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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Quite pleasant.
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...
Published on June 28 2004 by Stephanie Noverraz

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars Some find this a fantasic read but I think it rather slow!
Northern Lights is quite well written however the reader is lost in a weak begining which begins in the action. I don't really like this book.
This essay was written in the classroom.
In Northern Lights, by Philip Pullman, readers meet for the first time 11-year-old Lyra Belacqua, a precocious orphan growing up within the precincts of Jordan College in Oxford,...
Published on May 11 2004


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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Quite pleasant., June 28 2004
By 
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. Little by little, she'll become caught up in the adults' intricate powerplay.
I liked Northern Lights (US title: The Golden Compass), and found it quite pleasant to read, but I wasn't overly captivated by it. I was moved by Lyra's friendship with Iorek Byrnison, an exiled Panserborne, and deeply shocked, appalled, when I discovered what the "Gobblers" do to the snatched children, but that's about it. Lyra's a tad too temerarious and quick-witted, and in the end, I found her hardly believable. I'm very fond of Pantalaimon though.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Quite pleasant., June 28 2004
By 
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. Little by little, she'll become caught up in the adults' intricate powerplay.
I liked Northern Lights (US title: The Golden Compass), and found it quite pleasant to read, but I wasn't overly captivated by it. I was moved by Lyra's friendship with Iorek Byrnison, an exiled Panserborne, and deeply shocked, appalled, when I discovered what the "Gobblers" do to the snatched children, but that's about it. Lyra's a tad too temerarious and quick-witted, and in the end, I found her hardly believable. I'm very fond of Pantalaimon though.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Open your mind to the beauty of words..., June 26 2004
By 
I've been astounded to read some of the reviews on this book, The Golden Compass. I first read it when I was 12 years old, and now, at 16, I have read it many, many more times. Some of the reviews on here are so obviously from the point of view of a very small-minded christain. i am not christian, in fact I believe there really is no true religion. I embrace the world as it is. In accepting no religion, I have been able to remain a very open minded young woman.
The attacks on this book by religious fanactics are so out there, that it is easy to tell that religion has corrupted the minds of many, many people. This book, no matter what the content, is just a book. The beliefs of the author, Phillip Pullman are his own, and none of you religious types writing in reviews that blatently attack his beliefs, can change what he thinks. When you pick up a bhook keep one thing in mind- Read. Don't judge. Open your mind to something you normally would not accept. But don't attack a person's beliefs, for our beliefs and values are all we can really hold on to as a person- that we can call our own.
I believe there shoudl be no censorship. All of you parents who are saying you don't want your children to read this book are not sheltering them from anything. This book holds no information that they are not going to stumble across on the course of their lives. Please keep only one thing in mind and that is- Read. Don't judge. And especially don't allow your judgements and your views take over the minds of others. Let them read and see for themselves. It doesn't matter if you are tryingt to shelter someone from something you find appalling, something you find to be untrue., you can't hold it back from another person. This is censorship, and without books, without a free range of any book, every book, what kind of people would we be?
