Wednesday, December 7, 2016
The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman
This is another series I've had my eye on for a long time. For many the His Dark Materials trilogy is as much a part of their reading lives as Harry Potter. While it is loved by many, I have been warned of it's heavy message and the fact that it's been banned from many schools. But, as human nature says, the perfect way to get someone to do something is tell them not to do it. That's me in this case. Banned books have this allure to them and I just want to know their dark secrets that frightens the world into pushing them aside. So, let's dive right into it!
The story is that of a young girl named Lyra, who lives in a world similar to ours but filled with a unique magic of its own. In this world, every human being has their soul walking around with them as an animal companion called a daemon, which has a personality all its own. Lyra lives in Jordan College, where she mostly runs wild but under the supervision of her uncle, Lord Asriel. One day, when she hears of her uncle going away on a mission involving some strange substance simply called Dust, Lyra is given a mysterious gift: an alethiometer. This devise channels Dust and uses it to answer any question Lyra has: past, present or future. When the devious Mrs. Coulter tries to take the alethiometer and Lyra discovers she may have something to do with a series of child abductions, Lyra flees and begins her epic journey to save the children, solve the mystery behind the Dust, and find her uncle.
Much like the main protagonist, this book is lively and wild. The adventure is rich and full of all kinds of wonderful ideas that writers everywhere are kicking themselves for not thinking of first. The concept of daemons is just wonderful. The whole time I wondered what mine would be like, what animal would it become, and so forth. Also, the alethiometer is a really cool devise. While it never really gives a straight answer, Lyra's opportunities to study the devise and learn what the symbols on it mean is very fascinating. The concept of Dust and what it is and what it means is also interesting too. It's such a heavy matter, like every time someone brings it up things quiet down and get serious. What is this strange thing that people would kill to either avoid or find. The lengths to which the adults in the story go to in order to solve the mysteries of this substance are shocking and leave you breathless.
While I'm on that topic, this is a heavy book. There's some really dark and somewhat unsettling aspects of this book that left me picking my jaw up off the floor. This book is very clear in regards to its rules and the borders of this magical world. When those lines are crossed, you feel the intensity of the shattered boundary and you're left feeling uncomfortable. For example, touching your own daemon is fine and a daemon touching another daemon is also perfectly acceptable. However, a human touching a daemon that's not their own is practically molestation. When stuff like that happens, you feel the disgust that you might feel in any adult book when they cover distressing topics like this. And this is for kids!?! I found myself asking that question at least twice...three times...okay maybe four times while reading this book.
That being said, it does read like a kid's adventure story but on a much more epic scale. The objective is the simple "get from point A to point B and find the thing", which is fine. This book just makes it massive. I feel the scale of this world and the length of the journey. You feel the rocking of the boat and the constant roar of the ocean when you're at sea. You feel the bone jarring cold as you trudge through the frozen north. Everything is described in wonderful detail and it's the best example of world building that I've seen in a long time.
This book is a classic for a reason. Great characters, a fantastic world, and clever ideas make for an epic story that any reader would be happy to find themselves in. While the word "dark" is definitely in the title for a reason, I'd still say that this book is worth your money at your local bookstore!
Have you read the book? What did you think? Comment below and share your thoughts.
Next Time: Not all ghosts are dead....