‘Northern Lights’ – Philip Pullman
When Lyra’s friend Roger disappears, she and her daemon, Pantalaimon, determine to find him. The ensuing quest leads them to the bleak splendour of the North, where armoured bears rule the ice and witch-queens fly through frozen skies – and where a team of scientists is conducting experiments too horrible to be spoken about.
Lyra overcomes these strange terrors, only to find something yet more perilous waiting for her – something with consequences which may even reach beyond the Northern Lights…
Undoubtedly, Philip Pullman’s ‘Northern Lights’ (or ‘The Golden Compass’ if you are reading the American/post-film publication) is the ultimate fantasy. With daemons, armoured bears and witches, Pullman whisks readers away to a not-quite parallel universe that delves into issues of religion and the church that become more profound and thought-provoking on a second reading.
Set in Oxford, the story follows Lyra and her daemon (basically your soul/personality in animal form), as her best friend is kidnapped by the “Gobblers”. Her adventure is spell-bounding as Pullman gives the reader everything they can expect of a traditional fantasy. It is delightful to go on this adventure with Lyra and her being such a hot-headed character makes her all the more likeable to readers.
Pullman has cleverly set this novel in an Oxford not quite like the one we know. The slight differences in geography and language makes the reader find connections with what they know of the world; whilst at the same time more obvious differences, like a person’s daemon, can leave you wondering what you would be like in her world. Frequently I found myself wondering what my daemon would be like and which of the characters’ daemons I preferred!
The novel keeps you gripped from start to finish with many surprising turns along the way. Pullman’s writing gives readers a glimpse into his imagination as the descriptions are so vivid. Admittedly when I first read this book I found my mind was wandering, and without hesitation I recommend you read this a second time to really appreciate all of the flavours that this book can offer. It is only then that you start to become aware of Pullman’s commentary on organised religion, something that he was criticised for when the novel was first published.
This is an awesome book. It is so enjoyable and has so much to offer that I think it was inevitable that the film could never live up to expectations. There are so many elements within the story that delight your imagination, that by the time you have reached its gripping conclusion, you are left still day-dreaming about the alternative universe that you have just experienced.