Heart of a Lion Book Review

Heart of a Lion Review

Genre: Fantasy

Author: Stephen Zimmer

Title: Heart of a Lion

Series: Dark Sun Dawn Series

Heart of a Lion by Stephen Zimmer

Disclaimer: I received a copy of Heart of a Lion in exchange for a fair review. When authors send me a book, they know that I will take my time getting through it and will look at the pros and cons before rating the book. That said, I’m human and try to be impartial, but I try. As a Book Dragon, I claim responsibility for this review. May the powers of the Book Dragons be with you. For more Book Dragon info, check out my post How to Read Like a Book Dragon.


About the book: This is the first book in the Dark Sun awn Series, published in 2015 by Seventh Star Press. Rayden Valkyrie is a warrior from a Northern tribe who fights for her code of honor. On the journey home from the South after long years of battle, she fights for those who can’t fight for themselves. On the way North, she fights beasts and men. Rayden leads warriors through wit and experience. She makes friends and enemies along the way. Oh, and this isn’t the first Zimmer book I’ve read – I read Exodus Gate and Crown of Vengeance [reviews on those to come].


Stephen Zimmer

About the author: Stephen Zimmer is a fantasy writer who wields a pen like a sword. He is a filmmaker and author. He wrote the Fires in Eden series, the Harvey and Solomon tales, the Hellscapes collections, and the Rising Dawn saga.



The first go through, I read books for fun. Then in the second dive, I go into details. I scheduled a few days for the fun read, and then ended up staying up all night reading it in one go. It was engrossing and pulled me in. You know the moments when you get sucked in and the rest of the world disappears? It happened here.



The characters – Rayden is unique – she’s the kind of warrior you want to have dinner and a drink with and listen to her stories. She has a personal code and sticks to it – she fights for those who can’t fight for themselves and lives by the warrior code which is similar to the code of the Knights.

She’s not the only unique character either – there are other developed characters like Hamilcar, a boy Rayden saves from being sacrificed to his people’s gods.

The action moves across the world of the story from southern city, across a desert, over water, and through war-filed lands.

My favorite line:

“No day spent in this world is safe or promised. I can only travel my world as best I can.” – Rayden Valkyrie

When I go through a book, I process the pros in yellow, things I loved in pink, and questionable things in orange. Looking through my notes, there are tons of yellow and pinks.

As a writer, I would turn to this book to learn the elements of Epic Fantasy, description, and action scenes. I’d focus on the last as there are several good battle scenes that translated well from reading to visualizing it in the mind.



No books are perfect. It might have been the anthropologist in me, but I wanted more cultural links. Also, I had questions when Rayden interfered with another culture’s religious practices. From her perspective, she had reasons which were explained. I don’t know – that would require further exploration [note: I’m not condoning the religious people actions – but the idea of a character interfering in another culture’s religious practice is where I have reservations. Another person could read it and be fine. I’m not sure what I would have done in her shoes.]

There were a few moments where the “ew” factor of gore was so descriptive, I was uncomfortable. This happens when I read this type of books, so it could be just me.

I wondered why other characters didn’t have as much agency. Yes, they were background characters, but some of them were there to drive Rayden’s story, and didn’t feel as if they had stories of their own. Example: a character I loved at the start of the story faded away twenty percent in…and I wanted more of him. I kept hoping they would meet up later.


Overall: A good fantasy story! Readers who love to dive into story will enjoy reading it. Writers who want to work on their action and cinematic skills will find this helpful.

My rating: 4 stars


Would I read it again? I read it twice…and will read it again!




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About Darlene Reilley

Hey, I'm Darlene, a nomadic writer and teacher. If you're looking for writing prompts, inspiration, and a fellow writer to commiserate with, you've come to the right place. If you're a reader looking for a fun mix of poetry, romance, science and fiction, you've found a buddy!
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