Greetings, Shelf Awareness friends!
I am very excited to be the Book Master for August. Our book for this month will be The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman, which is actually the first book in a trilogy called His Dark Materials.
The Golden Compass was also originally published as Northern Lights, but for whatever reason, had a different title when it was published in North America. The series itself is technically children/young adult fantasy, but I did not read the series until only a few years ago. To be honest, I think having an adult perspective when reading, I was able to enjoy the book even more than I would have as a kid!
The Golden Compass is the story of an orphan girl, Lyra Belacqua, who lives in an alternate universe, similar in many ways to our own. Probably the most unique difference between Lyra’s world and our own is that in Lyra’s world, everybody’s souls exist outside their bodies in the form of an animal, called a daemon, which they can talk and interact with. She lives in Oxford, England, and has a quick wit, mischievous spirit, and decided disregard for authority. When her explorer uncle, Lord Asriel, returns to Oxford and proclaims the existence of Dust, a mysterious elemental force that has enormous implications for humanity, he incites the anger of the Magesterium, the theocratic government, and disappears. Meanwhile, Lyra’s best friend Roger is kidnapped by Snatchers. Motivated by these seemingly connected events, Lyra sets off on an epic quest to the Arctic to find her friend and uncle. Along the way, she meets a disgraced polar bear king, a Texas cowboy, an enigmatic witch, and a beautiful but dangerous woman with a tamarin monkey daemon. On her journey, Lyra learns about the true extent of the Magesterium’s power, as well as more of her own family origins….
This book in fantasy in all the typical ways – a fantastic alternate world and rich characters and storytelling, for starters. However, what I appreciate about this book is that it is much more than fantasy, incorporating elements of religious allegory, physics, history, science, and more. The Golden Compass sets up the action for the next two books in the His Dark Materials series: The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass, which I also highly recommend.
As I mentioned before, though this book is geared toward children, I think it has a lot to offer more mature audiences. I am very excited to share this book with you all, and to see what you think of Lyra and her world!
At our next meeting, in addition to reading the book, please come prepared to discuss what animal you think your daemon would be, and why!