Buy this book, and buy many others, for as long as you live- words are more powerful than anything. The Golden Compass is a beautiful story, weaved of stuff stronger than magic. Don't judge it for what its not. Open your mind, and just...read.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Joe's Review, June 10 2004
By A Customer
Title: The Golden Compass
Author: Philip Pullman
Genre: Science Fiction
The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman is very well written and entertaining. This fantasy about Lyra and Pantalaimon, her daemon, is exciting, scary, and adventurous. It would be horrible if this book didn't win any awards. There is a lot of suspence especially after the chapter when Lyra meets a Gobbler, or her mother, for the first time and doesn't know it's her because Lyra was told her parents were dead. The Gobblers, or the General Oblation Board, take the children to the North where they cut them from their daemons. Lyra meets many friends that are witches, bears, ands Gyptions. They fight evil while she learns about her past and what she must do. Lyra gets the golden compass which is really an alethiometer and has to learn how it works. The alethiometer is a truthmeasure that can answer any question you ask it. Lyra uses her friends and the alethiometer to gain knowledge about her parents who both want to get into the city inside the Northern Lights and eliminate original sin. It all starts when she hides in the retiring room where girls aren't supposed to go and she spies on her father. She sees the Master try to poison her father who is also Lord Asriel. In this exciting novel Lyra gets herself into trouble and almost always gets herself out of it.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Eat Your Heart Out Harry!, May 13 2004
This review is from: Northern Lights (Paperback)
I'm reading this book because it(His Dark Matierials) ranked SO highly in The Big Read (number 5).I read it over a couple of days so it's easy to read,compulsive, and good fun.The prose,every paragraph is concise and not as disordered and messy as J.K.Rowlings. NOT as great as the media suggest(so far!).Also I'm forty and this is obviously a childrens book which is why I've maybe been a little generous with the mark.Am I alone also, in thinking Harry Potter can't cut the mustard when up against Lyra?I found it better than the Harry Potter books and, I think ,would have loved it when I was younger.I'm also hoping that it(the whole trilogy) will merit a 5/5 when I've finished.The concept of Daemons/severed children is clever and,emotionally,gives you something to 'hang on to'.I've found with some adult fantasy books that I've read recently that the respective authors really struggle to get you to care that much for characters outside the 'main cast' spectrum.I.E.Although HP's parents are dead,I've read too many of that type of cliche d device for it to really pull me in,though this could be due to age and too much experience again.Reading this,my first childrens book for a year,was very enjoyable but,as I said earlier,I hope for better in the next two volumes.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Some find this a fantasic read but I think it rather slow!, May 11 2004
By A Customer
This review is from: Northern Lights (Paperback)
Northern Lights is quite well written however the reader is lost in a weak begining which begins in the action. I don't really like this book.
This essay was written in the classroom.
In Northern Lights, by Philip Pullman, readers meet for the first time 11-year-old Lyra Belacqua, a precocious orphan growing up within the precincts of Jordan College in Oxford, England. It quickly becomes clear that Lyra's Oxford is not precisely like our own - nor is her world. In Lyra's world, everyone has a personal dæmon, a lifelong animal familiar. This is a world in which science, theology and magic are closely entwined.
Northern Lights is set in a world that parallels ours in many ways, yet very different. In this world lives Lyra, a girl left to be raised amongst the staff and scholars of Jordan College in Oxford, a sprawling mass of gothic buildings, great halls, subterranean passages and secret crypts. Pg 47 'Ancient stone arches rose above them supported by pillars as thick as ten trees...'
What makes Lyra and her kind different and alien to us is that she carries with her a lifelong companion. The companion is the person's daemon, something like a human soul but instead of being unseen it is alive and vibrant, sharing and responding to moods and feelings. Pg 16 "... and Lyra felt the force of his glance almost as if it had physical form, as if it were an arrow or a spear." As a child, Lyra's dæmon Pantalaimon still has not settled to one constant form, and so he changes to suit her mood, desire or situation. Pg 73 "...though Patalaimon wouldn't settle...when he became a hedgehog out of pique.' As she grows up, Lyra's true personality will become apparent, and it is only at this point that Pantalaimon will take on his true form in reflection of this development.
The study of science, theology and magic are very important to these people. The church still holds much of the power, dictating what is and what is not a valid course of scientific study. In doing so, boards are set up to perform scientific research. People who get in the way of the church will be prosecuted. The level of scientific knowledge is similar to ours but more advanced in the spiritual/magical realm.
Overall this book was ok- good enough to read the triology.
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4.0 out of 5 stars The golden compass, May 10 2004
By 
jonathan (Wilmette, IL USA) - See all my reviews
When I began this book I wasn't sure how much I was going to enjoy it, the fantasy genre is one of which I can easily be bored by. Philip Pullman however has writen this book with just the right balance of realism and fantasy so you are kept interested by the witches, armoured bears, and other magical beings but problems can't be solved by the swish of a wand.
