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The Golden Compass (His Dark Materials) Hardcover – April 16, 1996
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The modern fantasy classic that Entertainment Weekly named an “All-Time Greatest Novel” and Newsweek hailed as a “Top 100 Book of All Time.” Philip Pullman takes readers to a world where humans have animal familiars and where parallel universes are within reach.
Lyra is rushing to the cold, far North, where witch clans and armored bears rule. North, where the Gobblers take the children they steal--including her friend Roger. North, where her fearsome uncle Asriel is trying to build a bridge to a parallel world.
Can one small girl make a difference in such great and terrible endeavors? This is Lyra: a savage, a schemer, a liar, and as fierce and true a champion as Roger or Asriel could want.
But what Lyra doesn't know is that to help one of them will be to betray the other...
A masterwork of storytelling and suspense, Philip Pullman's award-winning The Golden Compass is the first in the His Dark Materials series, which continues with The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass.
A #1 New York Times Bestseller
Winner of the Guardian Prize for Children's Fiction
Published in 40 Countries
"Arguably the best juvenile fantasy novel of the past twenty years." —The Washington Post
"Very grand indeed." —The New York Times
"Pullman is quite possibly a genius." —Newsweek
Don't miss Philip Pullman's epic new trilogy set in the world of His Dark Materials!
** THE BOOK OF DUST **
La Belle Sauvage
The Secret Commonwealth
Frequently bought together
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From the Publisher
|His Dark Materials: The Golden Compass (Book 1)||His Dark Materials: The Subtle Knife (Book 2)||His Dark Materials: The Amber Spyglass (Book 3)||The Book of Dust: La Belle Sauvage (Volume 1)||The Book of Dust: The Secret Commonwealth (Volume 2)|
|Enter the world of His Dark Materials||The modern fantasy classic soon to be an HBO original series – HIS DARK MATERIALS!||The second book in the HIS DARK MATERIALS series – soon to be an HBO original series!||The third book in the HIS DARK MATERIALS series – soon to be an HBO original series!||Set in the same world as HIS DARK MATERIALS - meet Lyra before the events of The Golden Compass!||Set in the same world as HIS DARK MATERIALS - discover what happened to Lyra after The Amber Spyglass!|
As for what experimental theology was, Lyra had no more idea than the urchins. She had formed the notion that it was concerned with magic, with the movements of the stars and planets, with tiny particles of matter, but that was guesswork, really. Probably the stars had daemons just as humans did, and experimental theology involved talking to them.Not that Lyra spends much time worrying about it; what she likes best is "clambering over the College roofs with Roger the kitchen boy who was her particular friend, to spit plum stones on the heads of passing Scholars or to hoot like owls outside a window where a tutorial was going on, or racing through the narrow streets, or stealing apples from the market, or waging war." But Lyra's carefree existence changes forever when she and her daemon, Pantalaimon, first prevent an assassination attempt against her uncle, the powerful Lord Asriel, and then overhear a secret discussion about a mysterious entity known as Dust. Soon she and Pan are swept up in a dangerous game involving disappearing children, a beautiful woman with a golden monkey daemon, a trip to the far north, and a set of allies ranging from "gyptians" to witches to an armor-clad polar bear.
In The Golden Compass, Philip Pullman has written a masterpiece that transcends genre. It is a children's book that will appeal to adults, a fantasy novel that will charm even the most hardened realist. Best of all, the author doesn't speak down to his audience, nor does he pull his punches; there is genuine terror in this book, and heartbreak, betrayal, and loss. There is also love, loyalty, and an abiding morality that infuses the story but never overwhelms it. This is one of those rare novels that one wishes would never end. Fortunately, its sequel, The Subtle Knife, will help put off that inevitability for a while longer. --Alix Wilber
From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.
- ASIN : 0679879242
- Publisher : Knopf Books for Young Readers; 1st edition (April 16, 1996)
- Language : English
- Hardcover : 416 pages
- ISBN-10 : 9780679879244
- ISBN-13 : 978-0679879244
- Reading age : 10 - 17 years
- Lexile measure : 930L
- Grade level : 5 - 9
- Item Weight : 1.21 pounds
- Dimensions : 5.83 x 1.3 x 8.63 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #91,808 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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Here are three things I love about this book:
1- The main character is a strong girl (Lyra) with incredible willpower as well as a pre-ordained important role to play in the world. She is funny, scrappy, and a very likable and relatable main character. The fate of the world is literally in her hands, but she doesn't realize that.
