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Free Friday: Today’s top free Amazon sci-fi and fantasy books for June 18
By Maria Korolov, Melody Friedenthal, and Amira Loutfi
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. Enchanted By The Earl by Amanda Mariel
This is the first of four books in the Fabled Love series. The other books are $2.99 each and are not in Kindle Unlimited.
From Maria Korolov:
This book is a regency romance retelling of the Little Red Riding Hood fairy tale. The original story had a fantastical element, namely the talking wolf.
In this story, the wolf is Mr. Wolfe, who threatens Rose Woodcourt’s home and freedom. And the hunter is Hunter Thorne, a titled gentleman far above Rose’s station, and her only hope for rescue.
There’s no magic in this book, unless you’re talking about the magic of luuuv.
I am not a fan of regency romance, though occasionally I have been known to come across a book I couldn’t put down. And, of course, there’s Bridgerton.
But this book… right there on the first page, there’s the “powerful lines of his jaw,” a quickened pulse, a man who was “the handsomest she had ever beheld,” burning cheeks, his “breathtaking grin” that revealed “straight white teeth.” But she was a lowly and common miss and he was a lord. Oh, woe is her.
I can’t keep going. Unless to see… is her bosom going to heave? No, it does not. OK, I did a search and heaving bosoms do not appear anywhere in the book. But there is a ripped bodice on page 174!
Let’s see if there’s any stabbing anywhere… nope, only some lady stabbing a fork into a slice of roast beef.
Well, that’s a disappointment.
2. Dinosaur Lake by Kathryn Meyer Griffith
This is the first book in the six-book Dinosaur Lake series. The other books are $4.99 to $6.99 each, and are not in Kindle Unlimited.
From Melody Friedenthal:
Henry Shore is a Park Ranger. Recently promoted to chief, he misses the interactions with park visitors so sometimes he “relieves his hard-working crew” and leads a tour. Today he’s showing some tourists the very deep Crater Lake, which was formed by volcanic activity thousands of years ago and is filled now with icy cold water from rain and snow melt.
The only living things in the lake are moss and some fish species the Park has populated it with. Or so Henry believes…
The first chapter gives us some geological and historical information and some background about Henry. He’s a retired NYC policeman and he’s married to a woman named Ann who’s a reporter. They have a daughter and a granddaughter. Henry and Ann both love the park but Henry is devoted to it. Then there’s an earthquake, and the land splits and Henry and his tour group see bones. Really big bones. Bones bigger than humans. Bones bigger than bears. Then the rangers start finding dead animals.
Hmm. This is getting interesting. I’ll be reading more of this.
3. Omega Queen by W. J. May
This is a box set of the first three books book in the ten-book Omega Queen Series. The rest of the books are $3.99 each and are not in Kindle Unlimited. The tenth book isn’t out yet, but is due in July.
The blurb makes this series sound like the typical high-stakes fantasy adventure in a world spanning multiple generations. So what the heck is actually going on?
Personally, I love a protagonist who suffers a boring overly sheltered life who is then called on a wild adventure. That’s the feeling I get as our protagonist sneaks out of her room and down the hall. Usually her mobility is heavily restricted by two huge guards, and the highly attentive curiosity of the general palace folks. There is going to be a huge event the next day, which is why the security is low, and everyone is a bit distracted.
Tonight, she is able to get down the hall before she bumps into her father. They have a loving relationship and I enjoyed this scene a lot. The two discuss previous adventures and how an old prophecy threatens her father’s happiness. Despite this, Evie is looking for a new prophecy — the poor thing is bored out of her mind. I’m surprised this loving father would let that happen. If they really had that great of a relationship, wouldn’t he understand that all the heavy security is making Evie miserable?
It’s chapter two, and I’m starting to get really impatient with all these heartfelt loving relationships, information dumps, and old friends with great pasts. Come on, man.
I’m skipping the next few chapters.
I understand now why people like these books. In chapter six, we have Evie and her gorgeous fea boyfriend scaling a wall in the dark of the night, hiding from her own guards — they must sneak about because she isn’t allowed to do anything. He’s showing off and she’s holding on. It turns out, the two of them had already found a prophecy that invited them on an adventure to preserve the safety of the entire realm. They are sneaking about to bring the prophecy to their vampire friend, who immediately thinks that it would be wise to go tell their parents.
It’s pulling me in. It’s cute. I will probably come back to it this weekend. Although I got no qualms about skipping multiple chapters at a time.
4. Soulless at Sunset by Deanna Chase
This is the first book of the three-book Last Witch Standing series. The other books are $4.99 each but are both in Kindle Unlimited.
From Maria Korolov:
Kilsen works at a paranormal investigation agency. Her partner, a shifter, is also her former lover. She’s part of the secret Void branch that hunts rogue vampires.
She’s got magic skills, including a spell that can paralyze vampires. And she’s tough.
Also, her best friend and former partner is Willow Rhoswen. This is giving me serious Buffy vibes, except that this Willow is a fairy and not a witch.
She and her partner have their job to do, and, on top of it, try to keep the city’s vampires and shifters from going back to war with each other.
This is a funny book. It starts out at a fancy dress party, and Kilsen is still in her fancy dress when she’s called away to a nearby strip club to grab a vampire. She’s mistaken for a stripper, and winds up using a stripper shoe as a weapon while fighting. I’m amused. She reminds me of Sandra Bullock in Miss Congeniality.
I’m going to keep reading.
5. No Ordinary Star by M.C. Frank
This is the first of three books in the No Ordinary Star series. The other books are $2.99 each and are both in Kindle Unlimited.
From Amira Loutfi:
No Ordinary Star is inspired by Ray Bradbury. Usually, I love to get sucked into a dystopian world with some literary flair. I’m also a sucker for a powerful opening, and this one has it:
“The desert is scorching hot outside his goggles.” He has to wear goggles! And it’s scorching hot …? Great!
Felix is a soldier training in Morocco and he’s the best in his squad. The goggles are specifically designed for this weather — and they also give him blinking notifications. He wants to impress his commander.
We then meet the Clockmaster, who lives in a snowy frozen region, who goes out to set up the new year. He is an old man. There is no Christmas. Someone shoots him! And what exactly was he doing? He’s keeping time, or he keeps memories. Something like that. Anyway, it’s safe to assume that this old man was a pillar of sorts in this fragile universe and now he’s gone. He wasn’t able to transfer his responsibilities to anyone else, either. Oh no. This world is screwed …
Except that it’s not. the old man’s responsibilities have been passed on to a fairy-not-fairy slash angel-not-angel. Hmmm… There’s a lot of screaming. I’m not sure what that has to do with anything …
Felix then has been playing hooky from military training, and he finally decides to open the annoying notification at the corner of his screen. It’s a message from the Clockmaster. His grandfather? Felix has no family. It’s the 26th century and human beings are created in tubes, and their qualities are chosen by an algorithm called “the Elimination System.”
There are several references to Middle Eastern locations. That’s nice. Felix grew up in prison and came to live with a “mother” when he was eight years old. He also wears hydro pants and a glove that becomes one with his hands … Hydrosuits are from Dune, no?
It’s not working for me. Mostly because Felix starts bullying a little Arab boy. I can be a little sensitive to cruelty towards Arabs in fiction, especially considering the multiple political disasters ongoing in the Middle East in the real world. At least we also learn that the Clockmaster had something to do with releasing Felix from prison.
6. Sense and Scent Ability by Renee George
This is the the first book of five books in the Nora Black Midlife Psychic Mystery series. The other books are $4.99 each, and are not in Kindle Unlimited, with the fifth book scheduled to be released in November.
From Maria Korolov:
From the font on the cover, to the phrase “psychic mystery” in the series title, everything screams “paranormal cozy” to me. That’s one of my favorite genres.
Nora just had a hysterectomy and is still recovering, and she’s now seeing things. Maybe its because she died during surgery, she thinks, or maybe it’s because she’s got a brain tumor.
Judging by the cover font, I’m going to guess it’s psychic visions, not tumor.
Nora’s thinking brain tumor because her own mother died of brain cancer the previous year. In fact, Nora had moved back from the city to the small town of Garden Cove, to take care of her. She took a leave of absence from her job as a regional sales manager for a health and beauty company, and decided to retire when the company offered her a generous severance package.
So she moved back to her town, reconnected with her childhood best friend Gilly, and opened an aromatherapy shop. Oh, and her old ex is in town and is now the chief of police.
Yeah, yeah, it’s a totally cliché and ridiculous premise. I love it. I can guarantee you that I’ll come back and finish this book over the next few days.
7. Entered in the Alien Bride Lottery by Margo Bond Collins
This is the first of six book in Khanavai Warrior Bride Games series. The other books are $3.99 each but are all in Kindle Unlimited. The last book isn’t out yet, but is scheduled to be released in July.
From Maria Korolov:
So this is like the Hunger Games, except if you lose, you’re married off to an alien. I could swear that I’ve read this book before. Or started to. But maybe it’s just that the trope is so ridiculous that it sticks in my head.
Not that I have anything against ridiculous tropes. Some of my favorite books and TV shows are based on totally crazy premises, like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Men in Black, and all the Marvel movies.
Anyway, every year, all single women between 21 and 35 are put in a lottery and 100 of them are chosen, matched up with an alien looking for a mate, and shipped off to space for a year. Most come back to their old lives. Some don’t. The sex slavery is part of Earth’s payment to the Khanavai warriors for keeping us safe from the ravages of the Alveron Horde.
Natalie just turned 21. She’s in a bar with friends, about to hook up with a long-time crush, while the lottery drawing is being held — and she’s chosen and is instantly teleported up to space.
Meanwhile, Cav is one of the Khanavai warriors. He also won the lottery and is going to get a human woman as a mate, but he doesn’t want that, either. He wants to become a spy and join the elite squads that carried out clandestine missions in enemy territory.
Ah ha, it turns out that the Alveron used chemical warfare against the Khanavai and now all their children are male. That’s why they need human wives.
I’m sorry, the premise is too ridiculous even for me. I like the writing, and the characters seem nice. But, judging by the fact that we learn about Cav’s erections right near the start of the book, I’m guessing that the plot is just going to be a flimsy pretense for lots and lots of alien sex.
