Northern Lights by Philip Pullman

Rating 9.0/10
Written as a childrens book but equally absorbing to any adult reader.

Northern Lights is the first part of Philip Pullman's acclaimed Dark Materials trilogy. The book was first published in 1995, a year in which the book also claimed the Carnegie Award.

Imagine a world that is as alike as it is disimilar to our own. Where huge zeppelins litter the skyline and a persons' soul is a living breathing animal companion or 'daemon'. This is the world of Lyra Belacqua, orphan and carefree child who lives with the musty old scholars of Jordan College, Oxford. Together with her daemon Pantalaimon, Lyra's uncomplicated life is about to be turned upside down with an amazing and sometimes terrifying chain of events beginning with her uncle Lord Asriel's visit to the College to plan an expidition to the Northern Lights. His goal is to find the source of 'Dust'and a possible gateway to another world. Soon after is the appearance of Mrs Coulter, a cool and charasmatic woman who decides that Lyra should be versed in the etiquette of becoming a young woman and decides to take Lyra away from Jordan College but whom Lyra soons suspects has, together with her golden monkey daemon, an ulterior motive. With a strange golden compass, known as an 'alethiometer' in her possesion, given to her by the Master of the College and the terrible disappearance of many local children at the hands of the 'Gobblers', it is the disappearance of her own best friend Roger and the one too many obsticles put in her way to find out more about 'Dust' that makes Lyra more sure than ever that these events are all linked somehow and the only way to find out more, and her friend, is to travel to the Northern Lights.

"'If I talked to her about Dust? You don't think she'd listen to that?' The Librarian made a noise to indicate how unlikely he thought that was.'Why on earth should she?' he said. 'Why should a distant theoligical riddle interest a healthy thoughtless child?' 'Because of what she must experience. Part of that includes a great betrayal...' 'Who's going to betray her?' 'No, no, that's the saddest thing: she will be the betrayer, and the experience will be terrible'"
Chapter 2: Northern Lights

Written as a childrens book but equally absorbing to any adult reader, I would not hesitate in recommending this first book in the Philip Pullman 'His Dark Materials' trilogy. It is wonderfully enthralling from the first page and paints a world that you long to visit. There are enough twists and turns to keep the pace of the plot zooming along rather nicely and many interesting characters along the way. There aren't many books that can boast daemons, witches, armoured polar bears and possible other worlds; quite a head-full to keep your imagination ticking over. On another level, which younger children may not pick up on but will by no means spoil their enjoyment, is the anti-church theme represented by the controlling Magisterium and a smattering of quantum physics and chaos theory thrown in for good measure. It is in fact this mix of science, theology and magic, a theme that continues throughout the trilogy that ensures this book stands out from the rest. There are some parts of this book that, even for an adult can be quite upsetting; there are instances of death and grief that some might feel are subjects they do not wish their child to read about, however, I believe that such subjects are part of life and Philip Pullman's decision to include these and not to gloss over such subjects shows a real respect for the age group this book was written for. It is no small wonder that the 'His Dark Materials' trilogy has been met with critical acclaim. An unforgettable read that will ensure you read the second book 'The Subtle Knife' without pausing for breath inbetween.

"Then a door opened by means of a large wheel; a hiss of air; and a brilliantly lit chamber with dazzling white tiles and stainless steel. The fear she fet was almost a physical pain; it was a physical pain, as they pulled her and Pantalaimon over towards a larg cage of pale silver mesh, above which a great pale silver blade hung poised to seperate them forever. She found a voice at last, and screamed. The sound echoed loudly of the shiny surfaces, but the heavy door had hissed shut; she could scream and scream forever, and not a sound would escape. But Pantalaimon, in answer, had twisted free of those hateful hands - he was a lion, an eagle; he tore at them with vicious talons, great wings beat wildly, and then he was a wolf, a bear, a polecat - darting, snarling, slashing, a succession of transformations too quick to register, and all the time leaping, flying, dodging from one spot to another as their clumsy hands flailed and snatched at empty air. But they had daemons too, of course. It wasn't two against three, it was two against six. A badger, an owl and a baboon were all just as intent to pin Pantalaimon down, and Lyra was crying to them, 'Why? Why are you doing this? Help us! You shouldn't be helping them!'""
Chapter 16: Northern Lights

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All reviews for: His Dark Materials

Have you read Northern Lights?