Lyra (the main character in the book) is a typical 11 year old girl, so true to life it feels as if you could actually meet her. She gets caught up with an organization taking children up north and doing research with them. Little does Lyra know but she is the key to the destiny of her planet and numerous others. Early on in her travels she recieves a magical golden compass that can answer questions but only lyra can read it. Lyra has a grand adventure leading her to the north full of danger, excitement, courages acts, and brilliant plans. After things are finally coming together their is one more surprise in store for her, one to big for me to give away in this review. This book is definitely a must read for fantasy lovers and even those who aren't that into fantasy would find it a good read. This book is great for teens and many adults would probably enjoy it also.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A great read!! A great set-up for an adventure!!, April 20 2004
By 
stepht35 (Philadelphia, Pa) - See all my reviews
The Golden Compass: His Dark Materials-Book I by Phillip Pullman, was a book presented to our class College English class reward for a semester of literature that would be considered far from ordinary. I thought that because it was supposed to be so different from our other assignments this year (Geometric Regional Novel, No Saints or Angels, Search for M) that it would be a typical coming of age story about a girl in early 19th century England. A mildly disengaging novel, nothing but your average vacation book. However as with the theme of our class, it turned out to be anything but ordinary.
The main character Lyra, quickly hooks the reader with her quirky, tomboyish charms and shenanigans. The tales of her escapades told through the narration of a child are deliciously vivid and convincing. The idea that all humans have a life long, external companion in the form of an animal is wonderful. The daemons allow for the reader to see the feeling of the characters more vividly than if these "soul creatures" were internal.
The changing of the daemon when the human is a child and it's stabilization as the human reaches adulthood is a precise metaphor for adolescence. The situation where the daemon takes an active role in the activity was a brilliant way for the author to verbalize the conflict of conscience and inner dialogue for the reader.
The conflict with the authorities, of which there are many in the novel, is easily relatable to our own reality. The conflict with the church is central to the novel and the Lyra's spirituality. Her confusion concerning her own identity and the insights given to the audience as to the girl's destiny creates an exciting suspense that will drive many readers, including myself to read on in this saga. The ending of the story is a cliff hanger, but all will be well as soon as I can get a hold of Pullmans next book The Subtle Knife: His Dark Materials -Book II .
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5.0 out of 5 stars In a World All its Own, April 20 2004
By 
Mary Nubla (Philadelphia, PA) - See all my reviews
Though at first glance The Golden Compass, the first of a trilogy, looks like a book made for younger audiences, Philip Pullman manages to interweave the separate worlds of childhood and adulthood in a breath-defying manner. Set in a world similar to the one we all know, but with drastic differences, the novel follows the journey of a young girl, Lyra, as she finds her way through adolescence, all the while trying to make new discoveries. There are twists and turns and jumps and leaps as she learns the story of her life and learns that things are not always what they seem.
Usually marketed to young adult readers, the novel helps bring forth the idea of growing up and finding one's self. One of the elements of the novel that caught my eye was that everyone had what was known as a daemon, which is a physical appearance of a person's soul. The dae-mons are there as consciences; and for young readers, it allows them to begin learning about the psyche of themselves. We learn that daemons are capable of changing forms until the stage of adolescence is reached and as is seen with Lyra's own daemon, Pantalaimon, the forms change to match its owner's mood and thoughts. This helps young adults and even children learn that for a good portion of their lives, they will be a mixture of emotions and nothing is ever set in stone. Only when a person is finally old enough to realize what they were meant to do does life begin to settle, which can begin to happen at an adolescent phase. And that is just one example of the way in which Pullman uses symbolism to appeal to his audience.
