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I'm looking for a fantasy series, maybe written in the 80s or 90s.

In it, there was an old woman who took in an orphaned red-haired girl and raised her in her house inside of a tree. The red-haired girl grew up to be a very powerful person. I can't remember if it was a sorcerer or what kind of label they gave the people in the series. But the old lady had a relationship with bees and could control swarms of bees. It was a really complex plot involving, I think they called them, towers of learning and the old lady turned out to be very very old. And the red haired female has a small owl that helps her, I think it's white. And there was destruction of the Tower of learning. Does anyone remember this kind of series?

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  • This sounds a bit like Discworld's Granny Weatherwax and Esk from Equal Rites by Sir Terry Pratchett. Though there are enough differences that I don't think this is the answer. There were towers and a sorcerer in the fifth book Sourcery.
    – DafyddNZ
    Aug 21, 2023 at 0:41
  • @DafyddNZ also sounds like the Tiffany Aching series, also by Sir Terry. Though towers don't feature much, Tiffany isn't an orphan, and I don't recall an owl. Helo cymydog y ddinas. Dunedin i mi.
    – bob1
    Aug 22, 2023 at 0:21

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This sounds like the Witches of Eileanan series by Kate Forsyth.

The first book opens with Isabeau, a red-haired orphan who lives with her guardian Meghan in a house built inside a tree — the upper chambers are inside the hollow trunk, and the lowest room is a cavern beneath it. They're both witches, living in hiding — witchcraft was outlawed by the king a number of years back, and the Towers (centres of learning and magic across the land) were destroyed.

I don't recall a scene involving bees (and unfortunately, I don't currently have the books available to check), but Meghan's special talent as a witch involves a bond with animals, and it's revealed later in the series that she's several centuries old. Isabeau grows to become a powerful witch over the course of the series, and eventually acquires a small owl as her familiar.

The first book, Dragonclaw, was published in 1997; there's 6 books in the main series, plus a sequel series of 3 called Rhiannon's Ride.

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