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Free Friday: Today’s top free Amazon sci-fi and fantasy books for Aug. 26, 2022Did 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.
There are a lot of books to go through, so this week I’m being helped out by Amira Loutfi, our reviews editor, our news editor Alex Korolov, and two of our community members — Carla Nordlund and N.T. Narbutovskih.
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. Starfighter Down by M.G. Herron
This is the first of three books in the Relics of the Ancients space opera series. The next book in the series is $3.99, and the third book is currently available for pre-order and will be coming out April 24, 2023. The series is not in Kindle Unlimited.
From Alex Korolov:
You’ll probably like this book if you’re a fan of space-based sci-fi stories like Battlestar Galactica.
Captain Elya Nevers is a hotshot pilot. He’s part of a small fight crew that’s about to fight an alien hive-mind race called the Kryl.
Nevers is good at flying, but he doesn’t quite fit in with his crew because he spends most of his free time in flying simulations instead of hanging out with his flying partners.
The first couple of chapters are a little slow, mostly about introducing you to the characters, but the alien-fighting action gets going by chapter four, so you don’t have to wait for too long.
I’m planning to finish the book since the story is interesting enough and there’s enough action for readers who enjoy outer space alien fighting adventure stories.
2. The Mortal Blade by Christopher Mitchell
This is the first of fourteen books in The Magelands Eternal Siege epic fantasy series. The other books in the series are $4.99 to $5.99 each. The most recent book is currently available for pre-order and will be coming out November 11, 2022. The entire series is in Kindle Unlimited.
From Carla Nordlund:
Aila sneaks into a gang compound in the City, magically impersonating a few guards and the cook’s daughter, to work her way up to the top level of the house, which holds the gang boss and top cronies. We find out that Aila is…something…but definitely not human. Aila begins to pour poisoned brandy, and is forced to first drink some herself, which she does. As Aila begins to intentionally self-heal herself, gang boss Olvin and his henchpeople die quick and frothing deaths. Aila steals a hefty amount of gold and some opium, and slips out.
She has a little trouble leaving the compound, but successfully escapes, impersonating an “Evader” boy to return to the city’s slums, the Circuit. She changes appearance to her “normal” face—a woman she has carefully aged over 20 years, and drinks herself into an oblivion. A while later, she again self-heals to sober up, and meets her informant, Bekha, who knows her as “Stormfire.” Bekha and Aila have some confusion over the amount of gold that Aila recovered—Bekha believes it indicates something more sinister is going on between the gangs—and Aila promises to investigate. They part, and Aila, against her earlier judgement, decides to use the opium on her way home.
Aila is an intriguing character, and this has all the hallmarks of an urban high fantasy a la The Lies of Lock Lamora. I’m curious to see why Aila, who I can only imagine is some kind of immortal at this point, is so dedicated to helping regular old humans. The fact that we already know some of her potential weaknesses—drugs—is also very interesting, and I wonder how her personal character will grow alongside the physical action. I’ll definitely keep reading.
3. Bronze Magic by Jennifer Ealey
This is the first of four books in The Sorcerer’s Oath epic fantasy series. The other books are $3.99 each, and the series is not in Kindle Unlimited.
From Maria Korolov:
I am a fan of epic fantasy, so this looks promising.
Tarkyn, 19, is a sorcerer, and we meet him as he’s fighting another sorcerer in the arena of the Harvest Tournament. Thousands of other sorcerers are watching. Everyone is happy when he wins. Well, his opponent isn’t ecstatic about it. But Tarkyn’s older brother, the king, is surprisingly upset. Tarkyn’s family have been rulers for 48 generations.
Then, in the middle of the night, the king sends for him and, under a thin pretext, orders him to give up his magic for four years — or be sentenced to prison. Tarkyn refuses, so the king orders the guards to take him by force. Tarkyn throws up a magical shield, which causes the guards’ magical attacks to rebound against them. In the havoc, he teleports out. He winds up in a shop that belongs to his tailor, trying to figure out what he should do next. He knows how to defend himself, but other than that, he’s got no survival skills. He can’t even look after himself — his servants have always done everything for him.
