Reviews for Heroes of the Valley

Booklist Reviews 2008 December #1
*Starred Review* This refreshingly stand-alone adventure from the author of the Bartimaeus trilogy is a world apart from most contemporary fantasies, built akin to a double-layered Norse heroic epic. An unnamed valley is home to 12 houses descended from different heroes who long ago banded together to drive the monstrous Trows from their homeland. Now the valley is mostly peaceful, and the residents sole affiliation with adventure is in retelling and arguing over the finer points of their namesake heroes exploits. Young Halli Sveinsson (a likable prankster whose dominant characteristic is stubby-leggedness) of the House of Svein embarks on what he dreams will be a quest for vengeance and glory equal to those of his ancestor, but he quickly comes to realize that legend and lore have little relation to reality. Alongside the leisurely yet assured pacing and lively touches of humor, Stroud has crafted a credible and absorbing cultural construct--folkloric hero worship--with masterful prose that evokes two very different epochs in the valley, each with a distinct flavor of high adventure. The chasm that separates Halli from Svein becomes manifestly evident when Halli s moment of heroism arrives, and Stroud earns each and every gasp and cheer he ll garner from this very different sort of fantasy. Funny, exciting, thoughtful, and, most of all, timeless in the way of all tales worth spinning again and again. Copyright 2008 Booklist Reviews.

Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2009 #1
Will the descendants of the "heroes" -- long memorialized in bloodthirsty legend -- abandon their peaceable recent traditions to turn their ploughshares into swords? Will protagonist Halli, the short, stumpy younger son of Svein's House, survive nonstop action to realize his true nature? To Stroud's credit, he keeps readers guessing -- about plot turns, character revelations, and the novel's philosophical implications -- through many a deftly choreographed conflict. Counterpointing the main narrative are legends of progenitor hero Svein, a Beowulfian figure known for harshly subduing his own people as well as the fearsome, feared (but not seen for generations), troll-like Trows. Despite the valley's long-ago decision to eschew weaponry and abide by the decisions of peace-preaching women, it's Svein who inspires Halli's journey to avenge a murdered uncle. Halli's actions, clever and well-meaning though they are, tend to have unintended consequences, causing commotion all over the valley and propelling the plot. Pursued, he takes refuge at Arne's House, where Aud -- equally intelligent and rebellious -- hides him, becomes his valiant friend and bickering partner, and shares her family's thought-provokingly different versions of the legends. She assumes a key role in a well-earned denouement, first during a siege involving some nicely inventive improvisation and again when the question of the Trows' existence finally comes into play -- with surprising results. Much fun. Copyright 2009 Horn Book Magazine Reviews.

Kirkus Reviews 2008 December #2
This action-packed adventure shrewdly subverts the epic-hero genre even while reaffirming it. Cocky second son Halli Sveinsson runs wild, playing pranks on servants, his older brother and other members of Svein's House. Svein's House is the greatest House in the valley because, as the story goes, Svein was the most renowned of the heroes from founding days. When Halli spikes a guest's ale with noxious tannery fluid, it reawakens a feud and spurs a deadly chain of vengeance. Stroud peppers the prose with wit, sometimes with ironically elevated language (sheep exhibit "ovine caprice," a frowning face "corrugates sensually"), sometimes with the idioms of a tall tale (warriors "had the satisfaction of hearing several heads go bouncing down upon the rock"). Chapter upon chapter ends with high peril--and each time, a Svein tale interrupts before Halli's thread picks back up. This hinders the flow but emphasizes the profound cultural permeation of these tales; when Halli confronts not just enemies and monsters but a dead legendary hero, readers will find a provocative examination of religion buried underneath the excitement. (Fantasy. 10-13) Copyright Kirkus 2008 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Publishers Weekly Reviews 2008 November #4

Witty and cinematic storytelling propels Stroud's engrossing novel, set in a medieval world that recalls Norse epics--no gods, but plenty of heroes to go around. Twelve Houses control sections of a valley. Halli Sveinsson--at 15, the youngest child of the rulers of the House of Svein--goes against tradition when he sets out to avenge the death of his murdered uncle, and his actions result in warfare among Houses for the first time in generations. Halli, "a cumbersome stump of a boy," is a quick-witted, appealing underdog and troublemaker ("Leif needs no sabotage from me," he quips. "If he manages two sentences without tripping over his trailing knuckles he will have exceeded my expectations"). Smart, funny dialogue and prose, revealing passages about the exploits of the hero Svein, bouts of action and a touch of romance briskly move the story along. Offering more than just a grand adventure (which the tale certainly is), Stroud (the Bartimaeus Trilogy) explores the consequences behind legend-worthy acts of glory and the power and peril of blind faith and hero-worship. Ages 10-up. (Jan.)

[Page 58]. Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.

School Library Journal Reviews 2009 January

Gr 5 Up--Stroud turns from an alternative future London to a more traditional hero quest in this epic fantasy. Halli Sveinsson, short, squat, and dark-haired, has never truly felt a part of his tall, handsome family. He excels at harmless pranks, but when one of them sickens the arrogant son of visiting dignitaries from the house of Hakonsson, he unwittingly sets in motion events that will prompt him to leave home to avenge the murder of his uncle at the hands of Olaf Hakonsson. His revenge is achieved almost by chance, and Halli is forced to return home a fugitive. With the assistance of a girl named Aud, who shelters him on his homeward journey and whose skills he wildly underestimates, Halli must become a leader and rally his people. In his quest, he learns the truth behind the tales of heroic exploits perfomed by his ancestor Sven Sveinsson, who defeated flesh-eating creatures called Trows and set up a barrier protecting his people from their threat. Tales of Sveinsson's exploits frame each chapter and serve to point out how Halli is also creating his own legend, one that will surely be retold and embellished over the course of time. Stroud shows that the trope of the hero's journey is as sturdy as ever in this compelling novel. Fans of his "Bartimaeus" trilogy (Hyperion) will, like the hungry Trows of valley legend, devour this book whole.--Tim Wadham, St. Louis County Library, MO

[Page 118]. Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.

VOYA Reviews 2009 February
Stroud creates a credible and fully realized medieval setting for his protagonist, a hot-headed, short-limbed youth in need of proving himself against both mortal and immortal antagonists. Fifteen-year-old Halli Sveinsson, the second (and therefore superfluous) son of the house, has been reared on the tales of the heroes who settled the valley, ancestors who pounded out civility from feuding clans. When Halli's own words help to reignite a feud, he battles a brave young woman at his side against another heroic clan but also against the Trows, the mythic beasts that guard the valley, keeping the mortals in as much as their enemies outWith perfect pacing, excellent character development of both Halli and the girl Aud, and suspense built as much of legends as of fantasy, there is high appeal here for both boys and girls--and, doubtless, for movie makers to come. Halli is a genuine hero, flawed as well as brave.--Francisca Goldsmith 5Q 5P M J Copyright 2009 Voya Reviews.