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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 quick 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 Inkwater Witch by Atley Wykes
This is the first of three books in The Inkwater Series of paranormal romance. The other books are $5.99 each but the series is in Kindle Unlimited. The third book isn’t out yet — it’s scheduled to be released early next year, and is currently available for pre-order.
From Amira Loutfi:
From page one, I am immersed in this swampy magical world.
The writing style and tone of this story are not similar to the other shifter romances that we’ve been reviewing on the Free Friday column.
Mardella is a young witch who lives in a swamp that is full of dangerous creatures. In the opening scene, she tries to hide from a large monster as she harvests potent berries from his territory. She needs the herbs to create a life-saving medicine. The monster and its mother attack her, and she defends herself with Avatar-esque water-bending. It’s pretty cool.
At home, she reflects on a traumatic moment from her past. It’s not 100% clear, but it seems like she killed her niece by accident when she started training in magic with a mentor. Ever since then she’s been alone in the swamp.
As she’s prepping her medicine, she realizes there is an intruder in her hut. And she tries to attack it, but instead it knocks her over. It’s a super super handsome man, close to her age. And with a heart of gold, too.
Just kidding about all those details. But I think it’s probably safe to assume. The intruder must be misinformed about her, and we will probably discover that he is the perfect suitor for her. Right? This is an enemies-to-lovers romance after all!
I like it. I think it’s immersive and I like how the setting is described. It really makes me feel like I’m with her in the swamp! The magic system seems a bit simple so far, but it is good enough to suit the story! I will probably be back.
9. A Drop of Magic by Janna Ruth
This is the first of three books in the Ashuan Greed young adult paranormal romance series. The other books are $3.99 each but the series is in Kindle Unlimited. The third book isn’t out yet — it’s scheduled to be released in November and is currently available for pre-order. The author has been on this list before. A year ago last October, we reviewed her book A Force of Nature, the first of four books in the Spirit Seekers urban fantasy series.
From Maria Korolov:
I’m not a fan of romance books or young adult books, so I’m not the target reader here. Though I do love Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
Lucille wants to live at home, with her father, instead of at some Swiss all-girls boarding school like her stepmother wants. She’s got two years of high school left, and would rather spend it getting closer with her dad, even if it means attending a public high school.
The book starts slowly, to me, at least. Lucille has breakfast with her stepmother because her dad is busy with work. Then the chauffeur gives her a necklace — her grandmother wanted her to have it — and drives her to school, where she meets the other students and goes to her classes. Of course, there’s a hot guy in her first class.
Meanwhile, the whole town is all about magic. It’s the heart of the tourist industry. Lucille thinks it’s all a scam and doesn’t have any patience for it. But then she accidentally reads a Latin phrase from a book and a fireball appears in her hand. She’s not happy about this. She doesn’t believe in magic, and is a bit freaked out by what happened.
Then in the next chapter we switch to Samantha’s point of view. She’s the owner of the book that Lucille read from. She’s been trying to get the magic to work for years, with no success. And she’s pretty annoyed that it worked for Lucille, instead. We also find out that Lucille’s grandmother was killed by a demon ten years ago.
Then we switch to Fabian’s point of view. He’s Samantha’s best friend since childhood and her former boyfriend. His mother owns a magic shop in town, but he doesn’t have any patience for magic, either.
Then, the next day, we’re back with Lucille. The popular mean girl invites her to join her clique because Lucille is so rich, and she has to choose between sticking up for the annoying and nerdy Samantha or joining in with the bullies. She sticks with Samantha, annoying magic and all.
The book is readable, and is definitely giving me some Buffy vibes. But it’s a little bit too much teenage drama for me, so I’m not going to stick with it.
8. Roll For Initiative by Kevin Mclaughlin and Michael Anderle
This is the first of three books in the Tomb of Malevolent Evil LitRPG series. The other books are $4.99 each and are both in Kindle Unlimited. Both authors have been on this list before. In October of last year, we reviewed their book Never A Dragon, the first of six books in the Dragon’s Daughter series of young adult books. Meanwhile, Michael Anderle, either alone or with co-authors, has been on this list at least ten times. He’s very prolific. In fact, he’s also got another book on the list today, with another co-author, if you scroll a little ways down.
From Maria Korolov:
LitRPG is the sub-genre of speculative fiction that’s set inside video games. Think of Tron, or The Matrix, or Ready Player One — or the latest Jumanji movies. It’s one of my favorite genres. My books are LitRPG. Or, more exactly, GameLit — as far as I can tell, LitRPG differs from GameLit in that LitRPG books generally have stats reports.
This book is definitely LitRPG — every so often, the author stops and lists each main character’s strength, dexterity, constitution, and other statistics.
