Heroes of the Valley by Jonathan StroudFantasy
This book was so torturous to get through. It felt more like an endurance race rather than a pleasure read. The cover said it was an 'epic' adventure. If your definition of epic is really long and rambling....then, okay. (The cover was beautiful. Thus ended my pleasure with this book.)
Halli is an irritating troll of a boy, both in looks and in temperament. He does all he can to cause trouble, not for evil but for his own fun. One of his tricks goes too far and ultimately leads to the murder of a family member and the start of a feud with a neighboring village. Halli sets off on an adventure like the ones in the tales his Scandinavian nursemaid tells him, Vikings of yore who were fearless monster-fighting giants. Halli yearns to clear his family's name in such a way that others will speak of him the same way they do Svien the Mighty. Along the way, he meets a girl who gives him a run for his money.
I really liked the characters in the book. Halli would be no one's idea of a hero, but he starts to grow on you after awhile--kind of like a wart. And--this is my number one complaint about the book--after making the readers follow Hallie through 450+ pages of him trying to become a hero by his own hand, a fantastical deux et machina ruins it all. Really, Stroud? You turn the story into fantasy in the last two chapter? So unfair! And, so lazy (as a writer!). I absolutely hated the 'mythology' tales at the beginning of each chapter.
Many parts of the book is funny and Halli has a dry, wry sense of humor. As a character, he deserved a better ending.