Monday, December 5, 2011

Book Review: Heroes of the Valley by Jonathan Stroud

This past week, I immersed myself in the fantastical world of Heroes of The Valley.  It is full of rich heritage and history, based on the exploits of twelve Viking heroes who gained control of the area centuries ago.  The current inhabitants of The Valley are descendants of these twelve heroes, but no longer live the ways that their fore-fathers had.  Swords have been outlawed. Rules, treaties, and laws govern the people, and violence is met with sanctions and lawsuits. 
Halli, a descendant of the House of Svein, longs for the adventure and excitement that no longer exists.  He gets into trouble regularly, but always within his own house.  When he plays a trick on a visiting house, he sets off a chain of events that will lead him on an adventurous and deadly journey throughout the valley.  Only with the help of Aud, a girl from another Hero House, can he accept the truth about his family, his superstitions, and himself.
Heroes of the Valley was, to put it simply, delicious.  It is a fantasy written the way fantasies are supposed to be written.  The heroes were flawed, the villains were dirty, and the setting was breath-taking.  The journey of Halli, in and of itself, would have been a great book.  But Stroud went one step further by juxtaposing Halli’s story with the stories of Svein, the ancestral hero of Halli’s home.  Stroud ends the story just as it began, showing that life and history are cyclical, and showing how one man’s journey can end up being another man’s hero tale.  So. Completely. Awesome. Oh, Jonathan Stroud, is there nothing you can’t write? 
I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoyed The Bartimaeus Trilogy, The Lord of the Ring Series, or The Heir Trilogy (Warrior Heir, Dragon Heir, and Wizard Heir).

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