The Golden Compass / Northern Lights by Philip Pullman
Published by: Scholastic Point, July 1995
Serie: His Dark Materials #1
Status: Read on December 6th, 2015
Here lives an orphaned ward named Lyra Belacqua, whose carefree life among the scholars at Oxford’s Jordan College is shattered by the arrival of two powerful visitors. First, her fearsome uncle, Lord Asriel, appears with evidence of mystery and danger in the far North, including photographs of a mysterious celestial phenomenon called Dust and the dim outline of a city suspended in the Aurora Borealis that he suspects is part of an alternate universe. He leaves Lyra in the care of Mrs. Coulter, an enigmatic scholar and explorer who offers to give Lyra the attention her uncle has long refused her. In this multilayered narrative, however, nothing is as it seems. Lyra sets out for the top of the world in search of her kidnapped playmate, Roger, bearing a rare truth-telling instrument, the so-called ‘compass’ of the title. All around her children are disappearing—victims of so-called “Gobblers”—and being used as subjects in terrible experiments that separate humans from their daemons, creatures that reflect each person’s inner being. And somehow, both Lord Asriel and Mrs. Coulter are involved.
I read this books in the hope of finishing my book challenge, since this book is written in my birth year and has a color in the title an I’m glad I did!
” ‘That’s the duty of the old,’ said the Librarian, ‘to be anxious on the behalf of the young. And the duty of the young is to scorn the anxiety of the old.’
They sat for a while longer, and then parted, for it was late, and they were old and anxious. “
I personally don’t think the summary does the book justice, but I think a summary almost never does.
What I liked about the book is that it is relatively fast-paced. You learn the world of this novel in the first few pages, which makes it easy to understand. I like the fantasy genre, but some other books just seem too slow-paced for me. And I have to admit that the fact that English is not my first language does not help with understanding the fancy language some writers like to use… The build-in dictionary on my eReader actually was frequently used while reading this book!
So this book has all the classic elements of fantasy: magic, mythical creatures and supernatural phenomena, while being easily readable without feeling like you’re reading a book for 10-year olds.
” We feel cold, but we don’t mind it, because we will not come to harm. And if we wrapped up against the cold, we wouldn’t feel other things, like the bright tingle of the stars, or the music of the aurora, or best of all the silky feeling of moonlight on our skin. It’s worth being cold for that. ”
– Serafina Pekkala [about the witches]
I read that this book is supposed to be a children’s book, but I think you’d enjoy it more as an adult/teen. I feel like you wouldn’t get any of the extra meaning if you’re a child, while I feel like this extra meaning is what distinguishes this book from any other children’s book. This because this book is not only about Lyra and her story, but also about religion.
” Human beings can’t see anything without wanting to destroy it. ”
– Lord Asriel
This book also has a ton of nice quotes I saved: It is very nicely written. I especially loved the characters Iorek Byrnison (who is always referenced to by his full name) and Serafina Pekkala, but weirdly enough there were no characters that I thoroughly disliked.
” Lonely? I don’t know. They tell me this is cold. I don’t know what cold is, because I don’t freeze. So I don’t know what lonely means either. Bears are made to be solitary. ”
– Iorek Byrnison
1 thought on “Book Review: The Golden Compass”
This is one of my favourite books. Absolutely love the whole series, and the series was one of the best books I had read in a while.
However, being from Oxford really helps, as it mentions a lot of places we think of as home 🙂
If you’re ever around, you can do a book tour of sorts (though Oxford is way better at Harry Potter tours).