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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.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
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.
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.]
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