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The Owl Service

3.70  ·  Rating details ·  6,150 ratings  ·  564 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 March 1st 2006 by HMH Books for Young Readers (first published 1967)
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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 an…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)

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Jul 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Sometimes along the way you find a really special book in a very unexpected place. The Owl Service is something I picked up to satisfy the requirements of a challenge and I am so pleased I did. It is a remarkable book.

I would classify this as a children's book written for adults because it would need to be a very smart child to understand even half of what is happening. One of the criticisms often thrown at authors is that they do too much tell and not enough show. Well Garner is an author who d
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 rated it it was amazing
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
Spencer Orey
Dec 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: mg-fantasy
This is definitely not what I expected at all! I don't think I've read anything that felt quite so situated in a real place. The language felt really precise, with a tight focus on spoken dialect and the interactions of children. And then there's the myths and legends, which trickle through in mysterious magic. The story itself is okay? It didn't feel like the focus, and that's totally fine. But for classic MG fantasy, this felt so intensely grounded. ...more
Mar 28, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: childrens, 2013, 7, library
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
Lolly's Library
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
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
Jul 14, 2015 rated it liked it
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
May 21, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, middle-grade, own
Very odd story, which I have thought a lot about since reading. I didn't know anything about it at the time, but it was advertised as a children's classic, though I had never heard of it. Later I realized it's a) based on Welsh mythology, and b) a British children's classic, so a lot of the social issues went over my head at first.

But definitely worth the read, spooky without being too scary, and reminiscent of Diana Wynne Jones or Edward Eager, but more mature.
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
Nick Swarbrick
Jul 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
I am coming to dislike the blunt instrument of the four-star review. This is a haunting book, begging all sorts of questions about the author and his relationship with landscape and legend. It is, for me, maybe not Garner's finest, but four stars because it is not the great novel that is Thursbitch or the complex writing of Red Shift seems mean-spirited.
Owl Service sits - perhaps uncomfortably- on the cusp of a new kind of writing , as YA becomes a genre in its own right. However, that edge is
Emily M
Feb 09, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I first read this five or six years ago and was a little disappointed, but now, plucking it off the shelf for no reason at all and in the face of my towering, collapsing pile of books yet-to-be-read, it surpassed my expectations. Some books demand a second reading, I think.

This is a book with a bit of a marketing problem. Recent editions are clearly trying to play it up as a classic children’s book. My copy is a relatively muted example of this. But it's not really a children's book at all. Wik
Kailey (Luminous Libro)
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
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
Feb 13, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Three resentful teenagers are trapped in a Welsh valley for the summer - trapped between social expectations and the rising power of a myth that haunts the hills. Gwyn the housekeeper's son is clever and ambitious, but quick-tempered and given to sharp words; Roger is cruel with privilege; and Alison has no idea what she really wants, too quick to cave in for an easy life. They aren't prepared for the rage of Blodeuwedd, or how it will use their bitternes to force a confrontation that has shatte ...more
Isobel Robertson
Oct 25, 2015 rated it it was amazing
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
☆ 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. ...more
Dec 03, 2007 rated it liked it
Shelves: kidlit, fantasy
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 Bonini
Nov 05, 2011 rated it liked it
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
Jan 03, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
~`☆ isabel ˙ᵕ˙
2020 O.W.L.s Magical Redathon

Career: Potioneer.
Class: Care of Magical Creatures.
Prompt: Creature with a beak on the cover.

Gonna keep it real: I couldn't understand what was happening most of the time, but I still enjoyed it.
May 03, 2013 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
Kaethe Douglas
Jul 07, 2014 rated it really liked it
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. ...more
Sara Saif

My God, this book is weird.

Not only did I not like the insufferable vagueness and the "shrouded in mystery" vibe, I also couldn't synchronize myself with the dialogue which is SO odd. The book is short and I'm not sure if it works in or against its favor. I got the general idea of the myth explored in there but the rest just feels like the aftermath of an explosion; shards everywhere, smoke and haze and utter helplessness. Like, WHAT EVEN is going on?

I don't know how old the three characters wer

Jul 18, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If I heard a creature scratching in the attic that responded to my knocks, I would simply die
(2.5) I’d heard of Garner, a British writer of classic children’s fantasy novels, but never read any of his work until I picked this up from the free bookshop where I volunteer on a Friday. My husband remembers reading Elidor (also a 1990s TV series) as a boy, but I’m not sure Garner was ever well known in America. Perhaps if I’d discovered this right after the Narnia series when I was a young child, I would have been captivated. I did enjoy the rural Welsh setting, and to start with I was intri ...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
Jul 13, 2012 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
As childrens books go this is top of the tree. There is so much raw power here it's astounding.
The shear strength of myth and emotion are intense, way beyond a standard childrens novel.

The TV series as stayed with me ever since I was a child and is word perfect to the book and this is down to the author given free reign, just as it should be.

A deserved winner of awards.
Daniel Polansky
hree adolescents in a decaying house in rural Wales are forced to recreate a tragic mythic rite. Gardner is widely regarded as one of the best Y/A writers of the 20th century, but the things that I've liked by him (this and the bizarre, horrifying, very clever Red Shift) are barely Y/A at all. The narrative and conflicts in this book are as far as possible from the 'special child discovers how special he is' plot of most modern Y/A books (and, for that matter, Gardner's to my mind overlauded Wis ...more
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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

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141 likes · 36 comments
“She wants to be flowers, but you make her owls. You must not complain, then, if she goes hunting.” 75 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.”
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