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The Golden Compass (His Dark Materials, Book 1) [Mass Market Paperback]

Philip Pullman
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1,091 customer reviews)

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Book Description

March 30 1997 His Dark Materials (Book 1)
In a landmark epic of fantasy and storytelling, Philip Pullman invites readers into a world as convincing and thoroughly realized as Narnia, Earthsea, or Redwall.  Here lives an orphaned ward named Lyra Belacqua, whose carefree life among the scholars at Oxford's Jordan College is shattered by the arrival of two powerful visitors.  First, her fearsome uncle, Lord Asriel, appears with evidence of mystery and danger in the far North, including photographs of a mysterious celestial phenomenon called Dust and the dim outline of a city suspended in the Aurora Borealis that he suspects is part of an alternate universe.  He leaves Lyra in the care of  Mrs. Coulter, an enigmatic scholar and explorer who offers to give Lyra the attention her uncle has long refused her.  In this multilayered  narrative, however, nothing is as it seems. Lyra sets out for the top of the world in search of her kidnapped playmate, Roger, bearing a rare truth-telling instrument, the compass of the title.  All around her children are disappearing—victims of so-called "Gobblers"—and being used as subjects in terrible experiments that separate humans from their daemons, creatures that reflect each person's inner being.  And somehow, both Lord Asriel and Mrs. Coulter are involved.  

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Some books improve with age--the age of the reader, that is. Such is certainly the case with Philip Pullman's heroic, at times heart-wrenching novel, The Golden Compass, a story ostensibly for children but one perhaps even better appreciated by adults. The protagonist of this complex fantasy is young Lyra Belacqua, a precocious orphan growing up within the precincts of Oxford University. But it quickly becomes clear that Lyra's Oxford is not precisely like our own--nor is her world. For one thing, people there each have a personal daemon, the manifestation of their souls in animal form. For another, hers is a universe in which science, theology, and magic are closely allied:
As for what experimental theology was, Lyra had no more idea than the urchins. She had formed the notion that it was concerned with magic, with the movements of the stars and planets, with tiny particles of matter, but that was guesswork, really. Probably the stars had daemons just as humans did, and experimental theology involved talking to them.
Not that Lyra spends much time worrying about it; what she likes best is "clambering over the College roofs with Roger the kitchen boy who was her particular friend, to spit plum stones on the heads of passing Scholars or to hoot like owls outside a window where a tutorial was going on, or racing through the narrow streets, or stealing apples from the market, or waging war." But Lyra's carefree existence changes forever when she and her daemon, Pantalaimon, first prevent an assassination attempt against her uncle, the powerful Lord Asriel, and then overhear a secret discussion about a mysterious entity known as Dust. Soon she and Pan are swept up in a dangerous game involving disappearing children, a beautiful woman with a golden monkey daemon, a trip to the far north, and a set of allies ranging from "gyptians" to witches to an armor-clad polar bear.

In The Golden Compass, Philip Pullman has written a masterpiece that transcends genre. It is a children's book that will appeal to adults, a fantasy novel that will charm even the most hardened realist. Best of all, the author doesn't speak down to his audience, nor does he pull his punches; there is genuine terror in this book, and heartbreak, betrayal, and loss. There is also love, loyalty, and an abiding morality that infuses the story but never overwhelms it. This is one of those rare novels that one wishes would never end. Fortunately, its sequel, The Subtle Knife, will help put off that inevitability for a while longer. --Alix Wilber

From Publishers Weekly

Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy now appears in sophisticated trade paperback editions, each title embossed within a runic emblem of antiqued gold. The backdrop of The Golden Compass: His Dark Materials, Book I sports a midnight blue map of the cosmos with the zodiacal ram at its center. The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass carry similarly intriguing cover art, and all three titles offer details not seen in the originals: in Compass and Knife, for example, Pullman's stamp-size b&w art introduces each chapter; Spyglass chapters open with literary quotes from Blake, the Bible, Dickinson and more.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Most helpful customer reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Utterly Amazing March 11 2006
Format:Paperback
This first instalment of the His Dark Materials Trilogy is the best book in the trilogy. The characterization is beautiful, something that is unsual in fantasy novels. So many fantasy novels are original, but lack imagery and characterization. This book will not dissapoint- perhaphs one of the greatest fantasy novels ever written.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Completely Boring Nov. 15 2000
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
This book was completely boring to me. It was well written, but I formed no attachment to the characters except perhaps, the polar bear. The plot was a little better, but I found myself skimming pages.
The basic plot: Lyra is a girl who lives in a world where everyone has a daemon. A daemon is like an companion that is connected to a person though some special bond. There seems to be a conspiracy afoot that involves Lyra's uncle and the scholars at Oxford University. Lyra's best friend is kidnapped along with other children. Lyra sets out to find her friend.
...The plot continues from there, and seems very dark and serious. There is murder and violence, but I was so uninterested in the book, that I hardly felt it. I don'tthink that this should be listed as a children's book, but I don't think that children(or adults) will find this interesting at all.
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By bernie TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
It is not worth reviewing or reading the reviews of "The Golden Compass" (British title "The Northern Lights") until one has finished the complete story of "Dark Materials" by Philip Pullman.

As with any genre the author is trying to express a concept or make a point. By using the genre, whether it is westerns sci-fi or historic peace, the author envelops the concept in a palatable story. Sometimes the envelope completely masks the purpose of the story; at other times the purpose is so blatant that one doesn't even know why anything was being enveloped. This is one of those rare stories that polarize readers from one extreme to the other.

