As a fan of Jonathan Stroud's Bartimaeus Trilogy, my feelings were a little mixed when I discovered that he was publishing a new book. Although there is the expected excitement, there is also a concern that anything new will fail to live up to expectations or maybe even be too similar to previous books.
In this case, however, I should not have worried. Stroud has stayed with fantasy, but with a very different setting. In this book, we are taken to a valley, somewhere that feels like Northern Europe. As with previous books, however, there's no specific time frame.
So onto the story - the residents of this valley are divided into `houses', with their own areas, and their own tales of heroes past. From a background of violence, when their heroes all came together to defeat the dreaded `Trows', they are now very peaceful people, with all their weapons melted down.. although jealousies still exist.
The children are brought up listening to tales of heroic deeds, and Halli finds himself longing for a return to these days. When an ancient feud is re-started, he may just get his wish - but in doing so, will he learn what it truly means to be a hero?
Halli's journey kept me hooked to the book, aided by Stroud's wonderful humour. It's a little more subtle than the wonderful one liners found in the Bartimaeus Trilogy, and yet it kept me smiling, and keeps a fun feel to the book.
However, there is a darker, slightly scary side to this book, and I would imagine it suiting slightly older teens.. as well as adults, of course!
Jonathan Stroud is certainly one of my favourite young adult fantasy writers, and this is a great addition to his books. I hope now we don't have to wait too long for the next one!