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HEROS OF THE VALLEY by Jonathan Stroud

HEROS OF THE VALLEY

By Jonathan Stroud

Age Range: 10 - 13

Pub Date: Jan. 27th, 2009
ISBN: 978-1-4231-0966-2
Publisher: Hyperion

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)