The Owl Keeper, by Christine Brodien-Jones
This story opens with Max, a boy of 11 years old, out in the dark, secretly visiting an injured owl. As we read on we discover that Max is kept isolated from others, and can only go out at night time because he has an allergy to sunlight.
Max is very lonely and regularly visits the owl who cannot fly because of its injury.
We soon find out that Max would be in big trouble if he was found with his owl. Not only does the government, called the High Echelon consider them to be a public enemy, they are also supposedly extinct.
The Owl Keeper is set in a world of the future which has undergone some sort of climate apocalypse. The government keeps people under strict controls and isolated from nature.
When Max was a little boy his beloved Gran told him a story about Silver Owls, and a prophecy about how the Owl Keeper could save the world in a time of darkness.Unfortunately his Gran is no longer with the family and there is no one that Max is close to, apart from his owl.
One night Max meets Rose, a rebellious but lonely girl who clearly has her own secrets. The two form a somewhat distrustful friendship. Eventually, Rose’s past catches up with her. This forces Max and Rose into a decision to flee and look for the prophesied Owl Keeper.
The world of the Owl Keeper is a dark one.The government controls all aspects of people’s lives through intimidation. Max’s parents work in a factory and are exhausted and fearful. He has a nanny who is supposed look after him because he is so sickly. But she has another agenda. The government also uses various genetically engineered creatures to patrol and keep the general population under strict control.
Themes in this book include:
- technology versus nature
- genetic engineering
- trust and faith
- coming of age
- what it means to be brave
There are some weaknesses in the novel. Max, particularly at the start of the novel, is a rather placid character and not hugely likable. Also some of the storyline tends to be somewhat predictable. The ending seems to be abrupt, but this may be because there might be a sequel.
Some children may find this novel a little too dark and scary. Some of the language used is also complex. It would be suited to children from approximately 9 years and upwards.
However, many of the concepts and ideas in The Owl Keeper are interesting. Although some of the storyline may be predictable to adults, the concepts are interesting to children. The action changes from quite slow moving at the start and builds to non stop and fast paced.
It’s great that in Rose we see an example of a very strong female character. She has strong values and convictions. Fortunately Max’s character changes for the better as the novel progresses and he becomes a much stronger, more likeable person.
The illustrations at the start of each chapter are fantastic. So good in fact, it is a shame there were not made into more of a feature of the novel.
A good fantasy read for children who are ready to be challenged by different ideas.
Title: The Owl Keeper
Author: Christine Brodien-Jones
Illustrations: Maggie Kneen
Publisher: Yearling, 2010