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.
Free Friday: Today’s top free Amazon sci-fi and fantasy books for Sep. 17
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. The Lead Cloak by Erik E. Hanberg
This is a first of three books in The Lattice Trilogy, a dystopian techno-thriller series set in the near future. The other books are $2.99 each. They are not in Kindle Unlimited.
From Maria Korolov:
Byron Shaw jumps back in time, into the body of a colonel defending a hill from the Confederate army. He can only stay for a few minutes because he’s supposed to be at work. His job is boring. He’s in charge of security for the Lattice, and occasionally has to shoot down hovercraft and other attack vehicles. The job is made a lot easier by the fact that he can jump into the bodies of the attackers and see what they’re up to.
Except this time, one of their own is in on the attack.
This series is set in the near future, one in which we have the ability to send minds back in time into other people’s bodies, artificial intelligence systems are a bit smarter than they are now, and we have cool nanotechnology.
I guess I’m not giving too much away to say that Shaw survives that first attack. After all, it is the first chapter of the book and he’s the protagonist. But it was too close, and his superiors, who have access to his every thought, are worried that he thinks the job is too boring. They’re also worried about how close the attackers were able to get, and how they were able to plant a traitor in the facility, despite constant security checks. The attackers have somehow figured out a way to get around the fact that the authorities can check in on anyone’s thoughts at any time.
Love the premise, and the writing is compelling, engaging, edge-of-the-seat suspenseful — and the the fact that it kind of seems like the protagonist might be on the wrong side of history. Is he going to realize that this kind of power shouldn’t be in the hands of any one organization? Will he try to take down the government?
I have a feeling I’m going to come back to this book this weekend and find out.
2. Queen of Snow by Laura Burton and Jessie Cal
This is the first of five books in the Fairytales Reimagined series of romantic fantasy. The other books are $3.99 each. They are all in Kindle Unlimited.
From Maria Korolov:
First of all, a disclaimer. I’m not the target audience for this. I don’t like romantic fantasy, and I’m tired of the reimagined fairy tales trope. How many times can you redo the same story?
Jack, an orphan, has been raised by his grandfather in modern-day England. Now 17, his grandfather has just died. A strange young woman about Jack’s age comes to the funeral, wearing a long ivory gown with white lace covering her arms and hair. She disappears before Jack can talk to her.
Jack has spent his whole life in his grandfather’s manor, home-schooled, but forbidden from ever visiting his grandfather’s office. After the funeral, that’s the first place he goes. And there’s a magic mirror there. He falls through into a different land, where the same woman that he saw from the funeral is waiting for him. Now, her hair is brown. She tells him not to trust anyone and tells him to run quickly towards a castle. He runs until he gets tired, and then she hits him on the head and knocks him out.
In the next chapter, we see Aria’s point of view. She’s the one who knocked Jack out. The land she lives in has pirates, dwarves, mermaids, elves, and an evil queen. The queen wants to get her hands on Aria, a princess who’s in hiding. She trades Jack, still unconscious, to a pirate in return for a shard of the Mirror of Reason.
But she learns that she may have made a mistake. Jack might know where the complete mirror is, and now she has to get him back.
You know what? The story’s not bad. Jack’s a bit of a nothing character, but Aria is interesting, and the world she lives in is interesting. I think I’ll keep reading.
3. Weapons Free by Daniel Gibbs
This is the first of five books in Battlegroup Z military sci-fi series. The other books are $0.99 to $2.99 each. They are all in Kindle Unlimited. The last book will be released this December.
From Maria Korolov:
Based on the cover, I’m betting this is going to be my favorite book on today’s list. I love space battles.
The book is set a little over four hundred years in the future. First Lieutenant Justin Spenser is a pilot for the Terran Coalition on a training mission in an abandoned system at the end of his two-week reserve tour when they’re attacked.
Humanity’s been at peace for 35 years. The bandits, whoever they are, have military-grade technology. Spenser’s unit shoots them down, and calls for search and rescue support, but then more arrive.
Colonel Banu Tehrani, Spenser’s commanding officer, has only seen combat a handful of times, and never as a commanding officer. Now not only are her pilots being attacked, but multiple inbound wormholes are opening up. Her unit isn’t prepared for a full-scale battle. And they still don’t know who they’re up against. Unusually well-armed bandits? Former foes who decided to resume hostilities? A new alien species? Some other group?