2- The world building here is so creative and so different from other fantasy novels. After reading a lot of fantasy novels with my son, at some point I get bored of the traditional storyline of wizard fights some sort of evil and prevails. In this world, every person is born joined to a Daemon, which is an animal who talks and basically always stays within ten feet of the person. They are bonded forever, and part of being a whole human is being bonded from birth to death with this talking animal. There's also a huge theme here about physics, which they call "Dark Matter" or "Dust" - that creates mystery that keeps you on the edge of your seat throughout the book. There are also such creative creatures, including armored polar bears who talk and are mercenaries for hire. There are witches, who live for thousands of years and exist within clans. And the Daemons are fascinating. They can change shape at will into any animal basically until their human hits puberty, at which point they pick one animal shape to maintain for the rest of their lives.
3- The settings are interesting, and also related to parts of the earth. For instance, the story starts in Oxford in England where Lyra grows up as a part of a college. She is a little girl among scholars, who mainly runs around and does what she wants throughout the town. She's proud of her mastery of the spaces around her, and becomes the center of most groups of kids, who follow her - from her best friend who is the son of a kitchen worker at the college to her friends the Gyptians who live on boats. Then the story moves to the Arctic, where there are detailed descriptions of auroras and vivid explanations of the cold. My son got more interested in the Arctic here, and found himself exploring the science in the science fiction. That's an exciting advantage of a book like this!
Notes for parents raising kids in a religious tradition:
The church is evil in this book and in this series. And the church uses names and terms like many real religious traditions- clergy, magisterium, priests, etc. The church is funding an evil plot to try to harness energy by physically harming children in the Arctic. Phillip Pullman is unapologetic about the church being evil in this series, and even extrapolates later in the second book to make statements about churches always being on the wrong side of things.
The book is just so, so good, so I didn't want that to be a reason not to share it with my son who loves fantasy and science fiction. But I did want to read it with him and talk about it throughout the book. We talked about how worlds are different from each other in fantasy and real life. We've also spent time talking about how church is an institution, and institutions make mistakes and have done things that are wrong or even evil- and how to square that with being confirmed in a church literally this year.
If you are a parent of a child being raised in a religious tradition, I strongly recommend reading this series together with your child.
Lyra is a wild girl who lives at Jordan College with scholars, in a world that is familiar but also very different from ours. Her world has a steampunk quality to it, not as advanced as our world, but it also has magic. Here, each person is paired with a “daemon”, a kind of animal familiar that is connected to them. When Lyra and her daemon Pan overhear a discussion between her Uncle Asriel and the scholars about Dust (capital “D”!), it will set her on the adventure of a lifetime. For Dust is directly connected with the Gobblers; evil people who are stealing children for some sinister purpose. And the Gobblers have taken her friend Roger.
As is common in fantasy, much of the trilogy is spent on a quest (or on the run). When Lyra is taken from the college by the beautiful but deadly Mrs. Coulter, the Master of Jordan gives her the titular golden compass – an alethiometer. The device reveals the truth to those who know how to read it; and Lyra is inexplicably able to do so without the necessary books or training. She goes on the run after learning that Mrs. Coulter is working with the Gobblers. It will be up to Lyra to save the missing children, with the help of an unlikely crew.
Overall, I thought this book was brilliant. I loved how Pullman wove his story with concepts of theoretical physics and very subtle religious allegory. The world building is downright exquisite. Lyra is a likeable, if somewhat cliché, protagonist. We’ve all met her ilk in other YA fiction, but her world helps her to stand out. In this world, the difference between children and adults will change the course of the universe.
Top reviews from other countries
I couldn’t remember the Golden Compass film well, but I did suspect I’d start with the impression I’d be reading a book only for children. I was wrong on this, finding Northern Lights to be intellectually satisfying for adults, with some of the most beautiful in depth descriptions I’ve ever read (see below). I did eventually get the impression I was reading a story authored by a teacher. There are scientific elements, inventions reminiscent of the steampunk genre, and religious influences in the form of institutions and verse. There were strong themes of the promise of mental discovery and the threatening yoke of conformity. Where beliefs are a good thing, it’s in the presence of magical fantasy and wonder.
Premise of the story
Lyra is a child living in the prestigious Jordan College, though many of her habits are less than prestigious. She’s adventurous, and naughty, with a keen sense of curiosity that can get her into trouble. When all the children are going missing, the Gobblers are blamed and Lyra is determined to go north. In fact, whatever the reason, Lyra seems determined to go north.
Some of the passages of Lyra interacting with the bears were the most fascinating and engaging in the story. I did wonder how she was able to trick some of them as easily as she did when they were known for not being tricked. Did I miss something?
‘Looking up at the stone pinnacles of the chapel, the pearl-green cupola of the Sheldon Building, the white painted Lantern of the Library.’
‘Men and women are moved by tides much fiercer than you can imagine, and they sweep us all into the current.’
‘The bleakest barest most inhospitable godforsaken dead-end of nowhere.’
‘Then, with a roar and a blur of snow both bears moved at the same moment. Like two great masses of rock balanced on adjoining peaks and shaken loose by an earthquake, that bound down the mountainsides gathering speed, leaping over crevasses and knocking trees into splinters, until they crash into each other so hard that both are smashed to powder and flying chips of stone: that was how the two bears came together.’
