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The Owl Killers

3.75 of 5 stars 3.75  ·  rating details  ·  2,402 ratings  ·  308 reviews
From the author of Company of Liars, hailed as “a jewel of a medieval mystery”* and “an atmospheric tale of treachery and magic,”** comes a magnificent new novel of an embattled village and a group of courageous women who are set on a collision course—in an unforgettable storm of secrets, lust, and rage.

England, 1321. The tiny village of Ulewic teeters between survival and
Hardcover, 640 pages
Published March 26th 2009 by Michael Joseph (first published January 1st 2009)
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Hush, Hush by Becca FitzpatrickFallen by Lauren KateShiver by Maggie StiefvaterPride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame-SmithCity of Glass by Cassandra Clare
Best Book Cover 2009
63rd out of 315 books — 3,039 voters
The Pillars of the Earth by Ken FollettThe Name of the Rose by Umberto EcoThe Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey ChaucerBeowulf by UnknownA Distant Mirror by Barbara W. Tuchman
Best Middle Ages Books
104th out of 924 books — 1,133 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Jeffrey Keeten
"Beguines are pernicious tares sown by the Devil to destroy the order of man and God. It was women that destroyed the order in the Garden of Eden, Lilith refusing to lie beneath Adam, and Eve seducing him into forbidden knowledge. Now they are hell-bent on destroying the very priesthood itself, and with it the Holy Church and all Christendom. They will drag you to hell with them if they can. I caution you not to suffer them to take root here, lest all you hold dear is destroyed and thrown in cha ...more
This is one of those rare books that truly stand out from the crowd. Having originally majored in medieval history, I have always been extremely impressed by those rare books set in the dark ages, or shortly thereafter, simply because of the reams of research that have to be done to make a book of this sort even halfway believable. Not a lot of people realize just how VERY different life was at that time.

This book is set in 1321 in England. At that time, in Flanders, France and parts of Belgium,
In 1321, there were a multitude of problems. Superstition ruled the day. Disease lurked around every corner and famine was an ever-present specter. And no matter how bad that year's harvest turned out to be, the church demanded to receive its tithe. Seems like that's enough suffering for one lifetime, yet the precarious lives lived by the characters in Maitland's excellent novel are made even crappier by the existence of the Owl Killers, a protection racket putting the squeeze on the village den ...more
Owls are among my favourite birds, mainly because they were important to my maternal grandmother Matilda and they will always be associated with her in my mind. Anyone who kills an owl is immediately persona non grata to me. My one disappointment with this book was that the followers of the pagan religion in this book turned out to be bad guys, killing owls to warn people that they were next if they didn’t conform and murdering people just as readily. However, in this novel, there is plenty of b ...more
Anne Slater
(From my Letter to the author)

My complaint is that Owl Killers kept me up until 3 am this morning.
At nearly 69, I am not accustomed to keeping such late hours, but I simply could not put it down!

I feel quite fortunate to have come to Owl Killers (albeit by accident) with 30+ years' work as an academic librarian, a life time of voracious reading centered on historical fiction and autobiography, a quality education, and a friend who is a medievalist. I suppose, I was just waiting for your books to
Was it over a year ago that I read this? It must be - I remember where I was. I was working at a temporary job that involved predominantly photocopying, possibly the most dismal office I have ever encountered and, crucially, a half-hour commute that took my bus straight past Edinburgh Castle. I remember reading this book with a growing feeling of dread, looking out of the window and wondering how I could feel so grateful to be here and so dispirited about my day at the same time.

Since then, this
Arun Divakar
God, religion and a firm foundation of faith has been matters of great befuddlement for me for a while now. We who have feared and revered everything beyond the immediate vicinity of the fire in the cave have come a long way into the multi million dollar world of organized religion. Fear has always been the riding whip for religion and power its allure. Men and women who hold sway over the multitudes with a firm grasp on the pulse of belief will commmand far more murderous mobs than a dictator c ...more
Jeremy Zerbe
I picked up Karen Maitland's third novel, The Owl Killers, at my local library, on not much else than an interest in the cover artwork. Add to that my intrigue in a story about the dark, religious goings-on of medieval England (and to all of those who thought it was "too dark"... what in the world have you been reading all your life? I mean, it's about the goddamn Middle Ages), and I thought I'd really discovered a winner.

What I found was, indeed, a rather interesting story of battle lines drawn
(another stay up to midnight to finish book!). There was a sense of dread threaded throughout this story. I was worried this novel would be just one long, hopeless tragedy. I'm very happy that was not to be the case.

It's hard to tell which I like better, The Company of Liars or this (I'm leaning towards this one). They are both five starers, but each brings something different to the table.

