His Dark Materials

Last year, David Fickling Books published The Book of Dust by Philip Pullman. It’s the first in a new series called La Belle Sauvage and it’s a prequel to the His Dark Materials series.

I took one look at it and I thought the cover was beautiful, I had to have it. I hadn’t actually read His Dark Materials and I didn’t want to read the prequel without reading the original. I bought a battered copy of Northern Lights from my local Oxfam book shop but my friend Kate gave me a much nicer copy and I took it as a sign that I was ready to read it.

I read them all in the same manner, in little bits at first then all at once. I stayed up till midnight to finish each book. I’ve not done that for a long while. I haven’t felt that captivated by a story since my first trip to Hogwarts and in my 2017 post I named Northern Lights as my book of the year.

The first two, I thoroughly enjoyed. I found them both hard to put down. I had fallen in love with Lyra’s world and the people within it. I love the idea of having a daemon and I wonder what mine would be. The series was written in the 90’s but it didn’t feel dated. Even in the bits set in our world it felt like it could have been anytime. There was obviously no mention of mobile phones, but I assumed a boy of Will’s age wouldn’t have one. Will was my favourite character.

I liked that my copy of The Subtle Knife had little symbols to tell you which world you were in which were very helpful. I got the very nice 2017 editions designed by Chris Wormell to match The Book of Dust. I only have them in paperback for now, but I’m sure they will soon need replacing from excessive reading.

However, I had a hard time with the third. Maybe it was because I read one bad review on Goodreads or because I was reading the climax of the story close to midnight, so I was tired and didn’t fully comprehend it. At times it was difficult to keep track of things such as all the new worlds and the different gates you had to go through to get to them all. It was difficult at times to understand exactly what Dust was and how it worked in relation to children and adults.

Overall I really loved the series and I’m glad that I left it until now to read it because I can enjoy it more. The worlds and the characters are captivating. The story is full of excitement and left me speechless at times. I do think the whole series, especially The Amber Spyglass, needs another read and hopefully I may understand things a bit more having seen the bigger picture. I can’t wait to read it again and as I put The Amber Spyglass down I was thinking how long I had to leave it until I could re-read it.

As I do with everything, I saw an interesting parallel between this and Harry Potter. They both had a prophecy made about them. Harry was fully aware from book five, what the prophecy was and his place in it, whereas Lyra had little to no idea about her destiny and exactly what she had to do. Everyone else knew, but it was part of it that she mustn’t know what she has to do and that she must do whatever she feels is right. I wonder what Harry had done if he didn’t know that he was The Chosen One?

I’ll be reading The Book of Dust soon. I wanted the dust to settle (get it?) on this series before I pick it up again, just to build up the anticipation. I have to want to go back into that world, but I think I need a break first.

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