Review: Northern Lights by Philip Pullman (His Dark Materials #1)

PAPERBACK; 397 P.
SCHOLASTIC, 2007/1995
SOURCE: FROM THE LIBRARY

From Goodreads:

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..

Northern Lights is the first book in Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials series which I’ve listed on my TBR. Until the moment that I opened the book, I was absolutely convinced that I had read the book before. I expected to remember the plot once I got into the story and having “revised” the first book, it would be easier to read the following two. Oh how wrong I was!

The story opens in Oxford and everything seems normal – except that there are daemons. As you move on from the first chapters, more abnormal things start to appear. And I must admit here that I found the beginning of the story too slow-paced. I read a chapter or two and then put the book aside because I wasn’t that intrigued. But once the ships set sail, I was on board again.

The funny thing about reading this book was the language references. I’m a native Finnish speaker with a several years of Swedish studies behind me, so none of the words that might seem strange to a native English speaker (panserbjørn for one) were strange to me. The element of strangeness was rather in reading “bi-linguagl” text. And as a Translation Studies major, I naturally got into thinking alternatives in translating the novel into Finnish.

But back to the book! I was surprised by the plot and that was definitely a good thing. After reading so many books, a reader naturally starts to pick up signs of how the plot might progress which kind of spoils the fun. So I really liked the surprise element of the book and after finishing it, I itched to go to the library to get the rest of the series. However, I found that I couldn’t always understand the protagonist Lyra and her actions. Pullman’s way of pulling in religion and politics was fascinating but at the same time I found myself stopping mid-sentence, trying to get my head around the topic.

I’m definitely going to read the Subtle Knife and the Amber Spyglass, so more about Pullman later!

4/5

“That’s the duty of the old,” said the Librarian, “to be anxious on behalf of the young. And the duty of the young is to scorn the anxiety of the old.”

They sat for a while longer, and then parted, for it was late, and they were old and anxious.

My review of The Subtle Knife (#2) AND The Amber Spyglass (#3).

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