It’s not often that a book comes along that you can sit down and read over and over again, and still be as fascinated the 50th time as you were the first. This is one of those books. I stumbled upon this book several years ago when I was looking for books on tape to listen to while I worked on my thesis research. I picked up the abridged version of The Golden Compass in the children’s section, and found that I just couldn’t stop listening. I couldn’t even work on mindless tasks while listening–I was that into the story. So I looked it up on Amazon and found it is part of a trilogy named “His Dark Materials” and there were two more fabulous books to be read! What a happy day! Anyhow, I bought the set and I haven’t looked back.
This is the first book of the trilogy, and introduces the first main character: Lyra. Lyra is a 12 year old girl residing in a parallel universe. She lives in Oxford in Jordan college, raised by the Scholars who study there. During a visit from her powerful and elusive uncle, Lyra disrupts an attempted assassination and gets sucked into a fascinating adventure involving missing children, armored fighting bears, a band of gypsies, and rip in the sky leading to another world. Oh, and did I mention the daemons? In this universe, a person’s soul is embodied in a companion animal that cannot leave the side of its person. The daemon has the ability to change shape while its person is a child, but as the child matures, his daemon takes on its permanent shape, which just happens to be a reflection on the true personality of its person.
This book (and, incidentally, the trilogy) has a very strong theme of religion running through it. The central aspect of the story involves the struggle of the church against new notions, and its attempt to silence other gods. I generally don’t like these types of themes, but Philip Pullman has the ability to craft the religion in such a way that it works beautifully with the story, and the action would suffer without it. I want to write many, many more pages explaining the story, but I really can’t do it justice. Besides, I don’t want to ruin it for anyone who hasn’t read the book yet–it’s that good of a book. This is the fourth time I read the book, and I still found myself just sitting and reading for hours on end (and even busting through deadlines and missing dates because of it. How sad am I? It’s such a good book!!). I’m currently reading the next book in the trilogy, The Subtle Knife; at least, I’m reading it until my copy of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows shows up this morning, so it may take me a bit longer to finish the trilogy this time around. Stupid Harry Potter!