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Publisher's Summary

Calidan Darkheart is an Imperator. The voice of the Emperor in the wild. A secretive and dangerous job, hunting down those deemed a threat to the Emperor's rule...whether monster or man. Twisted and bitter, he heads down a dark path to hunt a nightmare from his youth. This is his story.

©2017 David Oliver (P)2018 David Oliver

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Tatiana
  • Anchorage, Alaska
  • 03-14-18

I hate writing reviews like this.

I have never seen a book take a nosedive in the same way this one did. It started out as something absolutely fantastic. I was immediately drawn in by the plot, and I couldn't believe how great the narration was. And from the author, no less! I was already composing an overwhelmingly positive review in my head.

Then, out of nowhere, the whole thing just fell apart. The characters started floating around with no real goals. Rather than needing to work to overcome obstacles, they started having things simply handed to them. They are two poor orphans in a pre-industrial empire, and for some reason they are taken in and coddled by the highest members of society and trained by military weapons masters. Even the Emperor becomes their best friend, for no reason at all, on their first meeting! And there is something very self-indulgent about the way they win every fight and have every powerful adult stand up for them and tell off anyone who would get in their way.

On top of this, the book seems to have trouble deciding what kind of story it wants to be. In the beginning it is decidedly grimdark (a good thing, to my mind), but shortly thereafter becomes a young adult novel. 12 year olds are the center of attention and are treated like adults, running around fighting battles and agonizing over romantic 'love' for their adolescent crushes--who are actually referred to as their 'loves' in some passages, eg., 'she did such and such with her love.' I really could have done without that part.

Even the formerly wonderful narration took a jump off a cliff around the time the emperor showed up. The author has a lovely speaking voice and great instincts, but he should not attempt the ultra deep range, because it sounds horribly unnatural.

Still, as much as I found the above problems irritating, I do believe this author has talent and should keep writing--and narrating. It just leads me to the headline for my review, because I think every problem I've mentioned could have been easily solved with the help of a good editor. It's quite a shame that the failure to contract one has lead to the demise of a potentially great story.

I received this audiobook for free at my request from the author, publisher or narrator and have voluntarily left this review.

4 of 6 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

Mixed bag

Is there anything you would change about this book?

This book was a mixed bag for me. I think some people will love this book while some wouldn't. It started off great. The initial dark setting sets the mood for the book. But a few chapters in, the mood changes significantly and I'm bewildered for some time, wondering whether this is trying to be a dark-fantasy or a YA-Fantasy. Even if I looked past that, I still couldn't fully enjoy this story since it is told in a "flashback" style and it is implied that the character has gone through something terrible. So, while listening to the flashback, I already knew that something terrible will happen but he will survive. Beyond these two, I felt the characters were slightly under-developed. The ease with which they moved on from a massacre was weird. I would've loved to see some glimpses of their damaged psyche or something. Instead, they just brush it off and go on.

How would you have changed the story to make it more enjoyable?

All 3 things I mentioned above. Now, those are the things I didn't like and it might even look like nitpicking. Those might not be of any concern to other listeners. Everyone has their own preferences.

What did you like about the performance? What did you dislike?

Narration was alright. Characters were distinctly identifiable. And there was no audio issue.

Any additional comments?

I received this audiobook for free from the author / narrator / publisher in exchange for an unbiased review.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

A great Start for Great Hearts!!

This isn't so much a debut novel as it is a breakout novel. This book really hits a lot of tones, tempos, and toothy subjects. It revolves around two friends, Calidan and Cassius, who train to become great fighters. The story starts out grimly, with their homes, and all their loved ones, getting wiped out. From there, they go forth and try to improve their lots in life together. They have some great adventures, and there is a cool/odd/exciting twist at the end. This book has a lot going for it, character development is there, there just could have been more. Other than that the story is great.

Oliver narrates his own tale, which is fun, because who knows their story better than the person who wrote it? You here him do the voices as he heard them in his head! He sets the pacing, the mood, the tone. He embodies it.

I cannot wait for part 2 to come out to see what happens next. I must come clean and admit that I did receive a promo code to review this book, but that had NO bearing on my opinions stated above.

Get it, read it, love it.

