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The Great Hearts

Narrated by: David Oliver
Length: 10 hrs and 46 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (7 ratings)

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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

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

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 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

‘For a second there was only the silence of blood dripping from our blades’

David’s first Audiobook, David’s first narration... DO NOT LET THIS PUT YOU OFF!
Honestly, David’s storytelling has put him easily into my top 5 favourite narrators. His style is just brilliant, I felt myself drawn in from the beginning and struggled to put the book down. I’d happily listen to him narrating any of my favourite books! Very close to a 5 star rating, but when speaking character voices the emotion (especially menace) has some room for improvement (give the man a break, it’s his first go!)
The story itself I thought was a great premise too. I was a little dubious when the sci-fi element was introduced later on, but I’m excited to see where the story takes us in the next instalment.
Look out for David and get in early, because he’s going to be a huge hit!!
This is my honest opinion of a free review copy.

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Fantastic debut and great narration!

I was given this audiobook by the author. I don't usually read fantasy but was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. The characters are really well thought through and at times I forgot it was fantasy. David did a great job of the narration and really brought the story to life. I can't wait for the next book!

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

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.

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

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

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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  • T. Winter
  • 14-03-18

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.

7 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Joseph Moore
  • 02-10-19

Like It More Than I Probably Should

Reading the reviews, I can see where some of the criticisms are valid of the story, but somehow can't bring myself to like it any less. The opening is very dark and there are underlying threads of darker things to come woven throughout the story with the implications of the Emperor's intentions. There are some fun comedic elements woven in, especially in the interaction with the cat and what seems like coping with their experiences from Callidan. Overall while some parts come easy in their interactions with adults, the bigger struggle of their past and preparing the future combined with the unique relationships between them made it hard for me to stop listening.

The cat...I don't want to spoil this, but this is probably what endeared the book so much to me. I love books that have a well portrayed cat's perspective (like The Aeronaut's Windlass) and this is another one. It takes a good book and makes it great.

The author narrating their own work is a bold choice, but in this rare case it pays off. David Oliver has a wonderful quality of his voice that is perfect for fantasy narration and just allows you to fall into the story. He handles the individual voices well and the production quality is good.

This has definitely left me curious to check out other works by the author.

I was given a free copy of this audiobook in exchange for an unbiased review.

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  • michael martins
  • 11-09-19

The Great Hearts

The Great Hearts is a solid fantasy novel with some very cool and intriguing characters. The story follows Calidan and his friend Cassius from the time they were children in a small remote mountain village. Their village is attacked by raiders who rape and murder many of the villagers and cage the remaining villagers. The only one not captured is young Calidan who hides himself as he tries to free his friend Cassius from a wooden cage. The raiders then raise a demon and proceed to feed the villagers to this abomination. Calidan frees Cassius and they escape in the nick of time in to the wilds but are soon pursued by some of the raiders. They end up surviving and Calidan soon meets and bonds with a gigantic black panther who happens to be a Great Heart. Calidan can communicate telepatically with the great heart and she helps train and makes him stronger.

Calidan and Cassius vow to kill the demon that was summoned on day and will do whatever they have too to get stronger to achieve this goal. They meet many different characters and figures on their journey and end up enrolling in a school to become an Imperator which are nearly mythical figures in the empire.

The book has a lot of different aspects to it and is done very well. It has tons of action and adventure, a lot of training and getting stronger is also involved. When an author also does narration and can be a bit hit and miss but David Oliver did quite well, there are some narrators that I would definitely prefer over him but he was quite good. The book takes a bit of an unexpected turn towards the end and gets a bit Sci-Fi but that leaves me quite interested in what will happen in future installments of the series.

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

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Brian
  • 27-08-19

Interesting If Uneven Fantasy

This story was pretty entertaining, but the rest of the reviews that indicate a bit of a schism between the beginning and the end in terms of characters, tone, and story definitely have a point. It starts pretty dark and grim and does a good job of setting up a fairly brutal world, but then focuses on some younger characters whose concerns and actions perhaps seem a little too mild considering what's already been set up. But, since the author does a good job of each part it's not that big of a negative and stayed interesting through the end.

I received the review code for this audiobook at my request and have voluntarily left this honest review.

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Randall
  • 07-08-19

Promising start to a new series

I really enjoyed this book, and hope to see a sequel for it in the near future. The world and cast is nicely done. If this review was just for the first half of the book, it would be an easy 5, but the story started to wander and fray at the edges past that point. I did find the ending was a little too abrupt.

I also felt the author did a great job with the narration. I look forward to see where this story is going.

Disclaimer: I was given this free review copy audiobook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Michael P.
  • 04-08-19

Nice Voice for Narration

This story does a good job with dystopian world building and gives the feeling readers have glimpsed only a sliver of the big world. The characters start out intriguing, particularly with their reactions to trauma. Yet, as the story went on, I felt like I lost touch with them. Not sure I can identify why, as the book was certainly competently written. Perhaps it could be the amount of jumping between between times or maybe part of trying to follow so many characters? I just couldn't stay invested in what was happening to the characters. Without going too far into spoiler territory, I felt the end was abrupt and without much in the way of payoff for the first book. It seems I might have been upset about this if I were more deeply attached to the characters. Again, the book is certainly competently written and certainly an interesting concept, I just failed to fully connect with it.

Narration was very well done. David Oliver has a nice voice for narration and is able to make the characters distinctive. Narration certainly added to the experience.

I received this audiobook for free in exchange for my honest and unbiased review.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Wanpakumono
  • 03-08-19

Very Good First Book

This is first positive experience that I have had where the author also narrates. So much so, that I would recommend any other narration he would do.
That being said, his talents are better used as the author. I requested this book from the author and agreed that I would review it. If you look at my reviews, you will see that agreeing to this doesn't guarantee a great, 5 star review.
I find in many fantasy novels, it takes quite a bit of time to get familiar with the characters and their lands/societies. For whatever reason, I had no problem here. I was invested very quickly and had the whole thing read in 2 days!

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Cindy
  • 02-08-19

Very Promising!

A very promising start to this new series. I was not sure at first. I had a hard time following the story in the beginning. But with a new series and characters that's common. Half way thru I was joining in with the trials these young ones were going thru in their training.
The author also narrated and did a pretty good job. As the story progresses he brought out the characters personalities.
This audio was given to me free and I voluntarily gave this review.

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Bikram Agarwal
  • Bikram Agarwal
  • 07-03-18

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 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Ray Johnson
  • 23-02-18

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 people found this helpful