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The Golden Compass (His Dark Materials) Hardcover – April 16, 1996


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Frequently Bought Together

The Golden Compass (His Dark Materials) + The Subtle Knife (His Dark Materials, Book 2) + The Amber Spyglass (His Dark Materials, Book 3)
Price for all three: $44.72

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 10 and up
  • Grade Level: 5 and up
  • Series: His Dark Materials (Book 1)
  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf; 1st edition (April 16, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679879242
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679879244
  • Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 5.9 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1,639 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #266,463 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Some books improve with age--the age of the reader, that is. Such is certainly the case with Philip Pullman's heroic, at times heart-wrenching novel, The Golden Compass, a story ostensibly for children but one perhaps even better appreciated by adults. The protagonist of this complex fantasy is young Lyra Belacqua, a precocious orphan growing up within the precincts of Oxford University. But it quickly becomes clear that Lyra's Oxford is not precisely like our own--nor is her world. For one thing, people there each have a personal daemon, the manifestation of their soul in animal form. For another, hers is a universe in which science, theology, and magic are closely allied:
As for what experimental theology was, Lyra had no more idea than the urchins. She had formed the notion that it was concerned with magic, with the movements of the stars and planets, with tiny particles of matter, but that was guesswork, really. Probably the stars had daemons just as humans did, and experimental theology involved talking to them.
Not that Lyra spends much time worrying about it; what she likes best is "clambering over the College roofs with Roger the kitchen boy who was her particular friend, to spit plum stones on the heads of passing Scholars or to hoot like owls outside a window where a tutorial was going on, or racing through the narrow streets, or stealing apples from the market, or waging war." But Lyra's carefree existence changes forever when she and her daemon, Pantalaimon, first prevent an assassination attempt against her uncle, the powerful Lord Asriel, and then overhear a secret discussion about a mysterious entity known as Dust. Soon she and Pan are swept up in a dangerous game involving disappearing children, a beautiful woman with a golden monkey daemon, a trip to the far north, and a set of allies ranging from "gyptians" to witches to an armor-clad polar bear.

In The Golden Compass, Philip Pullman has written a masterpiece that transcends genre. It is a children's book that will appeal to adults, a fantasy novel that will charm even the most hardened realist. Best of all, the author doesn't speak down to his audience, nor does he pull his punches; there is genuine terror in this book, and heartbreak, betrayal, and loss. There is also love, loyalty, and an abiding morality that infuses the story but never overwhelms it. This is one of those rare novels that one wishes would never end. Fortunately, its sequel, The Subtle Knife, will help put off that inevitability for a while longer. --Alix Wilber

From Publishers Weekly

If Pullman's imagination dazzled in the Victorian thrillers that culminated with The Tin Princess, in this first volume of a fantasy trilogy it is nothing short of breathtaking. Here Earth is one of only five planets in the solar system, every human has a daemon (the soul embodied as an animal familiar) and, in a time similar to our late 19th century, Oxford scholars and agents of the supreme Calvinist Church are in a race to unleash the power that will enable them to cross the bridge to a parallel universe. The story line has all the hallmarks of a myth: brought up ignorant of her true identity, 11-year-old Lyra goes on a quest from East Anglia to the top of the world in search of her kidnapped playmate Roger and her imprisoned uncle, Lord Asriel. Deceptions and treacheries threaten at every turn, and she is not yet certain how to read the mysterious truth-telling instrument that is her only guide. After escaping from the charming and sinister Mrs. Coulter, she joins a group of "gyptians" in search of their children, who, like Roger, have been spirited away by Mrs. Coulter's henchmen, the Gobblers. Along the way Lyra is guided by friendly witches and attacked by malevolent ones, aided by an armored polar bear and a Texan balloonist, and nearly made a victim of the Gobblers' cruel experiments. As always, Pullman is a master at combining impeccable characterizations and seamless plotting, maintaining a crackling pace to create scene upon scene of almost unbearable tension. This glittering gem will leave readers of all ages eagerly awaiting the next installment of Lyra's adventures. 100,000 first printing; $250,000 ad/promo. Ages 10-up.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

I watched the movie and can't wait to read the next book.
GinKirk
The story, the characters and the ideas are all very original and fascinating, and it's an easy book to get wrapped up in.
John Salerno
Pullman creates a believable world, unlike many ther fantasy writers, and he creates lovely characters that develop.
Bente Videbaek

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

315 of 341 people found the following review helpful By M. J. JACKSON on June 18, 2005
Format: Hardcover
First of all this is really a review of the trilogy and not The Golden Compass on its own - (I prefer the British title Northern Lights and I wonder why it has a different title in North America?).

