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 July 8, 2022
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. Into the Darkness by Vincent Valentean
From Peter Cooper Hay:
I expected to hate this book, and was really surprised by how much it drew me in. The main character is Vin, a former soldier whose PTSD from serving in the Middle East destroyed his mental health and his marriage. He’s living as a hermit, making his living as a bounty hunter, when an electromagnetic pulse attack knocks out all the electronic devices—apparently everywhere. And he likes it.
The description in the blurb makes him sound like the king of right-winger whose manhood is tied up in his AR-15 and who’d like nothing more than the fall of American democracy, but the character inside the pages is much more nuanced and sympathetic than that. The gun he carries is a pistol, and in the opening chapters, he’s able to use it to take in a pair of poachers with high-powered rifles who are hunting endangered wolves. Vin doesn’t have much use for the government, but his passion is for the land and the wildlife on it.
He’s also divorced, but he still holds his ex-wife in high regard. He’s clear that the marriage failed because of his own psychological trauma, and he’s scrupulous about his child support payments, even now that she’s remarried. Vin might be happy living his hermit life in a post-technological world, but the book will be about his wading into the thick of society in its collapse in order to rescue his ex-wife and son.
Right-wing jerks will probably love this book, but surprisingly, so did I. I give it five stars.
2. Illusion by Christa Yelich-Koth
This is the first of three books in Eomix Galaxy space opera series. The other books are $3.99 each and are not in Kindle Unlimited.
From Peter Cooper Hay:
If a high school sophomore had written this book, I’d have been impressed. I’d have given her an A and told her to keep at it, that some day she’d be really good. Sadly, that’s not how I encountered her. She’s written nine novels, a graphic novel, and a six-issue comic book series. You’d think by now she’d have learned how to write.
The book opens with a sort prologue in which “the most powerful being in the universe…who was as close to a god as one could come” regards himself in the mirror and sees a washed-up 43-year-old failure and commits suicide. The descriptive prose is unclear, but it looks like he took a dozen nearby stars with him.
The story then focuses on Daith Tocc, a 24-year-old student at an elite academy, as she is kidnapped by mysterious men on a small, silver spaceship that is flown so badly that it almost squashes her flat as it lands. In the hands of a Terry Pratchett, the scene would have been hilarious, but Yelich-Koth is playing it straight and expects us to find it exciting. Daith’s shoulder is dislocated, some of her hair ripped from her scalp, and her jaw shattered in her struggle with her abductors, leaving her in about as rough shape as the author’s prose.
Chapter two opens with someone fondling a mind control helmet, wishing he could use it to erase some of his own memories. After reading this far into the novel, I kind of feel the same way.
I will say this for it, though. It bops along at a good pace, it follows a lot of the conventions for an adventure novel, and if you’re ton too snobbish about style and looking for a quick, lightweight read, you might even enjoy it.
3. The Lost Siren by Raven Storm
This is the first of five books in Rise of the Drakens paranormal reverse harem romance series. The other books are $3.99 to $4.99 each and are not in Kindle Unlimited. The fifth book is scheduled to be released in October and is available for preorder.
From Maria Korolov:
First of all, a disclaimer. I am not a fan of romance, and I’m certainly not a fan of reverse harem romances — those are the ones where the heroine doesn’t have to choose between two equally hot men. Instead, she gets both. Or all three. Or however many there are.
I’m not opposed to the idea in principle. After all, this is escapist fantasy and what’s better than a hot guy? Three hot guys, right?
Unfortunately, all I can think about when reading reverse harem books is how much drama must be involved. It must get so tiring.
Anyway, the book starts out with Wren, who’s a slave of Lord Crullfed, a vampire, in a fantasy world where humans are prey. She’s regularly beaten. Still, she is terrified of being sold off to someone else, like a vampire or demon.
Then a man shows up — a handsome man, of course, and not a vampire though also not human — and gives her a choice. If she wants, she can come with him. She wants, and he carries her away. Oh, and he has wings and can fly.
The story is readable, but it’s not my thing. I’m not going to keep reading.
4. Dark of Winter by Lizzy Prince
This is the first of four books in Wild Haven paranormal romance series. The other books are $3.99 each. The second is in Kindle Unlimited, and the last two are not out yet. The third book is due out later on this month, and the fourth is due next spring. Both are available for preorder.
From Maria Korolov:
As I just mentioned, I’m not a fan of romance. I’d rather my protagonists dealt with annoying men by killing them. But we can’t always get what we want, can we?
Anyway, Miri’s mom move the two of them constantly from town to town as she was growing up. Ten years ago, when she was 15, a hot, mysterious stranger showed up in the middle of their living room. She feels an immediate connection to him. Then her mom tells her to leave with the stranger — for her own safety.
Then we switch to the guy’s point of view. Davis, who’s only a little older than Miri, is doing a favor for his aunt. Apparently, Miri’s mom used to be best friends with his mom, and needs his help. Of course, the minute he sees Miri, he feels an immediate connection as well. Turns out, Miri has magic, and so does he, and because of their families’ histories, they should stay away from each other.
So he packs her up into his car and starts driving. It’s fifteen hours to his aunt’s house.
Then the story jumps forward ten years to the current day. Miri hasn’t seen her mom since. All she’s got left of her mother is a letter she wrote the night Davis came to get her. She thinks her mother is dead. She just inherited a house from her mother, on an island off the coast of Maine, and decides that she’s going to move there and try to figure out what happened.
On the island, the first person she meets is the real estate agent who is going to get her situated in the house. And, of course, he’s a hot guy.
The story reads easily but moves very slowly. It could be a good book for someone who likes slow-build magical romance. But not for me.
5. Death Warmed Over by Kevin J Anderson
This is the first of eight books in the Dan Shamble, Zombie P.I. urban fantasy series. The other books are $5.99 to $11.99 each and are not in Kindle Unlimited. The eighth book is scheduled to be released in November and is available for preorder. If you read sci-fi, then you know Kevin J. Anderson. He’s been on the New York Times bestseller lists, wrote a bunch of Dune novels, and a few Star Wars novels, some X-Files books, and his own fiction — more than 125 novels total.
From Maria Korolov:
I love the author, I like hard-boiled private eyes, and I love urban fantasy. So I had high hopes for this book going in. I was not disappointed.
This is a world where the supernatural has recently come into existence. Zombies, werewolves, vampires, the whole lot.
So when private detective Dan Shambles was murdered and became a zombie, he did the only thing he could — he pulled his fedora down a bit lower to cover the hole in his head and went right back to work. After all, cases don’t close themselves.
First, he has to find a missing painting. The artist died and his heirs got all excited because his old artwork suddenly became very valuable. But then the artist came back as a ghost and started painting again, the heirs were very annoyed, and stole his latest work of art. While Dan’s partner, a human lawyer, worked on the legal issues, Dan went on the hunt for the stolen painting, with a werewolf assassin hot on his trail.
Meanwhile, Dan still has his own murder to solve.
This book is funny, fast-paced, and the world building is awesome. There are beauty parlors that top zombies off with embalming fluid. Vegan vampires drink soy-based blood. Human-flesh-craving undead can buy chicken prepared so it tastes just like people.
I had a hard time pulling myself away from this book, and will definitely be finishing it this weekend.
6. Supernatural Shadow by Fatima Fayez
This is billed as the first book in the Aisha Bone urban fantasy series, but no other books are out yet. However, the main character also shows up in a short story in the Summer Solstice Shenanigans anthology.
From Amira Loutfi:
Aisha is a bounty hunter who is half-witch and half something else…. she doesn’t even know. But she has super strength. She lives in our world, in an underground nexus of vampires, wolf and dragon shifters, dwarves, gargoyles, demons, and angels. Who is to say this is fiction? Can you prove such secret communities don’t exist?
I think the world-building is at Harry Potter levels. There seems to be a magic spell for everything. The author drops hints about what the vampire communities tend to be like, how the angels and demons hate each other, and how the communities are organized along political lines. The writing style has many moments that feel like info-dumping, but it is consistent and it flows. It is written in a simple way that is great for reading when you’re exhausted. I’m kind of exhausted right now, by the way.
This is perfect for when you want to get sucked into a fantasy world with lots of novelty, immersion, and just a little sass. I will probably be back.
7. Arcane Rising by Nicole R Taylor
This is the first book in the four-book series The Darkland Druids. The other books are $3.99 each, and are not in Kindle Unlimited.
Five Druid families flee a war-torn Earth and wind up on an alternate Earth, where they are rebuilding in a new world.
This series is set in the same universe as the four-book series The Crescent Witch Chronicles.
It’s the second time this book has been on our top ten list. We previously reviewed it last summer. The author has had other books on this list as well. Last December, we reviewed Beyond The Veil, a box set of five full-length urban fantasy novels, each of which is the first in its own series. And, just last month, we reviewed Wolf Called, the first of three books in the Fortitude Wolves paranormal fantasy series.
From Maria Korolov:
Gordan is fighting out of control brushfires in Australia when he sees a creature, a dangerous elemental soldier, a human-looking monster. He has to stop it before it gets to the rest of his crew, and then to someone named Elspeth. Maybe I should have read the other series first? The first book in that series, Crescent Calling, is free but the others cost money.
The monster wants to know where the girl is, and Gordon uses his magic to defend himself against the monster’s ability to generate heat. The monster says that Elspeth needs to go back to her people. Oh, Elspeth is his daughter. And he’s willing to risk everything to keep her safe.
That’s the introduction. Then we move on to Elspeth, and the story switches to the first person. Cops are her door. She knows what they’re going to tell her. As a daughter of a firefighter, she’s long been prepared for this kind of a visit.
She’s depressed after his death. She stops looking for work. She just wanders around. She doesn’t know anything about her origins, or who her mother is. Just that she comes from somewhere in Scotland. So, on a whim, she decides to head there.
I like her. I like the way she interacts with people, and the pacing of the story. I like the combination of action and thoughtfulness.
8. The City on the Sea by Heather Carson
This is the first of five books in the City on the Sea Series dystopian climate change series. The other books are $3.99 but are all in Kindle Unlimited. This is the second time this book has made this top-ten list. We previously reviewed it last August.
From Maria Korolov:
The book is told in the present tense, which always makes reading a little bit more difficult for me. I know it’s the latest trend, but it always takes me extra effort and time to get into a book with this particular narrative technique. It’s unusual, and takes me out of the story.
Brooke is taking her nephew Zander to the sea, and he tries to steal a pebble from the beach. She takes it back and then brings Zander home to her pregnant sister, who lives in a two-room shack. It’s more space than a lot of people have, but smaller than the childhood home where Brooke still lives, taking care of her mother. Her sisters offers to let her move in with them — things aren’t going well between Brooke and her mother. Brooke is 18 and has been working as a spinner for two years, twisting strips of plastic bags into cords. The plastic bags were buried by the millions at the bottom of the sea when the world sank, and people now use them to make fabric since there isn’t enough land to grow plants for fiber.
Seems that generations ago, the core of the earth heated to unstable temperatures. There’s no more technology, books are gone. So’s Brooke’s dad, he had an accident and drowned five months ago. She’s stuck with her mother, who’s always angry and full of hatred.
Despite the present tense, the writing style is lyrical and quickly draws me in. Brooke is a compelling character, and the world is well realized.
But the story is moving a little too slowly for my taste, and I probably won’t be coming back to finish it.
9. Moon Dog Magic by Jennifer Willis
This is the first of six books in the Rune Witch urban fantasy series. The other books are $2.99 to $3.99 each and are not in Kindle Unlimited.
From Maria Korolov:
I’m not a fan of young adult novels — young people annoy me because I’m old and cranky. The protagonist here is Sally, a teenager. She’s stayed up for three nights in a row creating rune rituals that would permanently and positively alter the course of the cosmos.
If she makes a mistake, the whole universe could implode.
Meanwhile, the old Norse gods are losing their powers after living among mortals for generations. Now one of them, Heimdall, is on a quest to find the World Tree, which might be springing back to life. Heimdall is now working as a forest ranger and he needs to find the tree in order to save the world.
I don’t like the premise, but I do like both of these characters, and am enjoying the writing and the story’s pacing. I might stick with the book this weekend.
10. The Cloud Warrior Saga by D.K. Holmberg
This is the first three of eleven books plus a bonus novella in The Cloud Warrior Saga epic fantasy series. The other books are $2.99 to $3.99 each but are all in Kindle Unlimited. The author has been on this list before. In May, we reviewed Unbonded, the first of five books in the First of the Blades action and adventure romance series. And, in April, we reviewed The Risen Shard, the first of eight books in The Chain Breaker sword and sorcery fantasy series.
From Maria Korolov:
Tan should be out of the house, working at an apprenticeship outside his village — or at a university in the city — but he stayed in Nor with his mother after his father died in the king’s war. Tan has a little magic, the ability to sense other beings, but it’s not particularly strong, not like his father. He finds the tracks of a strange creature and tracks it, then is surrounded by a pack of them and barely escapes.
He meets up with a fellow villager and the two of them come across a caravan of Aetna — traders who hadn’t been to the area for the previous five years. They run home to tell people that the Aetna are coming.
Tan’s mother works for Lord Alles, and tells him about the traders. Lord Alles orders her to have the traders camp outside the village. This is an insult to them, but the lord has received word from the king to be on the alert. He’s worried about the risk to the village.
There’s a lot of village politics and national politics here. I’m not particularly caught up in Tan’s story, and the book starts slowly. However, the world building is very compelling, and I do like epic fantasy. Plus, all the books are in Kindle Unlimited, so I might stick with it.
Have you read any of these books? Are you planning to? Let us know in the comments!
And watch Maria and Amira discuss all ten books in the video below: