The Owl Service

Alan Garner

Introduced by Susan Cooper
Illustrated by Darren Hopes

Alan Garner's mesmerising mythical tale tells of three young children who awaken a deadly mythical power. Introduced by Susan Cooper.

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The Owl Service

‘A rare imaginative feast and the taste that it leaves is haunting’

This mesmerising novel won both the Carnegie Medal and the Guardian Children’s Fiction prize. Inspired by a legend from the Mabinogion and set in a remote Welsh valley, it tells the story of three young people who awaken a deadly mythical power. When Alison discovers the owl service, a set of plates painted with an ambiguous, shape-shifting pattern, her curiosity soon grows into an obsession. The plates awaken Blodeuwedd, a woman made from flowers to be the wife of a young lord and transformed into an owl after betraying him. Though they do not know it – the extent to which the myth has already shaped their lives emerges only slowly – Alison, Roger and Gwyn have revived a terrible anguish that lies smouldering in the mountains and woods around them.

Perhaps the most haunting aspect of the story is its merging of reality and myth – one that becomes all the more eerie when Garner explains the origins of the book in his introduction. The myth both fuels and feeds on real tensions and insecurities: Gwyn’s vulnerable attachment to Alison; Roger’s jealousy and derision; and Alison’s growing isolation. Can they resist its malign influence or is another tragedy inevitable? Written in simple, powerful prose, this is at once a tale of magic and a subtle story about how patterns – rooted in the stories we tell and in the real and complex dynamics of class, and national and individual identities – play out over generations. Susan Cooper, a fellow traveller of mythical landscapes, has written a new preface for this edition. She writes that ‘awareness of time past is the air that Alan Garner’s imagination breathes’. Darren Hopes has created a series of beguiling illustrations.

Production Details

The Owl Service  book

New preface by Susan Cooper

Illustrated by Darren Hopes

Bound in cloth

176 pages

Frontispiece and 7 colour illustrations

Book size: 9" x 6 ¼"

About Alan Garner

Alan Garner was born in Cheshire in 1934. He studied at Magdalen College, Oxford, but left before completing his Classics degree. He completed two years’ national service in the Royal Artillery as a Second Lieutenant before publishing his first novel, The Weirdstone of Brisingamen, in 1960. Garner is best known for his fantasy novels, including Elidor (1965) and Red Shift (1973), and his retellings of traditional British folk tales. His work is firmly rooted in landscape, history and folklore, and pays particular attention to language and cadence. The Owl Service won both the Carnegie Medal and the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize, one of six books to do so. Garner was awarded an OBE for services to literature in 2001.

About Susan Cooper

Susan Cooper is the author of the classic five-book sequence The Dark is Rising, the fourth novel of which won a Newbery Medal in 1975. Her writing includes books for children and adults, a Broadway play and Emmy-nominated screenplays. Her most recent books for children are King of Shadows (1999), Victory (2006) and Ghost Hawk (2013). Born in Buckinghamshire, England, she now lives and writes in Marshfield,Massachusetts, in the United States.

About Darren Hopes

Darren Hopes is an illustrator and fine artist. He graduated from Plymouth University with a first-class degree in design photography, and enjoys working in mixed media, painting into, deconstructing and reconstructing his photographs. He has worked for most of the major UK publishing houses, and other clients include Bentley, the Sci-Fi channel, the Mayfair Hotel and the Southbank Centre. He also produced a stamp for the Royal Mail as part of its 2012 Olympic collection.


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Review by Caelmor on 3rd Jun 2017

Text: Illustrations: Binding: Rating: 5/5

"A simply beautiful edition of a beautiful book."

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