The Northern Lights (His Dark Materials #1).
By Philip Pullman.
Age range: 9+ years (though I would say 12+)
Rating: 2.5 /5
“Without this child, we shall all die.” Lyra Belacqua and her animal daemon live half-wild and carefree among scholars of Jordan College, Oxford. The destiny that awaits her will take her to the frozen lands of the Arctic, where witch-clans reign and ice-bears fight. Her extraordinary journey will have immeasurable consequences far beyond her own world…”
A short synopsis:
Far North in a place called Svalbard, Lyra’s father Lord Asriel, is imprisoned and guarded by the fearsome race, the Bears. Lyra’s Mother, Mrs Coulter, is the head of the General Oblation Board aka The Gobblers, a group which kidnaps children to experiment on then and investigate Dust. Mrs Coulter is responsible for Lord Asriel’s imprisonment, with the help of the river-dwelling folk, the Gyptians, Lyra and her daemon Pantalamion intend to rescue her father and the children held captive by the Gobblers.
Nothing goes smoothly for Lyra, she ends up captured and sent to a Gobbler experiment facility where she discovers the dreadful things that are really going on there. Lyra helps the other children to escape after letting lose a vengeful spirit type creature into the facility. After they are rescued by the Bear, Iorek, that Lord Faa and Farder Coram have hired and the rest of the Gyptians, Lyra and Iorek travel to Svalbard to rescue her father.
As the hot-air balloon that they are travelling in crashes, Iorek and Lyra become separated. Lyra is captured by the Bears where she tricks their king into believing that she is Iorek’s daemon. The king is desperate to be human and have a daemon of his own so Lyra tells him that if he kills Iorek in hand-to-hand combat then Lyra will be transferred to him and become his daemon. The King falls for Lyra’s trickery and dies fighting Iorek, who becomes king of the Bears. When Lyra finds her father she realises that all may not be as it seems. Maybe she shouldn’t have rescued him. He’s not who she thought he was.
This book took me an exceptionally long time to read; I couldn’t get into it. I did not like the character of Lyra, she was petulant and annoying. I felt that the series of captures followed by rescues became very predictable and boring. The story itself was disjointed and slow, much of the time I had no idea what was really going on. I kept hoping for it to get better, for the story to pick up and capture my attention but that failed to happen.
As a children’s book I feel that this is a fatal flaw, children’s books should be instantly gripping and capture one’s imagination. The writing style was overly complex and there were many religious connotations that I do not feel a younger reader would comprehend. The use of dialectical speech, whilst true to the characters, made it difficult to read, again I do not think younger readers would appreciate this. For the first book in a critically acclaimed trilogy, I was immensely disappointed. I will not be pursuing the next two books in the trilogy.