Book Review: Heroes of the Valley, by Jonathan Stroud

It’s the first Wednesday of the month, which means it’s time for a book review. I listened to the audiobook of Heroes of the Valley at the end of 2018, right smack at the same time I was preparing for the launch of my book. It was a great distraction for all those times I needed to relax and escape the stress of planning a large event, interesting enough to hold my interest, but not gripping enough that I was tempted to stay up after bedtime.

Heroes of the Valley

The Story:

Halli Sveinsson, youngest and most awkward of the Sveinsson house, grew up listening to the stories of when his valley was a wild and dangerous place and brave men stood heroically to defend it. His reality is much more bland. The valley is ruled by laws and governed by a Council of women who demand peace and equality. His heroic attempts always end badly, usually with someone being humiliated, and that someone is usually him.

When violence comes to his home, Halli sets off on a path of revenge and his own hero’s quest. He is inspired by the stories of the brave and bold Svein, the hero from which his family took its name. Along the path, Halli learns that he is not the hero he’d hoped he’d be and returns home, guilt ridden.

But, all is not is as it should be. Not only has Halli gained a reputation of being an ill-doer, he is accused of murder. His actions put the whole village in danger from the house of Hakonsson who comes to attack. With the assistance of the lovely and brave Aud, Halli creates a plan much like Svein of old to protect his house.

My Review:

While I love a good high fantasy, especially one filled with swords, magic, and noble characters – this one was definitely different. Our main character Halli is wonderfully flawed almost to the point of being comedic. Everyone else around him tolerates him at best, and downright hates him at worst. Because he’s never really liked, he experiences a sort of freedom that the rest of his house doesn’t enjoy. It doesn’t matter what he does, he’ll get in trouble for it anyway, so he does whatever he wants. Being at the bottom of the respect ladder means you can’t fall down further.

One would think that this would make Halli depressed and hard to read, but it does the opposite. He’s got a ready wit and shares it regardless if it’s the right thing to say or not. When he’s not speaking, he’s always thinking of a way to get what he wants. His goals are neither noble or evil, but are very realistic, which makes his story that much more relatable.

Interspersed between Halli’s chapters are chapters where the legend of the beloved Svein and the Battle of the Rock are told. These fable-like stories paint the hero in such inflated terms that he’s grown much bigger than life, performing feats of super human strength and endurance that can hardly be believed. Because I was listening to the story (yay audiobooks!) I didn’t catch that there was this switch for the first half of the book and ended up very confused. When listening, there is precious little to cue the listener that this switch has taken place. So when you believe you are in a Halli chapter, it might be several paragraphs before you realize you are in a Svein chapter.

Even with this, the two stories end up complimenting each other in such a way that the reader feels they understand Halli’s drive. He loves the story of Svein so much, he will do anything in his power to become a hero.

Those who enjoy fiction with a strong Nordic feel and heavy cultural notes, plus monsters that we are never quite sure are real, will enjoy this book.

It’s a strong read, well-written with lots of excellent world and culture building. As for liking it, I enjoyed listening to it, but didn’t love it. The storytelling style made it hard to be immersed in the story the way other books do and the magical element I was hoping for didn’t come through as a significant part of the story.

I’d still give the title 4/5 stars for being ingeniously constructed, well-written, and an all around solid narrative.

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Psst! Jodi here. Did you enjoy today’s review? Did it help you decide if this book was for you? Cool, eh?

Guess what? You can do the same for me. If you’ve read Stonebearer’s Betrayal, head on over to Amazon, Goodreads, or the book site of your choice and leave me a review.

It doesn’t have to be big and long like this one – a few sentences is perfect! Thanks in advance!

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Toxic Fans and How Not to be One, with James Wymore

Every single one of us has that one friend who hates things with an unusual passion. You know the one – and if you don’t, it might be you. The conversation will start with a casual discussion about the most recent movies they’ve seen and the next thing you know, they are ranting about some aspect of the show that you frankly could care less about.

This is a toxic fan – and James Wymore isn’t one of them. Trust me. He’s got opinions a plenty about recent reincarnations of certain franchises, but he also has that wonderful thing called perspective. As an author who has
solved the puzzles and fought to find what makes his fans happy, he gets it.

James and I are friends and fellow authors at Immortal Works press.

Solo, the story of why Han has trust issues

Toxic Fans and How Not to be One

by James Wymore

I can’t count how many times over the years I’ve had somebody tell me how awful the Star Wars prequel trilogy is. At conferences, during convention panels, over pizza, at family gatherings, and so many times on social media. They are generally nice people, with notable exceptions. I just can’t figure out why they have taken it upon themselves to actively campaign against a nearly twenty-year old movie in a franchise they claim to love. What is it they hope to gain?

So I started engaging some of these folks in conversations, to find out what about those movies caused them so much irritation that they would publicly proselyte against them.

The responses varied, of course. Some became defensive, as if they couldn’t understand why anybody would have to justify such an obvious opinion. Others broke down into lists of reasons, some I suspect were regurgitated from online or other sources. The last group just increased their vitriol, adding emotional weight to their claims. The only common thread I could find was that each of them felt it should have been done differently.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but it takes a lot of self confidence to believe you could imagine or produce a better movie than the franchise’s original creator, writer, and director.

