Books

The Book of Dust Volume One, La Belle Sauvage by Philip Pullman

It’s been awhile since I felt so warm about a novel. Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy is one of my favourite series and I have fond memories of reading it. The novels alongside the Harry Potter ones were seminal in my reading life as a young adult.

It’s been such a long time since I’ve read a Pullman novel and I did have complicated feelings after The Amber Spyglass, but I have always loved Lyra and Lyra’s World. Pullman has this ability to write about danger and adventure, but his characters are so human, kind, brave, and real. They feel like people you know or want to know. He has adventurers, explorers, beautiful villains, rough heroes, academics, nuns, bears, witches, and so much more.

I went into this novel with little knowledge about the premise, but I had to read it of course. At first, I was a bit sad that it was a prequel but I soon adored Malcolm and his daemon Asta as I did Lyra, Pan, and Will. This book reminded me about how wonderful it was to read The Golden Compass almost twenty years ago.

This book in particular is set before all the drama of the first trilogy so there is a sense of danger to happen early in the books, but there is a lot of coziness. The first half deals heavily with Malcolm’s life and the intrigue of Lyra’s World. Malcolm’s life in Oxford is full of chores, small adventures, and a sprinkling of food. At times, especially with Dr Hannah, the book was more akin to a spy novel than the others before it. I liked the addition of Dr Hannah too; Pullman has always done well with his female characters. I also enjoyed the growth and insight to working girl Alice.

A little quibbles about the book. Once the action gets underway in the last half and third of the book, it does get a bit long. There is one particular creepy and mad villain who keeps coming back and back. There was some odd interludes, but that’s be expected.

Overall, I gave this book five stars and firmly believe this universe is superior to Narnia. I read Narnia before these books and did love them, but these are better classics in almost every way. I also personally love this universe more than Tolkien’s as well which I know is sacrilege, but I was never a big Tolkien fan.

I read this book in one evening and stayed up as well because I had to return it the next day. However, I loved it so much that I do want to reread it. I will buy the hard cover and furthermore, I have decided to buy Everyman’s omnibus of His Dark Materials. I have the trilogy on paperback but it was the edited American edition someone gave me many years ago. I’d like a beautiful hardcover edition to pass on it and reread some of it in advance of the second volume of The Book of Dust. The next one is suppose to feature Lyra and will be a sequel which is something I’ve wanted for years.

Read February 5, 2018.

2 Comments

  • jessicabookworm

    Argh! Better than Narnia…not a big fan of Tolkien?! *Covers ears and says ‘la la la la’ loudly!*
    However I am pleased to hear you enjoyed this – I have just finished a super comforting re-read of His Dark Materials and look forward to reading this soon.

    • athena

      As I said, I know it’s sacrilege. I loved the Hobbit, but LOTR is good, but it didn’t capture me the way Narnia or HDM did. Narnia will always have a special place in my heart but I did have issue with the later books. I really can’t wait to get a new copy and do a reread as well. Thanks, Jessica!

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