2 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Dark Fantasy

I got this story via audiobook boom and this is my voluntary review. This story started out very dark then dipped somewhere in the middle then settled into a fantasy tale. The narrator made me feel every emotion that was woven into the book. It kept me on the edge of my seat but also seemed to switch from adult to YA and back again.
The story was still good and is a good read. If you like fantasy then this series will be a winner for you.

0 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

A must read gritty fantasy with a hint of sci-fi

Thank you to David for providing me with this book to review. You can find this review and others like it on jetpacksNdragons.

I think normally with any review I would usually try to put a book into a category as to let you know what kind of book I am reviewing. Trying to fit this book into any sub genre of fantasy would not entirely work because it fits into quite a few.

It starts off as a kind of grim-dark fantasy where the main character, Callidan, rescues his best friend Cassius from a bunch of crazed, shadow monster worshiping, cannibal lunatics… or something of the such. The beginning sequence is extremely dark and gruesome. The boys watch as their entire village, children and all are put through some truly horrible things. The mood of the story does lighten up quite a bit as you continue to read.

“I wasn’t always a killer. In fact, I didn’t kill until I was eleven years old. Cassius, though he may look and act like a hulking violent brute at times, managed to avoid killing until he was fourteen. He always was a slow learner.”

It is also a coming of age story in which you get to see the characters learn and grow more powerful as they realize their full potential. The title of the book, The Great Hearts, refers to large, intelligent animals that can bond with a person lending them strength and speed. Think Eregon but replace the dragon with a moose sized, highly intelligent panther. One of my absolute favorite parts of the book is told from the point of view of the giant cat, and the author captures a cats personality perfectly. There is no doubt in my mind that Mr. Oliver is a cat owner.

Eventually after escape from the horrors of their village they meet up with a tracker and continue their adventure until they end up getting taken in by a master general and taught a special form of martial arts.

I don’t want to spoil too much of the book, but this gives you a good idea of how this book fits into a bunch of different categories.

The book jumps to the present every once in a while and gives you a little taste of what the boys are up to in present day as Imperators for the Empire. Imperators are the elite group created to fight the things that most normal people don’t even want to know about.

“What the Emperor makes is monsters”

The book has a nice pace to it. the author does a great job breaking up some of the slower but nessesary training parts of the book. For the most part the book is very fast paced and action packed. The parts that aren’t leave you thinking about what is going to happen next before plunging you into more action.

I am not going to talk about the end of this book too much but I will say this… It gets weird, and I loved it! The end of this book wrapped up the story nicely, but I wanted more. The second book whenever it comes will be on the top of my reading list for sure.

The Audio Book

Just a quick bit about the audio book. I started listening to the book and got to the part where it said “The Great Hearts, by David Oliver. Narrated by David Oliver”. I have a HUGE library of audio books. I must have 200 plus. I don’t recall ever liking the narration of a book done by its author. I sometimes suffer through them because the book is good, more often than not I just don’t finish it. I know for sure that Mr. Oliver has a bright future as an author. The story he wrote in The Great Hearts is nothing short of fantastic. The story that he tells however was even more impressive. If for some reason he decides not to write anymore he would have a bright future as a voice actor as well. The narration was spot on. As a narrator I would put him in my top 5 favorites along side Michael Kramer, Kate Redding, Nick Pohdel, and Wil Wheaton.

Conclusion

The Great Hearts by David Oliver is a must read for any fan of fantasy especially if you enjoy darker fantasy, a good coming of age story, or if you are just interested what it would be like to have a moose sized cat for a companion.

0 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • TU
  • 03-09-18

A very solid start of a (hopefully) new series

I was given this free review copy audio book at my request and have voluntarily left this review.

I found that I quite enjoyed this one. The two main characters were interesting and well developed. Normally, I have found I don't care for books narrated by their author, but I thought he did a good job on this one. I am on the fence on the flashback thing. I understand why the author did it, but I would have almost preferred that the story start with where the flashback starts, rather than start current, then flashback. Either way, I still really enjoyed the book, so that is a very minor complaint. I definitely have interest in the next of the series, should one come out.

0 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Dark fantasy that willLeave you chilled

Sometimes it’s good to cheer for
The bad guys. Sometimes it requires the good guys to employ some not so good guys. Sometimes those who have been twisted and broken make the best servants. This is one such tale. Of some not so nice people who are the unlikely heroes that do the dark things the traditional hero can’t. Love these darker fantasy tales! I was voluntarily provided this free review copy audiobook by the author, narrator, or publisher.

0 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Enjoyed the listen!

Enjoyed the book. Great narration with a fantastic story. Well worth the credit and the listen.
This book is on my multiple listen list.


This book was provided at no cost for a fair and honest review.

0 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

This is the shocker of the year so far.

I figured this would be another sword and sorcery. And it would fade.

I finished the book a week and a half ago. Read 3 other books since, and I am still thinking about this one.

The great hearts are creatures. At first they feel like magical beings. In a medieval world. But as the story continues you learn so much more. I don't want to give any of this away, because the story unfolds so well. Ugh. what can I say that won't give it away.

The story is one of vengeance... but also loyalty. Two boys survive a horrible slaughter. And decide to grow into men of vengeance. The monster they hunt is horrific. The dark nature of the beginning sets up the story to be a gore/horror fest. Which it doesn't turn out to be.

The two main characters, Calidan and Cassius, are loyal to each other and the emperor. And the relationship there is awesome. You sort of grow up with them, which is a story arc I always love to read. Combine that with Calidan's relationship with Seya (the great heart) and things grow into something amazing.

The world building is wonderful. The great-hearts and some other things I will keep secret are wonderful ideas, and explored well. It is sort of just wonderful surprise after wonderful surprise.

The narrator killed it. He was so good. SO GOOD.

I cannot wait to listen to book 2!!!

0 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars
  • RJ
  • Cottage Grove, MN, United States
  • 03-07-18

Wonderful fantasy tale.

This is the story of Cassius and Calidan; more so Calidan as the tale is told from his perspective. These two have been friends since childhood and consistently watch each other’s back throughout the story. The tale begins with Cassius and Calidan escaping from raiders, hiding out in the forest, and becoming exposed to Great Hearts. Great Hearts are large legendary magical animals that bond with a human resulting in increased characteristics and powers. Eventually they become involved in the politics of the land and find themselves enrolled in a Special Forces school of sorts to become Imperators. Imperators are basically the Emperor’s muscle. The twists and turns are well-done and keep the pages turning. This is a wonderful fantasy tale that starts out slow, but quickly builds into an exciting and interesting debut novel. I look forward to more from this author. This audiobook was given by the author, narrator, or publisher at no cost in exchange for an unbiased review via Audiobook Boom.

0 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • C. Rowlands
  • 03-15-18

Interesting start to a new series

This book opens with quite a dark scene and this tone continues for much of the book, but it mostly works well as the author sets the scene in this new fantasy series.

The main focus of this first installment is focused on Calidan and Cassius who manage to escape the tragedy that opens this book and follows them through their journey that eventually results in them being enrolled in the Imperator academy. This is a school where they will learn to become Imperators, or voices of the emperor, a role that seems to be a fantasy equivalent of a secret agent or special forces, they are highly trained in military skills amongst other things and are assigned dangerous and difficult tasks by their emperor. Of the two of them, Calidan did not have any choice about joining because of something that happened shortly after they began fleeing their village at the start of the book, he becomes bonded to a giant panther, one of the titular Great Hearts that are practically a myth to most people in that world.

Sometimes, it doesn't matter if you include some of the back story for a fantasy world as part of a review, but in the case of this one I think it is better to allow other readers to experience things unspoiled since gradually learning about this world definitely enhances the overall story. One part of this book that I did not enjoy as much as the rest of it were the occasional flashforwards we got to a much older Calidan, they didn't provide much of interest to the main story and disrupted the overall flow at the same time with no clear benefit to them, perhaps they work better in the text editions but didn't really fit this audiobook version.

The author has chosen to narrate his own book for this audiobook version and on the whole it works quite well, it is clearly more on the side of a reading than a performance, but that style seems to suit the story that can be quite dark at times.

Overall, this was an interesting start to a new series, it gave us a glimpse of an interesting world and a varied cast of characters, while still delivering a story that was sufficiently compelling in its own right.

[Note - I was given this free review copy audiobook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.]

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Scott Kaelen
  • 07-17-18

A fun, engaging, progressive story

I listened to the audiobook version of “The Great Hearts”, and I have to say I very much enjoyed both the story and David Oliver’s narration. Even in his after-note at the end, he acknowledges that he’s not a professional narrator, but still he did a fine job and I’m a bit envious that he, as the author, dares to put voice to his own creation. Sure, there is the occasional, slight mis-step, but overall I found him more engaging and more listenable than some of the pro voice actors I’ve heard.

After a brief “present day” intro, the main character begins to narrate the events of his childhood, which quickly build to a particularly brutal turn of events. One particular instance, which I won’t spoil by mentioning here, really made that chapter stand out above the rest; while the details weren’t dwelled upon, and possibly some readers would glaze past them, I remembered what had previously been mentioned which made what occurred shortly after that much more monstrous. From there, we follow the main character and his childhood friend, plus another character and a mysterious giant telepathic intelligent cat, as they cross the harsh countryside, the months pass, and they toughen to their new environment. The story slows pace as the companions reach a city and enlist in military training; this section, interspersed with the occasional ‘present day’ return to the older MC, takes up about half of the book, but is not without plot and character progression. Many new characters enter the story, form friendships (and in one case an enemy who massively gets what’s coming to him), and as they become a fighting unit the story branches beyond the training phase into the final act, which I’m pleased to say took a slightly unexpected turn (using a theme I’m a bit of a sucker for) and really opened up the lore and history of the world.
The Great Hearts is a fun, engaging, sometimes dramatic, progressive story that’s driven by the build and reveal of its own mysteries. It’s a story that you won’t regret taking a chance on. Four stars due to the occasional, small stumbles and the slightly too long training arc, but if I could fractionalise it I’d give The Great Hearts a rating of 4.3, just not quite enough to tip the balance into 5-star territory, but still very much enjoyable, and certainly enough so for me to want a sequel.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • MR
  • 03-14-18

Great storyline, great characters!!!

This is one of the best audiobooks that I have listened to in a long while, the storyline had me gripped from the start. The characters were all likeable with the narrator giving each distinctive and believable voices.

Even before I finished this audio I went looking for the next instalment and it will definitely be one I will be following


Please note that I was given this free copy to provide a non-biased review

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Rob Cooke
  • 02-20-18

A building gripping story. Some great twists!

This book was given to me free at my request and I provided this voluntary review.

This book is well read and a wonderful story. It starts out slowly building and giving you more and more while keeping you wondering where it is all going.
The story develops further and takes a turn that I just wasn't expecting and catapults it into a different direction to what you are expecting.

Lots of little twists and turns keep you guessing and engaged throughout.

The narration is actually fantastic, the author gives voice to all characters and conveys emotion and drives the story.

I am thoroughly looking forward to a second instalment of this story. Hoping to see even more from some of the secondary characters and where the primary ones will go.

In summation if you want a strong fantasy story with a few twists and an ever developing story then this is the book for you.

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Kindle Customer
  • 07-20-18

Excellent debut fantasy, solid performance

I didn't know this was read by the author until after purchasing and would never have known it wasn't a professional performer if he hadn't said so at the beginning. Great voice and accent to listen to, exactly what I look for in an audio book. The voices weren't as dramatically different from one another as usual but that wasn't a bad thing. Comprehension never suffered - I could always tell who was speaking. I also enjoyed knowing that it was being read as the author intended. All those inferences you get from voice - they belonged in the story.

Icing on top of a very entertaining story. Coming of age fantasy is a soft spot of mine but this was still a stand out. It will almost certainly appeal to fans of Anthony Ryan, Pierce Brown etc, and who doesn't love giant panthers?

Calidan, Cassius and the cast of secondary characters are likable. The story is dark but not unrelentingly so. Clearly a debut, it wasn't as mercilessly edited as fare from a veteran author, but it kept rolling smoothly enough that I never lost interest.

I'm not sure how I felt about the dual timelines (current action and backstory). The current action was somewhat necessary to keep the tension (knowing what was lurking around the corner) during some of the longer sections of backstory but it also felt like a disruptive device that shouldn't have been necessary.

I'll be picking up the sequel as much for the world building reveals as to find out what happens to our intrepid twosome.