Free Friday: Today’s top free Amazon sci-fi and fantasy books for Jan. 20, 2023

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Free Friday: Today’s top free Amazon sci-fi and fantasy books for January 20, 2023

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. Read on to find your fun free read for this weekend! And grab the books quickly because they don’t always stay free for long.

This week’s list is completely different from those of the previous weeks. So if you’re a fan of free books, there are going to be new things to read all the time. If you want to get this list in your inbox every Friday afternoon, subscribe to the MetaStellar weekly newsletter.

There are a lot of books to go through, so this week I’m being helped out by a couple of other members of our MetaStellar community. If you’d like to join me in doing these reviews — and taping our regular Friday videos — email me at [email protected].

10. Fomorian Brigade by James David Victor

This is the first of seven books in the Gene Soldiers military sci fi series. The other books are $0.99 to $3.99 each, and the seventh book is currently available for pre-order and will be coming out February 28, 2023. The entire series is in Kindle Unlimited. James David Victor has been on this list before. We reviewed his book Mercury Blade back in June of 2022.

From Maria Korolov:

Carl is a vet, suffering from the after-effects of his time in the service. To be more exact, he was an experimental soldiers, injected with drugs and genetic treatments that induced rage and seizures, but also resulted in increased combat awareness and performance. That made the soldiers good on the battlefield, but not so good in civilian life.

Carl, originally from Old Earth, has managed to avoid the rehab programs where the other vets had been sent. The other vets never came back, so he’d rather take his chances on the outside. As long as nobody on New Persephone notices who he is, he should be okay.

The, in the next chapter, we get a flashback. Carl is seeing his first action, fighting an alien race for possession of an Earth-like planet. For some reason, the battle requires infantry on the ground.

Then we’re back in the present day, on New Persephone. The local police chief knows who Carl is, and is blackmailing him. He wants Carl to do odd jobs for him, in return for the chief’s silence — and a supply of the medicine he needs. Now the chief wants him to track down a creature with alien mutations before the news of its presence goes public and the dock has to shut down and miss its quota.

For a second, Carl considers calling in the breach himself. That could save more people than if he went in alone to fight it. But if he takes the job, the medicine he’d get would be enough to last him two or three months. Enough time to get to another system, and start over.

I like this book very much. It reminds me a bit in style of David Drake’s Hammers Slammers series, which I loved. I’ll probably finish it this weekend.

Get the Kindle ebook free from Amazon here.

9. Lost Souls by W.J. May

This is the fist of six books in the Mending Magic dystopian series. The other books are $3.99 each, and the series is not in Kindle Unlimited. W.J. May  is a regular on these lists. We first reviewed The Kerrigan Kids box set back in April of 2021, then, in June, we reviewed Omega Queen, a box set of the first three books book in the ten-book Omega Queen Series. And, in November, we reviewed Mending Magic, a box set of the first three books in the six-book Mending Magic Series. In December, we reviewed The Chronicles of Kerrigan Box Set, which is the first six of twelve books in The Chronicles of Kerrigan. All of the other three box sets are still free.

From Romel Madray:

This is a young adult novel set in Southern California, and follows the story of James as he comes of age as a magic user and finds love. James is nearly 18 years old, comes from a wealthy neighborhood, the son of one of the most powerful men in America. He is attractive, popular, a star quarterback, attends a $40,000-a-year private high school, and has never had a job, as his parents think it would be unseemly.

In class, James’ pencil catches fire while in his hand. Gabriella, whom he had a crush on when he was younger, covers for him by saying he had a lighter in his hand and it went off accidentally. They get paired up to do a book report about Gatsby. We also learn that this is a world where a genetic anomaly has caused some children to be born with magical abilities. James’ father runs a corporation that polices these children with white vans and takes them away, similar to a secret police.

The next day, James goes to Gabriella’s house to do the book report. They eat pizza at her house, which is more relaxed than his father’s house. He invites her to the beach, but she declines. After they finish the book report, he just leaves.

