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Heroes of the Valley    by Jonathan Stroud order for
Heroes of the Valley
by Jonathan Stroud
Order:  USA  Can
Hyperion, 2009 (2009)
Hardcover, CD
* * *   Reviewed by Alex Telander

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 accounts of Leif and Erik. It's a young adult book that all ages 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, a very mischievous child, finds life in the valley extremely boring. 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 pretty Aud, daughter to the arbiter of Arne's House. Halli befriends and becomes close to Aud. Halli will need all the allies he can find to keep his house's honor 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, respecting your elders, and the fact that sometimes you need to challenge the status quo. It is a book about the importance of family, but one which also emphasizes encouraging an independent spirit in boy or girl. In Heroes of the Valley, 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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