HEROES OF THE VALLEY; Jonathan Stroud; New York: Hyperion, 2009. Juvenile (upper) and Young Adult fiction.
Halli Sveinsson is a son of the House of Svein in the valley of the heroes, men whose cairns line the valley they died to protect in a pitched battle against the dreaded trows, ghastly nocturnal creatures of razor-sharp claws and hideous mien. A second son, Halli chafes against his lesser station, the prospect of being a farmer for life, and the cloistered life that shields him from the heroic opportunities his ancestors had. A menace and a gadfly, he eventually alienates his family, has only one real friend, a daughter of the House of Arne, and brings trouble to his House that may have no remedy. But Halli, a short, stocky, unheroic looking boy is much more than the sum of his parts, which in the beginning make him less than a sympathetic character, even to the reader. But during the course of the story he becomes, and reveals himself to be, a young man of honor, intelligence, and kindness after all. Heroes of the Valley, an impressive follow-up to Stroud's beloved Bartimaeus Trilogy, is a fine Norse tale with deeply satisfying and unexpected twists which explores on many levels what is truly heroic and what may just seem so. Also, it is dang scary.