Wild Beasts by Catherine Stine
This is a standalone historical romantic fantasy set in the same world as the author’s previous book Witch of the Cards.
From Amira Loutfi:
Evalina is a witch and her power lies in her connection to animals. She’s in prison at the beginning of the story, and she has all these animal friends. She sort of sounds like a Disney princess. I’m into that. I like good girls who get punished for doing the right thing.
Four months prior, she was working in her tailor’s office and there was a hive of wasps making a huge racket. It distracted her from her work and not only that — she noticed a giant beehive right out her window despite knowing she had just cleaned her windows an hour earlier! How did it get there? Magic!
She works with her brother at the tailor’s place when she sees one of the customers get violent. It is a doctor — and he’s attacking her brother! Evalina uses her witchcraft to fend him off while also stabbing him with a pair of scissors. Yikes. But she’s too late. Her poor little brother had the life choked out of him. The wasps were helping her fight the doctor while also giving her directions. They told her to run. And she did.
I really feel sorry for her. She had also lost her parents and family home. That’s where she ran after she lost her brother. She is then homeless for a while and we get to see a few of her adventures as a homeless girl. It’s a bit sad, though. She then gets a job keeping birds off of corn. And her employer is a big baddie and eventually her birds attack and kill him. To be fair, he was being a complete jerk. You could easily think of it as self-defense.
Her coworkers see it and they call her a witch. She is hauled off to prison that very night.
She then learns that the doctor survived and is conducting studies on inmates.
Goodness gracious. This story is kind of awesome, but it’s pretty sad. Evalina is a very good girl and life is just so cruel to her.
Is it for me? I dunno. Maybe? I like to feel sorry for the protagonist, but that’s not enough to keep my attention.
10. Rylee Adamson Series by Shannon Mayer
This is the first three of ten books in the Rylee Adamson urban fantasy series. The other books are $3.99 each and are in Kindle Unlimited.
From Maria Korolov:
The first book, Priceless, begins with Rylee Adamson meeting with a couple of parents who’ve lost their seven-year-old daughter, India. The police have given up. Rylee is their last hope. She’s a tracker, someone who finds lost children for a living.
Rylee’s own sister was abducted when Rylee was sixteen, and she was thrown out by her parents after she was accused of killing her sister. Her adopted parents thought she’s killed their biological daughter.
And India was taken on the same exact day of the year, in the same park, as Rylee’s sister.
Rylee can tell that India was still alive. That was her talent — to be able to sense and find missing children. But India was on the other side of the Veil, and she’s going to need some help to get to her.
Not help from the FBI, though. There are two useless agents following her around, still suspecting her for her sister’s murder, and wondering how she’s able to find all those lost kids.
One of the two agents following her, O’Shea, is obsessed with Rylee. He was on the case ten years ago when her sister went missing, and he’s convinced that Rylee had something to do with it. He’s never been able to prove it, but he can tell that something is off about her.
I love this book. It’s got a more serious tone again, and this time there’s a stronger romantic element. You can tell Rylee and O’Shea are going to get together because the book switches to his point of view in the second chapter. Plus, she kissed him at the end of the first chapter to shock him and get him off her case. But it’s not too heavy-handed a romance. I can deal with it.
I’m definitely going to keep reading.
Do you have other free books for us to check out? Email me at [email protected].
Watch us talk about these books here: