Review Blog

Jun 16 2009

Heroes of the valley by Jonathan Stroud

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Doubleday 2009. ISBN 976038561402
(Ages 11+) Recommended. As a fan of The Bartimaeus trilogy, I eagerly read this stand alone novel featuring Halli, 'a cumbersome stump of a boy, with hands like ham joints and a low, swinging gait' (pg 11), who delights in tales of long gone heroes. Aud, the only daughter of the House of Arne, treats the legends with cynicism, but is just as daring as Halli. When Halli plays a practical joke, an old blood feud is reignited and he sets out on a quest to avenge the murder of his uncle and discover the truth about the legends and the terrifying Trows who guard the borders of the land.
Stroud has set up a believable land, reminiscent of medieval times, cold and hard. Twelve Houses control the valley, and each has legends of great heroes who have defended its borders and put the Trows to flight. Halli's much admired hero is Svein, who in all the tales that he has heard, has beaten the monsters and conquered the land. However as he moves away from his small manor house, he discovers that the other houses have heroes who have done exactly the same thing, and he is forced to reconsider how legends are made.
Humour permeates the narrative and would make this a good book to read aloud. The two main characters, with their clever exchanges and teasing, are typical teenagers with a belief in their own immortality, and their witty exchanges are a delight. There is also plenty of action and suspense to keep the reader interested. But it is Stroud's ability to build up atmosphere and give the reader a terrifying glimpse into his monsters that makes this book stand out.
Quite different from his Bartimaeus trilogy, this hero's quest will linger in the reader's mind.
Pat Pledger

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