“Heroes of the Valley” by Jonathan Stroud (Hyperion, 2009)

Heroes of the Valleystarstarstarstar

Jonathan Stroud, author of the bestselling Bartimaeus Trilogy, returns with Heroes of the Valley, a wonderful original tale that deserves to be in the annals of the Icelandic Sagas alongside Leif and Erik.  A young adult book that anyone of any age can enjoy for the action, the setting, and the tension between its strong characters.

Halli Sveinsson is a teenager who feels he was born in the wrong time.  He dreams of the past when the great heroes lived – Svein, Arne, Hakon —  and fought the dreaded trows to keep them out of the valley, protecting the villages and people within.  Now their cairns are all that remain, protective burial mounds that keep the trows away and serve as a reminder that no one should pass their boundary.   The people of the valley no longer have any weapons; all disputes are solved by the Council.  Halli’s mother and father, Astrid and Arnkel, serve as lawgiver and arbiter of the house.

But Halli finds life in the valley extremely boring, which is why he is a very mischievous child.  When the Hakons from the other side of the valley come to visit for the annual fair, there is competitive tension between the houses.  An argument breaks out between Hord, the arbiter of Hakon’s House, and Brodir, Arnkel’s brother, which turns into a fight that leaves Brodir dead.  Halli witnesses it all and vows revenge on the Hakons.  This begins a series of events that will change the entire dynamic of the valley that has been quiet and calm for so long.  Then there is the pretty Aud, daughter to the arbiter of Arne’s House, who Halli befriends and becomes close to.  Halli will need all the allies he can find to keep the honor of his house’s name and maintain the memory of the great warrior, Svein.

Heroes of the Valley is a healthy mixture of adventure and history, with some strong lessons on what it means to be good to your word, respectful of your elders to a degree, and that sometimes you need to challenge the status quo.  It is a book about the importance of family, but also that one should encourage the independent spirit of any person, be they boy or girl.  Jonathan Stroud has delivered another impressive novel that goes beyond just a good story; a book that will be welcomed on anyone’s shelf.

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Originally written on March 31st 2009 ©Alex C. Telander.