Monday, May 19, 2008

The Northern Lights (aka The Golden Compass)

My son (age 10) read this book – it took him a couple of months but he did get through it, understood it and enjoyed it. He recently started the second book so I took the plunge and read The Northern Lights – part 1 of the trilogy. It was actually a terrific read, fast paced and straight forward. The book introduces you to some wonderful characters that are very easy to like - or dislike, as the case may be!

The story is set in a parallel world – similar to our own but slightly different. The main character of the book is Lyra, a pre-teen who is apparently orphaned. She lives with scholars at Oxford where as the only child (apart from servant’s children) she runs wild and her education is rather hotch-potch. All humans in Lyra’s world have a demon, a companion that takes the form of an animal (but can speak) and when the human dies, so does the demon – the demon is compared to a soul in the book.


Lyra’s uncle Lord Asriel is an explorer and scientist (and a powerful personality) who visits the college where Lyra is early in the book, but soon returns North to his mysterious research into “Dust”. Shortly after he leaves, children start to go missing from their families and the story of the “Gobblers” arises. Soon, children go missing in Oxford and one of Lyra’s friends is taken. At the same time, the Master of the college sends Lyra to live with Mrs Coulter, an educated and beautiful woman who has apparently had some contact with Lyra’s uncle. Before Lyra leaves, the Master entrusts to her care an aleithometer which he instructs to keep secret and tells her she must learn to use it herself. So begins an amazing journey for Lyra.

Initially she is well looked after and even pampered, but Mrs Coulter shows her dark edge and Lyra runs away. She is captured/saved by the Gyptians and in their endeavours to retrieve their missing children accompanies them North. There she has more adventures befriending an armoured bear, witches and finding the stolen children. The reader learns of Lyra’s importance and a prophecy concerning her.

Hearing Lord Asriel is imprisioned, Lyra sets off to free him and in the process becomes known as Lyra Silvertongue. She finds Asriel, who in his research, has discovered another world through the Northern Lights – he makes a bridge to this world and crosses over, unaware that Lyra has followed him.

I would highly recommend this book to any youngster capable of reading a novel and it’s a quick and entertaining read for the adults too!