Stroud's best book.
This a fantasy set in an isolated valley above a fjord where farming and feuding are the primary occupations. The culture is based on what can be found in Icelandic sagas, complete with a heavy emphasis on legal disputes. The protagonist, a boy with a quick wit and a way with words, is fascinated by the legends of the Heroes who settled the valley and made it safe from the monsters that lived underground and preyed on the new-comers. He hopes for a more exciting life than being a tenant farmer and has a talent for making mischeif and a set of ideals that eventually leads him away from home and into an adventure like and yet unlike those in the tales of the Heroes.
Stroud brings the humour of the Bartimaeus books and the seriousness of The Last Siege together and blends them excellently to give us a sympathetic yet flawed protagonist, whose dialogue is a delight and whose journey is as much about self-discovery as learning the true nature of the society he lives in. The story is unpredictable, with an ending I would never have guessed and is about stories themselves: how legends form and our relationship to them. Excellently realised, thought-provoking and fun.