First lines: Heroes of the Valley

On the second day of my trip to Dublin I found myself without anything to read. So I went out, book shopping. That’s when I picked up a copy of Jonathan Stroud’s latest novel, Heroes of the Valley.The book is set in some medieval, vaguely Nordic setting, and deals with an ordinary boy who dreams of doing great deeds and seeks to be come as legendary as his heroic ancestors.

As in most fantasy story I’ve come across, there’s a mythical back-story. In this case, these are the tales of the legendary actions of the titular heroes, and how they rid the valley of the evil creatures that were a plague upon the land. And to my enjoyment, one of the themes throughout the book was the main character slowly losing faith in these myths. From an interview with the author:

HotV in particular seems to focus around the idea that we shouldn’t be living our lives in a certain way just because some ancient story tells us to (I feel like Richard Dawkins would approve). What part do you think storytelling plays in shaping who we are and what we do?

Yes, one of the main things explored in HotV is the power of storytelling, and how sometimes that power is used to keep societies together, and make individuals conform. I think this is pretty relevant to all of us, wherever we are, and whenever we live, and it’s worth writing about, even when it’s buried deep in a Norse-ish fantasy. But more importantly than that, it’s just fun to write good stories, and I really enjoyed putting together the web of legendary hero tales that Halli grows up believing. I guess I’m trying to have my cake and eat it: I like the whole heroic legend thing, and get a sneaky pleasure in undercutting it too!

You shouldn’t be surprised when Heroes of the Valley turns up in my favorite books of the year list.

Book read
Jonathan Stroud — Heroes of the Valley
First line
Listen then, and I’ll tell you again of the Battle of the Rock.