Book review: Northern Lights – By Philip Pullman

northern lightsTitle: Northern Lights
Author:
Philip Pullman
Publication Date:
5th March 2015 – Scholastic (Anniversary Edition)
Pages:
397
Genre:
Children’s, Fantasy

Links to Purchase: Amazon UK, Waterstones

“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)

Initial Thoughts

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!

Plot

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.

Characters

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.

Overall

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!

My rating:

four of five