The premise is that five people, who I get the sense are all in their twenties, get together to play a table-top game similar to Dungeons and Dragons — and they get sucked into the game. The magical world where the game is set needs their help. They find themselves in new bodies, with access to the memories and abilities of the characters they now inhabit, and have to save the world from a big evil in order to get back home.
I found it hard to keep all the characters straight because their in-world names and genders weren’t always the same as their real-world names and genders, and the switching back and forth gave me whiplash. I’m bad at remembering names, anyway. The point of view kept switching between characters as well, making it even more confusing.
That aside, the story is readable and fast-paced and I got caught up in the action. I was on the tenth chapter before I remembered I had other books to get to.
7. Rainy Magic, Windy Roads by Lena Abram
This is the first of two books in the Dominions fantasy series. The other book is $4.99 and is not in Kindle Unlimited.
From Maria Korolov:
Lila is a travel blogger who has the magical ability to make a pocket universe. She used it to create a bathroom. That way, when off hiking, if she needed a toilet, she’d never have to squat in the woods again. She also used it to store supplies, so she wouldn’t have to carry stuff in her backpack.
Creation magic is a rare gift. There are only 32 registered mages in the world who have creation magic. Lila isn’t registered though, and there are probably others that aren’t, as well.
She’s on a trip in Japan, dealing with website issues, when she sees a news report that Atlantis is real — and in trouble. They need to find new homes for all their inhabitants. The Atlanteans invite people to come visit, and Lila immediately sends in her application.
It’s a cute story. The writing style is light and fun, and the Atlanteans have flying rocs and magical plans and other cool stuff. I’m interested in reading further. I also like her job. Travel blogging sounds like fun, especially when you have a pocket universe you can take with you everywhere you go. I might keep reading.
6. Beyond the Grave by R.W. Wallace
This is the first of four books in the Ghost Detective urban fantasy series. The other books are $4.99 each and are not in Kindle Unlimited. It’s the second time this book has been on our list. We previously reviewed it in January of this year.
From Maria Korolov:
I love the premise here. Emeline Evian is a detective in France who is sent to Toulouse to look into the murders of young women. There were a bunch of old cases misclassified as suicides by lazy police detectives. As the book starts, she’s exhuming the body of Clothilde Humbert, who died in the 1980s.
The thing is, Clothilde’s ghost is still around, haunting the cemetery where the body is buried, unable to move on because of unfinished business. And there’s a second body buried next to her’s — the police detective who originally did such a bad job investigating her case. He’s also a ghost. And he also can’t move on.
The book is atmospheric and I like the unusual setting. Unusual for me, at least. I haven’t read any paranormal police procedurals set in France before.
When I first read this book, I said that I loved it so far and will probably finish it over the weekend. Spoiler: I did not finish it over the weekend. I got distracted by other stuff and never came back to it.
5. Subversion by Allyson Lindt
This is the first of four books in the Neon reverse harem paranormal romance series. The other books are $2.99 to $3.99 each and are not in Kindle Unlimited.
From Maria Korolov:
Dahlia is a geeky Goth girl who spends her time hanging out in a burlesque club. She feels that she belongs there, even though she was originally raised as an assassin by the gods.
I love the opening of this book. I didn’t expect to. The cover is a little off-putting to me. So is the the fact that’s this is a reverse harem paranormal romance. I’m not a fan of the romance genre, and especially one when the female protagonist ends up with more than one guy. It just seems like too much work.
Anyway, even though Dahlia was raised by the gods, she’s just a human. The gods who raised her wanted to prevent Ragnarok, by raising an army of orphans to stop it from happening by killing newly emerging gods before they could get too much power. Dahlia’s specialty was digital espionage. When she refused to kill one of her targets, a shoot-on-sight order was put on her.
So now she’s dancing in a burlesque club.
The tone of the book reminds me a little bit of Laurell Hamilton’s Anita Blake series. But also, I’m getting a sense that there’s a lot of backstory I’m missing…. and I’m right.
This is a spinoff series to Valkyrie’s Legacy series. And the first book of that series — Valkyrie Reborn — is in Kindle Unlimited, as are the rest of those books. I think I’ll go read those first and I recommend that you do, as well.
4. Shifter In The Swamp by Martha Carr and Michael Anderle
This is the first of eight books in the Academy of Necessary Magic young adult urban fantasy series. The other books are $4.99 each and are all in Kindle Unlimited. The two authors have been on this list before. This past July, we reviewed their book Magic Inc., the first of eight books in The Evermores Chronicles cozy mystery series. And, this past May, we reviewed their book The Return of Raven, the first of eight books in the WarMage Redux high fantasy series. I’ve already mentioned that Michael Anderle makes frequent appearances on this list.
From Maria Korolov:
I’m not a fan of young adult books, nor of romance, but I’ve liked several others of Michael Anderle’s books — and I love the cover. The main character looks pretty kick-ass.
