Heroes of the Valley by Jonathan Stroud

Heroes of the Valley book cover
Rating 9.4/10
An enthralling tale told by a master storyteller.

“Listen then, and I’ll tell you again of the Battle of the Rock. But none of your usual wriggling, or I’ll stop before I’ve begun…”

Halli loves to hear stories from the days when the valley was a wild and dangerous place, besieged by the bloodthirsty Trows. He likes to imagine the night the legendary heroes joined together and fought till dawn to defeat the ancient foe.

Now farming has taken over from fighting Trows, and to Halli’s bitter disappointment heroics seem a thing of the past. But when a practical joke rekindles an old blood feud, he sees a chance for a daring quest of his own.

He is joined by Aud – only daughter of the House of Arne – a girl every bit as reckless and headstrong as he is. Together they will challenge everything they have ever known and discover the truth about the legends, the valley, and themselves.

Often have fantasy book reviews contain the words “perfect fireside story-telling”. In this instance the phrase can be included deservedly; Jonathan Stroud has written a book that makes it feel as if you are indeed sat next to a log fire with a master storyteller plying his craft. This is a wonderful book; full to the brim with high adventure, excitement and delicious humour.

The book opens with a brief prologue recounting the legend of the Heroes of the Valley - it is a fine, heroic tale but the question is - how much of it is true? As each chapter begins the legend is further explored and the reader is left thinking – Surely this is too far-fetched to be true? This is where Jonathan Stroud shows his skill as an excellent author; he keeps you guessing as to the veracity of the legends to the very end and the journey there is an unforgettable one.

The characters are colourful and brilliant - Halli is the headstrong main character, a daydreamer caught-up in the legends that his family hold dear. He wants more excitement than farm-life can offer and is an unruly pain to most he knows. He cuts an unlikely figure; small of stature and possessing stumpy legs but he more than makes up for his deficiencies with courage (often foolhardy). Aud is the daughter of another Hero’s house and they form a lasting and highly entertaining friendship that is one of the many highlights that this book. The excerpt below tells of Halli and Aud’s first meeting.

“I’m surprised none of you’ve died from choking on a fly, though if you keep your jaw open like that, you’ll be the one to go.’ The girl’s face, which had hitherto worn an expression of careless disdain, suddenly split into the broadest of grins. Her eyes creased and twinkled. Halli’s stomach gave a lurch, which he attributed to indigestion.”
Heroes of the Valley: Chapter 4

Heroes of the Valley is written in the third person but very closely linked to the “hero” Halli - very little happens that does not involve our unlikely hero. The location itself is relatively small and contained with all events occurring within the valley of the twelve heroes. Sometimes authors feel that a fantasy must contain a quest and involve numerous locations, Stroud shows that this does not have to be the case and that a first-class fantasy novel can be set just within a valley.

Issues such as bigotry are handled within this book but the thing that stood out most for me was that it highlighted the way in which different people take legends and age-old tales and bend and shape them to fit their own particular needs. I do not know if this was intended to make the reader think about different interpretations of the Bible but that is certainly what it made me do.

Heroes of the Valley is written in the third person but very closely linked to the “hero” Halli - very little happens that does not involve our unlikely hero. The location itself is relatively small and contained with all events occurring within the valley of the twelve heroes. Sometimes authors feel that a fantasy must contain a quest and involve numerous locations, Stroud shows that this does not have to be the case and that a first-class fantasy novel can be set just within a valley.

It has been quite a long time since I have enjoyed a book this much. The feelings of warmth and enjoyment experienced are similar to those felt when reading The Hobbit; that is how good this book is. Although this may be my first encounter of Stroud’s work it will certainly not be the last and if the Bartimaeus trilogy is anywhere near as good as this then I am in for an absolute treat. I would highly recommend this book to all, regardless of age, an enthralling tale told by a master storyteller.

Jonathan Stroud was born in Bedford in 1970. After studying English Literature at York University, he moved to London where he worked as an editor in a publishing firm. He is the author of Buried Fire, The Leap and The Last Siege as well as the bestselling BARTIMAEUS trilogy: The Amulet of Samarkand, The Golem’s Eye and Ptolemy’s Gate. Following the worldwide success of the BARTIMAEUS trilogy he now devotes his whole time to writing. He lives in Hertfordshire with his wife and two young children.

Heroes of the valley is scheduled for publication in the UK, the USA and Germany in January 2009. Jonathan Stroud will be launching the book in London on the 8th of January.

http://www.heroesofthevalley.co.uk
http://www.jonathanstroud.com/
http://www.bartimaeusbooks.com/

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from Trollsville

10-stars

I like this book. A lot. I'm going to go outside and kill all the trolls now.

from Edmonton

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The best book I've ever read, and will ever read... a must read for anyone.

from Sandy Valley, NV

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The Best Book I Ever Read! Totally Luv It!

from UK

10-stars

An epic book. It is awesome but is there going to be a second one? I would like to know.

9.9/10 from 5 reviews

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