Author: Jonathan Stroud.
Halli Sveinsson has grown up in the House of Svein, listening to the legends of the heroes as all his forefathers did. His is a peaceful society where the violence of the past has been outlawed and disputes are settled by the Council. But young Halli has never quite seemed to fit in with the others. Bored with the everyday chores and sheep herding, he can’t help himself from playing practical jokes on everyone, from Eyjolf the old servant, to his brother and sister. But when he plays a trick on Ragnor of the House of Hakonsson, he goes too far, setting in motion a chain of events that will forever alter his destiny. Because of it, Halli will have to leave home and go on a hero’s quest. Along the way, he will encounter highway robbers, terrifying monsters, and a girl who may finally be his match. In the end, he will discover the truth about the legends, his family, and himself.
Heroes of the Valley follows an interesting theme, juxtaposing myth with reality, and bringing out the discrepancies between legend and the past. This is the story of a boy who wants to be a hero like the men of old; and of his gradual understanding of the men of old as he realizes that stories can change from generation to generation, and following the stiff pride of previous nobles is not always the right choice. There is also a certain cyclical theme to the plot, indicating as it does at the end that nothing has changed for the village, even as it hints that there is still a chance.
Sexual content: Some slight sexual innuendo. Mother asking boy about girl he likes, “So, do you want to lie with her?” Old woman telling stories to a boy and girl says if you step on the cursed land, a woman will be struck barren and a man’s “privy parts” will shrivel up and fall off.
Language: 4 d***, 2 hell
Violence: Non-graphic, generally no details at all. Baby strangles a snake. Boy finds remains of dead sheep. Boy kicks another boy off a wall into a dung-heap. Story of a boy being found with his lower half gone, eaten by monsters. Two men have a fistfight. Several men trap one man, and stab him to death. There’s a scuffle between two characters, one tries to stab the other but ends by falling over a precipice. Second-hand report that man is burned to death. Fighting between two clans – some men are knocked unconscious, some stabbed, and some killed outright by sword wounds.