Saturday 27 July 2013

Book Review - Northern Lights

Title: Northern Lights
Author: Philip Pullman
Series: His Dark Materials (book 1)
Publisher: Scholastic
Release Date: 23rd October 1998
ISBN13: 9780590660549

When Lyra's friend Roger disappears, she and her dæmon, Pantalaimon, determine to find him.

The ensuing quest leads them to the bleak splendour of the North, where armoured bears rule the ice and witch-queens fly through the frozen skies - and where a team of scientists is conducting experiments too horrible to be spoken about.

Lyra overcomes these strange terrors, only to find something yet more perilous waiting for her - something with consequences which may even reach beyond the Northern Lights...

My Review
This is actually a re-read, but I first read this book when I was a teenager, about 10 years ago now (man that makes me feel old!). We run a Book Group every month at the library, the staff take it in turns to run it and I got July - which ended up being this book. I was quite pleased as I remembered that I absolutely loved this book. And was looking forward to re-reading it. I could remember the basic storyline but not much else. 
Lyra has grown up in Jordan College surrounded by scholars and theologians, but she's also quite wild, she often goes out in the streets to play with the kids of the 'gyptians' and other street kids. A bit of a tom boy Lyra prefers to live on the wild side. But when her best friend Roger and hundreds of other kids across the country disappear she is determined to find him. 
But things are bigger than just her and Roger and Lyra gets mixed up with some dangerous people. 
Set in another world everyone has a 'Daemon' - an animal form attached to them. These Daemon's can change shape/animal until a child hits adulthood where they then settle as one form, which is said to reflect your personality. The Daemon's are said to be the physical form of a person's soul. 
I did enjoy this book again, but I didn't fall in love with it. I found it quite slow with a lot of back story in it that makes it plod along a bit. It does pick up in the middle and I love the Armoured Bears, particularly Iorek Byrnison. He is the best hero in the whole book, fiercly loyal but also ruthless. He's willing to do anything to protect Lyra, she helps him earlier in the book and he wants to pay back that debt. He is so honest and heroic that you have to love him. 
At some points I wondered what it was about this book that made me love it all those years ago, but maybe back then I still had that child like innocence and freedom of imagination that lets you believe everything without question. I think I'm quite lucky in that I still have that to a certain extent but it takes more to make me accept a situation these days. I don't know, I still think it is a fabulous book and I'm glad I read it again and went back into that world, but it has lost some of it's spark which is quite sad. 
The main story though is good and carries you through, Pullman is a fabulous writer, he has a way of weaving the words, in that - even in the places that seemed a lot slower and even slightly boring, his writing pulls you back and makes you want to read nevertheless. 
I can see why this book won so many awards and it will always be special to me, and I will keep recommending it to people. 
People coming to it fresh, I think, will really love it. Just be prepared for a lot of backstory - absorb it and enjoy it, it is relevant.
My review sounds so mixed, but really I did enjoy it and I do still think it is a book everyone should read. 

My Rating

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Terrific review. I love PP. Your blog is just what I've been looking for--I read the same genres! :)