Book Cover
Title The Golden Compass
Author Philip Pullman
Cover Art ---
Publisher DelRey - 1997
First Printing Scholastic Children's Books - 1995 (original title - Northern Lights)
Book Cover
Title The Subtle Knife
Author Philip Pullman
Cover Art Eric Peterson
Publisher DelRey - 1998
First Printing Scholastic Children's Books - 1997
Book Cover

Book Cover

Title The Amber Spyglass
Author Philip Pullman
Cover Art Steven Rawlings

DelRey - 2001

Cover Art Cliff Nielson

Laurel-Leaf - 2007

First Printing --- - 2000
Book Cover
Title His Dark Materials (Omnibus)
Author Philip Pullman
Cover Art Douglas Mullen
Publisher Random House - 2007
First Printing ---
Book Cover
Title Lyra's Oxford
Author Philip Pullman
Cover Art John Lawrence
Publisher Random House - 2003
First Printing Random House - 2003
Book Cover
Title Once Upon a Time in the North
Author Philip Pullman
Cover Art John Lawrence
Publisher Random House - 2008
First Printing Random House - 2008
Category General
Warnings None
Main Characters Lyra Belacqua, Pantalaimon, Will Parry, Lord Asriel, Mrs. Coulter, Iorek Byrnison, Lee Scoresby, Serafina Pekkala, Dr. Mary Malone
Main Elements Angels, witches, anthropormorphism, alternate dimensions

Click to read the summaryThe Golden Compass

Click to read the summaryThe Subtle Knife

Click to read the summaryThe Amber Spyglass

Click to read the summaryLyra's Oxford

Click to read the summaryOnce Upon a Time in the North

Click to read the summaryHis Dark Materials - Omnibus Edition

My cousin gave me the first two books in 1998. I know this because she wrote it inside the cover. Shortly after that I went out and bought the third. But I didn't get around to reading them till I heard the movie was coming out in 2007. I don't know what I was waiting for, but it was certainly worth the wait!

Pullman wrote a complex story revolving first around Lyra, and then both her and Will. They both have great destinies to fullfil, but it was imperative that, Lyra especially, did not know what her destiny should be. She must succeed in her quest, without knowing what exactly her quest was.

The book was filled with an odd assortment of characters in an alternate universe, where Oxford exists but it's not quite as we know it. It is ruled by the Magisterium, a sort of religious-political power in which heresy against the Authority was a crime. A world where people's souls are given form in a daemon, an animal companion linked to their human from birth and vanish upon their death. By the end of the book you end up wishing for a daemon of your own, and wondering what form it would take...a bird? A cat? Most people had smaller animals, but there didn't seem to be any rule that your daemon couldn't be an elephant. Though that would be awkward if your daemon could fit inside buildings, since it meant death if the distance between you and your daemon became too great.

And that is just Lyra's world. There are stranger ones than that. Even ours could appear a little weird when viewed through another's eyes.

The series was filled with a host of engaging characters. From the intelligent armoured bears in Lyra's North, to the Mulefa encountered by Dr. Malone. Pullman did a good job of making interesting characters, in particular I found Mrs. Coulter fascinating. I have to admit I was never sure when she was being truly sincere, or lying through her teeth. And her golden monkey was simply evil *shudder*.

But most of all, the language itself was a pleasure to read. I couldn't tell you exactly what it was about his choice of words, but I enjoyed reading not just for the plot, but for the sake of the way it was written. I found it forced me to slow down, to drink in the words and take pleasure in them. However, whenever there was a battle scene, things started happening so fast that I found myself reading faster as well, swept up in the events.

I guess one cannot ignore the controversy surrounding these books, though personally I believe one should read everything and come to one's own conclusion. For the ultimate goal of many of the characters in these books is to bring down the Authority, which in our world we know as God. He is neither divine nor a deity in these novels, and angels aren't what we think they are either. The first book doesn't get into this much, the Magisterium exists, but since Lyra doesn't care about it, we don't learn much. The second book gives us a peek into where things are going, but the third really turns things on their head.

People could write theses on these books, I'm sure. A lot of interesting questions arise, such as why are we sentient, where did our conciousness come from? What is the nature of our soul? What is Dark Matter? Yes indeed, there are scientific questions in these books too, not just theological ones. I actually had difficulty deciding if this was fantasy (which I view as being "magical") or science fiction (which this one tended towards, finding more scientific answers to the above questions). But the witches had magic too.

I could go on forever, but the more I talk the more likely I'll give things away, and I don't want to do that. I want you to go out and be engrossed in these novels as I was. I highly recommend this to both older children and adults alike.

February 2008

I just read Lyra's Oxford. A short-story that takes places after the events in the trilogy. It was interesting to see a brief snippet of time in Lyra's life as she is now older and more mature. And I've always been partial to stories that weren't "end of the world" plotlines, sometimes you just want a little story, about a brief period of time, just a couple of characters, and no major heroics required. Included in the book was a pull-out section containing a map of Lyra's version of Oxford, and a few other random bits of information. Those kinds of things that might get blown in the wind from one world into the next, and then later discovered in ours. An ad for a cruise ship, a postcard. Things that might have something to do with the story, or things that might just be random bits of paper. I liked it.

June 2008

Once Upon a Time in the North is another wonderful addition to the world of daemons and armoured bears. I always felt Scoresby never got enough "screen time" in the trilogy so I really enjoyed this little prequel. I found it a little over the top at times, but it was fun to meet familiar faces in their youth. And you get to find out a little secret about Hester that even she wasn't aware of. Plus you get to enjoy her sarcastic comments in her strong Texan accent, she should talk more :-)

Posted: December 2007


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