WHAT IT’S ABOUT: Malcolm Polstead is the kind of boy who notices everything but is not much noticed himself. His parents run an inn called the Trout, on the banks of the river Thames, and all of Oxford passes through its doors. Malcolm and his daemon, Asta, routinely overhear news and gossip, and the occasional scandal, but during a winter of unceasing rain, Malcolm catches wind of something new: intrigue. He finds a secret message inquiring about a dangerous substance called Dust—and the spy it was intended for finds him. When she asks Malcolm to keep his eyes open, he sees suspicious characters everywhere: the explorer Lord Asriel, clearly on the run; enforcement agents from the Magisterium; a Gyptian named Coram with warnings just for Malcolm; and a beautiful woman with an evil monkey for a daemon. All are asking about the same thing: a baby girl named Lyra. Lyra is the kind of person who draws people in like magnets. And Malcolm will brave any danger, and make shocking sacrifices, to bring her safely through the storm. (taken from catalog)
ROBEN SAYS: Lyra is back! (Even if she is only a baby.) I loved this first installment in what Pullman has promised will be a trilogy. La Belle Sauvage is a prequel set ten years before Golden Compass. Readers will recognize a few familiar names – Lord Asriel; Mrs. Coulter and the dreaded Magisterium; and the Gyptians – but they only make brief appearances. The majority of the book is devoted to the magnificently brave Malcolm Polstead, (who does appear in Lyra’s Oxford), Alice Parslow (Lyra’s friend Roger was also a Parslow – Alice’s cousin, according to Pullman) and Dr. Hannah Relf, who befriends Malcolm and introduces him to alethiometers – and Oakley Street. There are, of course, many truly evil, villainous characters – Gerard Bonneville being the main one. The book begins a bit slowly, introducing characters and reintroducing us to Lyra’s version of Great Britain but it soon becomes a thrilling ride with lots of unexpected twists and turns, danger lurking around every corner. If you loved exploring Lyra’s world of Oxford and are fascinated by the idea of daemons, dust, and alethiometers, I highly recommend this book. Pullman has promised two more books in the series – though they will be set in a different time when Lyra is much older.
What age is it for? Well, Malcolm is twelve; Alice is fifteen – and while the book starts out as something that you might share with middle schoolers, it takes a dark turn fairly quickly. Because of language and violence (both sexual and physical) – I would recommend it for older teens.
Can you read the alethiometer?