The book is well-written from a technical standpoint but fails to grab the reader’s attention. The setting is clearly described, and the characters are anchored in their setting, but the pacing of the story is slow, and it seems too predictable. The themes and motifs of a dystopian world or teenage issues in the book are not explored in depth and seem unimportant to the characters. The protagonist’s own view seems rather unfeeling, which makes it difficult to connect with him.

Overall, the book does not spark enough interest in me as a new reader of the paranormal romance genre. This book is similar in tone and plot to other books within the genre but fans of the genre readers seeking their fix of paranormal romance might enjoy it.

From Maria Korolov:

Unfortunately, I’m not a fan of young adult books, nor of dystopian books, nor of romance. So I’m not the target reader here.

James is a rich high school kid with a dad who doesn’t pay much attention to him. He’s a jock who plays multiple sports and is popular with the girls. Oh, and he occasionally does weird things like teleport himself from place to place or set a pencil on fire.

The book is extremely readable and James is a nice guy despite being a rich spoiled jock, but it’s not for me.

From Amira Loutfi:

The blurb makes this book sound super exciting. Jamie has a happy teenage life, when suddenly he discovers he has a mysterious power. This ruins everything and he finds himself running from his own family and protecting a girl he barely knows.

So I read W J. May a few times, and I never really liked her work. She’s obviously very popular, though. Her other series have hundreds of reviews and high ratings.

James is able to work magic, even without realizing it. The first time he did something magical, he was only five years old, playing with his father in a park, when he suddenly appeared on top of a marble statue. The father is weeping and saying over and over “you climbed up there!” As if he’s afraid that someone will find out his son can teleport.

James grows up to be a parochial-minded high school kid who prejudges his classmates into a handful of categories and assumes that readers will perceive him as a “teenage god” because he’s athletic and blond. I’m not into this. His father is acting strange one morning. He lets James ride in his fancy car and drops him off at school. He doesn’t usually let James even touch any of his cars. He then tells his son a sweet nothing before driving off. Then James realizes his father is acting weird because he feels guilty about a long trip he’s about to go on.

In class, his magic lights something on fire. It’s highly uninteresting to me, but if you like high school dramas with weak plotlines, you will probably love this.

Get the Kindle ebook free from Amazon here.

8. Kissed by Magic by Erica Ridley

This is the first of three books in the Must Love Magic paranormal romantic comedy series. The other books are $6.99 and $3.99 each, but the entire series is in Kindle Unlimited.

From Maria Korolov:

I was sold on the from the first paragraph. Lance is a swashbuckling bounty hunter and soldier for hire who lives above the 24-hour Pawn & Potion, a dingy hovel of ill repute tucked between two steel-and-glass skyscrapers.

It’s been five decades since magic returned to the world and the store’s fluorescent “open” sign is powered by an enchantment. It’s 3 a.m. the week before Christmas and Lance is looking forward to hitting the sack and sleeping right into the new year when he sees a poster by the door. A wanted dead or alive poster, with his face on it.

Seems a competitor is upset because Lance found some diamonds first, and cost him a hundred thousand drachma. Now he wants either Lance’s head, or the money. Lance already spent it on. On a pirate ship. On layaway. Non-refundable. He still needs 175 thousand more to pay the ship off.

And he’s got an idea for where to get it. The mythical Golden Bloom of Eternal Youth could bring him millions. Billions, even. But it’s hidden at the Castle Cavanaugh and nobody’s ever made it back from the castle alive.

I love the narrative style of the story. It’s fun and light hearted. I love the banter between Lance and his landlord, the owner of the pawn shop.

And I adore the world-building. Magic is mixed with modern technology in fun ways. For example, spellbooks have been made obsolete by digital readers, and the pawn shop can’t even give them away for free now.

This book is now at the top of my reading list. Ahead of that space mercenary one.

Get the Kindle ebook free from Amazon here.

7. Beauty and the Vampire by Demelza Brown

This is the first of three books in the Beauty and the Vampire paranormal romance series. The other books are $3.99 each, and the series is not in Kindle Unlimited. The third book is currently available for pre-order and will be coming out June 15, 2023. The author also writes under the name E.M. Brown and seems to have no relation to Demelza Carlton, who also writes fantasy retellings of class fairy tales and has some similar-looking covers.

From Maria Korolov:

I could have sworn I’ve read this book before, or, at least, this author. But maybe I’ve got her confused with the other Demelza, the wildly prolific and popular Demelza Carlton.

The other Demelza writes, among other things, retellings of classic fairy tales.

Which is what this book is. Kind of.

We start out with Daliyah waking up in a carriage jostling along a rough and brambled forest road. She’s a maid, and the other maid, and their mistress, are in the carriage with her. She was woken up by the ominous howling of wolves. Ominous, because this particular forest is supposed to be cursed.

They’re running late, and the road through the forest saves them a few days of travel.

Then their carriage is attacked by wolves, hurting one of the horses, and they make for the stone castle in the center of the forest. Its the closest potential refuge, and their horse needs medical care.

Then we switch to the point of view of the castle’s owner, an earl with a craving for human flesh. Flesh that can satisfy both his hunger — and his loins.

The curse has given him strength and youth, but also fangs that show up at inopportune moments. He offers to let the visitors spend the night. Daliya’s mistress will have a guest room, and the two maids can stay in the servants’ quarters. Though the earl has just one servant.

When the earl has settled his guest into her room, he has a moment with his servant where they discuss whether the lady could be the one who breaks his curse. She is stunningly beautiful, possibly the most beautiful woman in all of England. Or beyond. Just in case the lady is the one, the servant suggests that the Earl eat the driver first.

Apparently, the process of feeding involves having sex, and while he’s not opposed to having sex with the driver, he’d rather have a woman.

Then we switch to Addison’s point of view. Addison is the earl’s servant — and his half-brother. The earl had saved his life when he was seven, and has been both a brother and like a father to him ever since.

There are hints that this book is going to have a lot of explicit sex in it. And unexpected romance. Well, not too unexpected. The romance is built right into the genre.

And it is extremely readable. Very, very, readable.

I’m not a fan of this particular genre, but if I was stuck in a bed and breakfast with nothing to read but this book, it wouldn’t be a hardship.

Get the Kindle ebook free from Amazon here.

6. Grounded by Sarah Hauled

This is the first of six books in the Paranormal Penny Mysteries cozy mystery series. The other books are $0.99 to $3.99 each, and the series is not in Kindle Unlimited. This is the second time this book has been on this list — we previously reviewed it in July of 2022.

From Maria Korolov:

Penny, 18, lives in a van, works in a coffee shop, and is ready to quit her job and leave town at a moment’s notice because her psychic abilities keep messing up her life. She can see signs that someone is about to die, and the closer she is to people, the harder it is to ignore the signs.

I like Penny a lot and immediately got caught up in the story — I read 18 chapters over lunch, or half the book. I’m definitely finishing it.

It’s a cozy mystery, so it moves slowly. I mean, it’s half-way through the book and nobody has died yet. But there has been a murder attempt — or was it? It could have been an accident.

The world building is great. I like the characters and the town, and I like Penny’s cat.

I don’t usually like books with young protagonists, but Penny is universably relatable. She’s also very good at making coffee and helping out with other aspects of the business at the coffee shop where she works, so I like that about her — as well as the fact that she’s trying hard to save her boss’s life.

The rest of the books cost money and are not in Kindle Unlimited. But they make me happy, so I can definitely see myself shelling out the dough for the rest of the series. I’ve already bought the second book. With the whole world falling apart around us, it’s nice to be able to take a little mental break, get some breathing room away from all the bad news, and just read something nice.

Get the Kindle ebook free from Amazon here.

 

5. Flare by Jonathan Maas

This is a standalone books of philosophical horror. Usually its $5.99 but today it’s free. It is also in Kindle Unlimited. Jonathan Maas has been on this list before; we reviewed his book Klareana: The Human Child back in August of 2022, and his sci-fi novella, Project Quetzalcoatl, back in March, 2022.

From Alex Korolov:

This book should appeal to fans of post-apocalyptic survival stories.

I read the first few chapters, in which you get introduced to two different main characters, and also find out what’s happened to the world.

The sun has suddenly gone into an extended solar flare. This means that anyone who’s outside dies instantly, and anyone who stares at its direct light for even a second is permanently blinded. It is possible, however, to be outside at night, as long as shelter is found before sunrise.

Zeke is a traveler who’s just trying to survive. In the first chapter he holes up in some old man’s house and stops the old man from doing something he would regret.

Next we meet Ash.

Ash is a young man who wakes up in his sister’s house after being in a coma due to a car accident. He draws back the curtains on the window for just a second, and he gets a few nasty burns from the sun because of it. Ash find his sister in another part of the house taking care of her boyfriend, who’s grievously injured. His sister’s lover was hit by the sun’s light and he’s basically a melted human that she’s trying to keep alive. He’s covered in third degree burns and he’s blind.

I like the premise of this book and I plan to keep reading. The idea that the sun’s light could suddenly turn deadly is terrifying, and I’d like to see how the characters in this book survive in this crazy new world where one misstep means they get cooked to a crisp. The first two chapters were basically just set up, but it was enough to get me hooked.

Get the Kindle ebook free from Amazon here.

4. The Dragon Rogues by D.K. Holmberg

This is the first three books in The Dragon Rogues epic fantasy series. The other books are $4.99 each, but the entire series is in Kindle Unlimited. D.K. Holmberg is a regular on this list. Earlier this month we reviewed The Dragon Misfits, last December we reviewed The Endless War series and his Elemental Academy series. Last November, we reviewed The Teralin Sword, a box set of the first three of six books in The Teralin Sword epic fantasy series. Last September, we reviewed his The Lost Prophecy box set. We reviewed The Cloud Warrior Saga box set back in July, and, later that same monthPath of the Flame, the first of five books in The Dragon Thief coming of age fantasy series. May of 2022, we reviewed Unbonded, the first of five books in the First of the Blades epic fantasy series. Finally, in April, 2022, we reviewed The Risen Shard, the first of eight books in The Chain Breaker epic fantasy series.

From Maria Korolov:

I’ve read other books by the same author, and liked them, and I do like epic fantasy. So I’m already primed to like this book.

We start out with Jonathan, a thief who just took a risky job, a job that offered an opportunity to make more money than he made in the past ten jobs combined.

He and his crew need to sneak past a series of defenses before they can reach a hidden vault. With all the enchantments he and his crew had, it would be hours before anyone realized that they’d ever been there.

Given the risk, he kept his team small this time. Just three people. A lookout on a nearby rooftop, an experienced older thief, and Jonathan himself. They use magic to hide themselves from observers, and magic to get into the warehouse building. They make their way through the warehouse in the dark — they’ve memorized the way, down to the number of steps they need to take between turns. They make it to the vault door, and their magic talismans get them inside. There, they find stacks of gold, and, on a table in the center, the crystal they’d been hired to steal.

Then, everything goes wrong.

Of course it does.

The tone of the story is serious, but the protagonist is clever and thorough and I like his relationships with the people around him. He seems to be a good guy, choice of profession aside. I think I will enjoy this series, especially considering that the whole thing is in Kindle Unlimited.

Get the Kindle ebook free from Amazon here.

3. Marilia, the Warlord by Morgan Cole

This is the first of three books in the Chrysathamere fantasy series. The other books are $2.99 and $4.71 each, and the series is not in Kindle Unlimited.

From Terrence Smith:

The saga, which pitches itself as akin to Game of Thrones, follows two siblings, Marilia and Annuweth, as they go from best friends to the worst enemies. Marilia, the Warlord introduces readers to their lives as children working in the same brothel as their mother, who acts as a Painted Lady, a prostitute.

One of her only friends in that brothel is a regular customer, a gentleman by the name of One-Eye, named so for obvious reasons, who is one of the only customers at the Brothel who sees her as a person, rather than simply child labor.

The prelude immediately presents readers with what is to come, of how Marilia would command an army in the face of a great threat to the kingdom. It gives a peek into the fear and doubt that she deals with, and how she turns to her deceased father for guidance.

Readers be warned, though: the first scene of the story shows Marilia’s mother having sex, so that is awkward, to say the least.

Overall, this story has me intrigued by the setting, and curious to see how the two siblings end up growing apart.

Get the Kindle ebook free from Amazon here.

2. Fate of Dragons by Bella Andrews

This is the first of what will be The Guardians paranormal series. The second book is due out next October. It’s the author’s first full-length novel, though she’s had short stories published before.

From Maria Korolov:

Sienna is a witch, gathering herbs in the woods when a girl comes running up, yelling for help. Her dog’s been poisoned. Sienna tells the girl to pound some charcoal into water and pour it down the dog’s throat. She’ll be there as soon as she can find some laurel leaves to counteract the poison.

She finds the herbs she needs, but there’s no time to take the footpath all the way back into town. She uses her magic to help her get across a ravine, then sends the family out of the room so she can work on the sick dog in private.

But the girl who’d come for Sienna? She knows that Sienna isn’t just using herbs to heal the dog, but has real magic. And she wants Sienna to teach her. Oh, and she’s got an app on her phone.

The book’s tone is a little on the serious side, moody, and southern Gothic. A little too serious for my taste.

I do like Sienna, and I’m enjoying her interactions with the teenager who wants to be her student. But given the fact that I’ve got lots of other books on my reading list, and that the rest of the series isn’t out yet, I’m probably going to give it a pass.

Get the Kindle ebook free from Amazon here.

1. Whispers in the Water by Sarah Chislon

This novella is a prequel to the two-book Blood of the Fae fantasy series. The first book of the series is $4.99, and the second is $5.99 and is currently available for pre-order and will be coming out October 25, 2023.

From Maria Korolov:

Jessa is trying to invent a salve that will help her sister get rid of a scar on her arm, so she’s going through her notebooks full of sketches and notes on various herbs. She’s also hoping to publish her herbalism guide, and is waiting for a letter from the publisher. Meanwhile, her aunt is putting together a guest list for an upcoming dinner party. The butler brings the post, but the letter she’s hoping for isn’t there.

Her aunt does get a letter, though, and the news is bad. At least, is seems to cause discomfort to the aunt, who claims that she had a headache, declines Jessa’s offer of a healing tea, and leaves, distracted.

Jessa’s mother had died 14 years prior, and her aunt had raised Jessa and her two sisters like they were her own children.

The story reminds me a bit of Bridgerton in its setting and style, except with magic and fae in it.

It’s slow-paced but in a pleasant, soothing kind of way. The setting is wonderful, and I like Jessa very much. When she’s not trying to cure her sister’s scar, she’s saving an injured cat, or trying to figure out how to help her aunt with whatever is bothering her. She’s capable, and caring. Also, she’s not a fan of dinner parties. I think I would enjoy spending time with her, even if the second book won’t be out until next fall.

Get the Kindle ebook free from Amazon here.


See all the Free Friday posts here. Do you have other free books for us to check out? Comment below or email me at [email protected].

Have you read any of these books? Are you planning to? Let us know in the comments!

And watch Maria, Terrence and Romel discuss all ten books in the video below:

MetaStellar editor and publisher Maria Korolov is a science fiction novelist, writing stories set in a future virtual world. And, during the day, she is an award-winning freelance technology journalist who covers artificial intelligence, cybersecurity and enterprise virtual reality. See her Amazon author page here and follow her on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn. Email her at [email protected]. She is also the editor and publisher of Hypergrid Business, one of the top global sites covering virtual reality.

MetaStellar news editor Alex Korolov is also a freelance technology writer who covers AI, cybersecurity, and enterprise virtual reality. His stories have also been published at CIO magazine, Network World, Data Center Knowledge, and Hypergrid Business. Find him on Twitter at @KorolovAlex and on LinkedIn at Alex Korolov.

Romel Madray is a software developer, social media marketer and start up consigliere. He is also an experienced business consultant and accountant, and also writes and illustrates children's books. Check out his website at Romel Madray Art or visit his YouTube channel.

MetaStellar reviews editor Amira Loutfi is an author and web designer. She is on a mission to craft excellent fantasy fiction that is inspired by late antiquity Arabia. You can join her monthly newsletter where she shares insider info, wips, and tons of cool stuff.

Terrence J. Smith has contributed his writing to nonprofits and both print and digital publications. He enjoys all things technology, but remembers to meditate and appreciate the outside world.

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