Pullman has created something so special with Lyra’s world and the mythos of other worlds he set up in the original His Dark Materials trilogy. La Belle Sauvage, the first installment of this spin-off trilogy, took us back to Lyra’s beginning, giving up the wild story of her infancy and the two children who rescued her. This second installment fast forwards to years after the events of the original trilogy, when Lyra is grown, having just tipped over the cusp of adulthood. The final events of that first trilogy haunt her still, but she is convincing herself more and more that those events aren’t quite true. As she falls into the trap of rationality Pantalaimon, her dæmon, rebels against her loss of imagination. From there, the plot goes wild. …
La Belle Sauvage is an interesting revisiting of Lyra’s world as developed in Pullman’s original series, His Dark Materials. Instead of continuing the story from where it left off at the end of The Amber Spyglass, we go back to the very beginning. Lyra’s beginning. We see that the wild adventure of her life didn’t start in The Golden Compass, but mere months into her life. The events that befell her before she had even spoken her first words are enough to put most adults in therapy.
“Words belong in contexts, not pegged out like biological specimens.”
I’m honestly pretty blown away, and I can’t believe I waiting this long to read His Dark Materials. It was wonderful, balancing thought-provoking philosophy with nearly breakneck-speed action in this final installment. Pullman crafted a world, or should I say worlds, that I found captivating, and characters whom I grew to care about deeply. Many of these characters, especially Lyra and Will, have taken a little piece of my heart, and I believe they’ll reside there from now on. What a marvelous adventure.
“I have stolen ideas from every book I have ever read.”
The Subtle Knife picks up almost where The Golden Compass ended, except that this second installment took a slight detour in order to introduce us to a second main protagonist in the form of Will Parry. I quite enjoy Will, and found him a great counterpart for Lyra. Their personalities are very different, but they are both defined most by the protectiveness that fuels them and the fierceness that courses through them. Will is both more civilized and more violent than Lyra, which shines a softer light on our original protagonist than we saw in her first book. The two children on the cusp of their adolescence are quite obviously being set up as either the salvation or damnation of the countless worlds they now know exist.
“It’s like having to make a choice: a blessing or a curse. The one thing you can’t do is choose neither.”
I’ve read this book before, but it was long ago. When I was in elementary school, I was just beginning to develop a lot for fantasy. Harry Potter was fairly new, with only the first couple of books having been released. I had consumed those, and A Wrinkle in Time, and the majority of the Redwall books that had been published. But my favorite series was The Chronicles of Narnia. I loved the Christian allegory, as I had come to my faith quite young. When I picked up The Golden Compass, I enjoyed it almost as much, even though I found the concept of dæmons both fascinating and disconcerting. However, a well-meaning teacher informed me that His Dark Materials was known as the anti-Narnia, and proceeded to spoil some plot points of the next book in order to discourage me from continuing the series. I was appalled at the thought of a series that was so vehemently opposed to my faith, so I steered clear of it and let myself forget about how enjoyable I found the first book.
“We are all subject to the fates. But we must act as if we are not, or die of despair.”