Northern Lights

- Philip Pullman

Goodreads Book Blurb:

Lyra is rushing to the cold, far North, where witch clans and armored bears rule. North, where the Gobblers take the children they steal–including her friend Roger. North, where her fearsome uncle Asriel is trying to build a bridge to a parallel world.

Can one small girl make a difference in such great and terrible endeavors? This is Lyra: a savage, a schemer, a liar, and as fierce and true a champion as Roger or Asriel could want–but what Lyra doesn’t know is that to help one of them will be to betray the other.

Series / Genres:

My Review:

solid, good read:
4/5
I am so glad I reread Northern Lights. I first read this book, and the rest of the series, two years ago, and I remember it being okay but not exceptional. Maybe I was in a better headspace this time or more prepared, but it felt like an entirely different story. The concepts were interesting, and the story moved quickly, allowing for details, wonder, and beauty without feeling slow or uneventful.

The entire concept of daemons is my favourite part of Northern Lights. The fact that your inner/true personality would be on display as a separate but tethered entity is both captivating and terrifying. I love that they change at will as children before settling into a specific animal as a young adult, and the fact that people can be unhappy with their daemons if they don’t believe they have settled into the right form. I know daemons aren’t the main focus of this story, but I found them endlessly fascinating.

"There’s compensations for a settled form."
"What are they?"
"Knowing what kind of person you are. Take old Belisaria. She's a seagull, and that means I'm a kind of seagull too. I'm not grand and splendid nor beautiful, but I'm a tough old thing and I can survive anywhere and always find a bit of food and company. That's worth knowing, that is. And when your dæmon settles, you'll know the sort of person you are."
"But suppose your dæmon settles in a shape you don't like?"
"Well, then, you're discontented, en't you? There's plenty of folk as'd like to have a lion as a dæmon and they end up with a poodle. And till they learn to be satisfied with what they are, they're going to be fretful about it. Waste of feeling, that is."

What starts as a religious undertone in Northern Lights becomes overt by the end. The concept of Dust is so abstract that I found it difficult to process, and it still isn’t entirely clear (likely by design) by the end. Since we’re mostly learning about Dust through Lyra’s very young eyes, it makes sense that this complex concept is still a little murky. I found it very true to our world that throughout everything that is going on, the church is working so hard to suppress the truth while secretly performing horrific experiments to uncover it.

He stood up, and so did his dæmon, proud and beautiful and deadly. Lyra sat still. She was afraid of her father, and she admired him profoundly, and she thought he was stark mad; but who was she to judge?

Lyra’s parents are horrible people. They’re selfish and manipulative, and they’ve been treating her terribly since she was born. They run the gamut of parental abuse and have covered everything from desertion to kidnapping to …

literally murdering her best friend.
It’s impossible to tell if they’re fighting each other or on the same side – are they in love, or do they hate each other? I don’t think they know, either. Lyra may be abrasive, confrontational, and a compulsive liar, but she came by these traits honestly and is a massive improvement over the assholes who passed on these traits to her.

Being a practiced liar doesn't mean you have a powerful imagination. Many good liars have no imagination at all; it's that which gives their lies such wide-eyed conviction.

There are so many incredible characters in the story, but my absolute favourite – I’m sure everyone’s absolute favourite – is Iorek Byrnison. His strength of character is inspirational, and his bond with Lyra is beautiful. I wish we had talking warrior bears.

The idea hovered and shimmered delicately, like a soap bubble, and she dared not even look at it directly in case it burst. But she was familiar with the way of ideas, and she let it shimmer, looking away, thinking about something else.

Northern Lights is an incredible story of adventure, heroism, good versus evil, and an excellent start to this series. The writing is captivatingly beautiful – I don’t generally have a lot of patience when it comes to descriptions and setting the scene, but Pullman hits the sweet spot perfectly. His writing is poetic, with vivid descriptions that come to life while gripping you and moving the story along. I’m excited to continue this series – this reread is far exceeding my expectations. I don’t know how I could have overlooked, or missed, the magic of this story on the first read.

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