He’s got no money for food or shelter, and even if he did, he couldn’t go and buy anything because he’d be instantly recognized. His first task is to sneak back into the castle and grab his belongings, such as his jewels. Unfortunately, his teleportation spell isn’t particularly reliable. But while there, he does find out why the king tried to put him in prison — his magic powers were significant enough that the king was worried that Tarkyn would go after the throne.
I like this story, and I like Tarkyn. The setting is familar and comfortable: your typical medieval-style fantasy world with magic in it. I’ll probably be back to finish the book.
4. Wolf Princess by M Guida
This is the first of three books in the Wolf Princess paranormal romance series. The other books are $4.99 each, and the entire series is in Kindle Unlimited.
From Maria Korolov:
Salem works as a waitress at Mama’s Home Cooking Cafe and things are slow. Rent is due, and she’s short of money. She rents a place in a trailer park, and the landlord stops by wanting the rent money. She doesn’t have it, so he tries to take it out of her another way. When he grabs her, she kicks him in the nuts and throws him off, even though he’s much bigger than she is. When she does, her eyes change color and her voice gets deeper. The creep is scared off. She goes to the bathroom just in time to see her eyes change from gold back to their normal green color. Weirded out, she calls her best friend and spends the night at her place.
When she gets back to her trailer in the morning so she can change for work, there’s a hot guy waiting for her. He tells her that he’s a royal guard from the Wolf Moon Kingdom and she’s the missing wolf princess. He’s come to rescue her. Oh, and she’s a wolf shifter — he found her by her scent. And she’s in serious danger.
Of course, she doesn’t believe a word of it. But then the assassins show up.
This is not my kind of story but I have to admit that I’m caught up in it, anyway. It’s cheesy, but a lot of fun. I’ll probably be finishing it this weekend.
5. Rebel Spell by Lisa Carlisle
This is the first of six books in the Salem Supernaturals paranormal romance series. The other books are $2.99 to $4.99 each, and the entire series is in Kindle Unlimited.
From Carla Nordlund:
Nova is a struggling, low-paid editorial assistant-slash-waitress in New York, where she attempts to blend in as a normal human and leave her witchy family and community behind. However, when her Aunt Margaret passes, Nova is informed that she has been left Margaret’s house and estate back in Salem. Confused, Nova calls her mom, who enigmatically warns her to wrap up the estate and get out of Salem ASAP. Reluctantly, Nova prepares to go back home.
Meanwhile, Diego is a newly-minted vampire living with his supernatural roommates, Sebastian and Lucas, in Salem. The three are worried about the changes incoming with the death of their landlord, Margaret. When they receive a group invitation to Salem’s annual supernatural ball, Diego is hesitant to go due to his ex, Diana, also attending. Feeling despondent and anxious, they prepare for the arrival of Margaret’s mysterious niece, Nova Adams.
Although the writing style is a little too on-the-nose for my personal taste, the dialogue is funny, and the setup is there for a comforting, fun read that hits all the beats for a paranormal romance. I’ve added this to my pre-bed reading stack.
6. Adamant by Emma L. Adams
This is the first of six books in The Alliance coming of age fantasy series. The other books are $3.99 to $4.99 each. The series is not in Kindle Unlimited.
From Maria Korolov:
So, first, a disclaimer. I’m not a fan of coming-of-age books. I’m annoyed by young people in general. The drama! So much drama!
But I’m going to try to keep an open mind and give it a shot.
The book is told in the first person, but it’s in the past tense, which is a relief. Present-tense books always feel weird to me. Though, hypocritically, I’m writing these reviews in the present tense.
The story is set on an alternate Earth, where magic is real but something in the Earth’s atmosphere stifles it. That’s why the Alliance, which protects Earth from thousands of off-world threats, uses a lot of off-world technology. For example, they have communicators that allow them to communicate with other worlds and they have passages and doorways that go to the other worlds.
Ada lives in London, where she found a bunch of secret passages deep underground. Not even the Alliance knows about them. She uses them to help refugees, unregistered magic-users from other universes. What she does is illegal. She’s got some tricks, too. Instead of an Alliance communicator, for example, she uses an app on her phone to communicate with her contact on another world.
Her own home world is down one of these passages. It’s a world torn apart by war and barred from joining the Alliance.
She could do her job legally, on the up and up. But only if she joined the Alliance — the same organization that left her home world to ruin due to their noninterference policy.
We see Ada help a family of refugees out of the passages and get them to Earth, while fighting off a monster that had been following them.
In the next chapter, we switch to Kay’s point of view. Kay does have an official Alliance communicator. He just passed the Academy’s final-year test two weeks prior and is now an Alliance employee in London. And he’s got some doubts about the Alliance’s non-interference policy.
The Alliance has been around for a long time — more than a thousand years — but only went public on Earth in 1988, when Kay’s grandfather told everyone the truth about magic. Kay has been assigned to patrol the passages and keep an eye on the monsters like the one Ada had to fight off in the previous chapter.
I like this book’s writing style and the premise. And the young people and their young-people problems aren’t too much. I might be back.
7. Defiant by Aaron Hodges
This is the first of three books in The Alfurian Chronicles science fiction series. The other books are $2.99 to $5.99 each, and the entire series is in Kindle Unlimited. Aaron Hodges has been on this list before. Back in March we reviewed his book Storm Wielder, the first of nine books in The Three Nations Nordic myth and legend fantasy series.
From N.T. Narbutovskih:
Defiant is a science fantasy set in a magical world where elves are the oppressive overlords of humanity. We open with an action sequence that sets the stage for secrets about the future of humanity’s resistance to their enslavers. The main character is a young man who lives in a large city and scrapes out an existence stealing. He displays some abilities that make the reader think he might be able to use the elves’ technology, which provides an interesting chosen-one aspect to the story. The big mystery lies both in the question of his abilities as well as what really happened when the resistance was destroyed, hinted at in the prologue.
This science fantasy leans more towards the fantasy side, with an unexplained green sun and magic canisters embedded in people’s hands which have vast powers. The plotting is good, and as an adventure it reads well and hits all of the expected beats. As the first book in a series, it definitely leaves several threads unanswered.
Readability comes in at a solid 6 for me; there’s a heavy use of simile and the prose is rife with well-worn cliché. It does suffer from some copyediting issues as well, and I was disappointed at how often a good action scene was wholesale paused for a flashback or loquacious expository passage.
The promise of the first few chapters is good, however the writing and polishing makes it difficult to follow what is otherwise an excellent plot. If you can forgive the odd several paragraphs of exposition that pauses the action scenes and clichéd description doesn’t bother you, I think this book will check all the boxes for fans of the genre. Happy reading!
8. 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. This is not the first time we’ve seen this book on the list. We previously reviewed it in August of 2021. The author’s other books have been on this list as well. This past May, we reviewed her Legends of Dark Age Wales, a six-book box set.
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 1995.
“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 the two of 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 what the prince thinks is 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.
9. Klareana: The Human Child by Jonathan Maas
This is a standalone science fiction book. The author, Jonathan Maas, has many other books available on Amazon and they are all in Kindle Unlimited.
From Maria Korolov:
The book starts out with a venture capital pitch meeting. Tom and Mike are asking investors for money.
But I’m confused. The chapter heading says that the story is set in the present day, but one of the potential investors has a 3D-printing technology that prints fabric, and the global textile industry has already been devastated. I don’t really buy that premise — it takes quite a bit of time to change a global supply chain, and traditional manufacture of fabric is going to continue to be cost-effective for the foreseeable future. 3D printing is good for custom products, but it takes longer and costs more than traditional mass-manufacturing approaches. So maybe when the book says “present day,” it means the present day of the story, which is in the future some time? A future in which Bangladesh has seen massive riots and protests, and three other countries fell into civil wars?
Anyway, Tom and Mike aren’t looking to put anyone out of work. Their innovation has to do with fundamental research. The downside is that there’s no clear way to profit off it. Will the investors invest anyway, for the sake of scientific progress?
So what is this invention? Maybe we’ll find out in the second chapter.
But, before we do that, we learn that another one of the potential investors had revolutionized the global financial system by finding a way to peg actual currency to cryptocurrency. Okay, I’ve got to weigh in here again. National currencies — like the US dollar or the Euro — have been remarkably stable. They’re pegged to the economic growth of the whole country, or, in the case of the Euro, to the growth of Europe. As long as the economy doesn’t completely crash, national currencies do very well. Cryptocurrencies are priced based on their popularity. If people have to use them to make ransomware payments, they maintain their value. But when people don’t have a need for them, or another, sexier cryptocurrency comes along, all of its value disappears overnight. There’s no core benefit to cryptocurrencies, which makes them extremely volatile and extremely risky. Some cryptocurrencies have tried pegging themselves to real money, in an attempt to ward off this disaster, but that only means that they go out of business faster when fashions change and they have to spend all their cash reserves propping up their failing currency. So pegging a national currency to a virtual currency makes as little sense as thinking that 3D printing would transform the global textile industry overnight. And if the global economy completely collapses and national currencies become worthless, I’m betting that cans of beans are going to have more value as a currency than Bitcoins that you can’t use or access without a functional Internet, anyway. Okay, rant over. Moving on.
Tom and Mike begin their presentations to investors by telling them that humans are the only creatures who can understand symbols. Dolphins, for example, can’t.
Are you sure about that? Okay, I just went and Googled “can dolphins understand symbols” and the whole first page of results was all about how dolphins do understand symbols, in fact are very good at understanding symbols. And so are plenty of other animals.
Now, I’m not necessary reading books in order to learn about science and technology. I don’t mind if authors get a few minor facts wrong, especially when they’re not core to the story. But here, the characters spend a lot of time talking about all these ideas. They’re proud of how smart they are — but they’re getting all these facts wrong. And the author isn’t deliberately trying to make them look stupid. The author is presenting these guys as smart.
Frankly, I’m having a hard time suspending my disbelief right now. A word of advice to sci-fi authors: If you plan to lean heavily on science in the premise of the story, do a quick Google search to make sure you’re not obviously getting everything wrong. Otherwise, maybe focus on plot or character development, instead.
Unfortunately, the plot starts very, very slowly, and character development is almost non-existent here.
Anyway, in the third chapter, we find out that Tom and Mike have invented a way to make octopuses smarter. Though, again, the test they show the octopus doing is one that they can already pass today — following a series of arbitrary markers to find their way through a maze. Octopuses are already good at doing this. But anyway, moving on.
Then the story switches to 125 years in the future. After the world has changed. Humans now live in megastructures, giant, self-contained, isolated ecosystems, in order to survive. Because there are intelligent animals all over the place, like hyper-intelligent ants and super-intelligent deer, wiping human settlements out right and left. So, apparently, people learned nothing from Planet of the Apes. And these megastructures aren’t doing too well. They keep collapsing. Plus, communications have been cut off — transmission towers have been destroyed by insects. The only way for cities to keep in touch with each other is by using human scouts to pass messages.
And now we come to the heart of a story. A scout has arrived, the last remaining survivor of one of these cities. With a dire warning — their oracles had predicted that a new attack was coming. A god would destroy all human structures. An ant god. So we have oracles making predictions and ant gods now. I guess this book is a … post-apocalyptic fantasy?
So now humans have to figure out how to survive in the face of this new threat. Apparently, the ants are a particular problem — not because each individual ant is so smart, but because as a group, their collective intelligence surpasses that of humans.
Jona is assigned the job of going to one of the destroyed megastructures to find out exactly what happened to then. And he has to take someone with him him. A girl, Klareana — the same one that the book is named after. I’m now a sixth of the way into the book and they still haven’t started out on their mission. So, if this kind of story interests you, keep in mind that it starts out very very slowly with a lot of back story. I think it should be safe enough to skim through most of it, though, since nothing that happened in the first few chapters seem to matter to the main plot.
10. For the Blood by Debbie Cassidy
This is the first of four books in the For the Blood action and adventure romantic fantasy series. The other books in the series are $2.99 to $3.99 each, and the entire series is in Kindle Unlimited.
From Alex Korolov:
If you like horror stories that lean on the gory side and are full of creepy werewolf-like monsters, I’d recommend this book to you.
This post-apocalyptic survival book starts with two beheadings, so if you’re not into violence, you probably don’t want to read this one.
I loved it. The action gets going fast. The main characters are on the run from some creepy monsters right from the start, and it looks like they could be horribly devoured at any moment.
I’m definitely going to finish this one, but if you’ve got a queasy stomach when it comes to gruesome monster combat, don’t read this one.
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: