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Free Friday: Today’s top free Amazon sci-fi and fantasy books for Mar. 18, 2022
By Maria Korolov, Amira Loutfi, and N.T. Narbutovskih
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. Against Time by Dean Wesley Smith
This is the second of nine books in the Seeders Universe post apocalyptic series. The other books are $4.99 each and are not in Kindle Unlimited. The tenth book of the series will be coming out this April and is currently available for pre-order.
From N.T. Narbutovskih:
Against Time is a science fiction story that begins in what could be the present, at the mouth of a cave in Oregon. After spending several days underground on an archeology dig, a professor and two grad students emerge to find several bodies at the entrance to the cave. Fearing gas, they leave quickly, only to find that the bodies don’t stop there.
Meanwhile, above a green and white planet, one that might even be Earth in another life, the crew of a spaceship emerges from faster-than-light travel with a little too much true velocity. Will they manage to make a safe insertion, or will disaster befall them?
This story has some very solid beginning plot lines forming and, while they aren’t particularly risky, you will recognize them from any number of solid and entertaining science fiction stories. I think the author has done a good job in the first few chapters with setting up plot devices, mysteries, and some suspense as well. The settings are relatively straightforward, Earth for one of them, and the other one is a spacecraft, so I would be interested to see how the author puts together the constraints of the spacecraft world.
One thing that I found frustrating reading this book was the prose. A lot of the writing came across as somewhat pedantic and repetitive, and an absolute plethora of adverbs, sometimes the same one over and over again, really made it difficult to get through the writing.
In the opening pages, I believe the story also falls prey to a tendency to pack too much information in too quickly. At one point I counted eight different facts in two sentences, which made it really difficult for me to stay in the story and move through the plot, as well as develop an idea of which of these details was important and what wasn’t.
That being said, it was a relatively quick read once the action began, so it may just be that when the new scenes and settings arise, there’s a little too much detail. On the other hand, if you really like detail in your books, this one’s for you!
For fans of Under the Dome and Prometheus, I think that you will find a lot of your favorite tropes here, and the story lines look to be going in a great direction. While I don’t think I will be continuing to read this book, that is largely out of personal preference due to the subgenre, as well as the way the writing feels. If you’re looking for a low threat spring break beach read, you can’t go wrong for this one at the price.
2. The Fae King’s Curse by Jamie Schlosser
This is the first of four books in the Between Dawn and Dusk coming of age fantasy series. The other books are $3.99 each and in Kindle Unlimited.
From Amira Loutfi:
A lonely girl, Quinn, develops a friendship with a Fae King from the night realm. They are both 12 years old. Other kids don’t like Quinn because she is technologically behind, hates shopping malls, and has a skin condition. The Fae King has been cursed by witches with physical blindness. It is the curse, however, that leads him to Quinn. He was looking for a honeysuckle patch on Earth and found her instead. He concludes that she smells good.
The King and she have a cute conversation. He calls her peasant and wants to be called your majesty. I wasn’t personally impressed by it. The King and she hold hands and head towards her home, but he then says he must go. He gives something of value to her to prove that he’ll return. It’s two marbles with blue swirls that Quinn uses to soothe herself.
When he does come back, he finds a bunch of adults calling after him and has to leave without seeing her.
I haven’t gotten to the part about the witches, but I’d say this is a pretty good story if you like cute dialogue and puppy love. If you like to be swept away into sweetness, then I’d say go for it.
I won’t be back though.
3. Ishtar’s Blade by Lisa Blackwood
This is the first of five books in the Ishtar’s Legacy historical fantasy series. The other books are $3.99 and $4.99 each and are not in Kindle Unlimited.
From Amira Loutfi:
Two young lovers from the ancient city-state of Nineveh are separated — Iltani, who undergoes intensive training for four years to become a uniquely powerful warrior of a Sumerian Goddess, and her lover, Ditani, who is crowned as king around the same time Iltani leaves for her training.
The tone is somber but the writing style is light and breezy. In the opening scene, Iltani is riding in a skiff with her mentor and they are just arriving at Nineveh. In the exposition, we learn a lot about the world, which seems well-built to me. I enjoyed it so much I was afraid of continuing to read for fear of getting disappointed.
Iltani and King Ditani grew up together with their mentor who also acts as a father to them. Iltani is human and their mentor and the king are winged shapeshifters. Towards the end of the chapter, we learn that their mentor had been withholding much of the correspondence between the two lovers.
I did turn out to be disappointed, though. This is because there was too much summarizing of things that had happened. For example, Ditani took on a mate while Iltani was away — that seems like a dramatic enough development for me to get immersed in — rather then a getting a summary. Then, the mentor also starts explaining how much Ditani loved Iltani. At the end of the chapter, it feels to me that we are still in the same place as we started — just arriving at Nineveh.
I’ll be back. I’ve been looking for stories that take place in this time period and location!
4. Midlife Dawn by N.Z. Nasser
This is the first of five books in the Druid Heir urban fantasy series. The other books are $4.99 each and are in Kindle Unlimited. The fifth book, Midlife Portals, is currently available for pre-order and will be coming out in May.
From Maria Korolov:
Alisha’s mother died in a car accident the previous week, on the eve of her retirement. The police say that there was a lot of weirdness with the case. For example, flowers had grown out of the metal in her car, almost as if they were trying to cushion her. And she’d been driving slowly on a quiet, lamp-lit road and somehow managed to flip the car over. Plus, there had been an electrical short in the engine, even though the car had just been serviced. Her mother was a research scientist, who was working on cell regeneration.
She’s forty, divorced, and teaches English to immigrants in London. Her main hobby is kickboxing.
At her mother’s funeral a strange woman shows up, Gaia, who says she had interests in common with her mother. Gaia disappears before Alisha can ask her anything else. After the funeral, she goes to her dad’s house and looks through old family photo albums, and discovers that her mother’s image has faded from every photograph she was in. Then her mother’s face also disappears from all the photos on her phone. And her cat, Echo? The one who’s been missing since the day her mother died? He came back. And he’s a leopard now. And can talk.
I love the style of the writing here. It’s all very matter-of-fact, very British and understated, and makes all the magical stuff feel very believable. I’m enjoying it and will probably keep reading.
5. Realms of Ghosts and Magic by J.S. Malcom
This is the first of six books in the Fae Witch Chronicles urban fantasy series. The other books are $3.99 to $4.99 each and are in Kindle Unlimited.
From Maria Korolov:
Cassie runs a supernatural cleaning service. She’s not as good a psychic as her sister, but she’s got to eat, and her rent is due. Her first customer, Dean Richardson, is the owner of an old brick townhouse. He bought it six months ago as an investment property and has lost three tenants since, all of whom were willing to break their lease to get out there.
I like Cassie. I like her backstory — she was abducted as a child and had to escape her own body. It took years for her to get back to her actual self. In effect, she was a ghost during much of her adolescence. Now she sees ghosts everywhere.
I’d love to read the full backstory some day.
The writing style reminds me a lot of Kelley Armstrong. I’ll definitely be coming back to this one.
6. Fierce by Hattie Jacks
This is the first of five books in the Rogue Alien Warriors science fiction romance series. The other books are $0.99 to $3.99 and are in Kindle Unlimited.
From Amira Loutfi:
This is not for me, but it’s certainly entertaining. It’s a whimsical alien romance that switches between the perspectives of Viv, a human woman who was captured after a grocery shopping trip, and Jyr, an aggressive alien who wants to mate her.
That’s kind of a good premise.
In the first scene, Viv falls out of a liquid sack with a pipe in her throat, onto a hard cold floor. She is weak and struggles to remove the pipe. Then notices that there are several more sacks hanging from the ceiling, full of an opaque milky fluid — a foot presses gently against the side of one. And she realizes that the other sacks must be full of people with pipes in their throats, too.
She tries to break them out of the sacks but then gets sucked out of the room. She flies through the air, sees a cool-looking spaceship, and then lands on the floor of a dilapidated building. She is then confronted by a winged man with eyes that glow red. If you’ve been reading these Free Friday reviews, then you’ll recognize that this is her new boyfriend.
This Hattie Jacks has quite an imagination. Haha. It’s good for what it is. Just not what I’m looking for right now.
7. And Then She Vanished by Nick Jones
This is the first of three books in the Joseph Bridgeman time travel series. The other books are $0.99 and $5.39 and are not in Kindle Unlimited.
From Maria Korolov:
Back in 1997, Joseph and his little sister Amy went to the fair. He won a bear for her at the shooting range, but while he was focused on the targets, someone snatched her. It’s now 22 years later. Joseph runs an antiques website, but his heart isn’t in his business anymore. His nightmares have come back. He’s a psychic, and can tell the provenance of objects. He makes good money at this. He could run the business in his sleep — if he was getting any. But he’s been lucky to get two hours a night for the last few months. And now Amy’s birthday is coming up. Joseph is running out of money, and his accountant wants him to see someone. He recommends a hypnotherapist.
Joseph rejects the offer, just as he’s rejected all other offers of help.
Instead, he goes to visit his favorite record shop, where the owner tells him that he tried hypnosis once, and it cured him of smoking. The guy is smoking a cigarette as he’s saying this. He says he started up again. Tells Joseph that if he doesn’t like being able to sleep, he can always go back to the nightmares again if he wants, because hypnosis wears off. I love this advice. If the therapist cures you, and you don’t want to be cured, you can always go back to your old ways.
She teaches him a meditative technique to relax. She could have helped a lot more, but he refused to tell her what was really wrong with him. Dude, a therapist can’t help you if you don’t tell them what’s wrong. Jeesh.
But that night, he tries the technique again and something weird happens — he goes back in time. Just a few minutes. But enough to see himself getting ready for bed.
