The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman
Genre: Preteen Fantasy Fiction
Published in 1995
Recommended Age Group: 9 and Up
Summary: The Golden Compass is the first book in the series His Dark Materials. It is “set in a universe like ours, but different in many ways.” One of the major differences is that all people have daemons, they are always animals and usually the opposite gender of the person they belong to. Children’s daemons can change shape but once the people get older their daemon assumes a permanent animal. Lyra and her daemon Pantalaimon are our guides through this story which beings with Lyra and Pan at Jordan College in Oxford. Her parents left her at Jordan to be raised by the scholars who worked there and Lyra grew up a half-wild child who learned bits and pieces of everything.
Lyra’s world changed dramatically when her Uncle Asriel came for a visit and brought news about Dust and a mysterious city in the sky up North. Lyra is captivated at once and has thoughts only for going North until the Gobblers strike. The Gobblers kidnap children and though no one knows exactly why everyone ventures a guess. When the Gobblers strike in Oxford and take Lyra’s best friend she decides to go up against them only to discover later that she nearly became one of them. After a few course corrections Lyra finds herself heading North with a group of men sent to reclaim their children and if possible free Lord Asriel who was wrongfully imprisoned. It is on this adventure that Lyra learns the true purpose of the Gobblers and of other unbelievable mysteries.
Personal Notes: I read this book before the movie was made and I enjoyed it a lot. The plot was interesting and there were many fun elements that I hadn’t encountered before which made the book even more exciting. The talking armored bears were a highlight as were the many good guy/bad guy twists. Once I heard all the controversy about Pullman being an atheist and using his books for that cause I had to read it again to see if I missed something on the first go around. After reading it twice I can honestly say let your children read this book and don’t worry. It’s exciting and fun and it has nothing in it about trying to overthrow God. I hear the third book is the one to look out for but I’ll let you know when I get to it. Right now I’m moving on to the second one.
For the reading group the back of the book says ages nine to twelve but I wonder if that’s the best range. There were some parts that I had problems focusing on and a few words that I had to look up. I’m not worried about content I just worry that they might lose interest in the first part of the book. Once it moves on to parts two and three it picks up dramatically and gets more exciting so if you can make it through the first part then you’re home free. Overall it was a whirlwind adventure of suspense and excitement.
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