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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 Many Lives of Ivy Wells by Michelle Files
This is the first of four books in the time travelling Ivy Mystery Series. The other books are $3.99 to $4.99 and are not in Kindle Unlimited.
From Amira Loutfi:
This book gets into the action really fast. A serial killer, known as the Red Lake Slasher, has been terrorizing a small town, and the protagonist unwittingly marries him. They have two kids together. Eventually, she realizes what he is and escapes. Running from him seems like an ongoing project since the story opens with Ivy Wells yelling “code red” at her kids and they know what that means.
Simon, her ex-husband — aka the Red Lake Slasher — has arrived. Although technically, at least according to him, they are still married. They launch into a violent brawl and he kills her by the end of chapter 2. In the beginning of chapter 3, she wakes up in a different place and her husband is gone.
It’s cool where she wakes up. She’s in her old neighbor’s yard. She notices that her body shows no signs of the bloody attack she just experienced. Then she catches a glimpse of her reflection — she’s a KID again! About twelve years old.
As she’s standing there in shock, her neighbors greet her. Ivy remembers her neighbor’s kid as being obnoxious, yes, but also as the first victim of the Red Lake Slasher.
Will I be back? Probably not because I’m reading Dune right now and it’s awesome. And very long. Otherwise, I would probably come back to this story.
It’s fast-paced and I really appreciate that.
2. The Break Down by Robert J. Walker
From Amira Loutfi:
So far I don’t think I’ve had to read any of these EMP books. Maria always seems to get them and she hates this genre. But I’ve been a bit curious. Maybe I would like it!
The EMP blast goes off when Alaric Mason is out in the woods with a client who wants to study grizzly bears. Together, they have to find their way out of the “dangerous wilderness.”
In the very first line they are talking about guns. This establishes some character. Alaric is a tough, pro-gun guy. And he is with his new client, Harvey. Harvey is against guns and has an annoying personality. Alaric has to patiently explain to him that because they are in America, it’s ok to have different opinions.
Gosh, Harvey. Don’t you even know what country you’re in?
Land of the free? Hello? Ever heard of it?
Harvey is a Ph.D. student and he hired Alaric to take him out for a few days to do his fieldwork. I am enjoying this.
The two men are opposites and wouldn’t normally hang out, but Alaric enjoys the assignment because he gets to go out to the dangerous wilderness and might have to shoot a bear. Most of his assignments are not so dangerous and involve transporting rich people to their resorts.
There is a storm brewing and Alaric warns his client that they probably should get to the chopper soon. Instead, Harvey whines about his research being incomplete. As they continue into the wilderness, their flashlights go out and all their devices die. Harvey, of course, reacts like a dumb-dumb. Alaric immediately knows that the power has gone out for everyone.
I’m really enjoying this one. Will I be back? Probably. How does a story like this end?
3. The Time Machine by H. G. Wells
This is a reprint of the classic book, which is now in the public domain.
From Amira Loutfi:
The Time Machine is a classic and it’s fantastic and you don’t need me to tell you that.
Instead, I’m going to see if I can figure out what’s going on with this copy. The top review on Amazon for this book gives it one star and claims that all the other reviews are fake and that the writing is garbled.
There does seem to be text missing. This ebook only has twelve chapters, but other copies have sixteen.
The publisher, Musaicum Books, has a page on Storytel and 24symbols. It has published a lot of books and the covers all look similar to this one. It doesn’t seem very professional.
Meanwhile, here is the link to the Project Gutenberg version of the book, which you can read it for free online or on any mobile device.
4. A Very Beary Christmas Cruise by Ellie Pond
This is the first of four books in the Dark Wing Paranormal Holiday Cruise shapeshifter romance series. The other books are $3.99 each. They are not in Kindle Unlimited. The fourth book is due out next January. We reviewed Hidden Heart, the first book in the companion Dark Wing series, back in March. That one was also set on a cruise ship.
From Amira Loutfi:
Shifter romance is so popular that people have begun to write them with holiday themes! Just from the cover, I know there will be a strong Christmas atmosphere, a very muscular man who shifts into a bear, and all the action will probably take place on a cruise. A middle-aged woman will be there, too, no doubt. They will fall in love with each other in spite of themselves.
I imagine the author is a very funny person.
And the second book in the series is called “My Not so Funny Valentine: A Fated Mate Second Chance Romance (Dark Wing Paranormal Holiday Cruise Book 2)” That literally made me laugh out loud.
Michele can shoot plasma out of her fingers at will and she’s no stranger to the shifter universe. There is a magic system here — Michele’s magical power can drain like a battery. Cool. She is great at having fun because her witches’ coven had decreed that her contribution to the group would be a sacrifice. I think that means she’s willingly sacrificing her life for them. Woah. I didn’t see that coming. This is why she’s really into spoiling herself, and it is what propelled her into going on a shifter cruise the first time.
She is going through her mail and two of them have plot significance — a purple letter inviting her on another cruise and a letter from her best friend Laura with pictures. Laura married into a shifter family. Her mother-in-law is an oracle. Some of the pictures are of her adorable new baby wolf shifter. Another picture shows them all at his naming ceremony — and Michele is there holding the baby. Gunner is also in the picture and that irritates Michele just a little.
She sees then that the purple envelope is still in the sink. It’s impervious to her plasma shots. Strange. That usually does the trick. So I’m guessing that some cute stuff will happen that forces her and Gunner together. She is going to be forced onto the cruise and bump into Gunner again, probably. He’s probably the bear shifter on the cover.
This is adorably written. I’ll be back.
5. Unsouled by Will Wight
This is the first of ten books in the best-selling Cradle epic fantasy series. The first six books in the series are all free today. The last four are $6.99 each but are all in Kindle Unlimited. The tenth book is due out next month.
From Maria Korolov:
Twice a year, the clans of Sacred Valley test their children for magic abilities. Some time between six and eight years of age, every boy and girl gets dressed up, lined up before the clan elders, and dips his or her hand into a bowl of magic liquid to find out what kind of magic they have. Some are judged to be guardians, with the power to protect the clan. Others have the power to attack enemies from a distance. Some can affect the earth and air. And some can create weapons.
Lindon, seven, wants to be in that last category. He wants to make magical items. But the magic doesn’t react to him at all. The elders declared him “unsouled.” It’s a shameful thing, and never happens. He’s tested again six months later, and again when he’s eight. Nothing. He grows into a teenager who’s the only one in the village without magic powers.
He can still use runes to do magic, so he’s not completely hopeless. One day, he finds a magic tree in the forest and is able to use his skills in rune-casting, combined with his natural physical prowess, to get its fruit.
The book is extremely readable, just as you’d expect from one with thousands of five-star reviews.
Lindon is a very sympathetic character. He tries hard, and strikes a good balance between doing what’s best for his family, for his clan, and advocating for himself. He’s not a jerk, and not a pushover. He makes the most of what’s he’s got to work with. I like the guy a lot.
It is a coming-of-age novel, and I’m not typically the target audience for these, since I hate teenagers. But I like Lindon and want to spend more time with him.
Since there are ten books in the series, I’m going to go out on a limb here and figure that Lindon does find a way to make something of himself.
6. Blackflame by Will Wight
This is the third of ten books in the best-selling Cradle epic fantasy series. The first six books in the series are all free today. The last four are $6.99 each but are all in Kindle Unlimited. The tenth book is due out next month.
From Maria Korolov:
I haven’t read the previous books yet, so I’m not going to start reading this one and spoil anything for myself, or for you guys. But this book’s average review score is 4.8 out of five stars, even higher than the first book in the series.
So, back to the first book.
I want to mention that I like the fact that Lindon has a kick-ass magical mom and a cool sister.
The fact that it’s a coming-of-age story with a male protagonist with strong female characters around him reminds me a bit of Harry Potter. It’s not quite as compulsively readable — but then again, what is? — but it’s definitely up there for me.
