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The Owl Service [School & Library Binding]

Alan Garner
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)

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Book Description

August 1999
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 . As the kids uncover the mystery of the owl service, they become trapped within a local legend, playing out roles in a tragic love story that has repeated itself for generations . . . and has always ended in disaster.
--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Product Description


"...A rare imaginative feat and the taste that it leaves is haunting." The Observer --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

ALAN GARNER is the award-winning author of Elidor, The Owl Service, The Moon of Gomrath, The Weirdstone of Brisingamen, and The Stone Book Quartet. He lives in Cheshire, England. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars You have to read it twice Dec 12 2001
_The Owl Service_ is a book that has to be read twice to be understood--and a familiarity with the myth of Blodeuwedd doesn't hurt either. This novel takes place in the selfsame valley where Blodeuwedd, Lleu, and Gronw played out their tragic love-triangle in times long past, and the spirit of the conflict still haunts the valley. Every generation, the situation crops up again, with different people playing the parts, but always ending badly.
One summer, it is three teenagers who enact the old story; a young girl and her stepbrother, visiting from the city, and a local boy. At first read, it isn't clear what Alison, Roger, and Gwyn have to do with the legend of Blodeuwedd, since their situation is different on the surface. If I'd only read the book once, I might give it two and a half stars. But upon re-reading, the resonances became more apparent, and I began to see the points in the story that correspond to events in the legend.
I want to give it three and a half stars, but Amazon won't let me do that, and my grade school teachers drummed it into my head that something-and-a-half rounds up to the next whole number. *wink* So, four stars. I would have liked it better if the characters had been fleshed out more before the legend started controlling their lives; the spirit of the old conflict started turning them into unsympathetic jerks before I had a chance to develop a liking for the people they really were. Still, a decent piece of myth-based fiction.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fine Fantasy Novel Dec 14 2003
This is a very well written and unusual fantasy novel. In some respects, it is a horror novel with the traditional theme of an ancient curse working out its consequences in the modern world. Based on a story from the Mabinogion, a collection of Welsh myths, The Owl Service is set in a small Welsh valley in the contemporary world (or least contemporary when the book was published). The three principal characters, a teenage girl and two teenage boys, seemed doomed to repeat the tragic consequences of a love triangle described in the Mabinogion. Various aspects of the story involve combining mythological events with the actual geography of the valley, a method that Garner uses very well and used well in other books. The quality of writing is very good and Garner mixes the mythological aspects of the story with contemporary elements, in this case featuring the class consciousness of British life. As commented by other reviewers, this is not a book for younger children. Best enjoyed by adults and older, more intelligent teenagers.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Watch the plates June 17 2002
One thing that could never be said about "Owl Service" is that it is like every other fantasy book. Because it's not. Alan Garner skillfully weaves Welsh mythology with a suspenseful, almost horrifying story about ancient power reaching to the modern day.

Something is scratching through Alison's ceiling, when she is sick with a stomachache. She and the cook's son Gwyn venture up into the loft, and there find a heap of strangely patterned plates. At first glance, the pattern appears to be an abstract floral; upon closer examination, Alison finds that when she traces around the pattern on pieces of paper, that they form tiny paper owls. Alison's brother Roger is inclined to be dismissive, but Gwyn isn't so sure.

For some reason, discovery sends Gwyn's mother into a near-crazed frenzy, and attracts the attention of the old handyman, Huw. Huw tells Gwyn a tragic old story -- one that is connected to Alison's strange behavior. When their mothers forbid them to speak to one another, Huw reveals his true nature. To save Alison from repeating the cycle, Gwyn learns that he must discover things about his own past...

Like the previous two children's books by Alan Garner, this is about modern-day children swept up in mythical forces, but while the creatures and people of "Weirdstone" and "Moon" were solid and easily-defined, here everything is misted and ghostly. So much so that the climax, while exquisitely written, is very hard to decipher, and which will leave readers feeling deeply unsatisfied. Just what happened?

Garner takes a relatively obscure myth and spins up a strange tale around it. The writing matches that.
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4.0 out of 5 stars very very strange... Nov. 11 2001
Definitely NOT a book for most children. I read THE OWL SERVICE many years ago in part because I had enjoyed Garner's earlier books so much. I remember having nightmares afterwards, and steered clear of it subsequently. At the same time, the book stuck with me, and when I saw it in a used book shop a while ago I picked it up and re-read it. Second time through it is captivating, haunting, disturbing, and yes, very very strange. perhaps the perfect book to curl up with on a rainy autumn afternoon and find oneself going somewhere where the real and the possible somehow get turned inside out and we end... I am not sure where. I'd be reluctant to give this to other than a very mature child, but if you have one, he or she may well be entranced. I know I am.
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1.0 out of 5 stars Ummm Sept. 30 2001
By A Customer
Oh Boy! If you want to read a slow book...this monster is for you! This book had an air of mystery around it that I thouroughly enjoy, but the sad fact is that the author didn't take the plot anywhere! The story begins to get interesting when noises come from the attic and the three main characters find a box of plates, but then, as quickly as the suspense came, it died. It was a struggle for me to read because in order for a book to be mildly interesting it has to keep going, am I right? I'm sorry, but this didn't cut it....
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Great
This was a bizarre little book. It is a retelling of an old Welsh legend - a legend of a curse that is relived in each generation, again and again, in the same Welsh Valley. Read more
Published on Dec 4 2008 by Steven R. McEvoy
5.0 out of 5 stars It could beget an obsession
What an amazing book! It's scary, romantic, very very sad... I would highly recommend it to anyone who loves that sort of blurry line where history and legend meet, the... Read more
Published on July 25 2001 by Lee
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful
I read The Owl Service when I was in 7th grade and didn't fully understand it even though it was enjoyable. Read more
Published on May 16 2001 by Catey
4.0 out of 5 stars Fantasy masterpiece
This is one of the few works of fantasy, out of so much that I have read in 35 years, that stays with me and that impressed me more than ever when I just read it again, perhaps my... Read more
Published on Feb. 8 2001 by Extollager
3.0 out of 5 stars Hard to understand
The Owl Service is one of those books that should have been edited more carefully. The plot is good, and the characters are thoroughly developed. The problem lies with the writing. Read more
Published on Sept. 26 2000
2.0 out of 5 stars Can somebody tell me what's going on?
I don't agree with the other reviews when they gave five stars for The Owl Service. The cover and the back of the book looked interesting, so I picked it up at the library and... Read more
Published on Aug. 2 2000 by "rubybug"
5.0 out of 5 stars Nicely updated classic
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... Read more
Published on May 24 2000 by Elizabeth S. Gallaway
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best
Once upon a time, back a couple of decades ago, my family travelled to Europe, stopping in Britain on the way and picking up a lot of children's paperbacks to keep us occupied... Read more
Published on Feb. 8 2000
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