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The Golden Compass: His Dark Materials Paperback – May 22, 2001
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“Extraordinary storytelling at its very best.” —The Detroit Free Press
“Superb . . . all-stops-out thrilling.” —The Washington Post
"Very grand indeed." —The New York Times
"Powerful […] a fantasy adventure that sparkles with childlike wonder." —The Boston Sunday Globe
"Marvelous […] the writing is elegant and challenging." —The New Yorker
"Arguably the best juvenile fantasy novel of the past twenty years […] If [The Subtle Knife] is as good as The Golden Compass, we'll be two thirds of the way to the completion of a modern fantasy classic."
—The Washington Post Book World
“Pullman is quite possibly a genius…using the lineaments of fantasy to tell the truth about the universal experience of growing up.” —Newsweek
"Masterful storytelling […] with a cast of instantly beguiling characters." —The Dallas Morning News
“The most magnificent fantasy series since Lord of the Rings.” —The Oregonian
“Pullman has created the last great fantasy masterpiece of the twentieth century. An astounding achievement.” —The Cincinnati Enquirer
"Once in a lifetime a children's author emerges who is so extraordinary that the imagination of generations is altered. Lewis Carroll, E. Nesbit, C.S. Lewis, and Tolkien were all of this cast. So, too, is Philip Pullman, whose Dark Materials trilogy will be devoured by anyone between eight and eighty. The most ambitious work since The Lord of the Rings, it is as intellectually thrilling as it is magnificently written." — New Statesman
"Thrillingly paced and exotic […] breathtaking." — Columbus Dispatch
“[…] a rare few have minds capacious enough to engage in vast cosmos-making, imagining realms and inventing universes. I am thinking of Dante and Milton and Blake. We may now add Philip Pullman.”
—Parents Choice (online)
"The Golden Compass is one of the best fantasy/adventure stories that I have read in years. This is a book no one should miss." —Terry Brooks, author of The Sword of Shannara
"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."
—Publishers Weekly, Starred Review
“This first fantastic installment of the His Dark Materials trilogy propels readers along with horror and high adventure, a shattering tale that begins with a promise and delivers an entire universe.” – Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review
"This first fantastic installment propels readers along with horror and high adventure […] A shattering tale that begins with a promise and delivers an entire universe." —Kirkus Reviews, Starred
“The characters of Lord Asriel, Mrs. Coutler, and Iorek Byrnison and the cold and beautiful Northern setting are captivating; the constantly twisting plot and escalating suspense are riveting; and Lyra and Pantalaimon are among the gutsiest and wiliest of adventurers. Touching, exciting, and mysterious by turns, this is a splendid work.” —The Horn Book Magazine, Starred
“Glorious. And what an ending — simply operatic.” —School Library Journal, Top 100 Children’s Novels (#28)
"This is a captivating fantasy, filled with excitement, suspense, and unusual characters." —School Library Journal
"A totally involving, intricately plotted fantasy that will leave readers clamoring for the sequels."
—Booklist, Starred review
“Glorious. . . . The Golden Compass is one of those lyrical suspensions like Alice in Wonderland and The Lord of the Rings that crosses all age lines and intertwines mythologies and legends with seamless beauty.” —BookPage
From the Hardcover edition.
From the Inside Flap
In a landmark epic of fantasy and storytelling, Philip Pullman invites readers into a world as convincing and thoroughly realized as Narnia, Earthsea, or Redwall. 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 compass of the title. 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.
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Lyra is a wild girl who lives at Jordan College with scholars, in a world that is familiar but also very different from ours. Her world has a steampunk quality to it, not as advanced as our world, but it also has magic. Here, each person is paired with a “daemon”, a kind of animal familiar that is connected to them. When Lyra and her daemon Pan overhear a discussion between her Uncle Asriel and the scholars about Dust (capital “D”!), it will set her on the adventure of a lifetime. For Dust is directly connected with the Gobblers; evil people who are stealing children for some sinister purpose. And the Gobblers have taken her friend Roger.
As is common in fantasy, much of the trilogy is spent on a quest (or on the run). When Lyra is taken from the college by the beautiful but deadly Mrs. Coulter, the Master of Jordan gives her the titular golden compass – an alethiometer. The device reveals the truth to those who know how to read it; and Lyra is inexplicably able to do so without the necessary books or training. She goes on the run after learning that Mrs. Coulter is working with the Gobblers. It will be up to Lyra to save the missing children, with the help of an unlikely crew.
Overall, I thought this book was brilliant. I loved how Pullman wove his story with concepts of theoretical physics and very subtle religious allegory. The world building is downright exquisite. Lyra is a likeable, if somewhat cliché, protagonist. We’ve all met her ilk in other YA fiction, but her world helps her to stand out. In this world, the difference between children and adults will change the course of the universe.
There are at least two layers to the story. One is the Lyra’s adventures in the worlds filled with magic and amazing creatures. The other layer deals with the serious eternal matters such as meaning and nature of the conscious life, death, moral values and religion. A little warning here; the author views on religions are not exactly positive and may be offending to some readers. Also the fragment when monkey daemon is playing with snake daemon is definitely targeted at the older audience.
I loved every chapter. I enjoyed reading about different worlds, daemons, armored bears, witches, spectors, mulefa, angels, Authority, and golden dust. I liked the names of fictional geographical regions being similar to the real names because it immediately created a general picture in my mind. I also greatly enjoyed the incorporation of elements of old and current religious beliefs, ancient myths, and even some science into the plot because it added the feeling of familiarity.
Each book in the series delivered something new and interesting. It never got boring or repetitive. There were sometimes small logic lapses and I never got a hold on the true motivations and feelings of some individuals, including Lyra’s parents, but that was all minor in comparison with the rest of the great picture painted by the astonishing imagination of the author. Wow.
But if you are looking for a book about magic for your small child and you do not want to scare him/her, it may be better to go for more cozy classics such as “Pasmead” books by E. Nesbit (THE PSAMMEAD TRILOGY - The Magical Adventures of Five Friends (Illustrated): Five Children and It, The Phoenix and the Carpet & The Story of the Amulet (Fantasy Classics)).
PS. Do not watch “The Golden Compass” movie, it is no good.