October 08, 2011

The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman

The first book in the Dark Materials trilogy, The Golden Compass is a very good beginning. It is engaging, has controversy, and is a nice fantasy based novel that is easy to lose yourself in.

Lyra is a girl who has been living at Oxford college all her life in the care of the scholars there. When she is whisked away by a beautiful woman named Ms. Coulter, she thinks she is lucky and perhaps even taking a trip to the North for exploration. However, when she learns that Ms. Coulter is involved with the Gobblers (people who have been stealing children) she plans her escape and then heads North with a group of Gyptians (river people). Her main goal is to rescue Roger, a friend of hers who was taken by the Gobblers and she has the help of a mysterious object known as the Alethiometer, which always tells the truth about things. She also has Pantalaimon, her daemon (all people have companion daemons who can change shape until puberty), an armored bear named Iorek Byrnison, and witches who will help her along in her journey. She has great enemies as well though and she is a part of some bigger plot than she can ever imagine.

Lyra is quite the character. Although a brat she is very likable and you can feel yourself rooting for her in the entire series. I also enjoyed the characters or Iorek and the aeronaut as they prove to be good friends to her as well. Even the bad guys in this novel are written well. They believe they are doing the right thing and have that touch of humanity that makes them not completely evil, just misguided.

The writing, since it is aimed at Children, is not overly complicated but could have parts that are not understandable for younger audiences. Touching on that, there is a bit of controversy surrounding this novel, but my thoughts are that children who read this are either going to be too young to understand the message, or old enough that if it makes them think they were probably questioning things anyway. The thoughts expressed should not deter anyone from reading this book, just like the fact a book is labeled Christian or Buddhist fiction should not deter anyone from experiencing what could be a good story. The only flaws I find with the writing is that its hard to keep a consistent timeline as time passes in different spurts that are not always recognizable. There are also a lot of characters and while you can ascertain who's who, it does take some concentration some times.

I really enjoy the series as a great piece of fantasy. This book starts off a wonderful imaginative story and I look forward to heading on to the Subtle Knife next.

The Golden Compass
Copyright 1995
351 pages

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