I think you all know by now, whether it is from my blog, twitter or you got stuck talking to me at a party, His Dark Materials is one of my favourite series of all time. I did a full series review, a reread that took me only a week to do and I have not shut up about the new series on BBC/HBO. This book continues Lyra’s journey as well as my own.
Malcolm Polstead lives in Oxford with his daemon, Asta, and his boat, La Belle Sauvage. With his natural curiosity, it seemed only natural he would become a spy. Malcom sees secrets everywhere he goes, strange men meeting in his parent’s inn, mentions of Lord Asriel and his crimes, the mysterious Magesterium and then, an intercepted message about Dust. Then a baby called Lyra is delivered to the care of the local priory and suddenly things have gotten a lot more dangerous.
This book utterly blew me away. I know I’m slightly biased when I say this but this is a perfectly laid out world that is well built and easy to step into. I listened to this on audio with the fabulous Michael Sheen narrating the book and I would highly recommend reading the book this way.
As I already mentioned it is a seamless transition back into the world of daemons, the Magesterium and alternative Oxford. We get to see nothing pretty much of Jordan College but a more mundane, everyday version of this Oxford and it is a pleasure to experience. People are working, children attend school, people are going to the pub in the evening and it all felt so real, aided by the fantastic voices from Sheen.
Old characters return such as Asriel, Coulter, Coram and obviously Lyra but I truly fell in love with our new cast. Malcolm is a sweet bean that needs to be protected at all costs. He is a child close to the age that Lyra is during Northern Lights and I think Pullman does that well, characters that learn with the readers. His development is honestly one of the best written arc’s I’ve read this year. Alice also gets a standout mention from me because I wish that when I was her age I had that sass and attitude. She also has some wonderful character development but she is a treat for anyone who wished they had more spine when they were a child.
We get the usual villains of the Magesterium but there is an antagonist in this story that is genuinely horrifying. He doesn’t really become a threat until at least halfway through the story but when he arrives he is like that bad feeling you get that just won’t go away. You know at any moment he could just appear and cause so much horror.
Pullman paces this story in a very similar way to The Amber Spyglass in a way that it never ceases to keep the reader moving along with events and crises. Unlike the first 2 books in His Dark Materials we get no slow moments in a particular place to gather our thoughts. This book is not waiting for you, you have to figure it out and keep up or you will get left behind.
One of the great advantages of the audio version is how well Sheen can change the plot pacing with his voice alone. Like there were moments where I was STRESSING hard for my poor baby Malcolm and Asta and just wanted it over. It’s so good since you will actually forget it was one narrator and not many.
I intend to follow up with The Secret Commonwealth since I bought it so recently but with some other projects and stuff it may have to wait until January. Also I am watching the TV show and I do love it so far. (Bonus easter eggs in it for people who read this). Are you watching it without having read the books or after reading them? Do let me know!