(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

The Owl Service is the only one of Garner’s novels to be set away from his native Cheshire, in North Wales, but it nevertheless still incorporates his major themes and preoccupations, not least the vivid sense of place and the need to be rooted, as well as the continuing importance of myth in modern society. Gwyn’s mother, Nancy, has rejected her destiny but nevertheless, as becomes clear, she cannot break free from the valley and its history. She has told her son much about the valley, thus unwittingly fulfilling a part of his destiny. It is surely not chance that they have been called back to the valley to be present at Blodeuwedd’s appearance.

Garner emphasizes the sense of being tied to the land by juxtaposing Gwyn’s intimate secondhand knowledge of the place with Alison’s firsthand ignorance. She has spent holidays at the house since childhood yet knows nothing of its history and is unable to fathom what is happening, although she is clearly the catalyst for the events through her discovery of the owl plates.

Garner also is concerned with the effects of severing a relationship with the land. Nancy already has rejected the valley, and Gwyn, like his father and grandfather, is destined to fail in stopping Blodeuwedd. Hints are given that although she is once again calm, she will return yet again, leaving open the question of what will happen to the valley if Gwyn, as his mother wishes, moves away. He already is...

(The entire section is 438 words.)