The Great Hearts by David Oliver
Genre – Dark Fantasy
About the Book – A Confused Dark Fantasy
“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.
The first instalment of a new series, David Oliver’s debut novel features mythical beasts, epic sword duels, dark rituals and a friendship for the ages. Following in the footsteps of authors such as Mark Lawrence, Joe Abercrombie and Brian McClellan, The Great Hearts melds gritty, vivid action with the soft, warm purr of a gigantic panther.” – Publisher Blurb
The Review – Not Quite Great
The Great Hearts is a dark fantasy, coming of age adventure. Those are two hats that are difficult to wear, and to say that The Great Hearts does both well would be an exaggeration. Weaving between past and present (with an emphasis on the past) the tale follows a boy who will become Imperator and his brother. We will touch on the misuse of Latin later, first we need to address the conflicting tones. The coming of age story for a heartless killer is a hard pill to swallow. There were more than a handful of cringe inducing moments and at one point, we believed our eyes were going to roll out of our heads. Mister Oliver states his intentions at the end of the book; he wrote this book for himself, and from our view, it is painfully obvious. The contents of this book are little more than adolescent boy wish fulfilment, with the only binding material being the reader’s ability to suspend disbelief. An eleven-year-old boy seeing combat is a stretch by even the standards of George R. R Martin, and unfortunately, this story was not written by Martin. Of course, with a name like Calidan Darkheart, what else could you be?
The Bright Side – A Silver Lining
When not decimated by the most edgy musings, the dialog is bearable and the writing itself is good for a debut novel. Unfortunately, Mister Oliver breaks one of our cardinal rules in this outing, and that is the misuse of Latin, or any language for that matter. Imperator is the root word for emperor, both in English and the Romance languages, so it makes little sense to use to use it as a title for a man meant to be subordinate to an emperor. We cannot stress this enough, but when appropriating other languages for one’s work, one cannot simply take a word because it sounds cool, one ought to take the meaning too. He may as well have used the title Stabularius, after all, it has the word stab in it, right?
Now, if you take away everything we hate, what remains? A relatively fast-paced trot through the memories of a hired killer. While there is certainly room for improvement in this romp, it could always be worse.
The Rating – Solid C
A middling effort gets a middling grade. Another couple of rounds of editing and a hand courageous enough to hit the delete key could have improved this dark fantasy adventure immensely. That being said, it is still fun at times, even bordering on good. When the author is not trying too hard to make his characters cool, you get tastes of a fantastic world waiting beyond the veil. Since this appears to be the beginning of a series, we hope that the author takes time to reflect on the successes and shortcomings of what he wrote and adjusts his course.
Want to read The Great Hearts? You can find it on Amazon.