Title: Northern Lights
Author: Philip Pullman
Page Count/Review Word Count: 404
If I could give this book an 11/10, I would – this, for me, is the book that made me fall in love with reading, and all three of the books in the trilogy, the ‘His Dark Materials‘ trilogy, are guaranteed a 10/10 from the start. In this book, we’re introduced to Lyra Belacqua, the protagonist of the series, and the first fictional character I ever had a crush on. Seems a bit weird now, because she’s just a kid and I’m 26, but then I was just a kid when I first read this.
In fact, the book was a gift from my grandparents when I was off school sick and they were looking after me. I’m not sure whether they realised what they were giving me, at the time – that single act of kindness was a defining moment in my life, and I probably wouldn’t be a writer if that hadn’t happened.
Lyra’s world is a lot like our world, except with a few intriguing differences – in many ways, the technology of Pullman’s world has a steampunk feel, and their alternative history has led to some fascinating clashes between technology that we’re familiar with and creatures that are new to us. The creatures and the characterisation are one of the things that make this book so impressive – you can expect to see witches, soulless children, armoured bears called Panserbjørn, and even daemons.
Daemons deserve a paragraph of their own, because it’s a fantastic concept and one that’s always resonated with me. Effectively, daemons are the outward manifestation of people’s souls, and everyone has one. They appear as talking animals, which can change shape at will until a child reaches puberty, when they settle upon a final form. In my case, I’m pretty sure my daemon would be a wolf. The only problem with having a daemon, as far as I can tell, is that if you get separated or if your daemon dies, you’ll die as well. But then, if a part of your soul dies, then wouldn’t it be better for the body to die with it anyway?
This is one of the concepts that Pullman investigates in the book, and so I’m not going to say much more about it – I love this book, and I think everyone should read it. Why are you waiting?