Saturday, 7 March 2020


Northern Lights ('His Dark Materials' #1) by Philip Pullman    {Reviewed by STELLA}   
Why is Philip Pullman so good? In anticipation of our children’s book group this Thursday, I’ve recently re-read Northern Lights, the first book in the 'His Dark Materials' trilogy, in part to remember the details and to also untangle pieces of the excellent TV series adaptation which includes parts of Will’s story (you don’t meet Will until book two - The Subtle Knife). Enter Lyra’s world — you won’t want to leave. Lyra lives at Jordan College, Oxford, under the protection of the Masters. She was delivered there as a baby by her uncle, Lord Asriel, with strict instructions to keep her safe. But safe from what? In Lyra’s world the inhabitants have daemons — animal companions — who are tied to them for life, travel in airships, have some advanced forms of technology (similar to our world but known by different names), even while outwardly the society seems more old fashioned; there are armoured bears and ancient witches and a keen interest in science, exploration and power. And power and the desire to control powerful elements lies at the heart of this novel. When Lyra’s friend Roger is kidnapped by Gobblers and disappears, Lyra and Pantalaimon (her daemon) are determined to rescue him. Little does she know that her life at Jordan College is about to change with the entrance of Mrs Coulter. Mrs Coulter — glamorous, intelligent and manipulative — with her golden monkey and her desire to control ‘Dust’, is madly obsessive and righteously evil. She will stop at nothing for what she believes in. She will make you shiver each time she appears on the page. Captivated by Mrs Coulter’s promises and flattery, Lyra is whisked away to London in a private Zeppelin. Realising she has been trapped, she escapes only to be captured by Gobblers and then rescued by the Gyptians. Here starts her journey to the North, one of the most epic and intriguing quests in children’s writing. And this isn’t just a journey to rescue Roger, but also the other children who have disappeared (and are in mortal danger), and a journey of discovery for Lyra. Who is she? Who are her parents? Why was she left at Jordan College and why do the witches have a prophecy about her? The Gyptians, an armoured bear, a Texas aeronaut (he flies a hot air balloon), and the witch clans will all come together not only to help Lyra but to fight for their world and all that is right in it. The world is being disturbed — the Magisterium with Mrs Coulter at its centre are experimenting, as is Lord Asriel — and at its heart is a child, Lyra Belacqua. Northern Lights was so enticing that I have not left Lyra’s side and promptly re-read The Subtle Knife and now The Amber Spyglass. (After this you can read the first two instalments of 'The Book of Dust trilogy' — La Belle Sauvage and The Secret Commonwealth). Mesmerising in their story-telling and layers of meaning, Pullman's trilogies are exceptional.  

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