A(nother) Review: Northern Lights by Philip Pullman

Back in February I read the latest Frank Cottrell-Boyce and I said he was one of those authors that I ought to have read before.

 

This latest one is of a similar ilk. I really ought to have read Northern Lights by Phillip Pullman long before now.

 

It’s taken the announcement of The Book of Dust – which is neither sequel or prequel, rather an equal – to make me finally get around to it.

 

For those of you that don’t know, Northern Lights is about a young girl named Lyra who lives in an alternate version of Oxford, where ever human has a constant companion, a dæmon. In adulthood the dæmon’s form is permanent, but in childhood the dæmon switches through various animal guises.

 

The dæmons – Lyra’s is named Pan – are seen as a physical manifestation of the soul of a person.

 

As an orphan, looked after by the scholars of Jordan College, Lyra’s bond with Pan is more precious than most.

 

When children start going missing, Lyra embarks on a journey to find her absent friend Roger.

 

It becomes quite the adventure with Lyra not quite aware of how high the stakes have risen.

 

Lyra is a good character, but she is the only constant one – apart from Pan, who doesn’t seem to be used as much as he should be – and with any book, a large revolving cast of secondary characters becomes confusing at times.

 

The plot – the missing children, and the mystery of dust – is intriguing and keeps the pages turning, but Lyra is such a hard and matter of fact character that the emotional impacts of the twists and betrayals don’t resonate. This is despite the fact that the character witnesses some quite gruesome events… she barely cares.

 

The ending is… odd, a definite set up for the next book, but no sense of conclusion or resolution to many of the events that occur.

 

Will I read the next two in the series? I’m not in any rush to. I’ll probably watch the television adaptation later this year, and the idea of a Pullman enriching his world via new companion novel does intrigue me, so it’s not a straight out never.

 

But this might be why I’ve never read Pullman before – there are many other, better things to read first.

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