The Bottom Line: A magical, action-packed paranormal thriller about loyalty and destiny. Fans of Sarah J. Maas and Joe Hill will fall hard for Stranger in the Valley.
Iraq War veteran A.J. keeps his promises, no matter how long it takes to fulfill them. As Stranger in the Valley opens, A.J. is hiking his way through Oregon to fulfill a promise he made ten years earlier – to scatter fellow soldier Malcolm’s ashes in every national park in the United States.
But A.J.’s life is turned upside down when he finds the body of a mutilated sheriff. Moments after the grisly discovery, he hears a terrifying scream and is attacked by an unseen creature. He narrowly escapes death, only to find himself held at gunpoint, interrogated and locked up. Now a suspect, A.J. bonds with Skinner, the deceased Sheriff’s right-hand man. The two ultimately strike a deal – in exchange for safe passage out of the valley, newly deputized A.J. will help Skinner find the sheriff’s killer.
Meanwhile, gorgeous local healer Brighed stokes A.J.’s romantic desires – and proves that she knows far more about A.J.’s nature than he knows about himself.
Author Gregory Haley’s Oregon bears some resemblance to the real world, but it’s also a far more magical and complex place. Many of the creatures in the valley are the descendents of the tribe of Anu, a civilization where artists and craftsmen and wizards once worked side by side. But tensions between the D’Anu and the Shifters – those who are simultaneously human and wolf – are high. Skinner fears that if they don’t find the sheriff’s killer, war could break out.
Haley’s antagonist, Fergus, is even more compelling than his hero. A gaunt old man who speaks with an Irish accent, Fergus has the commanding presence of a cult leader as well as the hospitality of an inviting patriarch. He cares nothing about purity, demanding only loyalty. Elsewhere, much of his carefully crafted persona is built by what other characters say about him – he’s a legendary, almost King-like figure. The carefully constructed chess match between A.J. and Fergus crackles with suspense up until the very last chapter.