Some articles may include Amazon affiliate links. All proceeds go help us pay for original stories and support writers of speculative fiction. Read more here.
Free Friday: Today’s top free Amazon sci-fi and fantasy books for Aug. 20
By Maria Korolov 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. Survive The Night by Joey Wells
From Maria Korolov:
So, first of all, I hate hate hate hate hate EMP survival books. Seriously, what’s with that?
These books tend to fall in one of two categories.
In the first, the author seems to be a prepper themselves, and the books just reek of smug satisfaction. The electromagnetic pulse takes out all of civilization and the protagonists are proved right. They’re prepared to survive on their own and women now flock to them because they’re so well armed and so well stocked with canned goods. Plus, they get to kill anyone who looks at them funny with impunity because it’s now every man for themselves.
In the second category you’ve got the political thriller, Tom Clancy-style of books that are designed us to warn about the risks of not hardening the world’s critical infrastructure against EMP blasts. There are ways to shield electronics from these kinds of attacks, and these types of books can be useful in helping us think through the various ways that this threat can come to pass and help create political will to take some proactive steps. Plus, there’s usually some fun adventure, political intrigue, and special forces action in these books.
You can probably guess which type I prefer.
So. Deep breath. Let’s open this baby up to chapter one.
First of all, someone smirks on the first page. I hate smirking with a bitter passion. I hate it when characters smirk even more than when they chuckle. I know, it’s irrational, but what can you do?
The EMP attack occurs while Marcus is welding some pipes at a Detroit construction site. Suddenly, all the lights go out in the area. His phone is dead, too. He instantly knows that this is no ordinary power outage but an EMP attack. Because of course he does. And oh, look, there’s a woman there! And she immediately turns to Marcus for answers because she knows he’s the guy to go to in case of emergencies.
Of course, he jumps to the immediate conclusion that the nation is about to collapse and he has to act fast to get out of the city before chaos breaks out. None of the other men at the worksite listen to him, condemning him as a crazy conspiracy theorist.
Now Marcus knows that he has to get to his wife and kids. Back in his home neighborhood, his neighbors — who are, for some reason, home during the day — refuse to believe him.
Yeah, this is definitely one of those wish-fulfillment stories. Marcus believes the worst of everyone around him, jumps to the worst possible conclusion, is selfish and inconsiderate of others. I don’t want to spend a minute longer with him.
Now, I’m not saying that I always hate books about selfish idiots who happen to be right due to sheer luck and think they’re better than other people. I love James Bond. But right now, there is something about this particular sub-genre that isn’t sitting well with me. Maybe it’s the pandemic.
2. Fortune Favors the Cruel by Kel Carpenter
This is the first of two books in Dark Maji dark fantasy series. The other books are $4.99 and are not in Kindle Unlimited.
From Maria Korolov:
Quinn is a stage performer. She has a magic power that shows the audience their greatest fears. She has a magic amulet to keep her powers — and their side effects — under control, but her powers are getting stronger and the amulet is losing its effectiveness. Also, she’s a former slave, and when she sees other slaves being abused she’s compelled to step in. In the first chapter, she almost kills an abusive slaveowner before a stranger with a scarred but strikingly beautiful face stops her.
Then the stranger comes to one of her performances. How did he find out who she is? Are the authorities going to find her, as well? How will she escape?
I’m getting vibes of Leigh Bardugo’s Shadow and Bone books while reading this. Even the covers are kind of similar.
I like the premise. The world is grim but well-realized. The heroine is sympathetic. I might come back and finish this book later.
3. Trial by Sorcery by Richard Fierce
This is the first two of 10 books in the Dragon Riders of Osnen young adult fantasy series. The other books are $2.99 each and are not in Kindle Unlimited.
From Maria Korolov:
From the book cover — and the series title — I’m guessing this is going to be similar to Anne McCaffrey’s Dragon Riders of Pern series.
Eldwin wants to be in the Dragon Guard and spent the last of his money to reach the Citadel so he can get training. His father had been in the guard, and Eldwin grew up with stories about the bond his father had shared with his dragon.
At first, the guards think that Eldwin is just another low-born seeking fame and riches, but Eldwin wears an insignia that shows that he’s special. He uses his status to interfere on behalf of a pretty girl, one who is low-born, and who is being harassed by the guards. He pretends that she is his cousin, and the guards leave her alone. She’s not particularly thrilled at his intervention.
Oh, and Eldwin has an mangled hand that creeps people out, including the girl when she sees it. Though she was annoyed with Eldwin before she even saw his hand. Maybe he’s just an entitled jerk?
Turns out, Eldwin’s father was famous and died in battle ten years ago, which earned his family a noble title. And the pretty girl is Maren and is special in her own right, so distrusts it when people seem to do her favors for no reason.
So shades of Harry Potter and Hermione here, except that Eldwin didn’t inherit any money.
Then, at the dining hall, one of the high-born students picks on Eldwin because of his hand. This time, Maren intercedes on his behalf, and points out that he’s noble by deed. Well, not his own deed, obviously. His father’s deed. But I guess that counts for something. Maren says that she knows what its like to be surrounded by enemies, which Eldwin is confused by. But a few minutes earlier, people had been gossiping about a missing princess. I’m guessing that’s Maren, and Eldwin is just clueless.
After the meal, Maren talks Eldwin into going to see the dragons. Eldwin is worried that he’ll get kicked out before he’s even admitted to the school, but Maren has memorized maps of the place and talks him into joining her. They sneak in past the guards, and a dragon spits up on Eldwin.
It’s a fun read, very enjoyable. If you like dragons and Harry Potter, you’d probably like this series.
4. Tempting The Dragon King by Kiersten Fay
This is the first of four books in the Dragon Lords paranormal sci-fi series. The second book is $3.99 and is not in Kindle Unlimited. The third book is scheduled to be released next week, and the fourth book is scheduled for release next summer.
From Maria Korolov:
Tristan Okora and his kinsmen are in their dragon forms, battling enemy spaceships above an ancient forest. His father is shot down, and now Tristan wears the torc, the royal symbol of the Okora clan. His eldest brother was theoretically next in line, but abdicated the throne, so now Tristan is stuck with it. Unfortunately, Tristan had thought his dad was going to be around longer, so instead of studying up, he’d been having fun drinking, fighting, and womanizing.
Now, his mother wants to marry him off to Princess Leonora, a political match. But she’s worried that he might not be happy in the marriage. A miserable relationship could create problems for them instead of solving them. Leonora is beautiful, but Tristan isn’t all that interested.
Then they capture a spaceship belonging to their enemy. There’s one person on board.
In the next chapter, we meet that person. Juniper Jacobs, a child psychology grad student, was on a hike in upstate New York when she walked inside the ship and it took off. Now she’s been wandering its halls for several days, unable to call for help. She had just eaten the last of her food when the ship was attacked.
The ship is cut open, and armored soldiers come inside. They’re shaped like humans. Then their leader appears, unarmored but with a perfectly toned physique. The man’s hair is ruffled and frames his brutally beautiful face — chiseled jaw, sculpted cheekbones and “stern eyes that could slay with a look.”
Oh, I see where this is going.
Unless I sneak back later, of course, and secretly finish reading.
5. Pawsitively Poisonous by Melissa Erin Jackson
This is the first of five books in the A Witch of Edgehill Mystery cozy paranormal mystery series. The other books are $2.99 to $4.99 each and are not in Kindle Unlimited. The fifth book is scheduled to be released in March of 2022.
From Maria Korolov:
Amber works at the Quirky Whisker, a shop where she sells children’s toys and natural remedies. She says that the toys are powered by long-lasting batteries and computer chips, but really, the toys run on magic. And the natural remedies are magic, too.
Her latest invention is a plastic cat that sits, stretches, and can sit, come and roll over on command.
Customers are getting suspicious, but she just can’t help herself.
She lives above her shop on Russian Blue Avenue. Not far away is Ocicat Lane, where she grew up, just beyond Birman Drive and Bengal Way. Yes, the streets in this town are named after cats. And she has two cats as well, Tom and Alley.
The house she grew up in is still there, what was left of it after that fire that killed her parents 14 years ago when she was 16.
