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The Great Hearts

4.05  ·  Rating details ·  93 ratings  ·  37 reviews
"An unexpected pleasure to excellent adventure," Two Bald Mages (Steve)

"What Mr Oliver has done with this story and the characters within is nothing short of puts to shame some big name authors," Two Bald Mages (Keith)

Imperator. A word synonymous with fear, pain, loathing and, for a chosen few, the sharp end of a blade. The voice of the Emperor, an
Kindle Edition, 315 pages
Published May 16th 2017
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Average rating 4.05  · 
Rating details
 ·  93 ratings  ·  37 reviews

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Mar 23, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Overall rating = 3 & 1/2 stars (rounding it off to 4 on the rating as when I reread this book, I enjoyed it as much as the first time and then some)

Full review over at Fantasy Book Critic

CLASSIFICATION: Combining Sword & Sorcery elements with a hefty dose of Grimdark, The Great Hearts is very much in the vein of Blood Song with a solid dose of Indiana Jones-esque action adventure and topped off with some fantastic SF elements.

OVERVIEW ANALYSIS: I discovered this book thanks to
Feb 18, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
received this book in exchange for an honest review – I think it would appeal most to people who like darker coming of age stories.

I listened to the audiobook version of this, so my spelling is probably not accurate.


The start of the book is extremely dark, the main character is telling you about his childhood and it was as traumatic as it gets. His village is ransacked by a group of savage people that raped, killed, ate, and performed ritualistic demon sacrifices on the
Jul 04, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This and other reviews can be found on my blog

First of all, look at this stunning cover! It immediately sets the mood for the story and made me want to pick up the book asap!

This book is categorized as grimdark and thus contains topics such as rape, cannibalism and mutilation. Keep that in mind if you are easily triggered by these topics.

The story follows the Calidan Darkheart, Imperator of the Empire, and tells the story of how he became the Emperor's pawn. Calidan and his childhood friend
Actual rating: 3.5

Review originally posted on my blog with a chosen song:

I’ve got a digital copy of this book in exchange of an honest review. This was already on my TBR when I’ve got a request to read it, so I was totally up for it. It took me a while to get to it though, but man, it was worth the wait.

The Great Hearts is also an entrant in SPFBO, assigned to The Qwillery.

I’ve been reading quite a lot of books this year and after a while they tend to
Jul 13, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Had a lot of fun with this one. Good story with equally good narration, I'll put up a full review in the next few days

Updated review:

"My name is Calidan Darkheart. I am what the Emperor made me. Monster."

The Great Hearts is a dark coming of age story about two friends that have everything they love taken from them. While this story was a bit cheesy for my taste in certain parts, I loved the mix of darkness and innocence that this book has. The first chapter starts in the present with our main
Feb 16, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Plot

Two young boys named Calidan and Cassius are best friends who live in a sleepy mountain village. Their world is turned upside down with the arrival of raiders and a strange, nightmarish creature that feeds on human flesh. Displaced from their homes and forced to witness all manner of horrors visited upon their friends and loved ones, the boys flee into the forest. Struggling to survive on their own, the boys are befriended by a lone hunter who cannot communicate with them effectively,
Joshua Grant
Jan 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Great Hearts by David Oliver tells the incredible tale of Calidan the Imperator. Calidan had been raised to be a murderer and a monster that slays in the name of the Emperor, but this is really a story about redemption. Oliver’s characters are great and his writing is engrossing making this a journey that is well worth taking!
Apr 22, 2019 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, spfbo
Currently FREE in Kindle, folks. This sounds terrific, epic storytelling!
Scott Kaelen
Jul 17, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.

Feb 20, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am gruntled and baffled
David Mackinnon
Sep 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Really enjoyed this book..looking forward to reading the next book.
Gwendolyn Pendraig
Gripping, thrilling and at points mind blowing.

For a first book, particularly a first fantasy book, this is a fantastic piece of work. The protagonist and his supporting cast are well written and thoroughly likeable. The plot is well paced, gripping, and holds attention without difficulty.

David has created an unexpectedly complex and interesting world, which I look forward to learning more about in the sequel.

There's even a healthy dollop of remarkably well explained and placed sci-fi,
Steve Caldwell
Apr 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
As anyone who's read my reviews knows I am a big fan of audiobooks, and thanks to, which connects reviewers to authors, narrators and publisher looking for honest reviews, it's possible to discover books like The Great Hearts. That's a good thing, since it would be tragic to miss out on stories as good as this.

Callidan Darkheart and his hulking partner Cassius are Imperators, Voice of the Emperor, the hands that solve the Empire's problems which others can't, often painfully
May 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
First, a huge thank you to David for providing me with a copy of this book! I listened to the audio version on Audible.

Second, Thank you to Esme for all the work she did putting together TBRindr – An Indie Author and Reviewer Matching Service.

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
Jul 31, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned-read
I was sent both a digital and audio copy of this book in return for a fair and honest review. This is my first book by this author (David Oliver). It is his debut book, and I was immediately drawn in by the stunning cover.
The story primarily focuses on Calidan Darkheart, who is on a lifelong quest of revenge against the shadow demon that destroyed his childhood village and killed everyone except for him and his best friend Cassius. Along the way, Calidan becomes bonded with Seya, a giant panther
Jeffrey Hatcher
The Great Hearts is an engaging fantasy told from the first – person perspective of a teenage boy and containing elements akin to “Superman”, “Jungle Book”, and “Star Wars”. The first comparison comes from the destruction of the protagonists' family at the beginning of the story; the second for the prominence of non – human companionship and stewardship; and the third for the coming of age plot in which the boy enters the world of wizardry. These comparisons are not meant to detract from the ...more
Mar 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 19, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: readtoreview
A big thank you to the author. I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

I started the reading and I was hooked up from the start. This book has a lot of great things to it, that’s true, but what really did it for me, and it was so since the first pages, is Calidan’s voice. He’s the narrator of the story, and he is a great character too, but it was his voice, his way to tell the story that drove me in.

The author did a good job with his world-building, I liked it and I liked
Kirsty Noah-whitlock
Jul 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A unique fantasy novel filled with grim humour, adventure, gory, suspense and mythical creatures. Very strong characters and I found myself sucked into the page turning, tension filled storyline. The only downfall I found was the ending left many questions such as what happened to Seya?? I also felt the ending was quite confusing. Unfortunately, I felt this warranted a loss of half a star so I give it 4.5. Due to not being able to give half stars I did however feel it deserved a 5 rather than a ...more
Kassandra Carrillo
Aug 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Awesome Book

Worth the read. From the first line, it drew me in and didn't let go. Splendid. Gripping. Captivating. I can't wait for the next one.
Colin Rowlands
Mar 15, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 09, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Great Hearts – David Oliver

Self published|315 pages|Fantasy|audiobook (read by author)

I received a copy of the Audible version of this novel as part of the TBRindr programme.

The digest: a mixture of interesting elements which struggles to come together to tell a compelling narrative. 2.5/5.

The Great Hearts is Oliver’s first novel and (I believe) his first time narrating a story and I feel like both of these facts are obvious from the offset. The narration is ‘good enough’ most of the time
Disclaimer: I received this novel for free in exchange for an honest review. This exchange is a part of r/fantasy’s TBRIndr database, whose purpose is to popularise independently published works of fantasy.

Warning: This novel contains portrayal of cannibalism, rape and a few more mainstays of grimdark fantasy.

The Great Hearts is a grim-dark fantasy novel with a pinch of sword’n’sorcery, seasoned with the barest hints of sci-fi towards the end. It is the first of a series of books centred around
Nancy Foster
Jun 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: spfbo
I thank the author for the ARC copy they sent me via librarything!

The SPFBO 2018 contest has just started and this book is one of the 300 titles vying for the glory. I'm glad to have read 2 of the competing books so early into the game.

Is this book grimdark? coming of age? military? It seems to mix several genres into one in a gritty tale of two demon hunters called Caledan and his best friend Cassius as we see two stories unfold: their present day life as full-fledged Imperators that have
Alexia Cambaling
Read this review on The Bookworm Daydreamer

I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review.

Trigger Warnings: Graphic depictions of rape, extreme violence, and cannibalism.

I listened to The Great Hearts on audiobook after receiving a request from the author and although I was starting to get tired of grimdark, I actually ended up liking this one. I will have to reiterate though: this is not for everybody. As with plenty of grimdark titles, this book contains a lot of graphic
Jacob Heiner
Aug 18, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was really good. I liked almost everything about it. The characters were interesting. Often, I find that grimdark employs the same sort of cardboard cutout, morally gray characters that are really powerful for little reason. I felt like each major character showed progression and depth.

The storytelling and world reminded me a lot of Mark Lawrence's Prince of Thorns series. The “present day” timeline was interwoven with flashbacks to explain the predicament and how the problem will be
Dec 10, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
I liked this book, it was dark but with a purpose and it did not revel in it's darkness. The characters are still heroic and want to fight that darkness. The backstory is gotten out of the way quickly though and the military academy life while tough is not brutal.
Just so people know one character rapes another student and in the aftermath it is explained that the academy takes such things seriously it is something they risk when different people are purposely put together, this part then ends
Mar 07, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Rob Cooke
Feb 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"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.
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