I love this. I love the action, and I’m enjoying the professionalism — and the believability — of the characters.
I’m planning to return to this book, and probably the whole series.
4. Flight of Sorcery and Shadow by Meg Cowley
This is the first of three books in Tales of Tir-na-Alathea: Darkness of the Living Forest romantic fantasy series. The other books are $0.99 to $4.99 each. They are all in Kindle Unlimited.
From Maria Korolov:
A magical dark shadow takes over an elf, and makes him murder his entire garrison before killing him as well. Lief, another elf, finds an area of death and desolation while in patrol in a forest, and a break in the magic barrier that separates her world for another, and tries to seal the hole.
Aedon, a thief, has been imprisoned by elves for 25 years, stripped of his magic, with only mice and a talking door for company. Then, one day, his regular meals stop coming — and the blocks on his magic are gone. When he breaks out of his cell, everything is different. The other elves are gone. But then he sees one, than others — their throats sliced open. They are reanimated corpses. He flees into the forest to escape them.
Meanwhile, Lief is tracking whatever it is that came through the break in the magic barrier and killed everything in its path. And she runs into Aedon. She recognizes him as an escaped prisoner and wants to take him back, but he tells her that everyone has been killed. She still insists on going into the town, so he comes with her to protect her. He extends his magical wards to include her, but the zombie elves find them.
Elsewhere, junior librarian Venya is putting away books. The books are talkative and annoying and keep trying to escape. She works at the royal archives, and wants to be first librarian. Today, she’s given a temporary assignment to work with a more dangerous class of books, grimoires with teeth and venom.
Meanwhile, the zombie elves catch up to Lief and Aedon and grab Lief. This is Aedon’s chance to escape, but he helps her instead, and the two of them fight off the zombies. Lief is badly wounded. They flee through the forest and hide in a cave, where Aedon notices that Lief’s wound looks like it’s magically infected — and the infection is spreading.
The characters are okay — I’m not immediately drawn to them, but don’t dislike them, either. The story and the pacing, however, are compelling, and I definitely want to know what happens next.
5. The Paradise Key by Nick Thacker
This is the fifth of eleven books in the Harvey Bennett Thrillers series of action-adventure technothrillers. The other books are $6.99 each. They are all in Kindle Unlimited.
From Maria Korolov:
I decided not to read this book, but to read the first in the series instead, The Enigma Strain, since it’s in Kindle Unlimited.
The book starts out in the 1700s, in Canada’s Northwest Territory. An expedionary group has been traveling for three months through mountains and valleys. Their leader, Nikolai Alexei, is making a map of North America for the Russian Tsar, and they’re charting the area as they go.
While the rest of the group sets up camp, Nikolai and the group’s doctor explore a cave filled with bones and cave paintings — and baskets full of silver coins.
The next morning, all his men are dead, flesh eaten away and their bodies covered with boils. And Nikolas himself is also infected.
Then, in the present day, Ben is hunting in Yellowstone National Park. A bear has been terrorizing tourists. Ben tracks the bear down and takes it down with a tranquilizer so it can be moved to a more remote area. As he and his partner are relocating the bear, there’s an explosion and an earthquake, and his partner falls into a deep fissure.
Turns out that a hundred people were killed in the explosion, and federal officials show up to figure out what happened.
The book starts slowly, but with a steadily increasing sense of tension that’s pulling me in. I like it very much.
In fact, today was a very, very good day for free Amazon books.
6. Fire Whispers Among the Shadows by R. A. Cooper
This is the first of two books in The Brimstone Archives series of young adult fantasy. The other book is $0.99 each and will be released later this month.
From Amira Loutfi:
I think the title and the cover do a good job of preparing you for the oddness that goes on in this book. This author uses words in unusual though interesting ways.
The main plot — or backdrop perhaps — is that there is a great fantasy world whose political structure has fallen while it has been overtaken by a few bad actors — including the jags and the metamorphs.
We start out with Aiesha, Leirgab, and Cee. Aiesha is a feline — who seems to also be humanish — and she is a dancer. She also has magical transportation powers. Leirgab is just human, but he might be part hedgehog. He’s definitely human. Cee is probably a figment of Aiesha’s imagination, although he might also have something to do with the appearance of the jags. The metamorphs got Cee, and occasionally, they get Leirgab, too. But Leirgab comes back and he’s somber for a bit everytime it happens.
Aiesha and Leirgab hide by a bridge and then this great beast with giant talons and powerful feathers appears. It suggests it is looking for something. Aiesha transports herself and Leirgab the heck out of there — to Puunlo’s Paradise.
Puunlo, an exotic party animal and boss of the place, treats them like his honored guests. Wait, is he literally an animal? He is able to “clap his feet” so he’s probably not human. Ah, maybe an ape? He serves them termite tea. Is that a real tea? Oh woah, but he also has large wings. This is weird in a very good way.
Aiesha and Leirgab have to prepare for a dance routine to please Puunlo. It seems, mainly, to be a distraction from the main plot, one that I feel incredibly uninterested in.
Reading this makes me feel like I’m having a very weird dream. It sort of reminds me of The Neverending Story — the book, not the movie.
Uh oh. It’s starting to seem like Aiesha is spinning her wheels here. As she and Leirgab prepare for their dance routine, she sees Cee again. He is the one who encouraged her to attend dance school. And that night, Aiesha is trying to think of why the “jags” are searching the jungle. The jags appeared when Cee started disappearing.
I’m put off by how seriously Aiesha is taking Cee, when Cee seems to be a pathological invention of her own mind.
I like the idea of there being two types of mysterious troublesome creatures appearing in a fantasy world. And how the world is, in general, full of bizarre creatures and characters. It’s an unconventional story, and I can see why so many people like it. It’s sort of awesome. If I got the impression that the author followed a few more storytelling conventions then I’d be soooo down.
7. Edge of Magic by Jayne Faith
This is the first of four books in the Tara Knightley Series of urban fantasy. The other books are $2.99 to $4.99 each. They are not in Kindle Unlimited. The last book is scheduled to be released this December.
From Amira Loutfi:
Would you like to go on a few adventures with Tara Knightly in Boise, Idaho? She is part fae, and has a little of the magic. She can sense magical items and is deeply in debt to Shaw, a fae mob boss. Tara is bound in a blood oath to him until she can pay him back for keeping her mother and sister alive. She wears a pendant that shows her how much of the debt she’d paid off. And it’s not much.
Tara also works for Katerina. Tara’s job is to steal and retrieve magical items.
The story opens with her conducting one such mission over at the Joyner’s cute old house late at night. She is shimmying down into their basement from the outside, and it’s pretty exciting. She’s looking for a fae-magicked ring that can make people fall in love. The Joyners have a long history of petty crime, but they recently started stealing higher-value items, like this ring.
She has the ring and is halfway out the window when Albert Joyner is right there, starting to work his own magic on her. He has earth magic, which is human magic. The only way she can fight it is by throwing a small explosive that fills the room with black mist that dissolves his magic. She gets away.
Then, she meets Ray. Ray is an old colleague, very handsome, who is doing some freelance work for Katerina. He tells Ray that the mob boss put out a huge job. He doesn’t know the details, though. He’s also part fae, and they have to be careful when they talk, because faes are physically incapable of lying to each other.
Tara has unappealing fae features. And crazy fae hair. I like that.
Will I be back? Probably not. I don’t think that urban fantasy is my jam. But it’s a good story so far. I can see why others like it so much.
8. Of Light and Darkness by Shayne Leighton
This is the first of three books in the Of Light and Darkness series of romantic urban fantasy. The other books are $2.99 to $4.99 each. They are not in Kindle Unlimited. The last book is scheduled to be released next March.
From Amira Loutfi:
The prologue starts with the term “Valek” which I think is a type of demon. So that’s always good.
Valek is a vampire from the occult city, and he plans to journey out to Prague, even though leaving is against the most important law of the Central European Magic Regime.
People try to stop him, and he arrives in Prague anyway, if a little beat up. No one notices his crazy arrival. He seems to have super speed? And he wants to eat people.
Woah. Well, I guess we’re all screwed.
He has special memories in Prague.
He ponders over his past there, watching passersby as a crowd gathers around some performers. I like the emotional tone so far. But I want to know what the plot is.
He would probably have gone back to the underworld, but then he finds a baby. He has thoughts of eating her, but instead names her Charlotte.
In the first chapter, we learn that Charlotte is hiding from a Lycanthrope guarding a city’s entrance. He’s a horrible monster. Charlotte is carrying a woman whom she has drugged with a borrowed witch’s brew. It would make sense if she wanted to distract the demon with the drugged woman to slip by.
She slips by the monster simply and safely and makes it into the town. The town seems normal and safe. There are fairies and elves there. They’re friendly. And giant dragons.
Several people greet her as she walks through town. And then Evangeline runs up to her. She is the witch who made the potion to drug the woman, who is apparently, an American tourist from Prague. And Evangeline wants to go meet with Valek in Prague. Charlotte hates Evangeline — and there does seem to be something fishy about her.
I might come back to this one.
9. Dance by Demelza Carlton
This is the second of 24 books in the Romance a Medieval Fairytale series. Two of the other books — Enchant and Fall — are also free, but the rest are $3.99 each and are not in Kindle Unlimited. It seems that different books in this series may get a free promotion, so if you’re a fan — but don’t want to spend money — keep checking back.
Other books from this series have also been on the top-ten list in the last few months. In May, we reviewed Melt: Snow Queen Retold, we reviewed Blow: Three Little Pigs Retold on April 9, Hunt: Red Riding Hood Retold on April 30, and Embellish: Brave Little Tailor Retold, on July 9.
From Amira Loutfi:
Oh man, we start here with some serious loss and grief. The mother died, leaving Mai all alone and her father forgets she even exists. He’s overcome with grief and has forgotten his promise to his dying wife. Mai remembers that her promise to her mother was to take care of her father. She has a strong sens of duty.
Good, I like characters with a sense of responsibility.
Her father had promised his wife that he would teach Mai the martial arts. And he isn’t doing it. She asks him to teach her to fight and he says no, it’s only for highborn sons. Talk to the hand, female girl-child.
All she has to do is remind him and he gives in. I wonder why she didn’t try that sooner? But anyway, he starts training her in fighting every morning since then.
The father leaves on a journey. Mai prays to her mother for his return.
The father returns home with a new wife. She’s preggo. And as Mai grows up, she treats her like she’s invisible.
This is written like an old fairy-tale, it’s concise and a little stuffy. I’m into it. I’ll be back for more of this.
10. The Rules for Lying by L. A. Kelley
This is the first of five books in the Big Easy Shaman urban fantasy series. The other books are $2.99 each. Some are in Kindle Unlimited.
From Amira Loutfi:
So I am a little scared that this might be an “adult” series about a big, easy Shaman. Hopefully, I’m wrong.
Peter Whistler can always sense when someone is lying — it’s like a weird itch in his brain. He is a kid in school. It seems like middle school.
So we start out in a scene where Peter is reading the minds of two classmates.
Chauncey Edwards is described as being as useless as a sack of pig turds. I like the imagery, but it also makes me wonder if pig turds can form good soil. A quick google search of “uses of pig turds” shows that it can be used for fuel, fertilizer, and electricity.
But, I mean, I guess it depends on the context. For the protagonist, Chauncey and a sack of pig turds are equally useless. Clearly, this book is not about farming nor converting things into fuel.
Chauncey is the son of the police chief. He’s also pretty wealthy.
Peter Whistler grew up in an orphanage called Little Angels, lead by Mrs. Hart, a nice woman. He grows up bullied and shunned by his peers for being “small, poor, and different.” A neighbor also criticizes him a lot, even as a six-year-old.
One day the bullying gets really bad and he is chased home. Mrs. Hart protects him with powerful earth-bending magic. Just kidding. She just yells at the bully. And then a couple appears to discuss adoption. And I’m genuinely riveted. I really want to know if they want to adopt Peter.
I really like this one. The rules about lying rhyme, and the setting is the early 1900s. I’m curious to see where else it goes. I’ll probably be back to read it later today.
Do you have other free books for us to check out? Email me at [email protected].