Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Owl Service” as Want to Read:
The Owl Service
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Owl Service

3.73  ·  Rating Details ·  4,014 Ratings  ·  306 Reviews
Something is scratching around in the attic above Alison's room. Yet the only thing up there is a stack of grimy old plates. Alison and her stepbrother, Roger, discover that the flowery patterns on the plates, when traced onto paper, can be fitted together to create owls-owls that disappear when no one is watching. With each vanished owl, strange events begin to happen aro ...more
Paperback, 240 pages
Published August 16th 1999 by HMH Books for Young Readers (first published 1967)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Owl Service, please sign up.

Popular Answered Questions

Rayan A.N hahaha BTS want to turn us into a book club. And we didn't end here in their latest teaser there was the name of a motel Omelas, it shows a name of…morehahaha BTS want to turn us into a book club. And we didn't end here in their latest teaser there was the name of a motel Omelas, it shows a name of another book XD Moreover the small lighting word "No Vacancy" is a title of a film also *_* (less)
Hugo I hope this isn't too late to answer, but I don't consider The Owl Service to be YA, or a children's book, though it is marketed - and won awards - as…moreI hope this isn't too late to answer, but I don't consider The Owl Service to be YA, or a children's book, though it is marketed - and won awards - as such. It is a deep and complex work, and densely written for its length. I disliked it as a child (and both of my otherwise well-read children have started but abandoned it), but I've read it a few times as an adult and have more enoyment and admiration for it each time.(less)
This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
mark monday
an impressionistic tale of three teens reenacting a deadly eternal triangle in a welsh village. strange yearnings and mysterious motivations are anchored by enjoyably prosaic dialogue, the oddly off-kilter use of slang, and a sharp but subtle sense of warfare between the classes. a nicely clean and uncluttered narrative. one of the many endearing parts of this novel is the realization that the patterns of history and destiny that drive the characters forward are being reflected in the flowery pa ...more
Sarah Hale
Aug 05, 2012 Sarah Hale rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I will admit I didn't 'get' this book the first time I read it. In fact it was not until the third or fourth reading that I really began to understand the plot and central themes. It also certainly helps if you have read the story in the 'Mabinogion' that this book is loosely based upon. Garner's economical style is also an initial obstacle. Reading through some of the reviews here, I can see that some people have found fault with the fact that he almost completely omits description of any kind ...more
Kerry
Mar 28, 2013 Kerry rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: library, childrens, 7, 2013
Written as I begin...

She wants to be flowers but you keep making her owls.

This will be a paraphrase rather than a direct quote, as it's something I've always remembered, almost been haunted by, over the years since I read Alan Garner's The Owl Service as a child. Every so often, that evocative phrase would bubble out of my subconscious and I'd think of it for a moment before going back to my everyday life.

She wants to be flowers but you keep making her owls.

Despite that deep memory, I've never r
...more
Nikki
The Owl Service is a very, very powerful book. It used to scare me silly, when I was younger -- under ten, probably -- and it still has a very tense feel to it, an edge of fright. It draws on the story of Blodeuwedd, from the Mabinogion: Gwydion makes her out of flowers, to be a wife for Lleu Llaw Gyffes, who has been cursed by his mother never to marry a mortal woman. However, she falls in love with Gronw Pebr, and they plot how to kill Lleu. He is only changed into an eagle, though, and he com ...more
Wanda
Wow, a very intense little book. Considering that it’s a children’s book, there are some very adult themes addressed. Not only are there step-family issues being worked out in the English family involved, but there is a past intertwining of their family with the Welsh woman who is currently working as their housekeeper. Alison’s mother seems to be very class conscious and tries to keep her daughter away from the housekeeper’s son, Gwyn. The resentment of the Welsh, who are seeing English familie ...more
Lolly's Library (Dork Kettle)
What the hell was this? It started off fine, if a little bit bumpy. I kept waiting for the 'tragic romance' of the premise to begin--frankly, I was waiting for any kind of action to take place--yet nothing of the kind ever developed. There was an interesting, if bizarre, set up involving owls and plates and mysteries, but *fzzzt* it completely fizzled out. Nothing was ever explained and that ending... What kind of an ending was that? There was no resolution, no explanation, nothing that rewarded ...more
Kailey (BooksforMKs)
Sep 30, 2011 Kailey (BooksforMKs) rated it it was ok
Shelves: owned-books
I've liked some of Alan Garner's other books, but this one was just confusing. Most references to time are left out, like "The next day..." or "hours earlier...", so you have no idea what is going on, until you realize halfway into the characters conversation that this must be the next day, or they must have moved to inside the house now b/c this wouldn't make sense if they were still outside. He just leaves you guessing.

