Kar-en  \ k(a)-ren\ – noun

1. A mother who can toe type at a whopping 5 WPM when required
2. An aspiring YA fantasy writer who somehow hasn’t quit yet
3. One who can’t possibly be a vampire because sunshine is an essential requirement for happiness

Archaic: A Southern girl, bless her heart, who studied English and editing at Brigham Young University.


Brodien-Jones, Christine. The Owl Keeper. New York: Delacorte Books for Young Readers , 2010.

You don’t have any deathwatch beetles attached to your coat, do you?” he asked hesitantly. Didn’t she see that spider hanging there? This girl, Max realized, was even more of an outsider than he was.

Max froze. No one knew about the owl. Since last winter he had kept her hidden in the owl tree, away from prying eyes. The problem was, silver owls didn’t exist–not officially, at any rate. Silver owls had been declared extinct by the government.

Her eyes flashed. “What’s that supposed to mean?” She jutted out her sharp chin. Her coat smelled like wet leaves.

“Deathwatch beetles are bad luck. They foretell death–that’s what my guardian, Mrs. Crumlin, says.”

“Death doesn’t scare me.” The girl pointed to the top of the tree. Despite the cold air, she wasn’t wearing mittens. “What’s up there?” Her eyes traveled to a small silver-feathered owl, sitting in a high branch.

Max grew up hearing stories from his gran about the magical silver owls and the Owl Keeper, who would come in a time of absolute darkness to fight against the dark. After his gran dies, he is diagnosed with a strange allergy to sunlight, forcing him to only go out at night. His only friends are his silver owl and a spunky girl named Rose, who shows up mysteriously one night. As everything Max believed about his life and the government unravels, he and Rose go on a journey to find the Owl Keeper and save themselves from the hopeless dark.

The Review

I loved this book and totally recommend it. It’s younger than most books I tend to read. The main characters are  twelve , so the target audience is about nine or ten and up. So it may be a little simplistic for the adult reader, meaning I could figure out a lot of things that were going on before the main characters know, but that doesn’t make it any less fun to read.  I think it’s a fantastic introduction to the dystopia genre for the middle grade reader. (And it’s fun because it’s not only a dystopia, but there are magical elements as well.) This book could get the younger readers interested in reading things like Hunger Games, etc., when they get a little older.

The one problem I found with the book being younger is that the number of exclamation points was out of control. Maybe younger kids get a little excited when they talk, but when just about everything the kids say comes out like they’re screaming, it gets to be a little much. There were pages with between ten and twenty exclamations on one page. Even twelve-year-old’s don’t get that excited. To me, it seems like a problem an editor should have fixed. I was grateful that the story was so good, so I was able to glaze over the hundreds of !s.

Max and Rose are great characters. I liked how they deal with fear and bravery in different ways. Max starts off as a scardey cat but proves to be braver than he knew. Rose puts up a brave front but despite her bravery still feels fear. I loved Rose–she’s tough and spunky and is a great balance to Max. And her character I think enhances the book’s appeal to boys. Already it’s got a boy as a main character, so it’s easier to interest boys, but Rose’s character is a cool, tomboyish personality.

This is definitely the start of a series or at least there will be a sequel. I was satisfied with the ending but still am waiting for more. I’m especially excited because this story is so original. I don’t feel like I’ve read a book quite like it. Like I said before, it’s distopia mixed with fantasy and magic–not something I’ve encountered yet. I recommend it–100%.

2 thoughts on “book review: the owl keeper

  1. Thanks for the review! I remember seeing this when one of the editors showed it off last summer at the WIFYR, and I’m glad to hear it’s so good. A middle-grade fantasy-dystopia sounds pretty cool.

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