I think this is more of an atmospheric novel, and it certainly delivers on that account. I felt completely
Jennifer (JC-S)
‘... a legend can only die if no one speaks its name’

The setting for this novel is a fictional English village named Ulewic. During 1321-22, the village is struggling with a number of natural and supernatural forces. The villagers’ lives are shadowed by the Owl Masters and haunted by the Owlman who leaves death and destruction in his wake. The novel centres on a beguinage, a religious community of women, originally from Bruges and newly established outside the village. The tensions between the b
Liza Perrat
Having loved Company of Liars, I was excited to read Karen Maitland’s next novel, The Owl Killers, set in Ulewic, a 14th century village near Norfolk.
For centuries, Ulewic has been ruled by both the lord of the manor and by the Owl Masters - a predatory, pagan group empowered by fear, blackmail and superstition to dispense a harsh form of law and order.
A group of religious women settles in a beguinage outside the village and when their crops succeed and their animals survive diseases, jealousy
I think this might be my favourite of Karen Maitland's books so far -- I definitely liked it more than The Gallows Curse, although it didn't grip me as tightly as Company of Liars. I have nothing really to nitpick about here, though: the five POVs were well done and cast interesting lights on each other, and I love the research Maitland clearly put into it. The very concept of a beguinage is pretty fascinating, so that helps, but the way Maitland brought this one to life -- and tried to explain ...more
I was beginning to wonder what I had picked up when I started to read this book because of the lack of clear structure owing to multiple characters telling their tales back and forth between each other. As I read on however it really began to work and I become more and more intrigued by the plot line and found it difficult to put the book down.

I loved the manner in which the plot had many twists and turns and really challenges your thoughts and assumptions/ stereotypes particularly when you meet
At first, I wasn't certain I would enjoy this book - I often read historical fiction, but usually gravitate towards stories set in the 18th and 19th centuries, while this is set much further back, in 1321. However, once I'd got a handle on the complex plot, I found myself absolutely loving it. The characterisation and lively dialogue really bring the story to life, and the plot tackles so many issues that are incredibly relevant to modern life, while the narrative still felt authentically histor ...more
1321 turned out to be a pretty cruddy year for the village of Ulewic.

Times are tough – crops are failing and the meagre harvests are blighted with mould, while the livestock is falling foul of disease, and what passes for the local power is too busy preying on the populace to be of much help.

Ruled over by a lord obsessed with chastity whose nephew is obsessed with relieving people of theirs – consensually or not - their priest is also too busy fornicating, and then worrying about getting caught
"The words were so new to me, so hard to understand. I was compelled to read the same lines over again while wanting to race on. Yet I was afraid to read to quickly, in case when the book was finished I was still left wanting." ......Exactly!

Ro sent me this book. After reading the back cover I was not too excited about it. It was dark and dirty, took place in Medieval England, and had a lot of strange sounding characters with themes set around religion and mythology/superstition. I thought that
Beth F.
“I heard some of the beguines talking about the fire in the forest, about the…Owl Masters. Who are they?”

“No one knows who they are; that’s the point. Why else would they wear masks?”

“But why owls?”

“…I suppose because owls bring ill fortune and death to any house they alight on. That’s what the Owl Masters do.”

The medieval village of Ulewic has been governed by a mysterious pagan faction known as the Owl Masters for as long as anyone can remember. During the previous century, the group had lost
I am smitten with Karen Maitland's writting if The Owl Killers is indicitive of her talent I will be spending many hours with her. Maitland evokes vividly the texture and realities of life in Medieval England with this novel.

She also introduced me to the Beguines, a medievel society of religious lay women who shunned marriage and the nun's veil to live in collectives. These women may very well be the first feminists who stood against the power of church and state to live lives of service. Unlik
I love the superstitious atmosphere she creates in this book and her attention to detail gives you no doubt you've landed smack bang in the 14th century. I loved it, and won't be selling it on. I was fascinated by the beguines and the Marthas, something I have not heard of before. I'd love to learn more about them.
Set within the perils of the 14th Century, Maitland pits the power of true faith against deep-seated superstition and a corrupt church. This engrossing tale does not let up until the last page is reached. A triumphant follow-up to Company of Liars.
Karen Maitland's THE OWL KILLERS is a compelling and creepy exploration of the clash between the pagan undercurrents in medieval England and the growing strength of the Christian faith. Set in a backwater town plagued by a despotic overlord and group of masked men who call themselves the Owl Masters —dedicated to preserving their power at any costs by exacting tribute from the downtrodden villagers and enacting terrifying nightly rites— the novel follows a number of characters from their points ...more
Nick Johnson
Having read Company of Liars, I felt I should really like this book but, well, I don't know.

