Title: Northern Lights
Author: Philip Pullman
Publication Date: 5th March 2015 – Scholastic (Anniversary Edition)
Genre: Children’s, Fantasy
“Without this child, we shall all die.”
Lyra Belacqua and her animal daemon live half-wild and carefree among scholars of Jordan College, Oxford. The destiny that awaits her will take her to the frozen lands of the Arctic, where witch-clans reign and ice-bears fight. Her extraordinary journey will have immeasurable consequences far beyond her own world… (Goodreads)
A lot of people have told me that it is blasphemous for me not to have read this book as a fantasy fan, so my expectations were pretty high. I can definitely say that this is an enjoyable read that thirteen-year-old me would have been obsessed with!
I will admit that the pacing was initially slow for me, but the introduction of Lyra, and the concept of having a daemon as a lifelong companion, was an intriguing set-up that pushed me to want to learn more. As we learnt more about Lyra, and as more children started to vanish, my intrigue for the novel kicked up a gear, and I was hooked.
You could argue that the novel is kind of repetitive; Lyra finds herself in a dangerous situation, she uses her intelligence to get out of it, before stumbling into a new dangerous situation, but I appreciated that there was never an easy way out. I was always invested in how Lyra would get out of a predicament, whether that was escaping Mrs Coulter, or getting to the north, or learning how to use the alethiometer, and was never predictable. And as things crank up a gear – from hot air balloon attacks to witch battles to bear fights – I couldn’t predict how the novel would end. Though, I will say there is a very weird ending that I wasn’t so sure about.
Something else that surprised me was how dark the novel was! A lot of horrible things happened to the kids in this novel – including death – so it certainly raised the stakes. And this leads to the biggest thing I took from this book. Adults suck. Ok, that’s not really what I took from this, but seriously, the adults in this book were so manipulative and cruel, that it just made me root for Lyra even more.
I liked Lyra because she wasn’t a damsel in distress who needed to be saved, she found ways to get out of situations by outsmarting the adults. She was a very compassionate character, and I liked the dynamic she had with her daemon, Pantalaimon.
Throughout the novel, Lyra makes a number of friends, but the one who stood out the most was Iorek – and not just because he was a giant bear – but because of his loyalty to Lyra and his fierceness. He started off as a drunk without much to his name, but eventually rose to become a powerful character.
I haven’t seen the Golden Compass, but I can totally picture Nicole Kidman as Mrs Coulter. What makes her such a dangerous villain is how she manages to mesmerise her opponents with her beauty, before using them for her gain. I was always nervous when she was in a scene, which I think makes her a formidable villain. My one negative is that her motives became unclear for me towards the end, especially with her and Lord Asriel’s confrontation, which was very weird.
We don’t get a lot of Lord Asriel, but when we do, he is one of the main reasons why I didn’t like most of the adults in this story. Even in moments when I thought he’d redeemed himself, he’d do something that completely negated that. I’d be interested to see where his character goes next, as his motives also became blurred towards the end.
I didn’t enjoy this as much as thirteen-year-old me would have, but this was still a lot of fun. A lot of people hate the film adaptation, so I’m curious to see how it would compare, but in terms of the book, I do understand the hype!