Saturday, September 23, 2006

[Book Review] HIS DARK MATERIALS by Philip Pullman

Fiction/ Genre: Fantasy

Barbara Wallace reviews HIS DARK MATERIALS, a trilogy by Philip Pullman.


In this first book of the trilogy, meet Lyra Belacqua and her daemon companion Pantalaimon. The world that they inhabit is much like our own...with some fascinating differences. In Lyra's world, for example, every child is born paired for life with an animal companion called a daemon. When a child reaches puberty, her daemon loses its ability to shape-shift and takes a permanent animal form. As an old sailor said once to Lyra, "There's plenty of folk as'd like to have a lion as a daemon and they end up with a poodle."

In the opening scene of the book, Lyra and Pan hide in a cupboard at a "men only" conference to eavesdrop on mysterious news brought by Lyra's uncle, Lord Asriel. He describes an expanding tear in the northern skies through which a mysterious substance called Dust is pouring. He also brings news of a partially visible city suspended in the northern lights which he believes is evidence of an alternate universe. Rumors abound concerning child stealers called Gobblers and strange experiments in the North to surgically sever children from the companion daemons.

When Lyra's best friend disappears, she joins a group of gyptians (wandering boat dwellers) bound for the North to rescue their disappeared children. Read this page-turner to find out how Lyra comes into possession of the golden compass, a rare magical device that allows her to read the future and help solve the mysteries of the North.

THE SUBTLE KNIFE (Knopf, 1997):

In Book II of the trilogy, Lyra and Pan meet 12-year-old Will Parry, a boy from our own world, as they all wander through yet another universe called Cittagazze. This world is populated only by children because all adults have been destroyed by the soul-eating Spectors. When children from this world reach puberty, they begin to attract the mysterious Dust and thus the attention of the devouring Spectors. As Lyra and Will move in and out of worlds searching for answers about the nature of Dust and other mysteries, they gain possession of the subtle knife, an instrument that can cut through anything, even into parallel universes.


In the final episode of His Dark Materials, Lyra, Will and the forces of the Republic of Heaven confront the forces of the Kingdom of Heaven (the "Authority") in brutal battle to control all the universes. As the final battle rages, Lyra and Will must walk through the land of the dead and personally witness the impact of the cuts of the subtle knife. The invention of the amber spyglass finally makes Dust visible to humans and answers many questions, including some that concern Lyra and Will's parents.

Barbara Wallace, Randolph Branch Library

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