No way am I doing to read this. I have too much self-respect.
Yeah, I’m totally not going to sneak back this weekend and finish this book.
8. Death Trace by Zoe Cannon
This is the first book in the ten-book Hound of Hades series. The rest of the books are $0.99 to $4.99 each, and are not in Kindle Unlimited.
From Maria Korolov:
I like the fact that this series has a lot of books in it. I don’t like the fact that they cost money. And I just checked Overdrive, and my local library system doesn’t have them, either.
Unfortunately, from the first paragraph, I’m liking the book. Mallory Keyne, 34, is broke, so when she has to hire a lawyer to prove that she’s not dead, she has to hire a really cheap one. Plus, her own parents identified her body, so proving she’s still alive is going to be tricky. That was ten year ago, she’s never been fingerprinted, her dentist didn’t keep her old records, and she doesn’t want to get back in touch with her family.
And now she’s starting to annoy me. The woman doesn’t seem to have any common sense. She came back from the dead five years ago, and still doesn’t have her new life sorted out and doesn’t even seem to have been trying.
9. Cowboy Necromancer by Harmon Cooper
This is the first book in the two-book Cowboy Necromancer series. The other book is $5.99 and is scheduled to be released this October.
From Maria Korolov:
Sterling is a post-apocalyptic pepper farmer with a bone horse when the alien spaceship shows up. Sterling has a magic sword and magic bullets to kill bandits with, plus he can raise an army of corpses when he needs one. And he does, to protect his chili peppers.
The magic is animated by mana, and accounted for with “mana points,” a common mechanism in video games but a little out of place in a sci-fi novel. But that’s okay. I find it weirdly satisfying to read books where everything comes down to some ridiculous and arbitrary point system.
He doesn’t have any memories from before the apocalypse five years ago — the Reset — nobody does. No memories, point-based magic system… hmm… sounds like this world could be a giant video game.
Anyway, he’s been working his chili pepper farm for three years, fighting off bandits, when an alien spaceship shows up and blows it all up. He decides to do something about it. But first, he checks his stats. His most recent fight has raised his experience points, and he’s now a level 58 blood mage.
So yeah, we’re in a video game.
That makes this a LitRPG novel, also referred to as GameLit. Technically, this is the subgenre of sci-fi that I write in, though I don’t go all in with all the stats. In LitRPG, it’s almost like you’re watching someone play a video game on Twitch, except in book form, and the main character doesn’t usually know that they’re in a game. There’s a kind of satisfaction in seeing someone work through quests and level up.
I actually enjoy reading these kinds of books, and am looking forward to finishing this one in the next few days.
10. Seas of Venus by David Drake
From Maria Korolov:
I’m a huge David Drake fan, and have read nearly everything he’s ever written. These two novellas are new to me. Score!
For those who don’t know Drake, he’s the Danielle Steele of hard military sci-fi. His characters care about completing their missions and about protecting their team members but don’t usually have much depth beyond that. His books tend to be full of action. Drake is a military vet himself, having served in Vietnam and Cambodia. But he’s also a scholar of history and Latin, and a lawyer. I really enjoy it when his books go deep into Roman history or military strategy.
But let’s get to Venus.
So, 500 years ago, an asteroid was sent into Venus to seed it with tailored bacteria that kicked off a terraforming process. I love terraforming. This is promising. The first asteroid was followed by a lot more. Earth bacteria colonized the planet, mutated under the planet’s stronger sunlight, cleaned up the atmosphere, and then covered the planet in plant and animal life. Then the colony ships arrived. The first cities were deep under the sea, safe from solar radiation.
Then a war broke out on Earth that triggered a fusion reaction in Earth oceans and wiped out all life back home. Good thing we had a spare planet, I say.
But did we learn our lesson? Hell no, we didn’t. The cities on Venus, the ones in domes on the bottom of the oceans, went to war with each other. So that’s the premise, which we learn about in the prologue.
The book story really gets going with John Gordon — Johnnie — a 19-year-old who enjoys shooting things in simulator games. His dad is a senator, and his uncle is a mercenary officer. They’re trying to unite the cities into a confederation. If they fail, the planet faces the risk of another nuclear war. And his uncle wants Johnnie on a mission, despite the fact that he hasn’t yet had the usual training. He has been preparing to be a mercenary officer all his life, though.
But now he’s on a real ship, with real weapons, not a simulation — simulations that, it turns out, his uncle had designed for him to give him as good a training program as possible. And that means battling against not just the mercenaries fighting for other cities, but the monsters that populate the planet. Turns out, his uncle needs someone he can trust implicitly. But it takes nine chapters before we actually get to his mission — to go to a meeting with a rival mercenary organization and convince them to join forces. Johnnie is accompanying the negotiators as a sort of spy for his father and his uncle.
The story is surprisingly slow-paced for a Drake work, but I’m enjoying seeing Johnny’s shooting and other skills being put to use, and see him being underestimated by the experienced mercenaries he’s accompanying to the negotiations. I’ll probably come back and finish the book this weekend.
Do you have other free books for us to check out? Email me at [email protected].