Overview

Maxwell Unger has always loved the night. He used to do brave things like go tramping through the forest with his gran after dark. He loved the stories she told him about the world before the Destruction—about nature, and books, and the silver owls. His favorite story, though, was about the Owl Keeper.

According to Max’s gran, in times of darkness the Owl Keeper would appear to unite owls and sages against the powers of the dark. Gran is gone ...
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The Owl Keeper

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Overview

Maxwell Unger has always loved the night. He used to do brave things like go tramping through the forest with his gran after dark. He loved the stories she told him about the world before the Destruction—about nature, and books, and the silver owls. His favorite story, though, was about the Owl Keeper.

According to Max’s gran, in times of darkness the Owl Keeper would appear to unite owls and sages against the powers of the dark. Gran is gone now, and so are her stories of how the world used to be. Max is no longer brave. The forest is dangerous, the books Gran had saved have been destroyed, and the silver owls are extinct. At least that’s what the High Echelon says. But Max knows better.

Maxwell Unger has a secret. And when a mysterious girl comes to town, he might just have to start being brave again.

The time of the Owl Keeper, Gran would say, is coming soon.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Editorial Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
Another cookie-cutter tale of a "Chosen One" informs this awkward mishmash of science fiction and fantasy. Max is a sickly, craven complainer just shy of his 12th birthday when he encounters the bossy and boastful Rose beneath the Owl Tree, where he secretly cares for an injured silver owl, possibly the last of its magical kind. Together the pair ferret out the dreadful secrets of the post-apocalyptic High Echelon and are forced to flee for their lives. Yet an ancient prophecy promises the coming of the Owl Keeper, who alone can stop the Absolute Dark. Overwritten prose wavers between a world of ill-defined magic (Good) and preposterous science (Evil) with clumsy info-dumps contradicting pedestrian descriptions that tell instead of show. While the heroes' implausible friendship is perhaps justified by their shared unpleasantness, their over-the-top enemies are at least entertaining in their cartoonish villainy. Any reader who manages to hang on until the heavily telegraphed climactic twist will be frustrated to find that the whole wearisome slog serves merely as setup to the big battle yet to come. Tedious. (Fantasy. 10-14)
Publishers Weekly
Eleven-year-old Max lives in a post-apocalyptic future ruled by a faceless totalitarian government called the High Echelon. His beloved, deceased grandmother used to tell him stories about the Owl Keeper, who would appear in times of desperate need to unite owls and sages to defeat evil. Told he’s allergic to sunlight, Max sits alone under the “owl tree” each night, awaiting the Keeper, with no one to talk to except an injured silver owl—until a mysterious girl named Rose appears. A hidden message convinces them to venture into the derelict Frozen Zone to seek the Keeper before the government’s terrifying plan for Max’s future takes effect. Brodien-Jones (The Dreamkeepers) has created an uneasy splicing of science fiction and fantasy, where all science is evil and all magic is good. Her characters are likewise black and white, but also frustratingly limp. Max is timid and allows himself to be driven by circumstances and events, giving up time and time again. There are too many unanswered questions about the setting and too many coincidences in the story. Ages 10-up. (Apr.)
Children's Literature - Naomi Butler
Maxwell Unger loves the night and tramping through the forest. He used to do that with his Gran after dark. She told him about the silver owls and how the Owl Keeper would appear to unite owls and sages against the powers of the dark. She also told stories about nature and books and how the world used to be before the Destruction. But Gran is gone, and Max is no longer brave. The High Echelon bans people from being outside at night and says that silver owls are extinct. When a mysterious girl comes to town, she and Max they travel outside at night. The forest is dark and guarded by the High Echelon creatures. They experience many dangerous adventures but look out for the remaining silver owl. The time of the Owl Keeper is coming soon, as Gran would say. This story is a dark but fascinating to read. Reviewer: Naomi Butler
VOYA - Kathleen Beck
In the indeterminate future, the governing High Echelon has caused irreversible climate change by attempting to lengthen the growing season. Now they plan to move the population to domed cities and abandon the countryside. In the small town of Cavernstone Grey, Maxwell Unger approaches his twelfth birthday, when he will be assigned an apprenticeship. Max is a sickly, timid boy who supposedly suffers from an allergy to sunlight. Unbeknownst to his menacing guardian, Mrs. Crumlin, Max sneaks out at night to visit a rare, endangered silver owl found gravely injured. One night he arrives at the owl tree to find a wild-looking, imperious girl named Rose, who astonishes him with tales of the rebels who oppose the High Echelon. When Max makes a terrible discovery about his apprenticeship and Rose finds a copy of the long-suppressed "Silver Prophecy," it is clear that the authorities have been lying to them and the two are in danger. Led by the silver owl, they undertake a perilous journey to seek the Owl Keeper, prophesied leader of the mystical sages who will restore their country. This undemanding dystopian fantasy fails to generate the urgency that would convincingly draw in the reader. The author does not take her own story seriously. The tone is almost jocular, and Max is frankly a weepy wimp who needs a backbone transplant from Rose. The ending forecasts a sequel, with Max as the unlikely new Owl Keeper. Readers of Jeanne DuPrau or Susan Cooper will find this title unsatisfyingly thin. Reviewer: Kathleen Beck
School Library Journal
Gr 5–8—Allergic to sun particles, Max Unger is forced to stay inside during the day with his caregiver, Mrs. Crumlin. He loves the night, since it has pleasant memories of his beloved grandmother, so he sneaks out and visits a silver owl and his new friend, a spirited girl named Rose. He knows that if he is caught he will be in trouble, for silver owls are evil in the eyes of the High Echelon. When Max discovers that Mrs. Crumlin and the High Echelon are preparing him for a sinister job, he makes a daring escape, taking Rose with him. The two follow the words of "the Silver Prophesy" to find the Owl Keeper and hopefully destroy the evil High Echelon for good. While Brodien-Jones fills her dystopic fantasy with many striking images and ideas, she leaves more questions than answers about her world. The prophecy at the beginning of the book echoes the one found in Susan Cooper's The Dark Is Rising (S & S, 1986), but Brodien-Jones overuses it to push the plot along rather than letting events happen organically. The characters aren't fully fleshed out, especially Rose, who seems more annoying than lovable. By book's end, this appears to be the first in a series. Jeanne DuPrau's "Books of Ember" series (Random) offers a much better dystopic vision for this age group.—Necia Blundy, Marlborough Public Library, MA
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780375895906
  • Publisher: Random House Children's Books
  • Publication date: 4/13/2010
  • Sold by: Random House
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 334,849
  • Age range: 10 - 14 Years
  • File size: 3 MB

Meet the Author

Christine Brodien-Jones studied writing at Emerson College, Boston, and has been a journalist, an editor, and a teacher. She now splits her time between Gloucester, Massachusetts, and Deer Isle, Maine.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER ONE      

When Max first saw the girl that night, standing beneath the owl tree, he thought she was a ghost or a vision, or maybe a comic-book character come to life. It didn't occur to him that she might be real. As far as he knew, nobody real had ever come to the owl tree before.  

The girl tilted her head, peering sideways at him. That's no ghost, he told himself, pulling down the flaps of his woolen cap. He shivered, feeling feverish. This field of dry brown grasses was his territory, along with the owl tree that stood in the center. The river below was his too, with its muddy path and view of the forest on the other side. All this belonged to him.  

Night after night, Max sat under the owl tree, to be alone to brood and think. He held a secret hope that the Owl Keeper might pass this way, but that had never happened--not yet, anyway--and for sure this girl wasn't the Owl Keeper. He wanted to say she had no right to be there, but the shivering went right through his lips and into his throat, locking the words inside.  

He stared at the girl as she looked around in a defiant sort of way. She was tall--string-bean skinny, as Gran used to say--with an oval olive face. Hair fanned from her head in a burst of coppery orange, and leaves were tangled all through it.   Max had never seen anyone so disorderly. She looked moody and self-centered. Where had she come from? She couldn't be a Misshapen--they never left the forest--yet she was utterly unlike anyone he had ever known.  

Without a word she whipped around, glaring at him with a haughty expression.

Looking into those green eyes, too big for her face, Max could see that the girl was different in a scary kind of way. Those eyes had a lean, hungry look. Her woolly black coat hung to her ankles, a spider dangling from the hem. Sticking out from under it were long, bumpy toes. Nobody around here dressed in clothes like that, and nobody Max knew would dream of going barefoot in this damp climate.  

Max had a nervous feeling in his chest. Clenching his teeth, he stepped forward, unsure of what to say. The girl drew herself up. Beneath the coat, her shoulders moved like frail wings. He noticed she was nearly a head taller than he was.  

"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.  

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 on a high branch.  

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.   "It's just an ordinary barn owl," Max lied. He hoped his owl hadn't heard that remark; she'd be terribly insulted if she had. "She lives in this tree. I call it the owl tree." This girl is acting so uppity, he thought, you'd think the owl was the intruder,not her.  

Max adored owls--they were his passion--and he was endlessly fascinated with silver owls. He'd learned volumes about them from his gran. To have this small silver owl appear out of nowhere, he knew, was nothing short of a miracle.  

The girl scrunched up her eyes. "I never saw a silver owl before," she said, her voice thin and scratchy.  

Neither had Max--not until this owl turned up with a message in her beak. Fearful of her at first, he quickly realized that she was unique, with her heart-shaped face and golden eyes. He didn't mind that she was small and scruffy--her feathers gave offlight, a luminescent glow that silver owls were famous for. It was the kind of light Max imagined at the center of the sun, if only he dared look at it.  

"I told you, it's not a silver owl," he insisted. "It's a cousin or some distant relative."  

The girl paid him no attention. She couldn't stop looking at the owl. Max wished he had a stronger voice. If his words boomed out, she might listen. She'd probably be impressed if he told her about the message; maybe she'd even help him decipher it.  

But the message was his secret, and so was the mystery of his amazing silver owl. Telling this girl anything might be risky. What if the authorities had sent her to spy on him?  

"Real silver owls don't exist," she said, her lips set in a fierce line. "That's what they want us to think anyway." She threw him an enigmatic smile.  

Alarmed by her comment, Max looked away. How much, he wondered, did this girl know about silver owls? According to the textbooks, countless birds had perished during the Great Destruction. The books said that all the silver owls had.  

But Gran had told Max that not every silver owl had been destroyed. Dispersed by the Dark Brigade, the silver owls had been weakened and were in hiding, waiting for the Owl Keeper to appear. One day, said Gran, they would fulfill an ancient Prophecy and bring their OwlSong back to the world. But as Max grew older he'd started to wonder if it was true--or had it just been one of Gran's made-up stories?  

From the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 50 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(34)

4 Star

(8)

3 Star

(3)

2 Star

(4)

1 Star

(1)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 50 Customer Reviews
  • Posted March 29, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Review from The Neverending Shelf

    The Owl Keeper is a non-stop, action packed ball of awesomeness. Based on the novel's summary, I figured I was in for a tale just about a boy and owls. Thought there also might be a little fantasy sprinkled in to keep things going. Wrong. Christine Brodien-Jones carefully mixes in hints of dystopian, mystery, adventure, and fantasy to create hands down the best novel aimed at younger teens that I have read since the Harry Potter series.

    To say the least, Christine Brodien-Jones and The Owl Keeper blew my socks off. Brodien-Jones' keeps her writing is simplistic and the action flowing. For me, that worked out really well. The novel did not require me to puzzle over certain situations or wonder what did the author want me to get out of this passage. This means that I was allowed to enjoy the novel just for what it was.

    The action in this novel is top notched. I was glued to the book as action sequence after action sequence occurred. I was amazed that Brodien-Jones could use so much action and not make it seem repetitive or too over the top. The whole novel just flowed together so nicely as the reader uncovers all the little secrets in Max's world. And the world that Max inhabits is very intriguing. Brodien-Jones has created a very dystopian feeling world that has a nice science fiction and fantasy feel to it. The world is quite different from our world, but not so much so that the author needed to go into long, drawn out explanations about how and why things are they way they are. The author does this in a nice short paragraph and focuses mainly on plot and character development.

    The characters of Max and Rose are a wonderful combination for the world that Brodien-Jones has created. True, I did like Rose a little more over Max. But this is because Rose is the kind of character that one cannot ignore. She is spunky, full of life, and very impulsive. As the novel moved along, I did find myself liking Max more and more as he grew into his own skin. His character is all about growth, and by the end of novel, he is a completely changed character... just the way it should be. In addition to Max and Rose, owls, and specifically Max's owl, play into a large portion of this novel. One must admire Brodien-Jones' attention to detail. She has captured every detail from the owl's habits down to its personality. The owls added lots of depth and definition to Max's world, and made the novel a lot more fun to read.

    For me, Brodien-Jones has hit the ball out of the park with this novel. From the amazing depth of her characters to the non-stop action, this novel was a blast. The novel's ending does set the reader up for a sequel, or possibly even this being the first novel in a series, so I am really hopeful that I will get to see more of Max, Rose, and the owls. While girls will throughly enjoy this novel, I think this may be a wonderful novel to give to a young male teen who has been struggling to find a novel to read. The action and adventure in this novel will be sure to captivate and inspire anyone's imagination.

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 6, 2012

    The owl keerp is my favtor The owl keeper is my favort book in the world!

    I love the part that that max is the owl keeper and finds his love! :D

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 30, 2011

    A must read!

    I would highly reccomend this book. Its always keeping you on your seat. I am still reading this book and i am SOOOOOO loving it!!!!! It has to be one of my absolute favorites

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 11, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Reviewed by Steph for TeensReadToo

    Set in the future, Max lives in a post-apocalyptic world that is ruled by the High Echelon. He is told he is allergic to the sun, so he goes out at night to sit under a tree and reminisce about the stories his grandmother used to tell him about the Owl Keeper. His only friend is a silver owl that lives in the tree, an owl which the High Echelon says is evil. One night, Max meets a mysterious girl under this tree. Her name is Rose, and once Max finds out that the High Echelon are going to make him do something he doesn't want to do, he narrowly escapes with his new friend. Both know that the only way they can save Max and destroy the High Echelon is to find the mysterious Owl Keeper. Brodien-Jones writes an intriguing science fiction story about magic owls and ancient prophecies. Max and Rose take the reader on a thrilling adventure through their magical yet ruthless world. Any reader ready for a wild ride will enjoy this enchanting story.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 13, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    A Good Addiction Reviews

    Though this is a middle grade novel with a main character who is 11, close to 12, this book is certainly not written on a elementary level. The writing is strong and the descriptions thorough, giving a great overall image and making it enjoying for readers of all ages. Particularly for this book, the age choice works beautifully, pulling the story in a way it wouldn't otherwise go if the main character was even just a few years older.

    Max leads a unique life even in this dystopian setting, confined inside during the daytime because he has an especially rare genetic disease that renders him allergic to sun particles. Any sunlight will kill him, making him a creature of the night and cut off from school and therefore, most friends. As a result, his primary interaction is with his caretaker, seeing his parents only in the evenings after work. Naturally, this effects his personality and his view on things but after the introduction of Rose, a runaway girl about his age who is certainly unique and quarky, Max's eyes begin to open.

    This is where his age plays such a central role. Still more boy than teenager and holding a certain level of inherent immaturity, Max has to wrestle with plenty of questions- and any sort of upstart and betrayal will shake his world far more drastically than it would a teenager. Also with this age, however, is a certain desire to be brave and grown up, still harboring some of the childlike drive to grow up too fast yet also lacking the know it all attitude of an early teenager. It is a very refreshing mix, creating a strong central character who a reader of any age will come to like quickly and effectively.

    As the story progresses, the full extent of the world Brodien-Jones has created is slowly developed and exposed, blindsiding the reader sometimes as strongly as Max himself. Secrets are kept, being revealed to the reader sometimes at the same time as the characters, showing Brodien-Jones' strong writing and crafting skills are. The owl aspect of this book is especially intriguing, as it makes the entire world incredibly unique. While some elements can be seen in other novels and the other idea of an overcontrolling government is common, the reasons and motivation behind this particular government's action is refreshing and original.

    Though owls have shown up in books before, they play a different role in this book and the entire interaction and connection throughout keeps the reader involved. Max and Rose face some very unsettling situations, instilling fear in them both and though Max was relatively whiny, it is certainly to be expected in an 11 year old thrust into some of these scenarios. Brodien-Jones did a fantastic job creating a young character that was bold and brave but still true to an 11/12 year old.

    With stunning takes and variations on elements present in modern times, strong and well crafted writing, and a young but fantastically developed main character, Brodien-Jones has made an amazing addition to the dystopian genre. She certainly raises many questions and shifts frames of mind throughout the book, keeping the mystery and intrigue strong right until the last page.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 22, 2014

    Magical

    This story was very well written. It kept me guessing all the way through! I love owls, which is why I read this book. It was hard to put down! My only complaint is the ending. It was a bit confusing, and they never really told what happens after. Other than that, I loved this book. I love the magic in it, and the characters. This author did a good job on making the 'bad guys' believabke, and the 'googuys' someone you rooted for. I especially enjoyed Rose. She is exactly what max needed to be brave. 5 Stars!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 28, 2013

    Loved it

    Amazing book. I loved it a lot. It is a great book that other people didn't like,but was right up my ally. It's rushed at the end,and didn't really tell you what happened either. Still a great book I loved.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 24, 2013

    MASK ROOM

    Nyra.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 3, 2013

    1.

    H
    This is one of the best books I've ever read! :)

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 25, 2013

    H

    Wow

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 19, 2013

    Awesome!

    I really love this book!!! After all, owls are my favorite animal. I love the saying on the front: "If you look into the dark long enough, you'll see things others don't." ;D

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 6, 2013

    I enjoyed this book.

    You are never to old to enjoy a good book, and this is great story!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 14, 2012

    Owls and the Skr¿k

    I've loved owls for as long as I can remember, but that's not the point. The point is Skr¿k #176, #167, whatever. For all those who umderstood the reference to the crumbling skr¿k's heart at Port Sunlight/Silvern, tell me. I'm a 12 year old boy and I think that the reference is simply amazing.

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  • Posted December 4, 2012

    I loved this book! It was so awesome! I recomend this to everyo

    I loved this book! It was so awesome! I recomend this to everyone! I remember them saying that there was a sequel to this, but it still hasn't come out yet. Best book ever! You seriously have to read it!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 30, 2012

    Great book

    I loved it it was a great book everyone should read it

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 5, 2012

    Hey i'm a kid read this people who hate it? Hey im a kid read this people who hate it

    This is the best book in the world of my opion!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 17, 2012

    Hi

    Hello. I just want anyone to know that I am a male and Im single. Plus Ive never even been kissed by a girl. So can someone please use review as texting if female because Im very sad and lonely. Thank you. And by theway do Max and Rose marry? They wpuld be such a cute couple.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 19, 2012

    Fantastic

    Wish they made a sequel

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 23, 2012

    Great book!

    Hope there's a sequel!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 7, 2012

    Too much preview

    I loved this book, but it really needed to extend their journey. The author spends over half the book giving you backround and foreshadowing, and puts only a few short chapters in about actually looking for the Owl Keeper. It would be a five star book if the time of Max being at home was shortened. I almost missed the few pages of them going to find the Keeper!

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