BOOK REVIEW: The Golden Compass {His Dark Materials Book 1} by Philip Pullman

"The powers of this world are very strong. Men and women are moved by tides much fiercer than you can imagine, and they sweep us all up into the current."

Le sigh...this book took me on a journey. And I don't mean merely the adventure found within its pages; rather, I'm referring to the emotional journey I encountered during my reading. There were times when I took a full week break; others when I questioned whether I would finish it at all; and still others when I could not put it down. Philip Pullman's The Golden Compass gutted me; yet took me awhile to reach that point. In fact, it wasn't until Part Three, and my love for Iorek Byrnison and Serafina Pekkala, coupled with my growing fondness of Lyra, that I finally came to the conclusion that I was, in fact, grossly invested in this tome, and eager to see how it would unfold.

Eleven-year-old Lyra Belacqua seemingly has no one championing her on in life. A parentless orphan with no knowledge of her true family, Lyra has grown up untamed by the scholars at Oxford's Jordan College who ensure that she is fed, clothed, and taught {to the best of their ability}. Her few constants are her Daemon Pantalaimon, aka Pan {more on him later}; her best friend, Roger, the son of a kitchen worker employed at Jordan; and her so-called uncle, Lord Asriel, who appears in her life from time to time to check on her progress. It is during one of these impromptu visits from Lord Asriel that Lyra's adventure is set on course.

While hiding away, Lyra and Pan overhear a conversation between the scholars and Lord Asriel about something called Dust. Dust is directly correlated with the Gobbler appearances that have been sensationalized in the community. Gobblers are evil ones stealing children away from their homes for the purpose of studying Dust {which, FYI, is way more sinister than you would think}. Roger has recently been swept away by Gobblers; therefore, Lyra is determined to rescue him.

Before I continue, let me circle back to the concept of Daemons. Each individual is born with a Daemon by their side - a shape-shifting creature of the opposite sex {e.g., if you're female, your Daemon is male and vice versa} that is, essentially, one's spirit; however, it is presented outside of the body. Once a child reaches puberty, the Daemon settles into one animal form, and lacks the ability to shapeshift. Daemons are close, personal confidantes who speak to, and guide their human host. With that description out of the way, I shall move on.

With Roger on her mind, Lyra is wracked with an interest in leaving the grounds of Jordan College and recovering her one true friend; so when Mrs. Coulter presents herself to the scholars, requesting that Lyra accompany her on a quest of a lifetime, Lyra is more than happy to oblige. Mrs. Coulter is glamorous {draped in furs and beauty}, brilliant, and has an intriguing Daemon in her continual presence: a long-haired Golden Monkey who is every bit as glamorous as she, if not a bit devious and cunning. According to Mrs. Coulter, Lyra will be her assistant, collecting notes and measurements to aid in her studies of Dust.

Before embarking on her quest, however, Lyra is gifted an alethiometer {golden compass} by the Master of Jordan College, with a warning to keep it hidden from Mrs. Coulter, and to look to it for truth. With no further guidance on how, precisely, to read the device; Lyra has an innate ability to do so within, which is how she comes to realize, after a short time, that Mrs. Coulter is working with the Gobblers. Narrowly escaping from her clutches, it is now up to Lyra to recover the missing children from the Gobblers, thereby rescuing them from imminent death - a task she will accomplish only with a band of unlikely allies, including Gyptions, witches, polar bears, and a Texas aeronaut.

I was in the midst of Bible Study the other day and saw mention of Dust multiple times in Ecclesiastes, which immediately transported me back to these pages. This book is brilliant. Though it took me a time to become fully vested in the story, it is one that continually returns to my mind. The characters are unforgettable; the world-building is phenomenal; and the story itself, while a bit out there, is a true masterpiece. I am so glad that I took the time to read this tale; and am excited to delve into the sequel, The Subtle Knife.

Star Rating: ***1/2



ellie said...

Excellent review. Our YA librarian loves this series!

Ivy's Closet said...

Wonderfully presented. I have it on my list. Thanks so much!

Caitlin'nMegan said...

So exciting. Very unique premise and of course, the characters and their guides.

R's Rue said...

Have a beautiful day my friend. Hope you’re well.

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