The book starts with Amanda in her dorm room, daydreaming about crossbows, hunting knifes and airboats. She’s twelve, a shifter, and is looking forward to class the next day — she’s starting combat training at a bounty hunter school. Official name: the Academy of Necessary Magic. She’s the only shifter at the school.
It’s the middle of the night, and with her superhuman hearing she hears footsteps coming up the stairs. The school principal is bringing a new student to her room. She’s a magical, like every other student here, but got kicked out of her previous magic school. Once the principal is gone, Amanda sneaks out of her room to find out more. The new girl got kicked out after she blew up her old school’s power generator.
Amanda is at the academy by choice, and she’s looking forward to her classes, especially combat training. I like her. I like the writing style — it’s upbeat and action-focused. No teenage angst in sight.
I’m getting a sense though that there’s more to the backstory, with references to other people that it feels that I should know about. It look some reading in the reviews to find out, but apparently Amanda was first introduced in Go Dwarf Yourself, the first book in the 12-book Dwarf Bounty Hunter series by the same authors. You know what? I really like the style of this book, and the other series is in Kindle Unlimited, so I’m going to go read that book first.
3. Song at Dawn by Jean Gill
This is the first of four books in The Troubadours historical romance series. The other books are $0.99 to $2.99 each and are not in Kindle Unlimited.
From Carla Nordlund:
An unnamed young woman wakes up in a ditch alongside a road in Provence in early April, accompanied — not by choice — by a large white dog. Through a very well-done stream-of-consciousness scene we find out that she is running away from home, carrying a precious package. With no cover from the bare grape vines, she is quickly overtaken by a large traveling party—that of Eleanor of Aquitaine, Queen of France. At the head of Eleanor’s party is her commander, Dragonetz los Pros, a seasoned warrior from the most recent crusade and a well-known troubadour.
Dragonetz and Eleanor are initially suspicious, thinking the girl is either a thief or bait as part of a larger group of bandits. Eleanor demands that girl open her bundle, which she does to reveal a beautiful and intricate mandora. She plays a song on it to prove that she did not steal it, and is invited to join Eleanor’s company, lest she lay a trap for them further down the road. She tells Eleanor that her performing name is Estela de Matin. In the final scene of the first chapter, we find out that she is aware of Dragonetz’s musical notoriety, and in fact played his own composition in front of him.
As a reader and editor, historical romance is my jam. On the flip side, the student-teacher romance trope has always been a very hard sell for me, so I’m curious to see how Gill handles this aspect as the story progresses. That said, the setting and characters are intriguing, and I do think I’ll keep reading a few more chapters. The dialogue is really wonderful and it’s lovely to see the shifts in names and diction to give special emphasis; it’s a small nuance that makes all the difference in historical fiction. This story might be a stretch for hard-core sci-fi and fantasy lovers—as far as I can tell, this is straight historical romance, although I’m not ruling out some surrealism later in the story. For those sci-fi and fantasy readers that like to read on the boundary line though, I think this still could be a very enjoyable book.
2. The Trials of the Core by Michael E. Thies
This is the first of three books in the Guardian of the Core epic fantasy series. The other books are $3.99 to $4.99 each and are not in Kindle Unlimited.
From Mary Stoll:
If the system of Gladius ceases to exist so does the rest of the universe. The current Guardian of Gladius has been protecting it for two hundred years and his time as guardian is coming to a close. Ten individuals have been chosen out of tens of thousands of potential candidates to participate in trials to select a new guardian.
Prince Hydro’s skills with traditional weapons are not up to his trainer’s expectations — but he redeems himself with his command and endurance using his elemental power.
Hydro is observed by others during his training but his main concern is his mother who barely glances his way. There seems to be some strain in their relationship and she is not impressed by anything Hydro accomplishes.
Then we meet Eirek, an orphan delivering saddles to a noble woman. She is busy preparing a birthday celebration for her daughters. When Eirek is finally able to get the lady’s attention she pays him and comments on him not being able to cast magic. Eirek attempts to access elemental power on his way home but can’t. He sent in an application to the trials two years prior but doesn’t feel worthy to compete. Still, he gets an invitation anyway. His adoptive family encourages him, although they don’t know why he would be selected either.
The book’s pace is good and the characters are interesting. The introduction says this is “A perfect sci-fantasy story for those who love Game of Thrones, Hunger Games, and Eragon.” That must be true because I am a fan of those stories and am looking forward to the next chapter of this book.
1. Al Clark by Jonathan G. Meyer
This is the first of five books in the Al Clark sci-fi series. The other books are $4.99 each and the series is not in Kindle Unlimited.
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.
Have you read any of these books? Are you planning to? Let us know in the comments!
And watch Maria talk about all ten books in the video below: