First, a huge thank you to David for providing me with a copy of this book! I listened to the audio version on Audible.
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.
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. Leave me a comment below or follow me on twitter. Let me know what animal you would want as an animal companion. I know giant panther is definitely on my list!