So he doesn’t just have the ability to get visions from objects. He has the ability to time travel. But what does he do? Decides that he’s hallucinating, decides that the therapist was a fraud, and drinks himself to sleep. You fool! You could have gone back and found out what happened to your sister! But hey, it’s just the beginning of the book. He still might!
I like this story, I like the main character, and I’m invested in what happens to him. I’ll probably be back.
8. 3 Minutes to Midnight by L.M. Hatchell
This is the first of three books in the urban fantasy Midnight Trilogy. The second book is $0.99 and in Kindle Unlimited. The third book is currently available for pre-order for $4.99 and will be coming out at the end of the month.
From Maria Korolov:
Phoenix has just come to Dublin for her 25th birthday party. Her mother became immortal at the same age. The same thing might happen to Phoenix. She has enough trouble as it is keeping her fae powers under control. Maybe she’ll be normal, and continue aging like a regular human being. After all, she was only half-fae.
Her other half? Vampire.
Meanwhile, dark powers are building. She might have an enemy out there and not even know about it.
This reads like a young adult novel, and I’m not typically a fan. And Phoenix as a character doesn’t appeal too much to me. The book is readable, and I might come back to it if I’m looking for something to read, but it’s not pulling me in.
9. His Virgin Mate by Grace Goodwin
This is the second of five books in the Interstellar Brides: The Virgins science fiction romance series. The other books are $2.99 to $4.99 and are not in Kindle Unlimited.
From Maria Korolov:
Okay, the cover and the title immediately put me off. I am not the target audience for alien romance books.
And oh, no — it’s a dating agency story. This seems to be a popular subgenre — human women are paired up with alien men. Either with or against their will.
There are often lots of sex scenes.
In this case, the heavy sex starts in the… fourth paragraph. I just went back and counted. Well, you can’t say you don’t know what you’re in for.
And it’s embarrassing. I’m blushing just reading this. I don’t think I can keep going.
Okay, I skimmed ahead. The protagonist, Alexis, is a virgin. She’s never been attracted to men — or women — and decides to try aliens. That thing in the beginning? That was a dream.
So anyway, she signs up for this dating agency which claims a 99 percent success rate at setting up human women with alien guys — compared to Earth marriages, which fail 50 percent of the time. And they’ve found her a mate. There’s a planet out that has some very specific requirements — and Alexis meets them.
She’s a potential marked mate of an Everian Hunter.
So. Super cheesy. But hey, you know what you’re going to get here. Hot sex with aliens.
10. Re-Roll by Robyn Wideman
From Maria Korolov:
LitRPG, for those who haven’t heard of it yet, is a genre of sci-fi in which the protagonist is somehow thrown into a virtual world. Think of The Matrix, or Tron, or the latest Jumanji movies, or Ready Player One. In the LitRPG subgenre, the authors frequently include level progression — detailed reports about the protagonist’s scores and bonus points and abilities and other statistics. It’s a little bit like watching someone play a video game, but in book form.
Anyway, I love this genre. Can’t get enough of it. I’m addicted to this style of books.
So I was happy to jump right in.
It’s the near future, and Ryan barely survived a freak accident. He’s in a wheelchair, but at least he never has to work again. It’s now two years after the accident, and his best friend has won a prize in a contest — a VIP ticket to a hot, new fully-immersive online video game. His friend gives Ryan the prize as a birthday present. All he needs is a new medi-pod and he can go into the game for real. It’s always been out of his budget before, but now his insurance will cover it.
Now he’s in New Realms, the hottest new game out there, and as a VIP player he gets all kinds of cool premium features, like special fantasy races. Plus, he gets two free re-rolls. Normal players have to pay to create a new character and wait for two weeks before they could restart.
So we learn all about the different options he has and the special skills that come with them. Reading this book is like watching someone play an online game.
Ryan decides to become a golden elf, and he starts out with a Sword of Slaying that adds two points to strength and two to agility. It’s a unique item and its stats will increase as he levels up in the game.
Then he goes shopping for armor. And so on and so on. You’d think it would be boring. And maybe, for some people, it is. But I enjoyed it. I enjoyed watching him level up the first couple of times by killing some giant bumblebees, then make some friends with other players and join them in a dungeon quest. And then — oh no! — his new friends stab him in the back. Literally. Over and over again. They keep killing him in order to get their hands on his premium weapon.
So to avoid giving it to them he restarts with a new character, instead. He keeps the weapon, but loses all the other perks he started out with. And now he’s out for revenge.
So yeah, reading this book is a lot like watching a video game play through. But I’m not saying that’s a bad thing. Personally, I like these kinds of books. They can be very satisfying to read. In fact, I’ll probably be sticking with it. Who am I kidding? I’m definitely coming back.
Have you read any of these books? Are you planning to? Let us know in the comments!
And watch Maria, Amira and Nick discuss all the books in the video below: