The Owl Killers

Written by Karen Maitland
Review by Mike Ashworth

The year is 1321. Deep in the heart of the English countryside, an isolated village is controlled by a sinister group called the Owl Masters. A pagan group, they rule by fear, terrorising the local population with accusations of sin bringing retribution in the form of horrific death. The status quo is disturbed by the arrival of a group of religious women who establish a community at the edge of the village. The Owl Masters, who find their power being challenged by the women, react violently and, aided by the corrupt local priest, seek to destroy the community of Beguines.

The story is told from the point of view of the main characters in the book in a series of small but connected chapters. The tension builds slowly but subtly with the conflict between the religious community and the Owl Masters building to a satisfying climax. The writing is taut, compelling, and atmospheric, evoking the superstitious ignorance of the age. If you like gothic medieval novels with venal priests, murder, witches, and strong-minded women, this is for you. I loved it. Definitely one to keep, and highly recommended.