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Thursday, November 25, 2021

The Great Hearts III: Shadowstrike by David Oliver (reviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)

 


Official Author Information
Order The Great Hearts III: Shadowstrike over HERE
Read Fantasy Book Critic’s review of The Great Hearts
Read Fantasy Book Critic’s review of The Great Hearts II: A Game Of Gods
 
OFFICIAL AUTHOR INFORMATION: David A. Oliver was born in the British Isles and currently lives in England with his lovely partner. David was introduced to fantasy at quite a young age thanks to the Redwall books by Brian Jacques. After an extended, multi-year fantasy binge David decided to write a book and The Great Hearts is his debut novel. A fantasy novel that takes the reader on a whirlwind adventure featuring monsters and mayhem. He hopes any new reader enjoys it as much as he liked writing it!
 
OFFICIAL BOOK BLURB: The Academy is at war.

Having survived the early years of the Academy, Calidan Darkheart has proven his strength and skill. Now faced with a new challenge, mastering the mysterious abilities of seraph, and with a swathe of murders cutting through the empire, he must learn to adapt, and quickly.

Having survived the early years of the Academy, Calidan Darkheart has proven his strength and skill. Now faced with a new challenge, mastering the mysterious abilities of seraph, and with a swathe of murders cutting through the empire, he must learn to adapt, and quickly.
For the dark holds many dangers and the night is closing in.

Calidan the Imperator has sworn to save Cassius from his afflictions and destroy the Emperor. He pushes on to lands unknown, hoping to find someone, anyone, who can assist in his endeavour.

But what if the cure is worse than the disease?

David Oliver’s third novel in the Great Hearts series continues the dual adventures of past and present day Calidan, following the protagonist’s journey from earnest youth to a cold and forbidding Imperator.

Brutal combat, terrifying magics, dark secrets and the antics of a certain panther lay within.
 
FORMAT/INFO: Shadowstrike is 413 pages long divided over thirty-three titled chapters (spread over three sections), with a prologue, epilogue, and seven “present day” interludes. Narration is in first person via Calidan Darkheart in both timelines and some other characters in the past timeline. This is the third book in the Great Hearts series.
 
November 23, 2021 marked the e-book and paperback publication of The Great Hearts III: Shadowstrike and it was self-published by the author. Cover art and design is done by J. Caleb Clark.
 
CLASSIFICATION: Combining Sword & Sorcery elements with a hefty dose of Grimdark, The Great Hearts series 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: Shadowstrike was a title that came with heavy anticipation for me as both books one & two in The Great Hearts Series have been bloody fantastic. This sequel has events that I was looking forward to in both timelines and I was not disappointed in the least.

In the past, we meet Calidan, Cassius and the rest of the fourth years who are faced with a series of tournaments that they all must compete. To add to this, there is still the unfinished business with Charles and the Emperor & there’s a lot more spy business afoot. Lastly in the present timeline, Calidan continues his search to help Cassius and we get a massive revelation with regards to the Emperor and his ilk. Overall both these timelines have tremendous revelations, lots of action and one hell of a climax.

What I loved most in this book was how much action packed it was and this is saying something, considering the past books. This is really a crowning achievement. The author has this knack of compiling various action sequences throughout the book and never making them seem over the top. Here we get more of the same:

- There are action sequences with monsters,

- With a new enemy called the Shadow Cabal

- And even a Great Heart.

All in all the author makes sure that this book is choc-a-bloc with action without making it seem over-the-top. I need to make a special mention of the combat sequences within the tournaments. These were a pleasure to read and the author makes an extra effort to distinguish each contestant while making each fight a memorable one.

Previously there were lots of weird creatures shown and in this volume, we get some more exciting developments along those lines. There’s a lot more that Seylantha gets to do within this volume. There’s also a revelation with regards to Seylantha in the present timeline which was an excellent pointer towards the future. The readers get to see a new corner of the world and there’s a lot more revealed with regards to the Enemy (Charles) and the spies that he utilizes.

Overall this book has more action, more intrigue and lot more revelations that explained a lot about the overall series plan. Plus it points to more exciting and dangerous times ahead which as a series fan, I’m simply delighted about.

For me, there weren’t any negatives but from an objective perspective, this series does focus on teenagers who are exposed to a very brutal regimen of spy-soldier training. After all this is a fantasy saga and a dark one at that, so there will have to be some suspension of disbelief but if it is okay for Harry Potter then there shouldn’t be any issues over here.

CONCLUSION: Shadowstrike is a near perfect combination of an action-thriller and dark fantasy. David Oliver is certainly raising the bar with each title in the sequence and I for one can’t wait to see what he does next in the saga. If you haven’t started on The Great Hearts series, then you are certainly missing out on a fantastic action-packed, fantasy saga for the ages.

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