However, The Golden Compass also delves deeper for adults who pick up the book. The intricacies found in the book that deal with politics and the church and the way in which they are all connected in order to make people "happy" are ideas that often times, only adults will be able to understand completely. There is the sense of enjoyment while reading a novel that not only manages to remind us that we all still have a child living within us, but that can also teach us of the workings of the world through debates, discoveries, emotions, and world views. There are subtleties in even the ideas that seem miniscule at first; while the daemons can be seen as mere physical manifestations of the human soul, it can be further examined and the slight fact that daemons are almost always the opposite sex of its owner is something a bit more complex. The thought that daemons could possibly also be an extension of the soul in terms of one's soul mate is a proposal that only an adult would be able to comprehend, furthering along the simplicity of a child's mind while reading the novel.
Although Pullman's trilogy is often compared to the works of J.R.R. Tolkien and J.K. Rowling, the only similarity I can see is the idea of a world that is similar to the one we know but with differences that cannot be overlooked. While all three novel collections use mythology and fantasy as a background, The Golden Compass manages to allow both children and adults to en-joy the words of the novel in diverse ways, depending on what type of perspective the reader has. Whereas J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series is very clear-cut and to-the-point and J.R.R Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings collection is a deeper delving into the convolution of a mystic world, Pullman merges both those styles in a piece of work that is highly unmatched.
Despite age, the genre the novel is placed in, and its target audience, Philip Pullman de-livers a work of fiction that will become a timeless piece in due time. The Golden Compass is a read that no one should miss because whether it is a child-like fairy tale or a mysterious, dark, and winding story that is being sought after, the book delivers just that. It is a riveting tale that once it has been started, the book will never leave your hands for the mere reason that, despite the cliché, it is too good to put down until it has been finished.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Not just a book, but an experience!, April 18 2004
By 
This is my first review of anything, ever, and I'm proud to write it about one of the most astounding fantasy books that I've ever read!
The first thing that caught my attention about this book was the fact that it seemed so fresh. I avoided reading it for a long time, because I was afraid it would be a cheesy, run-of-the-mill fantasy. I couldn't have been further from the truth. To me, the most important thing about a fantasy book is it's ability to make the characters and world feel absolutely real, as if, perhaps, you were the one living in a fantasy world. Pullman's style plants you into his world as firmly as if you had been born in it. He doesn't fawn over his own creations, but gets down to the nitty-gritty, plunging right into the plot. You don't have time to worry about why humans have daemons, and how the heck bears can have armor. Ok, you do wonder, but it's written so beautifully, that you are swept away with it, allowing these mysteries to drift to the back of your mind, knowing that it will all be explained in good time. This, of course, only works if you are a patient person, like I am!
Pullman's realism extends into character development as well. Emotions are placed openly on the table, available for you to gasp in fear along with the heroine as she is anticipating being separated from a cherished companion, or to holler with joy as she escapes another daunting situation. There are much more complex situations as well, leading to feelings of guilt and confusion. The reader will also feel angry or confused, and sometimes hate the author for what he is doing. I think that that is the most important part of the writer/reader relationship: the ability of the writer to transmit difficult emotions to the reader, without withhold anything, for fear of hurting his 'dear characters'.
Of course, this brings up the question of the appropriateness of this book for children. This is the way that I look at it: children deal with difficult emotions and situations. Shielding them from those things will not help them grow up stronger. Letting them experience these through a book, which can then be discussed with thier parents, will help them gain mastery over their feelings, instead of being afraid of them. The heroine of the book, even with some shortcomings such as stubborness and 'roughness', is essentially a good, caring child, and a person willing to help the people she cares about, even if sacrificing her own safety. She can be a good role model.
The second question of appropriateness is the heavy religious/spiritual influence on the story. This is more difficult for me to address. I would say that this is up to the parents of the child. If the parents themselves have some sort of religious preferences, and still want to allow thier child to read the book, they may want to discuss with him or her, how the book is just an example of one persons opinion, and also, since it is fiction, it would tend to stretch things out of proportion. If you feel that you have a strong case against the main themes of the book, then this would be the perfect opportunity to discuss with your child why you disagree with the author's ideas.
Finally, I would like to wrap this up by saying that I am certainly lucky to have the chance to have read such a rich and complex tale, and would recommend it to anyone willing to leave our world, and get a taste of Phillip Pullman's complex universe!
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