I wrote this off as people being people and didn’t let it upset my own enjoyment of those movies. However, over time, the anger and animosity toward Star Wars creators grew exponentially when Disney bought the franchise and began making new movies. Abrams managed to make most of the fans moderately happy with episode 7. Rogue One caused a new division. Then waves of social hate rose up to actively protest episode 8. And I can’t even explain why so much anger was aimed at Solo.

Disney responded by cancelling all the spin-offs. Then they changed their mind and cancelled everything after episode 9 (which had a year left before it even came out). Way to go, whiners, you got Star Wars put on permanent hiatus. You literally killed the thing you claimed to love. Even if it wasn’t what you wanted, did you have to ruin it for everybody else? If you couldn’t have the movies of your imagination, does that mean the rest of us shouldn’t have any either?

If you like something, great. If you don’t like it, that’s okay. But why the hate? Why the need to actively tear it down? Did it ever occur to you that you could just leave peacefully and let the rest of us enjoy it?

Fandom has grown toxic.

 We all need a little more zen in our media consumption. Rather than lashing out when you’re disappointed, maybe a better strategy would be to just watch what you like and don’t watch what you don’t. Are you getting paid to review movies? Have you been inducted into the posse to protect innocent citizens from bad media? Did the “fix the franchise” crusaders make you their missionary?

Trust the market. If people don’t like something, they won’t buy tickets and the company will lose money. That’s the only feedback they really listen to anyway. If you don’t like the new Ghostbusters, don’t watch it. But be cool. Don’t go after the company and start spreading negativity. Offer people the dignity of deciding what they want. And be secure enough to not like something without rage.

Creating a hostile environment just ruins it for everybody. In the end, isn’t it supposed to be about entertainment and fun? If not, maybe you should reevaluate why you are emotionally invested in it. If so, then making it toxic is counter-productive.

Peace.

The real James Wymore

About James Wymore

Growing up on a steady diet of Spider-man cartoons and television shows like Batman and Wonder Woman, James Wymore knew he would someday find his own super power and join the fight for justice. He did everything right, from experimenting with arson to jumping from great heights, but his ability to control fire or fly never kicked in.

As he went past the teenage years, he accepted that he probably didn’t have a hidden mutant power waiting to manifest. Neither would he uncover any unexplained alien origins, so he threw himself into searching for enhancements designed to bring his latent abilities to the surface. He travelled the world studying arcane magic. Throughout college, he experimented with volatile chemicals, extreme temperatures, lasers, and various forms of radiation.

Eventually, he discovered the power of hypnosis through fantastic stories. He plunged into writing, filling his work with the subtle triggers that would allow him to one day take control of all his readers’ minds and use them as an army to conquer the literary world. Until that day, he works tirelessly to create more and better books. Follow his progress at http://jameswymore.wordpress.com

Want to connect with James, here’s his links:

Book Soon to be Released

Thug #1

Superheroes and villains constantly battle for control of Denver, Colorado, so somebody has to do the heavy lifting. CJ Cruz found his niche working for whichever super-flavor-of-the-day happens to be running the show at the time. Since most of the self-labeled heroes claiming to be on the side of justice don’t hire henchmen, he usually winds up doing the street-level work for supers operating outside the law. His family and priest just think he’s a gangster, but CJ knows his motivation is pure. He keeps on the windy side of law enforcement by following a few simple rules, the first of which is keep your head down and never be the boss’s right-hand man. People tell him he should get a new job, but he likes working around supers. Besides, except for intimidation and roughing-people-up he doesn’t have any other skills necessary to make rent and pay child support.

“Thug #1 is a fast-paced, action-packed book written in comic book style. The artwork is amazing, too!”


Holli Anderson, author of Myrikal
Theocracide – newly released in audiobook!

Theocracide

In the future, everybody wears computer glasses that scan the world and project whatever you want to see right in front of it. Through perfected augmented reality, the buildings and people blend seamlessly into whatever movie or video game is running. We all see whatever we want, all the time. Nobody cares what clothes they wear, because the rest of the world sees them as pirates, robots, or anything that suits their current media. Even the cars are self-driving, because nobody wants to pause the streaming feed.

In other news, the world is under attack by aliens. Disease is decimating the human population. A man takes over America and declares himself to be a god.

Nobody cares, so long as they don’t turn off the wi-fi.

Jason Hunt has the perfect life. A scholarship university athlete with an amazing girlfriend, his future couldn’t be brighter. Then his father drops a few family secrets on him—

Secrets of treason and heresy, which put him in direct conflict with the reigning Theocrat.

“Wymore weaves a fantastic tale while taking a good hard look at religion, politics, immortality, entertainment, and technological advancement.  If you’re looking for a thrilling sci-fi adventure that beautifully mirrors current real-world issues and advancements then this is the book for you.”


Andrew Buckley (Author, Hair in All the Wrong Places)

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