Anyway, her best friend stops by for some headache medicine — then dies at home, two hours later, still clutching the vial in her hand.
Now the police chief is on her case. Amber reads his mind, and sees that her friend had been poisoned.
I wonder how the author is going to be able to pull off a mystery if Amber can read minds just by touching people.
Clearly, I have to keep reading to find out.
6. A Dark Vampire Curse by Nikki St. Crowe
This a standalone paranormal romance and the first book the author has published on Amazon. Her second paranormal romance, Ruthless Demon King, is due out in September.
From Amira Loutfi:
“Emery Blake could read minds. And in all twenty-five years of her life, she had yet to figure out a way to shut it off.”
I am a sucker for opening lines, and this one is fun, informative, and engaging. Another thing that gets me excited about this book is that the main character is a mind-reader. I have written a sci-fi story about a mind-reader and it is tricky business! So I’d like to see how Crowe pulls it off.
So far, I kinda like this character. She’s a goody-two-shoes. And she tries not to read people’s thoughts, but they just keep coming. However, when her last relationship ended she was unable to figure out why. She had a fantastic boyfriend whose thoughts was always kind to her, and then she lost her ability to read his mind.
Emery’s boss, Tanner, runs a multi-million dollar development company. She’s his assistant and helps him close business deals.
She tries hard not to abuse her power, and she dreams of changing her boring life. Not sure if that makes sense… It smacks of the oppressed mage trope, but whatever.
She and her boss are going to a club to “accidentally” meet a difficult-to-reach billionaire.
Hmm… and I find myself beginning to scan … and … Oh my!
“There was a time when Rhys could control the urge to rip out a throat with his bare teeth. That was before the curse.”
Woah. That’s the first line of chapter two. Rhys is the billionaire Tanner is pursuing. Obviously, Rhys is the vampire, he has been cursed, and Emery’s mind-reading powers will come into the mix in an interesting way.
Guessing time! I guess that Rhys will go nuts in the club, terrifying everyone, kidnapping Emery — probably because she smells so good to his vampire senses. Then, while he is running away from the crowd over the rooftops, with Emery over his shoulder, she’ll suddenly get an onslaught of his thoughts. Despite being a billionaire and a vampire, Rhys has been dreaming of a simple life as a farmer, and he just needs the right woman to tell that he is worthy of love as he is. When they get to his den, Emery is going to play matchmaker to help him find a nice vampire girl.
Back to reading — apparently, Rhys really should NOT be out tonight. He is in a club full of bodies and he has a strong desire to drain the blood out of all of them. Yikes.
There is a bit of killing in this one. His friend, Cole, already killed about six humans in a back room. He’s about to call Zozo, the cleanup guy — Pulp Fiction style — but then an Oracle shows up. She tells him a little about finding the key to his curse. First, she directs him to a building, and then mentions a “girl.”
Tanner and Emery meet Rhys pretty quickly and it’s an awesome scene.
If you like Vampire romance and supernatural romance at all I highly recommend this book. I don’t even really care for this genre and I’m getting sucked in. There are a handful of graphic scenes in this book.
7. Daughter of Time by Sarah Woodbury
This is the first of three books in The After Cilmeri Series. The other books are $2.99 each and are not in Kindle Unlimited.
From Amira Loutfi:
We begin with a brief guide to Welsh Pronunciation. Then, we have a cast of characters organized by Welsh, English, and American identities. The American is a time traveler named Meg. I’m already so happy.
I’m guessing this is about an American woman who travels back to the 1200s and gets caught in a love triangle with the prince of Wales and the prince of England.
Meg was born in 1975, so she’s about 46 years old now. But in the beginning of this story, she’s only 20. So it starts in 2000.
“My husband’s body lay cold on the table in front of me.” Yes! That’s the first line. I love it. They had a daughter and he was physically abusive. She ran away and her mother took them in. As she was prepping her new life, he pleaded with her to come back since he was dying of pancreatic cancer. She goes back. And now he’s dead. She’s relieved. And I am skimming the rest of this chapter.
The word “plop” occurs three times in this book. Just a fair warning.
Meg has a horrible car accident — in the same area as her abusive husband.
Llywelyn is the Prince of Wales and he has been taking over a lot of land. I was just starting to get bored and then things got awesome. The Prince of Wales finds a mysterious moving carriage in the marsh. We can tell from the description that it’s a blue car. And there is a woman in the front seat out cold, but her little daughter in the back is fine.
So it appears that this story is a lot like many of the other romances on Kindle — the point of view shifts between the male and female lead, and the male lead is a powerful cool guy and the female is just an average girl. But in this case, there’s time travel. And she has a daughter. Umm … If this is a love triangle, then why is there a kid?
Maybe to show that a single mother who hasn’t yet gotten her act together following an abusive marriage can also go on wild adventures where men compete over her? Ok, I respect that. It’s a nice fantasy.
It’s pretty cute imagining the prince wonders what’s going on, knowing that this is going to end up as a love triangle. Maybe Meg’s ex will show up again and try to get her back? It’s a good book, but I have other things to read that I’m dying to get to.
8. Remembrance by T.K. Eldridge
This is the first of three books in The Descendants urban fantasy series. The other books are $4.99 each and are not in Kindle Unlimited.
From Amira Loutfi:
9. Girl from the Stars by Cheree Alsop
This is the first of five books in the Girl from the Stars sci-fi romance series. The other books are $4.99 but are all in Kindle Unlimited.
From Amira Loutfi:
Oh my, I love this opening.
First, Liora has been in darkness for a long time and a bright beam makes her want to run away. Nice — suggesting the isolation made her nutty. Seems like they are underground. And two men muse about how valuable everything hidden there is. Liora hasn’t seen a “true” human in a really long time. She’s in one of many cages — the other caged creatures snarl and hiss. Nice.
Then one of the men says these creatures might be from the Ursa Minor galaxy. I am so in heaven.
One of the guys is named Tariq! Yay for representation. He hates her though.
Liora is a Damaclan, a type of creature with a really bad reputation and the ability to communicate telepathically. A reptilian guy named Malivian is her cage manager. Is a cage manager a thing? Anyway, he captured her and drags her around on his spaceship along with the rest of his creature collection to put on circus shows. How evil. So he seems like the real villain.
He appears to interrupt Tariq and Devlon’s exploration of his dark, dingy ship. And he tells them that all Damaclans are evil, including Liora, in spite of how beautiful she is.
Devren, the friend of Tariq who likes Liora, comes back to break her out of her cage.
This is action-packed. First, Devron goes back to save her, then Liora and he run aboard his ship. They are caught immediately by his captain and chained against a wall. Devron then asks Liora if it was a good thing that he broke her out of her cage. Liora shows Devron a flashback to explain.
Then, the ship is suddenly under attack. And then Devron finds out he’s the captain.
I did a search to see if Tariq comes back into the story and he does. He’s a bit antagonistic but is loyal to his friends. So I am into it.
If you like a story that is action-packed and cuts a lot of corners to get to the good parts, you might want to get this one.
10. First Magic by Raven Steele
This is the first of four books in the Born of Light urban fantasy series. The other books are $0.99 to $3.99 each and are not in Kindle Unlimited.
From Amira Loutfi:
Not enjoying this one, but maybe I’m just hungry.
Llona is an orphan — she recently lost her father. She is determined to never die, which is an option for her because she and her family are magical.
One day, which seems like a normal one, Llona is joining a school event in the gym. She almost falls and a cute boy saves her. He knows her name and she is shocked by that. She has been trying for so long to be invisible. And then there is a fight up on the bleachers. It gets out of control and suddenly all the students are fighting.
Sounds like dark magic to me …
And so Llona turns the lights off with her telekinetic abilities.
So I’m not just hungry. It’s the narration that is getting to me. At her father’s funeral, an adult patronizes her, and she asks for an elaboration on it which seems passive-aggressive to me. I was sympathetic until Llona started a preachy rant about death. Also, the description of the teachers is so judgy.
If you’re ok with that, you might really enjoy this book! The chapter I read gave me Stephanie Meyers vibes.
Do you have other free books for us to check out? Email me at [email protected].