BOOK REVIEW: HIS DARK MATERIALS: NORTHERN LIGHTS BY PHILIP PULLMAN

northernlights

GENERAL INFORMATION

TITLE: HIS DARK MATERIALS: NORTHERN LIGHTS

AUTHOR: PHILIP PULLMAN

PAGES: 397

PUBLISHER: SCHOLASTIC BOOKS

YEAR: 1995

GENRE: YOUNG ADULT FICTION / FANTASY FICTION

COVER TYPE: PAPER BACK

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Northern_Lights_(novel)

www.philip-pullman.com

Northern Lights is from my collection. I was given it a couple of years ago. Every now and again a work colleague gives my mother a pile of books and we take what we want. I took Northern Lights because I’d heard good things about it. I never got round to reading it until now. I finished my last library book at the start of the week and knew I wouldn’t be able to get to the library to get any more until the weekend so I picked up Northern Lights.

BLURB FROM THE COVER 

There are worlds beyond our own – and the compass will show the way. 

When Lyra is given the strange and secret alethiometer, she begins an extraordinary journey that will take her to the frozen lands of the Arctic, where with-clans reign and ice-bears fight. The destiny that awaits her will have immeasurable consequences far beyond her own world…    

EXTRACT 

Lyra and her daemon moved through the darkening Hall, taking care to keep to one side, out of sight of the kitchen. The three great tables that ran the length of the Hall were laid already, the silver and the glass catching what little light there was, and the long benches were pulled out ready for the guests. Portraits of former Masters hung high up in the gloom along the walls. Lyra reached the dais and looked back at the open kitchen door and, seeing no one, stepped up beside the high table. The places were laid with gold, hot silver and the fourteen seats were not oak benches but mahogany chairs with velvet cushions. 

OVERALL IMPRESSION 

I loved Northern Lights, I absolutely loved it. I now need to read the other two novels in His Dark Materials trilogy, The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass. I’ve never read Pullman before but I’ve wanted to read his adult novel The Good Man Jesus & The Scoundrel Christ for ages. I was hooked from the first page. I’ve seen bits of the film version, The Golden Compass but the whole film so I had no idea what was going on. I’m going to buy the rest of the trilogy soon.

HIGHLIGHTS 

I love the world Pullman creates in Northern Lights. The world Lyra occupies is eerily similar to our world. There are subtle differences. The world is dominated by theocratic international organisation known as The Magisterium, also known as The Church. They suppress heresy. Human souls exist outside their bodies in a physical form called daemons. They accompany, aid and comfort humans. A daemon can’t travel far from its human. If a human dies their daemon dies and vice versa. They feel one another’s pain. Pullman skilfully creates a real sense of place in Northern Lights. One of the best things about reading Northern Lights was seeing the similarities and differences between our world and Lyra’s world.

I had no idea until I had read the first chapter that the Northern Lights of the title refer to the actual northern lights, the Aurora Borealis (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aurora_(astronomy).  I felt a bit like Homer Simpson (dumb) when the penny dropped.  Pullman didn’t exactly make the reference subtle. I found the links and references to astronomy in Northern Lights fascinating. I thought Pullman did a good job of using something so well-known and putting his own spin on it. I like it when writers do that.

I thought the plot Pullman offered with Northern Lights was very interesting.  In some ways, Pullman doesn’t write about anything startling or unique. He uses elements in fantasy fiction that have been written about thousands of times. Northern Lights uses these staple elements of fantasy fiction in a new way. I loved the armoured bears and the fact they talk. The cages filled with daemons that have been cut from their human gave me the chills. I cried with Lyra when the boy found died because his daemon had been cut from him. I loved all the discussion about the strange particles known as Dust and how they are attracted to adults more than children. The oppressive church calls these particles original sin. One of my favourite bits is when Lyra is imprisoned by the Gobblers who have been stealing the children and experimenting on them. The church believes they can find a way to stop Dust from being attracted to adults if they somehow sever the link between a child and its daemon before puberty. Essentially Pullman is offering an often told tale of religious fanaticism in Northern Lights. He just does it really well.

I loved the ending of Northern Lights. Pullman brings a whole new meaning to the world cliff-hanger. The children are rescued from the crazy nuts who have been experimenting on them. Lyra discovers the awful truth as she’s betrayed by Lord Asriel who turns out to be every bit as evil as Mrs Coulter. Lord Asriel kills Lyra’s friend when he severs his daemon and uses the huge surge of energy to tear a hole through the Northern Lights to another world. Lyra and her daemon follow him.

I was impressed by the characterisation in Northern Lights. Mrs Coulter is one of the best villains I’ve read in ages. Her charm and beauty hide a true soul of darkness. She takes the children North to be experimented on. She is very creepy and sinister. I thought Lord Asriel was also very well written. I had no idea he was a bad guy until he disappears in the middle of the night with Lyra’s friend. I thought Lyra was well drawn for a main character. She’s not your typical child. She’s brave, curious and crafy and is not whingey or annoying like other teens I’ve read about. It was easy to root for her.

Northern Lights reminded me strongly of The Chronicles of Narnia by C S Lewis. Some critics, such as Peter Hitchens view His Dark Materials as a direct rebuttal of the Narnia books. I can’t agree. I’m a huge fan of the Narnia books. I can see parallels between them and Northern Lights.

Northern Lights is very well written. Pullman held my interest from the first page. I didn’t get bored at any point. Pullman’s descriptions are vivid and bring the world of Lyra and her companions to life. Northern Lights was a joy to read.

LOWLIGHTS 

N/A – I loved everything about Northern Lights.

FINAL THOUGHTS 

Northern Lights is one of the best fantasy novels I’ve read in ages. I had added yet another author to my growing list of must-reads. Northern Lights gripped from page one until the cliff-hanger. I loved this novel. I can’t wait to read The Subtle Knife to find out what happens when Lyra and her daemon go through the hole Lord Asriel created.

RATING

5 STAR RATING

 

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One Comment Add yours

  1. This was a fantastic read. Thank you for sharing it with us! Nowadays the world wide web is full of poor content but there is no doubt that you simply spent enough time by editing this content. Again, thanks for your time and then for your efforts!

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