rating: 4 of 5 stars
While the story seems to be a big departure from the Bartimaeus trilogy, there’s still something very Stroudish about Heroes of the Valley. The characters, for instance, could walk from one world to the next and fit in (although they might look out of place). They’re flawed in such an oddly endearing way. Stroud has a way with endings, too – taking you on what might be a predictable journey that turns all kinds of unexpected corners, and always ending in a place that seems right – never easy or convenient. He plays with the characters’ sense of self and history and place in the world in a way that’s bigger than an ordinary adventure story, but the book still works as an ordinary adventure story. And oh, the vocabulary! As with the Bartimaeus books, the main character is a boy, but it’s the girl who has a head on her shoulders and gets things done. It could be fantasy – you don’t really know right up to the end, but I’ll stick it in that category because the is it or isn’t it question is at the heart of a lot of the action. It’s a bit like The Sea of Trolls, with a historical feel but not meant to be read as pure history.
This is long but rewarding, and would probably make a fun (if substantial) read-aloud. As far as audience age, I’d say around middle school – but depending on reading level and interest, it could be appreciated by a wide range of ages.