FanLit thanks Seth Jones of Free Listens for this contribution!
A number of free audiobooks are available for legal download on the Internet, but finding the good ones takes some effort. I write Free Listens, a blog focused on reviewing the best free audiobooks and audiostories available in all genres, from science fiction space operas to literary classics. I’ve been asked to write a series of occasional guest columns for this site, focusing on the best free fantasy audiobooks.
For this introductory post, I’d like to point out some of the acknowledged classics of the genre. In the blurbs that follow, my full review at Free Listens can be found by clicking on the book’s title, while a link to the publishing website in parenthesis is followed direct link to download in brackets.
First up is a series of books that should be familiar to all fans of fantasy: The Chronicles of Narnia (Ancient Faith Radio read by Chrissi Hart [iTunes Link]). This was my first introduction to fantasy books; I remember as a child searching my school library for books that would give me the same sense of wonder and magic. The entire series is available at Ancient Faith Radio, starting with The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe.
Another great classic of children’s fantasy, though one I didn’t actually read until I was an adult, is The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (LibriVox, read by J. Hall [zipped mp3s]). If you’ve only seen the movie, be sure to listen to the book. It’s fairly short and there are some interesting differences from the movie that raised my respect for both the original source material and the film adaptation.
If children’s fantasy is too happy and light, you may be interested in reading some of Robert E. Howard’s violent and dark Conan tales. Red Nails (LibriVox read by Greg Margarite [zipped mp3s]) is one of the last Conan novellas that Howard published, but since the stories weren’t written or published in chronological order, the fight through a decaying city of decadence makes for a good introduction to the great barbarian. “Gods of the North” (LibriVox, read by Rowdy Delaney [mp3]), also called “The Frost King’s Daughter”, is not as great of a story, but shows the animal intensity of Conan. Queen of the Black Coast (SFFaudio.com podcast read by Gary Kobler [mp3]) is considered one of the finest Conan novellas, but the impact of the story doesn’t hit until after you’ve gotten to know Conan’s character a bit better.
There was a time when magic didn’t have to be found only in ancient times and imaginary lands; it could be searched out in the unexplored reaches of our own world. King Solomon’s Mines (LibriVox, read by John Nicholson [zipped mp3s]) is a predecessor to the Indiana Jones movies, full of exotic adventure and lost civilizations. Hired to guide an expedition into the depths of colonial Africa, Allan Quartermain finds himself embroiled in a struggle for power centered around the legendary mines of the Biblical king.
I’ve reviewed several other fantasy classics at Free Listens, but I’ll save those for future columns, where I’ll discuss literary fantasy, fantasy horror, science fiction, and non-fantasy books for fantasy fans. Until then, leave a comment and let me know: Are there other great free fantasy or science fiction audiobooks I should check out?