Its been a long time since I read a book ostensibly for children, possibly the last time was when I was an actual child unless you count a couple of adult re-readings of Tolkien - but I felt I had to read it to know what the fuss was about - both from the ample praise given to these books by critics and also some of the controversy they seem to have provoked - some of which is touched on in these reviews. And yeah I was impressed - I felt genuinely gripped by the plot and went out and bought both sequels right after reading Northern Lights and read them all in a day and its not everyday I do that. Incidentally I don't want to sound like I'm boasting but the last few books I read included Jorge Luis Borges, Albert Camus and Umberto Eco - all fairly grown up, intellectual authors so the previous reviewer's comment that the only people who'd enjoy this are either children or just stupid is just blatantly untrue. There is so much to admire in these works - the creation of Lyra's world with its alternative version of history, the interesting touch of the daemons and the way they represent the characters' natures, the depiction of the frozen north with its Panserborne and witches etc was just fascinating, along with the other parallel worlds visited over the trilogy (though Lyra's is the most fully realised I think) as was the whole underlying framework of Pullman's universe with its blend of theoretical physics, William Blake, Paradise lost, theology etc - you have to salute Pullman's creativity and imagination here.
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66 of 72 people found the following review helpful By BookBuzz on January 22, 2001
Format: Paperback
What's it doing in the Children's Section? Is it simply that children are at the heart of this fable? Be forewarned, this is a rich and complex tale with themes that examine the creation and structure of the universe, good and evil, and the very meaning of life and death. While cloaked in the trappings of an epic odyssey, the language, violence, and themes make this a book most suitable for mature young readers and adults.
"His Dark Materials" is not only "Dust" --the fear of which propels this story -- but it is the dark recesses of human nature. Pullman questions our views of the world, science, religion and ourselves. It is bold enough to make a clear philosophical stand, which the reader, like Lyra, comes to understand over the course of this journey through multiple universes and the inner depths of human spirit.
So why is this book in the Children's Section? Perhaps it's because it requires a mind not set firmly in its ways -- a mind that can jump from idea to idea as quickly as Lyra's daemon can change shapes.
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190 of 222 people found the following review helpful By kyravon on July 22, 2005
Format: Paperback
For anyone else getting confused, apparently for some stupid reason they retitled the book for the US version. (It's not like it's a different language and we wouldn't understand the translation.) I was about to buy this book, thinking it was a continuation of the series that I loved when I realized the plot sounded remarkably familiar.
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396 of 470 people found the following review helpful By V. Arntzen on July 29, 2005
Format: Paperback
After reading Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials one realizes that Harry Potter is training wheels, wonderful, but training wheels nevertheless. Having said that: On the web page for Northern Lights, Amazon states: buy Northern Lights + His Dark Materials for whatever the lower price is. Why don't you clearly state that Northern Lights is the original UK title for The Golden Compass? I thought perhaps there was another volume. You are a good organization. Don't try to snooker us, please.
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414 of 493 people found the following review helpful By L. Feld on December 30, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Whew! I just finished reading all three of Phillip Pullman's "His Dark Materials" books in a little over a week (I couldn't put them down!), and I'm still trying to absorb all of this. My initial reaction: this is going to be an all-time classic, and certainly not just of "young adult" or "fantasy" books (Phillip Pullman himself has stated many times that he can't read "fantasy," because it "doesn't tell [him] anything interesting about being a human being." While it is certainly different than the "Lord of the Rings," it is NOT AT ALL ridiculous to place Pullman's creation in the same pantheon as Tolkien's, which is something I swear I never thought that I would say. Anyway, the bottom line is that this trilogy is an amazing, mind-blowing, fascinating, exciting, heartbreaking, work of transcendent brilliance, and it starts with the story of Lyra, somewhat inaccurately titled, "The Golden Compass" (I guess that sounds better than "The Alethiometer" or "Lyra vs. the Gobblers" or something, but I strongly prefer the British title, "Northern Lights"). Also, the marketing of this book is very strange - if you look at the cover you might think this was some warm, fuzzy children's adventure story about a girl and her pet bear. Not!!! Instead, how about Phillip Pullman's dark take on creation and extended riff on multiple themes raised in John Milton's "Paradise Lost" and the Book of Genesis. The bottom line: if Phillip Pullman is mainly for children, than so are John Milton and the Bible! I don't think so....Read more ›
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