I do not understand any of these characters. Every word they say is so conf
...more
Amber
The best thing about this book is the elliptical strangeness of it, the odd otherworldly language and broken narrative structure yet... the worst thing about this book is the elliptical strangeness of it, the odd otherwordly language and broken narrative structure.

I don't see how this is a book for children. The children in the book do not talk like children, or adults for that matter. Everyone talks in circles and riddles. There are large chunks of the narrative missing which you are meant to
...more
☆ ĄňŊǡƂėƮĦ ☆ ŞŧŎŋė
I was given this book by my father who thought that it would be good. I read the summary and thought that it was a children's book but I read. In the beginning it was okay but soon it became very difficult to read and I ended up reading half of it and skimming every other page to the end. It was very boring.
Orinoco Womble (tidy bag and all)
I really wanted to enjoy this book. I did. It had so much potential!

First, it's set in the Welsh valleys. That in itself is great. Then, you've got the whole mystery of the owl service itself, like why is Alison obsessed with it? What's going on in the locked room? and all like that.But Garner does his own plot a disservice. Maybe he needed a better editor, one who could guide him on how to flesh out these very good bones into something rounded and satisfying for the reader. I really wish Garner
...more
Becky
Dec 03, 2007 Becky rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this hoping I might be able to write my Celtic Literature paper on it; it ended up not being a good fit, but it was still a pretty interesting novel. It centers around the brief friendship of two English teenagers with a Welsh boy their age. The depiction of Welsh-English hostilities was the strongest thread of the novel; Gwyn, the Welsh boy, is a great character and his story is subtle but heartbreaking. There was also a very cool contrast between the social realism and the fantasy eleme ...more
Beth
Jan 03, 2010 Beth rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In a pastoral Welsh valley, a tragic love story plays itself out anew with each generation. When three teens discover a set of old dishes with an odd design, the haunting legend is set into motion once more. Can Alison, Roger and Gwyn break the cycle?

The suspense and supernatural occurrences drive the plot. Garner is a master storyteller, weaving the past with the present seamlessly. His use of plot devices such as books and village gossips to drop hints and tell part of the story is natural, n
...more
Rebecca McNutt
The Owl Service is the kind of classic-style middle-grade fantasy novel that schools should have on its shelves instead of just Twilight and The Hunger Games. With its imagination, mystical story and creative characters, it's a wonderful book that you'll never forget.
Leah
May 03, 2013 Leah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: magical, mythical
A tightly-written, intense little novel that belies its childlike exterior.

After reading the first two books in the Weirdstone of Brisingamen trilogy - more on the third later - one could be forgiven for considering Alan Garner a bit light on the characterisation end of things. Susan and Colin were, after all, little more than boy's-own-adventure tropes masquerading as children in the countryside.

But this would be a serious underestimation of Garner's skills with tone and scenario. He says in hi
...more
Isobel
Oct 25, 2015 Isobel rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone with an interest in Celtic (esp. Welsh) mythology
Recommended to Isobel by: My mother
This is perhaps my favourite novel of all time. It's strange, mysterious, confusing and haunting. I inherited my mother's childhood copy, and I think it says a lot about the timeless quality of the book that I loved it as much in the 1990s as she did in the 1970s - and still love it today. Although marketed as a young adult book, this is actually a very adult book in many ways, and can certainly be enjoyed by much older people.

As a huge fan of Celtic mythology, I love the subtle way in which Ala
...more
Beth Bonini
I know this book is considered to be a fantasy classic, but I found it surprisingly difficult to read. Let me be specific: it doesn't take LONG to read, but it is hard to follow. There is a lot of dialogue, and the language/vernacular already seems archaic even thought the book was written in the 1960s. Also, it is very elliptical -- both in terms of the language and the plot.
Most of my reading at the moment is geared towards my teaching; so as I read, I'm constantly evaluating whether or not I
...more
Roddy Williams
‘Scratchings in the loft above Alison’s room – not mice or rats – but claws being sharpened, then Roger had felt himself reeling under that scream and the vibration of the ancient rock. And Alison was obsessed with those plates – she did nothing but trace the owl pattern on them. Gwyn couldn’t fathom it yet, but he was trapped too in the Welsh valley and its legend.

Only old half-mad Huw knew the power of the ancient tragedy – of a maiden made from flowers who betrayed her husband, Lleu, with a
...more
Robert
Jul 13, 2012 Robert rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fairy-tale-myth
I'm in two minds about this one. On the one hand, it had a genuinely effective sense of eery creepiness and inevitable doom building throughout. On the other hand, the book is primarily dialogue based, which was difficult for me as a reader, because the characters have strange speech patterns that I am not used to (they're meant to be Welsh, but to me they sounded partially like West Country people, and partially just incoherent - and not just the slightly mad ones).

Often, all we get is the dia
...more
Nikki
I can't believe I haven't reviewed this book. I read it when it was little, and it scared me quite a lot at the time -- I was a 'fraidy cat. The subject matter, the story of Blodeuwedd, is something I've been especially interested in ever since. I thought the story was weird as hell at the time I read it, but I loved it a lot and it made that part of the Mabinogion stick in my head very strongly. I remember very vividly when I read it, when I was given the book, which I think is a sign that it's ...more
Skye
Long overdue re-read (or re-listen as I have the audio book.)

Despite marketing, this is not a children's book but a young adult novel. A remarkably subtle and complex fantasy that could also be classed as weird fiction. It is one of the creepiest books I've ever read, which is saying something of Garner's talent, as the initial premise is a haunted dinner service.
Simon Smith
Scary, unsettling wonderful. Stepping on from Weird stone Garner really hits his stride. Loved it.
Sally
Jan 03, 2012 Sally rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: childrens, fantasy, wales
I kind of want a "wtf?" shelf for books like this... I just didn't enjoy it and could NOT get into it at all! I wasn't interested enough in the story, or rather I couldn't GET interested in the story... the style just didn't gel with me. A lot of the time it felt almost like a script, not a novel... there was a lot of dialogue that you were meant to be able to follow, precious little description. I couldn't visualise what was going on and that hurdle stayed too great to overcome. Not enough was ...more
Habibah
I picked up this book and decided to read it because the blurb was interesting and also because it was a prize winner (Carnegie Medal). A character that I found interesting was Gwyn because of how he really was proud of being Welsh but could not express it because his mother disapproved it. When she caught him speaking in Welsh, she told him to not speak like a ‘labourer’. He cannot make his own decisions because he is afraid of disappointing his mother. I also kind of pity him because he is qui ...more
Ruth
Jul 16, 2011 Ruth rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a re-read of a book I absolutely adored as a child.

I was surprised by how short it is and, perhaps spoiled by the lush characterisation in The Little Stranger, found the economical writing a bit unsatisfying; I wanted to be told more about the characters, for there to be more of everything all round. I was slightly frustrated by quite how subtle the storytelling is. But maybe I'm just a lazier reader than I used to be.

But the characters are ultimately unimportant. It's the themes (mytho
...more
D-day
'The Owl Service' is a young adult novel based on Welsh myths, where another generation seems destined to live out a tale of love, murder and revenge. More of a suspense/horror than fantasy; three teens struggle with class and ethnic tensions as well as the normal adolescent angst when the ancient power of the valley begins to take over their lives.
Although very well written the story is hard to get into, as there is no initial build up, the reader is just dropped into the middle of the plot and
...more
Raj
Mar 10, 2010 Raj rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, childrens
Three children in the Welsh valleys are doomed to relive a legend and must discover the secret of the dinner service with the owl motif to stop it.