This one started fast for me with a very interesting premise about pagan beliefs intersecting with established religion and also with a less established house of women called the beguines, who had moved to an impoverished English Medieval village. Attractive "triangular tension" there. Who will end up on whose side? Is there a way for them all to get along? That sort of thing. The sense of place and time
Outstanding! Maitland weaves a fantastic tale around a group of strong, independent women (group called a beguinage)--no easy feat in the 1330's of England. Superstition, mystery, religious hypocrisy, and the brutality of men against women in the medieval time period makes for a very intense, intriguing story. Independent thinking versus mob mentality is given a good look, with religion and superstition joining forces for the mob mentality. I highly recommend this book.
What a marvellous book! I loved every minute of it and couldn't put it down last night and ended up reading it until 4am this morning!
I loved Maitland's style of writing and couldn't find fault with it.
The book was very dark, scary in places and brought home how people used to live in those times. I even learnt a few things like dog dung collecting!
My one tiny critism is that I would of loved to have known what Pisspuddle's real name was :)
I don't often read historical fiction, but when I do, I read novels like The Owl Killers - books backed up with solid research, featuring issues that are just as relevant today as they were in times past.

A group of beguines, women who dedicate their lives to charity and religion without making lasting vows, settles in a small village in England called Ulewick. There they are not welcomed by the villagers, who still cling to the their old heathen ways, terrorized by the anonymous Owl Masters.

I liked this a lot and for various different reasons. Set in the 1320's it follows the lives of a group of women in a beguinage. I had never come across these all women communities before so the historical detail was fascinating in itself. This was made more so by the fact that these communities have been so overlooked in terms of their impact on society at that time. Some of the detail of the beliefs and the activities of the church in making sure people kept to the faith were extraordinary.

Poteaca Paul
I have to be honest here,I started reading this book since i feel in love with another of Karen Maitland's books ,"A Company of Liars", and due to this i had really high hopes for this book,now don't get me wrong I did enjoy the book, it just lacked something....

Characters (4/5):
Most of the characters I found quite well rounded and true to the background presented to us, however there was one character who's chapters i just felt like skipping, I'm looking at you Pisspuddle, but i didn't telling
Nov 28, 2010 Beadyjan rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Anyone who enjoyed Company of liars by the same author and people who enjoy medieval fiction.
Shelves: historical
I'm so pleased I enjoyed this book as I was really looking forward to reading it. Enjoyed her first novel "company of liars" so much I thought it might be a hard act to follow.
Well, Ms Maitland does herself proud with this big, detailed epic which takes on the huge subject of superstition and legend wrapped in with religion.

Its set in a village in England in the early 1300s when a group of women living in a Beguinage arrive, not quite Nuns they nevertheless live in a women only, cloistered exis
Karen Maitland won me over with her novel Company of Liars. It is a kind of seamy underside of Canterbury Tales while it catches the Plague. In The Owl Killers Maitland goes back a little further in time to 1321. The Black Plague was about twenty years away but the Little Ice Age had already begun so... Good Times.

If I were alive in 1321 first of all at my age I'd be practically immortal but beyond that odds are that I would be: uneducated, widowed, have had several children two of which might
Kristin Gleeson
Set in medieval Norfolk in a time when plague, climate change, nobles and religion were preying on the poor of small communities the Owl Killers explores the idea of the 'beguines.' a little known but interesting phenomenon that occurred in the continent and failed in transplant to England. The beguines were a group of religious women who were not nuns but agreed to live as a community of equals who were chaste during their time of residence. Such a group of women could study and discuss their v ...more
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Karen Maitland has recently moved to the wonderful county of Devon and has a doctorate in psycholinguists. She is fascinated by the myth and magic of the Middle Ages, which she draws on for her novels. She experienced the medieval lifestyle for real, when she worked for eighteen months in a rural village in Nigeria, living without electricity, plumbing or sanitation.

Her first medieval thriller wa
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“She’s one of the fay folk; half of her is a woman, but she has the legs of a goat, except no one ever sees those for she hides them under her robes. She sleeps deep in the black pool while it’s day, but at witch-light she rises in robes green as pond weed, glowing in the dark with her silver hair trailing behind her. She’s so beautiful any man who glimpses her can’t take his eyes off her. but that’s just her witchery for inside she’s really a withered old crone with a heart as black as a marsh pool.” 1 likes
“You have already excommunicated half the village because they will not pay their tithes. So why wouldn't they come to us? Can you excommunicate them twice over? As for the sick, most are here because the Mother Church in her great charity has already damned them and driven them out. The churches are emptier than a pauper's purse and little wonder, for men get more solace from the alewives than from their priests. More stand now outside your church than within it. What difference does it make if you forbid them burial in your churchyard, since they cannot afford the soul-scot you charge them to be buried there? Those who still look to God make their prayers far away from the church, where the air is sweeter and their voices are not smothered beneath your hypocrisy and greed.” 0 likes
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