Books From The Pantry: Northern Lights by Philip Pullman: Reviewed by Natalie Denny

His Dark Materials is my favourite story. I was twelve when I was first invited into Philip Pullman’s magical and macabre world with the first book in the trilogy, Northern Lights. I remember hiding from my friends so they would not make me do something as arbitrary as talk to them or run around the playground. I was hooked from the first page, having discovered the book in my school library.

Lyra is a young, wild little girl living in her beloved Jordan college, raised by scholars and belonging to the streets she runs free in. Oxford is her world, one different from our own; most noticeably is that each person here comes in a pair. A daemon, Pantalaimon, is Lyra’s lifelong companion that shifts in animal shapes depending on their mood.

Lyra’s only familial contact is her mysterious and stern uncle whom she is in equal parts terrified and enthralled by. When children start disappearing from her neighbourhood, Lyra gleefully embraces the story of the GOBBLERS, a group that capture children for a purpose that surpasses her worst nightmare. When her best friend Roger is taken, it ceases to become a game.

Lyra meets the beautiful sophisticated Mrs Coulter, a friend of the college, and one of the only glamorous women Lyra has ever seen. Lyra knows something isn’t quite right when she starts living with Miss Coulter as her assistant, and decides to run away. Armed with a truth telling device known as an alethiometer, Lyra is inducted into multiple worlds of armoured bears, witches, aeronauts and relentless adventure in pursuit of her dear friend, Roger, and her uncle, who she believes is key to everything

The writing in this book paints pictures. Every sentence is carefully crafted to convey the wonder of the worlds they inhabit. The book deals with issues of religion, friendship, love and destiny. We follow Lyra as she takes on enemies that should crush her. She is, after all, just a child. There is something very special about Lyra, and the friends she makes along the way will stop at nothing to protect her.

This is a young adult book but the themes are very mature and transcend the age spectrum. The Book of Dust was released this week and there is a reason I have cleared my diary to read it. Philip Pullman is a master of his genre and Northern Lights, the first book of the fantastic trilogy, is certainly one I recommend.

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