This book kicks off the “His Dark Materials” trilogy as well as having been attacked by various groups for it’s apparent dislike of God and the church alike. The book appears to be in tune to the poet John Milton’s “Paradise Lost“, which is the poem detaining the fall of man.
There are many worlds and parallel universes out there, and there are worlds that we don’t even know existed. There’s also the concept of “daemons” which are animal manifestations of human souls. These daemons are with their human companions for life, and if a daemon is killed, the human dies as well, and if the human is killed, the daemon also dies. But humans and daemons cannot be separated and if they are (in several sad cases) the human is rendered soulless, for if you lost your daemon, you have lost your soul.
A girl named Lyra Belacqua and her daemon, Pantalaimon, live their lives in Jordan College in Oxford, England. They unknowningly find out about Dust from a presentation by Lyra’s feared uncle, Lord Asriel. From the Master of Jordan, Lyra acquires the alethiometer (aka the golden compass), which is a truth-telling device. Soon after, children start vanishing and Lyra’s best friend Roger is among them. A woman named Marisa Coulter comes to claim Lyra and takes her and Pan away to London. Lyra and Pan find out that the kidnapped children are up in the North, where “the Gobblers” are cutting away the children’s daemons (so they won’t grow up and have the “Dust” settle on their heads).
Lyra and Pan run away and join the Gyptians, who are also looking for the lost children. There, Lyra finds out that her father was Lord Asriel and Mrs. Coulter was her mother. Lyra gains many allies such as Iorek Byrinson (an armored bear who protects Lyra after she helps him take back his throne from a rival), Lee Scoresby the aeronaut, John Faa and Farder Coram (the leaders of the Gyptian people), and the witch Serafina Pekkala. Together, they find and rescue the children, defeat the Gobblers, and destroy the research station.
Lyra and Roger reunite, and they make their way to Svalbard, where Lord Asriel is. Lyra then finds out that he plans to make a bridge to another world. He cuts Roger away from his daemon and Roger ends up dying. Mrs. Coulter finds them and Asriel spells out his plans to destroy the “Authority (God)” and end the Magisterium, which has been controlling their world. All Mrs. Coulter wants to do is destroy the “Dust” (and the Original Sin). Asriel, Lyra, and Pan all walk across the bridge and head to another world, each on their separate ways, but on a mission to find the source of Dust.
My review: Looking at it from a literary view, I think the whole thing almost plays like “Lord of the Rings“, except it’s more dangerous and has a very more-than-mortal battle attached. I did like the story though, even if I knew that it was only 1 of 3 books in the trilogy even if the movie appeared to be a bit easier for me to follow.
My recommendations: I do encourage everyone to read this book because it will lead to many interesting discussions about the need to have souls and to understand the world around us.
My rating: ****
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- The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman – review (guardian.co.uk)
- Review: The Golden Compass (Northern Lights) by Philip Pullman (roofbeamreader.net)
- Myth Busting and Myth Building in Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials (emilyjanuary.wordpress.com)
- Censorship in His Dark Materials (thepilgrimx.com)
- The 10 best closing lines of books (procrastin8or.wordpress.com)
- Young Adult Fiction: My top 13 picks for Sci Fi and Fantasy (paperballpotluck.wordpress.com)
- Audio Book Review: The Golden Compass/Northern Lights by Philip Pullman (moonlightlibrary.wordpress.com)
- His Dark Materials ~ Author Philip Pullman (ascendingstarseed.wordpress.com)
- His Grimm Materials: A Conversation With Philip Pullman (motherjones.com)