on November 19, 2003
This short story (only 64 pages) shows Lyra a couple of years older than at the end of the His Dark Materials trilogy, and a couple of years more mature. Her daemon has (as it did in "Amber Spyglass) settled on a form, she's at an Oxford school for girls, and Will seems more a source of inspiration than sadness. The story begins (I won't give away very much) when a witch's daemon arrives and demands help finding a person unknown to Lyra . . .
Well written, and well done within its boundaries. The "artifacts" (a map, a postcard from Mary Malone (showing, incidently, Oxford sites some of which are significant in Pullman's works), a cruise brochure) are interesting, and contain some inside jokes, such as adverts for books written by characters we met or heard of in the trilogy. The map is of course most useful in tracing Lyra's footsteps across Oxford in this short story.
I am a little preturbed (and withhold a fifth star) about the fact that such a short story bears a rather high price. At about fifteen cents a page, it is only worth it because of the quality of Pullman's works. And if the other artifacts (there's an annotation on the cruise brochure which might be significant) play a part in "The Dust" (the forthcoming, longer book), I really, really hope that the artifacts are republished with that book.
Recommended. But you might want to think about sitting down in Barnes and Noble or Chapters and spending an hour reading this one, rather than buying it.
on December 3, 2003
Considering how good Philip Pullman's "His Dark Materials" trilogy was, and considering how much I loved those books, I had high expectations for anything that would be published as part of that universe. I was excited to find out that Pullman was publishing a little story featuring Lyra. The book weighed in at about 60 pages, so I knew it wasn't going to be epic, but the expectations were there.
I was disappointed. The story is that Lyra is back at Oxford several years after the events of His Dark Materials. She, and her daemon, see a daemon bird flying in being chased by a huge flock of birds. She rescues the daemon who tells Lyra that she needs to help the daemon find a professor, one who can help the daemon's witch. It is a very short story, and while there is a wee sense of adventure, this slim volume has none of the charm and wonder of His Dark Materials. Other than our familiarity with Lyra, we are given no reason to care about anything that happens.
This book feels like a teaser. In the introduction, Pullman writes that the extras (there is a map, a post card and sundry extra information besides the story) may be from a different world, may be from stories already told, and may even be for a story yet to be told. He is teasing us with a larger story, a grander tale than Lyra's Oxford. It raises my expectations that Pullman will deliver a story large in scope, reminiscent of His Dark Materials. But, even that hint of something to come only deepens my disappointment with this book. Simply put, there is nothing there. As a story, it is weak. As an continuation of His Dark Materials, it does not live up to the past greatness. All this book does is serve to remind me how good the main series is, and how much I would love to see a new series. Skip this book.
on October 30, 2003
Three kinds of people will enjoy this book. First, those who after the three-course feast of HDM are anxious for any crumbs (or should one say coffee & liqueurs) that Pullman has to offer. They will find a precious glimpse of Lyra and Pan at 14, and feel encouraged that their story is far from over.
Second, the book will delight anyone who knows, loves, or has visited Oxford. With its absence of cars and urban sprawl, Lyra's city has much to recommend it over ours. It is what the imaginative may still sense on a Sunday morning in the Botanic Garden.
Third, the book will charm the bibliophile and connoisseur of literary curiosities. Beside the story, there are wonderful pages from a Baedeker's Guide, and advertisements in the quaint style of Lyra's world. The wood engravings by John Lawrence are in the best early 20th-century tradition. He and Pullman must have had fun putting this together.
on March 28, 2005
I have read Philip Pullman's HDM trilogy, and they are the most gorgeous books I have ever come across. Lyra's oxford I love too, but for a whole different reason. It's not so much the story I cherish, but the actual book. I brought it to school with me for the first day of high school, clutching it protectively to me. It was like having every single page of HDM with me. And that was the most enormous comfort I could ever ask for. Even though I'm not superstitious in the least, I must say, it's grown to be my talisman. I refuse to sleep without it in my room.
on November 16, 2003
As much as I knew from my obsessive searching on the internet that this would be a short story, I was initially disappointed in the actual size and length of Lyra's Oxford.
First, the story:
I enjoyed this short story about one incident in Lyra's life. I have been curious to see how Lyra adjusts to life after the BIG EVENT at the end of the first trilogy. It was nice to have a little story instead of an entire novel in which to do this. My burning question was how Lyra adjusted to the loss of her relationship with Will and it was answered quietly and succinctly in just a few sentences. Will is only mentioned a few times in this short story, which is perhaps as it should be. How would Lyra get any work done or really live at all if he was more often foremost in her thoughts?
I know from some of the things I've read elsewhere that the materials in this piece of work are supposed to connect to others to be published later on. I am eager to see how they do connect. We now have artifacts such as a map of Oxford and a postcard from Mary Malone to add to this new installment in Lyra's life, in a way that reminded me a bit of Nick Bantok's Griffin and Sabine series. If you are going to put out short little books with interconnected clues, however, they need to have publishing dates close together. I gave up on the Griffin and Sabine books when too much time between them made me loose momentum. I doubt this would happen with Pullman's work as I am more dedicated as a fan to this material, but I could see too little published too far apart turning off potential new fans.
on August 26, 2005
Well yes, this book may be expensive, but if you are a fan of the series, I would reccommend it to you.
The story, 'Lyra and the Birds', is quite short and will only take about 15 minutes to read, but it is the curious little extras that will grab your attention if you are familiar with the books.
There are clues leading to the next book in the series, The Book Of Dust, such as a strange postcard from Dr Mary Malone.
I do advise, though, that you read this book VERY carefully, otherwise you will miss the clues I was talking about.
For example, look at the dates on the SS. Zenobia schedule.
You may notice something odd about the dates for Famagusta and Latakia. But that's all I'll say!
All in all, quite a good book, and worth the price if you use it properly. Happy Reading!
on July 30, 2004
"Lyras Oxford" is not what I had expected from Philip Pullman, one of the main reasons being it's length. The book is only about fifty pages long, which gives you no chance to become reaquainted with Lyra and Pan and actually care too much about what is going to happen next. This book has a lot of potential, but compared to the other works of Philip Pullman, it definately didn't reach it.
Lyra never really seems to have any of that fiesty personality that was uniquely hers in the other "His Dark Materials" books, she seems like any other young teenager. However the reason for that may be because[SPOILER for people who have not finished the Amber Spyglass] of the great loss that happend when she had to leave Will and know that she would never see him again. I can imagine that that would have an effect on her personality and outlook on life, perhaps making her loose some of that fiestiness that pulled readers in in the first place. Whatever the case, this book never really gives you a chance to find out. It does, however, have the atmosphere of a teaser for more books with Lyra and Pan. Dare we fans hope for anymore books to join the Dark Materials saga?
on October 30, 2003
I don't know...I would say that I am one of the number 1 fans of philip Pullman's "His Dark Materials"...I have read all three books 5 times each and listened to them twice...They are amazing. Maybe I was just expecting another Golden Compass out of this short story about Lyra and The Birds. I expected vivid details, to be able to see what was happening. Maybe It is really hard to get that in a short story, or maybe Pullman is just not a short story writer...but either way, this story is disappointing. It is boring and has no detail. Lyra and Pan just seem like boring charecters and don't react to things the same as they used to...(maybe that is due to the time between TAS and this story) I don't know if Pullman just lost his passion, or if maybe when The Book of Dust comes out, it will all make sense and I will be relieved...but either way, I wish it could have been better
NOW don't get me wrong...I still absolutely Love HIS DARK MATERIALS and Philip Pullman...but it just wasn't what I was hoping for.
First of all, if you have not read Philip Pullman's "His Dark Materials" trilogy, then don't attempt to read this story, as you'll be utterly baffled. But if you have, you'll be treated with another glimpse into the parallel Oxford that Pullman so vividly created and explored in "Northern Lights/The Golden Compass".
The book itself is beautifully presented, bound in cloth and filled with engravings of the city by John Lawrence, a style of art that perfectly matches Pullman's atmosphere of a gritty, turn-of-the-century English city. Included in the book is a quote from an Oxford guide, an introduction, the short story itself intitled "Lyra and the Birds", a map of Oxford, and then a collection of bits and pieces that may or may not mean anything: a page from a directory, a postcard from Mary Malone, and a pamphlet and timetable from a cruise ship.
The story itself is set mainly at Jordan College, two years after the events that transpired in the trilogy. Lyra is on the roof of the college when she and Pantalaimon spot a witch's daemon being attacked in the sky by a flock of starlings. Coming to its rescue, the daemon (named Ragi) claims it has come seeking her help. Its witch is very ill and only the gold elixir of the alchemist Sebastian Makepeace can help. Lyra promises to help, but there may be more going on here that she's aware of...
The story is short and sweet, with several familiar names and faces popping up, and concerning the theme of "meaning" that Pullman explores throughout the book. But primarily, Pullman seems happy in extending and exploring his marvellous Oxford - describing the streets, the architecture, the *feel* of the place, and I had no complaints in this regard. Pullman's Oxford is one of the most detailed and interesting created worlds in literature.
Pullman tells us in his introduction that all the things included in the book "might have come from anywhere. They might have come from other worlds" and that "all these tattered bits and pieces have a history and a meaning." That is the reader's challenge when they explore this small volume - to watch out for clues and connections within the words that may point to other subjects Pullman has touched on before.
For instance, we are told that Mary Malone's postcard was written before her involvement in the apocalyptic battle of the trilogy - and therefore the presence of the hornbeam trees on her postcard would mean nothing to her. But do they ring a bell with you...? Likewise, on a list of reading material found on the back of the map "Marisa Coulter" appears as an author, and make sure you read the page from the directory carefully - it has mention of another alchemist in it, and another strange occurrence involving him, a witch and the birds of the city...
Does all this point to more books concerning Lyra? I'm not sure. At times I thought for sure that he was hinting at something bigger to come, whilst other times I believed that the book existed simply for its own purposes. I guess only time will tell.
on November 12, 2003
I love HDM to itty bits, and I was thrilled with the story 'Lyra and The Birds'. It's a fantastic story, a little picture of Lyra's life, encompassing an idea very much connected with the trilogy, and raising about a dozen questions to add to the hordes we already have.
There were some things I disliked about The Amber Spyglass which were improved in this story. For instance, I got annoyed with how much Lyra admired Will all the time, and I felt it was more balanced here: in her most frightened moment, the memory of Will helps her to be strong, but she doesn't harp on about him.
The reason I gave three stars has nothing to do with the story, but the package it came in. It was very dissapointing. The main feature - the map - was nice, but a little lacking. Half the important points of the story are indicated with arrows pointing outside the map. The adverts were sort of pointless - they didn't say anything about Lyra's world; they could have come from a point in THIS world's history, and they lacked imagination. Apart from that, you didn't get much for your money. Couldn't all this have waited until The Book of Dust? Was it all just a cynical publisher's cash-in?