It’s as wonderful as Harry Potter and as bewitching as Terry Pratchett, covering misfortune, tragedy, outrage, and heroism. I’d certainly feel enriched continuing with the series.
I was super impressed by the magical feeling of turning of every page, and my estimation of Philip Pullman’s writing is high. I’m confident his other books are also stellar reads!
This book is readable -- the plot is relatively pacey and, at some level I was interested to see how it turned out so I can see why others find it a good read, but for me it was completely unbelievable, and it only operated on a superficial level raising no deeper questions at all.
The author creates a semi imaginary world which just didn't hang together to me. I'll not spoil the plot by giving many further details but I suspect Mr Pullman is not a scientist so that when he uses scientific concepts such as the Aurora, or Dust it simply doesn't work. Then he mixes this pseudo-science up with pseudo religion and pseudo mythology and seem to have come up with a simple tale of a young child out to save the universe (so the same as Star Wars then!?)
One example to illustrate the lack of credibility -- Lyra and the gyptians (a few hundred people in total I believe) decide to travel to the North in a (large) boat which they charter to cross the German Ocean. They are able to do this despite the close attention of the people who are trying to catch them -- people who are super-clever, who know that the gyptians have Lyra, who know exactly where they gyptians are (in the fens) and who know exactly where they are headed. And to cap it all the gyptians are apparently uneducated canal-boat people...
My 19 year old daughter has read it an thoroughly enjoyed it so I checked the ending of the trilogy with her and was able to confirm that it wasn't going to get any better so I gave up about 200 pages in.
My daughter said Harry Potter was much better.
I myself have really enjoyed the following Imaginary/Sci Fi works which I would recommend ahead of this one: -
Foundation Trilogy by Asimov
Fahrenheit 451 by Badbury
Dune by Herbert
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Dick
Lord of the Rings by Tolkein
What did I like:
It has been a looooong time since I’ve read a book where the MC is so young, so I did find Lyra quite testing and petulant at times. I had to remind myself that I’m used to young adult or adult adult MC’s so I simply can’t hold her to the same expectation. That being said, the representation of Lyra as a character is wonderful and after a number of “she’s only a child” internal prompts & deep breaths through the first quarter to half of the book I did start to bond with the tenacious little girl and root for her. By the end of the book it was quite refreshing having the innocence of a little girl as the MC with her single minded driven attitude.
I really enjoyed the Gyptian community in this book and it was during these chapters I felt there was genuine relationship building, especially between Lyra and some of the Gyptian’s themselves. At the beginning of the book Lyra seems very disassociated with the adults in her environment with little to no true relationships with any of them but whilst she is with the Gyptian’s she builds some solid bonds with the likes of Ma Costa, John Faa and Farder Coram. I felt this was also a sound representation of community, with camaraderie, warmth and spirit.
I am an animal lover, so of course I have a soft spot for Iorek Byrnison.
The plot itself is genuinely well written and a treat to the imagination. From reading, it became quite clear why readers from so many age ranges loves this book, there is something for everyone. From all the books I’ve read so far this year this one has the most beautifully described detail that you could close your eyes and experience it in your inner eye. The level of world building and description that has gone into this book is what I think makes this novel so engaging to all ages, I’ve found with more “adult-y” books you can sometimes miss out on that detail which for me is where the magic happens. I want to immerse myself in the story.
Every part of the story flows beautifully into the next, everything had purpose. No dull, dragged out sections. I found everything progressed at a really good rate with a decent amount of action/drama. Every character we meet is diverse in characteristics and adds a little something to the story. The end definitely leads on to the next book, if I was old enough to have read this in 1995, I’d have been gutted to have to wait the 2 years before the next book comes out.
Philip Pullman is such a highly acclaimed writer, there isn’t much I can add that hasn’t already been said. His way of writing is quite unique and not a style I’ve seen replicated or similar anywhere else yet. The second and third book are patiently waiting in my wishlist to be purchased, next to Ruby in the Smoke (I borrowed it from the Library when I first read it) which I’d love to reread.
What I wasn’t so keen on:
This was an enjoyable read for me, so there wasn’t anything I really disliked. As I mentioned I had to remind myself child MC’s don’t behave like older MC’s. With my challenge for 2020 to read a more diverse range of books I will hopefully come to meet many different MC’s and not trip up on something so basic as this again.
Iorek and Lyra had a tight relationship from when they met, like there’s a connection. It was obvious what Lyra’s thoughts and feelings were towards Iorek but I’d have loved to find out his feelings towards her. Were his actions inspired by duty or genuine affection?
I’d have liked a bit more explanation in the last sections of the book as to what’s going on and why, but with end of the book the way it was maybe I’ll find out in the second book.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on March 7, 2020