Heroes of the Valley by Jonathan Stroud
4 out of 5 stars
Heroes of the Valley turned out to be a good book to listen on audio. At first I wasn't sure how much I'd like it, but I ended up enjoying it immensely.
Halli is a roguish, endearing young hero who wrapped himself around my heart. Although he was quite a prankster, he was a good kid at heart. He didn't really get a chance to shine until he broke free from the mold of his family and their expectations for him. This took him on a journey of self-discovery and enlightenment about his world. Everyone in the Valley lives in the shadow of their great ancestors, who all died in a standoff with trolls that were plaguing the humans of the Valley. Now, they are nearly worshipped by each of the twelve houses founded in their names. Halli grew up with tales of the bravado of his ancestor, Svein, and wishes to commit similar feats of bravery to have his name listed in the hall of heroes. That's a bit hard to do with the current situations. All weapons are outlawed and any disputes are judged by the Lawgivers, women of the twelve houses.
When Halli's uncle Broda is murdered by Olaf of the Hakonsons, Halli is determined to avenge his uncle. He goes on a journey deeper into the valley, and comes to realize that heroism and bravery is not the way it sounds in the stories he was weaned on.
Halli makes it on my heroes I love shelf because he is a great kid. He is brave in a real life way. He gets himself into some very sticky situations, but he fights his way through with his ingenuity and his determination. He's not unaware that others view him in a negative light, but he doesn't let that stop him from doing what he believes is right. He stands up for himself, and others, and I loved his pluck. He's an outrageous kid who tells it like it is, and that's a trait that I can't help but admire. And Halli saves the day in a great way, not just to be labeled as the Hero, but because it's the right thing to do.
Jonathan Stroud keeps the reader guessing where Halli's adventures will lead him next, and this makes for a book that is nothing like I expected. I'm still trying to work my mind around the twist near the end that I completely didn't expect.
Heroes of the Valley has some good messages for younger (and older readers) about being true to yourself, standing up for what you believe, and using your wits instead of resorting to violent actions. There is violence, yet it's not pointless. Instead, violence in this story is used to illustrate something important. Violence doesn't make you a hero just because you are capable of using brute force to harm others and end lives. There is a place for it, but we must all question when is violence necessary, and count the cost of that violence, which can be a lot greater than we previously anticipated. In this story, the reader sees what kind of man Svein really was, and you have to wonder if he's truly a hero. Or do our heroes truly have feet of clay that merely make them the humans they were all along, despite their fantastic, lauded deeds. I truly believe that each person has it in them to be the hero, merely by standing up and doing what's right when they find themselves in those situations that don't even seem very grand. But their actions can be crucial, and how they react to those situations can define them and how confrontations end up being resolved, for the better or worse.
I didn't have a lot of expectations for this, but I ended up a satisfied listener. I think the narrator did a good job, and he brought the characters to life in a distinctive manner that fits the story, and had me listening intently. I am glad I was able to meet Halli, and his young girl friend Aud. They are definitely the true heroes in this story.
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