We recognize and other phenomena about this story. In many stories the reader rule look at the antagonists are protagonist and once in awhile can sympathize but never recognizes themselves as the protagonist. In Philip Pullman's his "Dark Materials" it seems that everybody recognizes themselves with an "if the shoe fits attitude" whether it is really them or not.

Now dark materials, book one "The Golden Compass." Lyra who ran wild around Jordan Collage at Oxford is now hiding in a closet in the Retiring Room. There she sees that the Master is about to poison her uncle Lord Asriel. Now Lyra must figure out who are the good guys from the bad, if there are good and bad guys. In the process she fund find and fulfill her destiny without fully realizing what that destiny is. The people and creatures around her know more of her destiny than she does. Soon she must leave Jordon College and is given a beautiful golden instrument with pictures and arms that resemble a compass. What she is supposed to do with it is not clear at first.
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5.0 out of 5 stars An Amazing Book!!!!!!! Feb. 1 2005
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
This is one of my favourite books of all time and I truthfully do not understand half the things people have written about it. For all those offended religious people this is JUST A BOOK! Just because someone says things about the church that you do not agree with does not mean it is a bad book. I am christian but that does not change my perception at all. My best friend is an extremely strong catholic and she is tearing through these books at top speed. It is just a book! Also, Lyra is my favourite character of all time and I cried for a month after I finished the Amber Spyglass because I felt like she had left me. For those who think she is bratty, what do you expect from someone whohas been practically ignored her whole life? By the way, she is 12, not 11. Besides, she really grows as a character over the course of the novel. Another thing: I do not understand why no one has mentioned the brilliant creation of daemons. After reading these books I spent a year wishing for one! The first half of this book is not boring and the second half makes you bust into tear every ten pages.
This book is the most beautifully written book I have ever read and my mom agrees. My mom is book reviewer and she says that its only flaw is the end. However, there are two other books that come after so the end doesn't really matter.
I am telling you to dismiss all the reviews that diss the Golden Compass and read it as soon as you get the chance.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Quite pleasant. June 28 2004
Format:Paperback
This is the first book in the His Dark Materials trilogy (before The Subtle Knife, and The Amber Spyglass).
Set at the turn of the twentieth century in an alternate Europe where everyone is inseparable from their animal daemons, shape-changers that only settle at puberty, this is the story of Lyra Belacqua (and her daemon Pantalaimon), a teenage orphan girl living in Oxford College in charge of her powerful uncle, Lord Asriel.
Being a curious little girl, Lyra hears lots of gossip in the old halls. Some, about Dust, as well as pictures of a mysterious floating city in the aurora, make her dream of travelling North on one of her uncle's expeditions. But soon she also hears rumours of children, mainly from Gyptian families, who have started to mysteriously disappear, lured and captured by what people call the "Gobblers".
And when her playmate Roger the kitchen boy is kidnapped, she's desperate. But at the same time arrives Mrs. Coulter, an elegant and fascinatingly intelligent woman, who wants to take Lyra to her school in London. Believing that she'll learn more about Dust and maybe travel North with her, she soon becomes Mrs. Coulter's protégée. Until she realizes that the woman is none other than the head of the General Oblation Board of London, in other words the "Gobblers", and runs away.
The rest of the story tells how Lyra finally travels to Lapland, setting out in search of Roger and the other missing children with the help of the Gyptians, with whom she first takes refuge, of Panserborne (armoured bears) and witch-queens, and of the alethiometer, a strange compass-like device that reveals the truth to anyone who can read it, which the Master of Oxford College secretly gave her just before she left.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars An All Time Favorite!
I give Philip Pullman a standing ovation for the Golden Compass his dark materials. Both me and my husband loved the Golden Compass. Read more
Published 15 days ago by Cindy Beverly
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating fantasy book for all ages. I have read ...
Fascinating fantasy book for all ages. I have read this book 3 times and every time I learn more about Lyra's complex journey to understand why worlds can be shared and loves... Read more
Published 21 days ago by Debra
4.0 out of 5 stars Although the First book is not a masterpiece it is very good and a...
I remember reading these books as a kid. I still remember every bit of my journey through the universes and how Crushed I was when I flipped the last page of the Amber Spyglass. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Andres Consumer
3.0 out of 5 stars Not Impressed
Lower class children are disappearing and when Lyra finds that her friend is missing she wants to find him and get him back. Read more
Published on Nov. 8 2008 by Nicola Mansfield
3.0 out of 5 stars what's to rave about?
There are many people who liked this book, but I for one am not that impressed. I'm not saying it's horrible because it's not. Read more
Published on Sept. 11 2008 by Momus
3.0 out of 5 stars A clumsy introduction to a great trilogy
While I am just wrapping up book two, I have to say that The Golden Compass was, in itself, the more diluted book. Read more
Published on Jan. 28 2008 by Don Eglinski
4.0 out of 5 stars I can't believe how much I enjoyed this book
I can't believe how much I enjoyed this book, even though it's supposed to be part of a children's series. Read more
Published on Oct. 13 2007 by Melanie
5.0 out of 5 stars One of those books that you simply must read if you are a science...
"The Golden compass" is the first book in Phillip Pullman's "Dark Materials" triology. From my point of view, this is one of those books that you simply must read if you are a... Read more
Published on Jan. 7 2007 by M. B. Alcat
5.0 out of 5 stars Loved It!
I would recommend this book to anyone regardless of age. I felt the story was very original and highly interesting. Read more
Published on July 25 2006 by Lesley Winfield
4.0 out of 5 stars Listen to it...
I listened to this book on tape! It is also available on CD. It was excellent. The author himself narrates (a rare treat) so you know all the names are pronounced correctly, and... Read more
Published on Oct. 7 2005 by yvette
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