Click here to return to the main site.

Book Review

Book Cover

Heroes of the Valley (Hardback)


Author: Jonathan Stroud
RRP: £12.99, US $17.99
ISBN: 978 0 385 61401 6
Available 01 January 2009

Like many young men, who have never know the realities of killing, Halli Sveninsson, idles his time away on heroic stories of the past wishing that the sedate age in which he lived contained more danger. However, when he moves outside the safe confines of his own community he discovers that others have their own tales about the last battle which drove the Trows out of the valley. ..

Heroes of the Valley is a new fantasy book by Jonathan Stroud aimed at a teenage audience. It follows the adventures of Halli, an unlikely hero as he is a fourteen year old dreamer, who is neither good looking or as favoured as his siblings; at times he is petty, even cruel; his penchant for playing practical jokes backfires one day when he picks the wrong victim in the form of Ragnar of the House of Hakon.

Of course, any good fantasy requires a quest and companions and Halli finds a kindred soul in Aud, who turns out to be smarter and less gullible than Halli, especially where the old legends are concerned. Along the way they meet the required number of ruffians and trouble before the final climax at the close of the book.

The world which Halli inhabits is not unlike medieval Scandinavia, but this isn’t a straightforward historical recreation, rather it is a reflection of the medieval mind, which accepted both the fantastic and mundane as both being a part of their world. It would not have been an unusual occurrence for people of this period to see angels and nymphs in the woods; today we have replaced this with spaceships.

A bit like Hobbits, Trows are never described in any great detail, leaving it to the reader to conjure up their own nightmare version. This actually works very well as they drift around the edges of the story as a constant but mythical threat. It would seem though that they are at least second cousins to the Morlock as they travel underground, are possessed of sharp talons and have a taste for human flesh.

The book is written in the third person, but our would-be hero is always Halli. The journey that he undertakes is more spiritual, a coming of age, than it is geographical as all the action takes place in the valley of the twelve families, you may think that this is somewhat limiting, after all most fantasy books have their main protagonists cover ridiculous distances to discover new creature. Whilst there are creatures and characters to find the book is more interested in exploring how myths are interpreted by differing peoples.

Which explains the way that each chapter is headed by increasingly incredulous telling of the legend of Svein , which itself is reflected in Halli’s own story, in the end you have a good idea of how myths are created and just how far they stray from reality.

In the end this is a superior read for fans of fantasy, well written, with an interesting idea at its heart, not something you can say for a lot of fantasy novels, but it lifts the book up from being purely a children’s novel to a novel that can be enjoyed by adults.


Charles Packer

Buy this item online

We compare prices online so you get the cheapest deal
Click on the logo of the desired store below to purchase this item.

£6.49 (
£9.74 (
£9.99 (
£12.99 (
£8.44 (
$12.23 (

All prices correct at time of going to press.