School Library Journal Gr 5 Up-Stroud turns from an alternative future London to a more traditional hero quest in this epic fantasy. Halli Sveinsson, short, squat, and dark-haired, has never truly felt a part of his tall, handsome family. He excels at harmless pranks, but when one of them sickens the arrogant son of visiting dignitaries from the house of Hakonsson, he unwittingly sets in motion events that will prompt him to leave home to avenge the murder of his uncle at the hands of Olaf Hakonsson. His revenge is achieved almost by chance, and Halli is forced to return home a fugitive. With the assistance of a girl named Aud, who shelters him on his homeward journey and whose skills he wildly underestimates, Halli must become a leader and rally his people. In his quest, he learns the truth behind the tales of heroic exploits perfomed by his ancestor Sven Sveinsson, who defeated flesh-eating creatures called Trows and set up a barrier protecting his people from their threat. Tales of Sveinsson's exploits frame each chapter and serve to point out how Halli is also creating his own legend, one that will surely be retold and embellished over the course of time. Stroud shows that the trope of the hero's journey is as sturdy as ever in this compelling novel. Fans of his "Bartimaeus" trilogy (Hyperion) will, like the hungry Trows of valley legend, devour this book whole.-Tim Wadham, St. Louis County Library, MO (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Book list *Starred Review* This refreshingly stand-alone adventure from the author of the Bartimaeus trilogy is a world apart from most contemporary fantasies, built akin to a double-layered Norse heroic epic. An unnamed valley is home to 12 houses descended from different heroes who long ago banded together to drive the monstrous Trows from their homeland. Now the valley is mostly peaceful, and the residents' sole affiliation with adventure is in retelling and arguing over the finer points of their namesake heroes' exploits. Young Halli Sveinsson (a likable prankster whose dominant characteristic is stubby-leggedness) of the House of Svein embarks on what he dreams will be a quest for vengeance and glory equal to those of his ancestor, but he quickly comes to realize that legend and lore have little relation to reality. Alongside the leisurely yet assured pacing and lively touches of humor, Stroud has crafted a credible and absorbing cultural construct folkloric hero worship with masterful prose that evokes two very different epochs in the valley, each with a distinct flavor of high adventure. The chasm that separates Halli from Svein becomes manifestly evident when Halli's moment of heroism arrives, and Stroud earns each and every gasp and cheer he'll garner from this very different sort of fantasy. Funny, exciting, thoughtful, and, most of all, timeless in the way of all tales worth spinning again and again.--Chipman, Ian Copyright 2008 Booklist
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.
Publishers Weekly Witty and cinematic storytelling propels Stroud's engrossing novel, set in a medieval world that recalls Norse epics--no gods, but plenty of heroes to go around. Twelve Houses control sections of a valley. Halli Sveinsson--at 15, the youngest child of the rulers of the House of Svein--goes against tradition when he sets out to avenge the death of his murdered uncle, and his actions result in warfare among Houses for the first time in generations. Halli, "a cumbersome stump of a boy," is a quick-witted, appealing underdog and troublemaker ("Leif needs no sabotage from me," he quips. "If he manages two sentences without tripping over his trailing knuckles he will have exceeded my expectations"). Smart, funny dialogue and prose, revealing passages about the exploits of the hero Svein, bouts of action and a touch of romance briskly move the story along. Offering more than just a grand adventure (which the tale certainly is), Stroud (the Bartimaeus Trilogy) explores the consequences behind legend-worthy acts of glory and the power and peril of blind faith and hero-worship. Ages 10-up. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved