Series: His Dark Materials #1
Published by Alfred A. Knopf on 1996 April 16
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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 alethiometer. 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.
Yay! I have never expected that I’ll finish this book. And never did I expect that I’d even be writing a review. Okay, okay. Early last year, I bought the whole series in one purchase since I’ve heard a lot of great reviews about it and you know me, I’m a sucker for books under the fantasy genre. 😀 However, after reading the first pages of book 1, I’ve already lost the steam power to keep on going. The story seemed farfetched that I left it lying in my drawer for more than a year.
But this year, the book fairy enlightened my mind and encouraged me to read the book again. This time though, I was prepared and endured the whole book. So what do you think was my final verdict for this?
I was so thankful that I have endured reading the Golden Compass because if I hadn’t, I wouldn’t have known that this was such a superb piece of creation. Surprise, surprise. For the first pages, things are a bit confusing with all the talk of daemons, Dust, Aurora and other weird words that if you’re not patient enough, you’ll just lose it. But Philip’s done a good job in narrating the story that along the way, everything just fell into pieces wonderfully. By the middle part, I felt that I’m already one of the gyptians going with Lyra to the North.
There are a lot of things that I love about the book. I love the idea of the steampunk and how it basically controls the whole plot of The Golden Compass. I love the characters especially Lyra, Farder Coram, Lord Faa, Lee Scoresby, Serafina and most of all, Iorek Byrnison. Lyra’s tough, wild and an occasional liar yet loyal, compassionate and brave… a heroine through and through. While Lord Faa and Farder Coram gave me impressions of security and leadership. And then, there’s Iorek Byrnison…OMG, he is the Zeus of all bears (as in literally) with his dangerous aura, muscle prowess and rogue ways. Who would have ever thought that a gigantic of a bear is something to admire? But yes, he is. Take my word for it. Philip Pullman’s characters are so well developed that they’re mirrors of parts of our personalities.
The Golden Compass also creates a very vivid setting for the story, not too farfetched (though I thought of the contrary a year ago) but totally different. The plot was even more riveting: it talks about death, the good and evil, the beginning of sin, the abuse of children which actually disturbed me and most of all, its daredevil move to drag show the Church in another light was simply fascinating. There were heart-wrenching scenes that I found my inner self shouting for the villain’s condemnation in hell. There were also parts of the book that would make your adrenaline pump with suspense as the heroine tries to outlast the villains.
However, I have a few regrets with this book. One is that Lyra doesn’t seem to suffer from being abandoned by her parents. I didn’t feel that she grieved for the years being parentless. I mean it’s kind of weird since Lyra was able to display deep emotional attachment for people she cared about. I was just hoping that there should have been a bit of drama about it. And the second thing is that at the end of the book, the important characters were suddenly left out without giving the readers an inkling of what happened to them. Lyra did not even think about them that much.
On an overall note, this book is a delightful portal for those who wanted to explore different worlds in one package. Read it now!