For most of the way through this book, I wasn't sure if I liked it or not. When I got to the end, I decided that I didn't. The writing style is odd, with things sometimes changing from one paragraph to the next with the reader being left to fill in the blanks. While this is often an effective device, I don't think it worked in this case in the context
...more
Staci
Mar 15, 2009 Staci rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Staci by: Nymeth
Shelves: 2009-reads
I'm not going to do a review on my blog. I was just so-so about this book. I found the writing to be hard to follow probably because it was written with the Welsh in mind. I'm glad that I read it though because the mythical story behind the premise is one that I had never heard of. In fact, I learned more from my friend Nymeth's review than I actually did from the book. If you would like a very detailed review of this story then please visit her blog:

http://www.thingsmeanalot.com/2009/03...
Jessica
Sep 26, 2007 Jessica rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This is supposedly viewed as a 'classic' among children's fantasy books, but it has to be one of the most confusing books I've ever read. I don't understand what happened, and the dialogue seemed so random and as if there were sentences not being spoken. No descriptions or character development. It's supposed to be based on the tale of Blodeuwedd from the Mabinogion, but I didn't get the connection. The whole thing just left me perplexed, which is unfortunate because the description made it soun ...more
Kaethe
Garner wrote this in a spare Kitchen Sink Drama style, and it mostly deals with class conflict. Not at all what I was expecting from a Welsh myth. And the ending - I didn't see that coming. I'm not sure that I'd recommend this to any but a rather mature reader, since Garner has made this more a playscript than a novel. It would be hard for many young readers to figure out what's going on and what all the tension is about. It's practically Pinter.
Melody
Oct 25, 2014 Melody rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wow, do I ever wish I'd read this when I was about 12. Spooky and spare, told almost entirely in dialogue, this retelling of an old Welsh legend is hauntingly familiar and wholly strange. I was never easy in this novel, never comforted. Nor was I frightened out of my wits, but rather prickling with unease the whole way through.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
What's The Name o...: SOLVED -- YA Fantasy Owl Drawings Coming to Life [s] 7 27 May 18, 2014 09:12AM  
  • The Edge of the Cloud (Flambards, #2)
  • The Wool-Pack
  • The Return of the Twelves
  • The Scarecrows
  • Tulku
  • Marianne Dreams (The Magic Drawing Pencil, #1)
  • The Nargun and the Stars
  • The Changeover
  • Black Hearts in Battersea (The Wolves Chronicles, #2)
  • Power of Three
  • A Stranger at Green Knowe (Green Knowe, #4)
  • The Peppermint Pig
  • The Ghost of Thomas Kempe
  • Whispers in the Graveyard
  • Foxspell
  • The Ghost Drum (Ghost World, #1)
  • The Story of the Amulet (Five Children, #3)
  • White Ravens
47991
Alan Garner OBE (born 17 October 1934) is an English novelist who is best known for his children's fantasy novels and his retellings of traditional British folk tales. His work is firmly rooted in the landscape, history and folklore of his native county of Cheshire, North West England, being set in the region and making use of the native Cheshire dialect.

Born into a working-class family in Conglet
...more
More about Alan Garner...

Share This Book



“She wants to be flowers, but you make her owls. You must not complain, then, if she goes hunting.” 46 likes
“Lleu is a hard lord,” said Huw, “He is killing Gronw without anger, without love, without mercy. He is hurt too much by the woman and the spear. Yet what is there when it is done? His pride. No spear. No friend.”
Roger started at Huw. “You’re not so green as you’re grass-looking, are you?” he said. “Now you mention it, I have been thinking— That bloke Gronw was the only one with any real guts at the end.”
“But none of them is all to blame,” said Huw. “It is only together they are destroying each other.”
“That Blod-woman was pretty poor,” said Roger, “however you look at it.”
“No,” said Huw. “She was made for her lord. Nobody is asking her if she wants him. It is bitter twisting to be shut up with a person you are not liking very much. I think she was longing for the time when she was flowers on the mountain, and it is making her cruel, as the rose is growing thorns.”
7 likes
More quotes…