Northern Lights by Philip Pullman (His Dark Materials #1) Review

northern lightsNow, I have an embarrassing confession to admit about this book. The reason I never read it, up until this point in time, was due to the fact I’d watched the movie first, and hated it so much I thought the books would have to be just as bad.

One day at a school book sale though, I saw the American edition of it titled, ‘The Golden Compass,’ and thought that maybe at some point I’d want to read it, so I got it. 4 years later, I’m actually reading it…and it’s so good I can’t believe I let myself just be so ignorant and judgmental based upon some movie.

There is a difference, these days, between two types of writers. There are the writers that are writing purely for the story and the excitement in allowing their creation pour onto the pages and watching their characters come to life. Then, there are the writers that are writing purely for the money. They use half-thought-out stories that are filled with love triangles and ‘probems’ to make it seem as though it’s fuller and richer then it really is.

I liked this book, purely because it was based upon the building of this world and concept of humans with their own daemons. There weren’t any cliche distractions thrown in and Lyra, honestly was a young girl, struggling to understand the world around her and the difficulties that are thrown towards her. The language Philip Pullman used, suited the style as well as the type of conversation each of his individual characters would have. Iorek the Bear spoke completely different to how Lord Asriel did. 

Now, if you haven’t read this series, I suggest picking up the first book. I can’t, at the moment, speak for the whole series cause I’ve only read the first one. But, I can say this first book is something you will find so entrancing that you will hunt down the rest of the following books in the series.

Here is a summary of the story if you’re interested:

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. 

Just give it a go. I promise you won’t be disappointed.

Review:

So, as you can see I’m a late-joiner to the ‘His Dark Materials’ book series train. But man, am I glad I finally read it. This world that Philip Pullman has created feels so genuine and…innocent? It’s as if we are honestly looking at it through Lyra’s eyes, even though it is told through the omniscient narrator.

I really enjoyed all the characters he created and presented to us…which doesn’t normally tend to happen for me. The difference between the statuses of the people such as the Gyptians and the Scholars and even the different beings such as the witches and the armoured bears, was so well thought-out and planned and delivered clearly in his writing. It felt as if Philip Pullman had actually taken the time to think out every sub-plot he added into the story and made it all flow together. I never felt there was a plot hole or an unfinished story, even at the climactic ending he gave us. I felt like he finished off the first part of his story, tied everything up, and now is heading forward onto the second part of the journey, yet still leaving just enough questions to keep us wondering.

My one dislike was ROGER. WHY DID THAT HAVE TO HAPPEN? We spent the whole story building up to their reunion and her innocent friendship with him and BAM it turns out Lord Asriel wasn’t even that innocent to begin with. Here I was thinking Ms Coulter was the only evil person, and in reality THEY BOTH ARE JUST COMPETING WITH EACH OTHER. That scene where she runs to him at the end and they are all over each other was so shocking. I just kept staring at my book in disbelief. It was such a plot twist that I had no idea was coming.

Serafina Pekkala and Iorek Byrnison, were probably two of my favourite characters, mainly due to the types of characters they were. I liked hearing the story of the witches and the way in which they live as well as the armoured bears, from both characters. I also like the mini-love story between Serafina and Farder Coram. It was present in the story, and yet it didn’t absorb or take away anything from the task at hand. It was simply there.

Iorek’s storyline was another one I found so fascinating, even though he isn’t with us going into the second book. I liked the concept of the armoured bears and the way in which they aren’t on specific sides, they are just on their own. Iofur and Iorek’s battle was so nerve-wracking and yet, since Iofur was attempting to be like a human, he let his guard down and could be tricked by Iorek. It tied that little conversation, that Lyra and Iorek had about tricking a bear up so beautifully. Iorek then takes it upon himself to be Lyra’s ‘guardian’ and I loved that quote Lee said to Serafina where “if a bear could love a human, then he loves her.”

Ms Coulter’s experimental centre was so terrifying, especially the scene where they capture Lyra and try to split her from Pantalaimon. As we can’t naturally empathise with her since we, ourselves, don’t have daemons, I found myself still feeling an immense amount of pain for her. I tried to imagine that it was like someone coming to me and removing everything that makes me the person I am.

This whole plotline with the Dust was also quite interesting to read about. I still haven’t grasped the full concept and idea of it but I hope it will be further developed in the next book.

Language/Style: 8 points
Characters: 9 points
Plot: 9 points
Story: 10 points

Giving this book a total of 36 points out of 40 points

Favourite Part: Being a practiced liar doesn’t mean you have a powerful imagination. Many good liars have no imagination at all; it’s that which gives their lies such wide-eyed conviction.

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