Oct 4, 2010

The Golden Compass

by Philip Pullman

I actually read The Golden Compass last week, but haven't been on the computer much so didn't get a chance to post until today. I started this series once about ten or so years ago, and didn't quite make it through the last book. More on that later. So for at least the first two, this was a re-read, but I found I had forgotten a lot of it, which made reading it again really enjoyable.

The Golden Compass is set in an alternate universe, where every person's soul is expressed in an animal form that is their constant companion. I loved that. Especially that the children's daemons (so they're called) could change shape, and that the animals would express emotions the person tried to conceal, or things like that. It made the story so much more complex and interesting. Anyway, the main character is a girl named Lyra. She's been raised in a sort of orphan status at an academic college, where she pretty much runs wild, playing with the cook's son and street children. She's fascinated by stories of explorations into Northern regions, and caught up in gossip among the kids when children start mysteriously disappearing. When Lyra finds out that the missing children have been taken to a station in the far North where awful, mysterious experiments are being done to them, she's determined to join an expedition north that will rescue the children and find out what's going on. The Master of the college gives her a magical object that will help guide her, and she finds unlikely but loyal companions along the way- including a talking warrior polar bear.

This was a wonderful story. It's well-written and full of complex characters, imaginative scenes and curious doings. Half the fun is puzzling out what's really going on, as Lyra doesn't see everything clearly. She's quite the strong female lead, determined and brave, stubborn and passionate, also a practiced liar. I really don't see why this book was banned (I just happened to start reading the series during Banned Books Week) although I think the more objectionable (to some people) material comes out in the later books. So far, it seems to be that the Church in this alternate universe is portrayed as a controlling and suspicious entity quick to squash anyone who challenges or questions their precepts. But it really felt like a background theme in the story, not something this reader was really concerned with anyway.

The book was originally published with the title Northern Lights.

Rating: 4/5 ....... 399 pages, 1995

some more opinions:
Hooser's Blook
A Librarian's Life in Books


  1. >>But it really felt like a background theme in the story, not something this reader was really concerned with anyway.

    It's not something that concerns me much either, but I did notice it becoming a much more prominent theme, particularly in the third book - not just the wickedness of the Church (as a human institution), but of God. Which, still, doesn't concern me much - it's fiction! - and I wouldn't have a problem letting a kid read it.

    I need to reread these! It's been way too long!

  2. Anonymous10/04/2010

    This series received so much publicity a while ago, that I was kind of turned off. Maybe my daughter'll read them some day and I'll borrow them from her.

  3. I started this series, but never finished it either. Since it ends so well, I guess I should go back and finish it up.

  4. I loved the whole series and didn't understand the ban but thought it was because of the whole attitude of the books against The Church.

  5. One of my favorite series. You've inspired me to reread all three books.

  6. Philip Pullman is an atheist and I think critics feel this comes out too much in his books. I've still only read the first one, but would someday like to read the rest. I think the original title is better!

  7. I absolutely adore this book!!! I only first read it this year...and still need to read the third one. But this series is a favorite of both my daughter and my husband.

  8. Anonymous10/05/2010

    Must try this series, sounds good.

  9. This is a wonderful series. I read it a few years ago but I keep seeing it on my shelf and I want to pick it up again.

  10. Nice reviews! I've always wanted to revisit this series myself. I wasn't wowed by my first read, but I feel I must have missed something as so many friends rave about these books!


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