If you’re interested in this type of story, definitely pick up all six books now. And if you want to keep reading, and you have Kindle Unlimited, you can read the rest for free as well. And Wight has two other series on Amazon: The Traveler’s Gate Trilogy and The Elder Empire trilogy, all in Kindle Unlimited. If you want even more, Wight’s got a link to all his short stories at the bottom of the books page on his website.
7. Soulsmith by Will Wight
This is the second of ten books in the best-selling Cradle epic fantasy series. The first six books in the series are all free today. The last four are $6.99 each but are all in Kindle Unlimited. The tenth book is due out next month.
From Maria Korolov:
This book has an average review score of 4.7 out of five stars, just a bit higher than the first book’s 4.6.
Instead of telling you what this book is about, since I don’t want to know, let me tell you more about the background of the books.
This series falls in the Xianxia sub-genre of fantasy, which is influenced by traditional Chinese mythology and martial arts. If you want to know more about this genre, read Will Wight’s post about it here.
Apparently, it’s a popular genre for people who write web novels, posting regular installments online, and the quality can vary greatly. Also, most of the books are in Chinese, though some are available in English translation — again, at various levels of quality.
8. Skysworn by Will Wight
This is the fourth of ten books in the best-selling Cradle epic fantasy series. The first six books in the series are all free today. The last four are $6.99 each but are all in Kindle Unlimited. The tenth book is due out next month.
From Maria Korolov:
This book has an average review score of 4.7 out of five stars, again just a bit higher than the first book’s 4.6. So it doesn’t look like Wight is slacking off on these.
Again, instead of telling you what this book is about, since I don’t want to know, let me tell you more about Will Wight.
He lives in Florida, and has a masters in creative writing from the University of Central Florida. He wrote his first novel, House of Blades, while he was a student there.
He self-published it under his own imprint, Hidden Gnome Publishing, in 2013, then followed it up with a bunch more books and stories, all, again, self-published.
“I had no expectation that we were going to hit any NYT Best Seller list–or even that we could, since ebooks sold exclusively through Amazon don’t count toward the NYT’s list,” Wight wrote on his blog.
So there you go. An inspiration to indie writers everywhere!
9. Ghostwater by Will Wight
This is the fifth of ten books in the best-selling Cradle epic fantasy series. The first six books in the series are all free today. The last four are $6.99 each but are all in Kindle Unlimited. The tenth book is due out next month.
From Maria Korolov:
This book has an average review score of 4.8 out of five stars.
Meanwhile, instead of telling you about the book, I’ll tell you more about the series itself.
In an interview late last year, Wight described this style of writing as “progression fantasy.”
That puts it somewhere in the general vicinity of LitRPG. In that genre, the books are set in video game-style worlds, and the main characters accumulate stats and increase their ability levels. Often, the writers provide handy charts and tables chronicling progress. It’s a little like watching someone play a video game, but in book form.
In “progression fantasy,” the characters are still leveling up, but it’s not quite as in-your-face as in LitRPG.
“It’s next door to LitRPG, but isn’t really that, and yet it has a distinctly different flavor from a lot of traditional fantasy,” Wight said.
Harry Potter could, in a sense, be described as “progression fantasy” since in every book Harry goes up one grade level in school, faces greater challenges, and gains new skills and abilities.
10. Underlord by Will Wight
This is the sixth of ten books in the best-selling Cradle epic fantasy series. The first six books in the series are all free today. The last four are $6.99 each but are all in Kindle Unlimited. The tenth book is due out next month.
From Maria Korolov:
This book has the best reviews of this set, with readers praising his character development, style, and pacing.
I don’t want to read too many of the reviews, or the book’s description, since I don’t want to spoil the series for myself or for you guys.
Just keep in mind that, as strong as the beginning is, it gets even better.
I’d love to get Will Wight on our YouTube channel to talk about the series, and the publishing strategy behind it, and if he ever thought about going with a traditional publisher.
Meanwhile, I haven’t been able to put the first book down. I definitely think I’ll be finishing it this weekend, because I’m really invested in the main character now.
Do you have other free books for us to check out? Email me at [email protected].
Watch our video discussing these books below: