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Wednesday, April 22, 2009
Official Site of Heroes of the Valley Book
Official Site of Jonathan Stroud
Order Heroes of the Valley from Amazon Here
Jonathan Stroud, most famously known for his best selling Bartimaeus Trilogy, takes a different approach with a young adult stand alone novel, Heroes of the Valley. A coming of age story that reveals what courage and bravery really are all about when compared to the stories of the great heroes.
Halli Sveinsson, the second son of a the great Svein family line and very short in stature, has grown up hearing tales of the great heroes of the valley. These stories involve acts of bravery, great feats and many adventures that have lead to the society that Halli lives in to become what it is today.
While the stories of old are filled with violence and fighting, the modern day society is that of peace and mutual agreements between all of the surrounding families. However, Halli seems to not fit in with what is considered the norm for how he should be acting. He loves to play the occasional practical joke on people, and often wonders why disputes between people can't just readily be resolved with swords and fighting. This attitude often ends up with plenty of punishments and leaving Halli to be considered an outcast of the family.
The Sveinsson family has been chosen to host a prestigious festival that attracts people from all over the countryside, including those that are from the higher ranking families. It is during this festival that Halli plays what he considers to be the ultimate practical joke on the son of the most powerful family. The direct results from this joke are sever, even deadly.
Halli then turns around and sets out on a mission to right the wrong that he has caused. He runs into hurdles everywhere he turns and even gets a chance to question the long standing belief of the people of the land.
There are several aspects that made Heroes of the Valley a disappointing read: the characters, the flow of the book, and the ending. While readers may be coming into the reading experience, excepting another Bartimaeus Trilogy, I feel this stand alone novel falls very short of any of those expectations.
First, the characterization of the people involved with the story. While there are many different characters, the mother, the father, the sister and brother, along with others outside of the family (A nurse, and others involved with other families) every character seems to be portrayed as very one sided and almost predictable. For example the father is very stern and concerned with the reputation of the family. Never once during the story are readers given even a slight view of another side of this character. This aspect makes it hard to relate to any characters involved in the plot line.
Another downfall of the characterization is that of the main character, Halli. A lot of time, almost too much time, is spent building up how different Halli is from others. There is an abundant of descriptions relating how short Halli is, or how odd looking he is. This portrayal of Halli continued all the way to the end of the book, and made relating to him from a reader stand point very hard. While it was nice to have a main character that isn't the tall, dark and handsome or soon to be prince charming, the focus seemed to be on how unlikeable Halli can be made and there wasn't much to form a bond with readers on.
Second, the flow of the book. The beginning of this book is very slow moving. The first 200 pages could easily have been cut down to a lot less. This goes hand in hand with the characterization, because if Stroud hadn't taken so much time to show readers how "different" Halli was to others, maybe the book would have speed up a little. Considering the novel is a stand alone novel, the lack of action and speed in the book made it hard to muddle through until the end.
The set up for Heroes of the Valley is unique in that every chapter has a short story that looks back on the heroes of the past. While it was interesting and gave a look at to the "real" story behind the fables the characters seemed to follow, it did seem to drag the story down a little. As the book is also set up into parts, it might have flowed a little better had the stories started the parts and not every chapter.
Lastly, the ending caused for a very disappointing story. After reading so much and putting so much into the book the ending seemed to be very scattered and unsatisfying. There was no closure to the characters, and although this may be how Stroud intended the story to end, it just felt very disconnected to the whole story. Also there is an element of confusion involved with it, as it appears to be thrown out there from left field.
In the end, Jonathan Stroud's Heroes of the Valley fell short of anything that I was expecting. There was a lack of characters that I enjoyed or really cared about, which makes it hard to follow a story. While Stroud is an excellent storyteller and the potential to make a lot of great stories, his talent doesn't show through in this work.
3:01 AM | Posted by Cindy | | Edit Post