His Dark Materials Series
Rating: 5 stars
This trilogy is a favourite of mine and it is only right that I write a post enthusing about its finer points. What is more, it was a surprise find at a local bookstore about eight years ago. I’ve reread it at least three times and I plan to do so again. I can’t be sure what will grasp my attention now that I’m older, but the series is a solid 5 stars either way. I’d really recommend it for all ages, young and old.
You’ll be surprised how much you’ll enjoy the story of a smart girl Lyra Belacqua and her companion Pantalaimon. Pan (as Lyra calls him) is a daemon – a tangible, self-aware incarnation of a person’s soul that takes the form of an animal. Children have daemons that can change shape until they mature and settle; which comes handy in countless ways for obvious reasons. Each person can be separated from their daemon only for a certain distance, it is a taboo to touch another person’s daemon, and people have daemons of the opposite sex as themselves. I find all that fascinating. I wonder what having a constant companion would be like and what kind of animal my daemon would turn out to be. I predict something feline.
There are many fascinating characters in the series and I’m sure everyone can find a favourite among them. I loved Lyra and got really attached to her, so when the second book opened up with a completely new character – Will Parry – I was at first completely lost. The massive cliff-hanger at the end of the first book did not help. By the end of the first chapter though, I was completely absorbed in Will, especially since he’s a boy from our universe. Lyra and her steampunk world were a marvel; what followed was even better. Thus, when the storylines combine, the mix is pure magic. It was panserbjorne (bear) Iorek Byrnison all over again. The relationship between this sentient bear and Lyra was a highlight of the first book.
Two other characters that are integral to the story are Lord Asriel, a man of many secrets and Lyra’s guardian at the start of the book, and the fascinating Mrs. Coulter, the woman responsible for the complication that propels the story. You’ll either be fascinated by her or hate her at first sight.
The trilogy is supported by excellent characterisation and there are few you won’t care about or be invested in them emotionally, even the bad guys. This is kind of rare, especially since the entire fantasy genre is saturated with black and white portrayals.
There’s much to love, and the issues tackled in the series range from personal freedom, friendship, sacrifice, love, childhood, to the nature of evil. Pullman’s views about religion and dogmas, the justification of scientific experiments, about the notion of some people being expendable, and original sin – all this is incorporated into a beautifully told story. As much as the story broke my heart along the way (I cried while reading, which is a rare event) it also made me deeply grateful for having read it. The series is heavily influenced by Milton’s Paradise Lost (which I love), which is another bonus.
The series captivated me from the very first book and I was impatiently waiting for the sequels. I own hardback copies and they have a place of honour on my bookshelf. Check them out.
Here are the links to the books (Goodreads):
Hollywood created a movie adaptation that fails to portray the first book, its characters and unique world. Forget about it – completely erase it from your memory – and open the books instead.