When I first heard of The Golden Compass I wanted to read it, but held off doing so because I had a lot going on at the time. When I was ready to read it, there was so much buzz about it that I was inundated and put it down yet for a later time when I could pick it up without being influenced too much by that buzz. Then I forgot about it and I think the books are over at one of my sons' houses.
Just recently, I received a review copy of the His Dark Materials Omnibus and got all fired up to read it. I just wish I hadn’t done so right before bedtime. I was so fascinated that I stayed up all night, stayed home the next day and read till it felt my eyes were bleeding. It was that good. Now I’m kicking myself for waiting so long.
The first book in the series is of course The Golden Compass, where Lyra Belaqua and her dæmon, Pantalaimon are first introduced. They live in an alternate Oxford where science, theology, and magic are all very closely aligned and everyone seems to understand it all.
Lyra herself is an incredible character. She’s spunky, brave, smart, and determined as well as being the despair of the college folk who raise her. She lives in Jordan College within Oxford and delights in running wild, organizing great battles with rival children and has such an inordinate curiosity and sense of adventure.
When her Uncle Asriel visits the college she goes a little too far and finds out more than she should. He's there to solicit funds for a return journey to the North, where he has observed strange goings-on, including a mysterious phenomenon called Dust. After he leaves, Lyra finds herself placed in the charge of the mysterious Mrs. Coulter and in possession of a strange and mysterious golden compass that can answer questions if she learns how to read it. Lyra discovers Mrs. Coulter's connection with the dreaded children-stealing Gobblers and runs away, joining a group of gyptians to find the missing kids, in particular, her beloved friend Roger.
This action-packed, highly literary adventure is filled with wonderful things – armored bears who speak, flying witches, secrets and lies, evil, a flying balloon piloted by a wild Texan and one hell of an intricate plot.
The Subtle Knife is the second book in the series and continues the adventure. This book starts in another universe and centers on a boy named Will Parry. His universe is modern day London and he’s got just as much going on as Lyra had in her universe. Will’s mother is incapable of taking care of herself, his father is missing and there are bad men trying to find out something.
Desperate, Will finds someone to care for his mother and somehow manages to stumble into another world, a world that Lyra has stumbled into as well. The second book is just as intense and wondrous as the first with just as much, if not more excitement and drama. The plot twists and turns with the grace and power of an Olympic gymnast, never missing a beat. New characters as well as old abound and each is as detailed and finely drawn as the main characters. What an amazing talent Mr. Pullman has! Absolutely riveting and completely entrancing!
The Amber Spyglass, the final chapter is incredible. I kept thinking that the last book would somehow miss the mark but I have no idea why I would think that. If anything, The Amber Spyglass surpasses the other two and concludes the series in a most phenomenal way.
The beautiful witch Serafina Pekkala is back as she seeks out the armored bear Iorek Byrnison to help her with Lord Asriel’s crusade. Worlds are explored, mysteries are solved, the war is raging, angels are wandering, the worlds are changing and Lyra, Will and their friends must somehow save it all.
Philip Pullman has written a masterpiece of literature that is literary and smart, funny and sad, heart-wrenching and amazingly wonderful. The fact that kids are reading this high-minded, intelligent and almost Dickensian literature warms my heart. I think that 500 years from now, these books will still be in print and every child and grownup will know of Lyra and her worlds.