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Northern Lights reader reviews

from Unicornland


Liked it but was a bit boring but have it 10 stars due to the thought process used in making it

from UK


Very good indeed Phillip Pullman. Best book ever.

from Mexico


Terrible, a little too overrated.

from England


I am loving this book!

from England


Very boring.

from Derby, UK


I would give it 8 seeing as it is very intriguing .I have only read half the book and I would like to finish the book ASAP! Also I am learning about this in my form in school. I just LOVE the fantasy in it. However, there's quite a lot of description and direct speech!

from Australia


The best book and also very addictive. Can't stop reading it!

from US


Great book, but not the best I have ever read so I will give it a 9.

from Scotland


Worst book I've ever read, so boring!!

from India


It is a fantastic book for anyone over 10 years old. It is enthralling from first page. PERFECT!!

from Japan



from England


Couldn't put it down, such an amazing book. The film is exactly the same.

from England


Fantastic storyline! Great imagination and brilliant characters!! Great for old and young!! Would recommend everyone reads the full series.

from England


A fantastic book for everyone!!!!!

from England


AMAZING, couldn't put it down.

from From


A wonderful tale, if only because its sequels are so great! Only one warning: if you're not one for sad endings, this series may not be for you. Nevertheless, a full-hearted 10/10!!

from Candyland


Amazing book. I loved it soooooo much!! It takes you away from ordinary, boring old life to a magical place! I envy anyone who is reading it for the first time. I couldn't stop reading it and my mum got annoyed because I didn't come to dinner xP

from Unknown


6/10 I liked it but didn't love it.

from Jamacia


I give it 6/10. It was a fantastic story but they overdone it with all the fantasy. Though I have to say the book did not disappoint.

from England


Northern Lights was originally written as a children’s book but is equally absorbing to any adult reader. I would not hesitate in recommending this wonderfully enthralling book which paints a world that you will long to visit. There are many twists and turns throughout to keep the pace of the pot racing along as well as enough interesting characters along the way. There are very few books which can boast about daemons, witches, armoured polar bears and which keep your head full of imagination. It is no small wonder that the Dark Materials trilogy has been met with an unforgettable read that will unsure you read the second book The Subtle Knife without pausing for a breath in between.

from Hammons


This book seems to be a little over rated...

from Stanford Essex UK


An excellent fast-paced book involving childish wit yet a somewhat sophisticated air. I could not put it down and would recommend it to any book, or fantasy lover. One of the most imaginative books in some time with just the right amount of suspense towards the end. 9/10.

from Adelaide


A well-written, fast-paced book. It was witty and filled with action, although sometimes it may have moved slightly fast, without much description. With a slow start, and a tedious and confusing middle, the ending was more convincing and exciting. A great book, though not something I would recommend!

from New Zealand


Overall I think this book is amazing, it's suspenseful and exciting and the ideas are very, very witty and original. I have grown to love Lyra and her friends and am looking forward to reading The Amber Spyglass.

from Reading


I read this trilogy a number of years ago and couldn't put it down. The depth of emotion conveyed in these books and the manner in which it is done is simply enthralling. The writing is magnificent and the story brilliant, I felt myself being fully pulled into these books. I have noted that there are comments that books such as Ruby and the Smoke were better, I think these earlier books showed how Mr Pullman developed his characters, scenes and story lines, they certainly are not as good as His Dark Materials. I think I also like this trilogy because it has a dig at the Catholic Church, however that is a small bonus.

from Preston, UK


Am I the only person who was really disappointed by this book? I loved Pullman's 'The Ruby in the Smoke', and yet when I read 'Northern Lights' it was a big downer for me, 5/10 is being highly generous. Maybe I built up so much hype and anticipation for it in my head that it was inevitably always going to be a downer?

from Vancouver, BC


A fantasy book out of comprehension. Philip Pullman clearly writes with creativity and raw intensity. His characters are as interesting as they are believable. The story is complex, yet easy to follow and there are clearly moments that are well thought out. The Golden Compass is not the archetypical fantasy novel, it's a genuine masterpiece.

from Basildon Essex UK


A wonderful, magical journey. It is fast paced and takes you away from the mundane and ordinary to the wonderful and extraordinary. I could not put it down.

8.5/10 from 29 reviews

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