Tuesday, July 26, 2005

#48 Northern Lights (aka The Golden Compass) by Philip Pullman

Date Started: Tuesday, July 19, 2005
Date Finished: Tuesday, July 26, 2005
My BookCrossing Rating: 7 out of 10 stars
Going in to this book, I was unsure how I'd feel about it. All of the reviews I'd read, and the description itself, kept referring to "The Church" and Christianity stuff. Now, I'm not Christian and never have been, but I know enough about their teachings, and though they've got some good ideas, I am completely at odds with many of their teachings, and some of the things they practice and preach really make me angry, so much so that I tend to avoid books that deal with the subject.

That said, with the exception of the very end of the book, and the fact that many of the characters held various positions in the Church, there really wasn't too much religion in it, which allowed me to enjoy it for what it was.

The book takes place in a universe similar to ours, but different in many ways. Each human, and witches as well, has a personal daemon, an animal of the opposite sex from themselves, who is sort of like their soul, or alter-ago. A human and their daemon cannot be separated from each other by more than a few feet, and to be separated from your daemon can cause certain death. Before they've reached puberty, a child's daemon can change form at will, and will not settle on one particular form until their child has become an adolescent. Lyra's daemon is named Pantalaimon and often takes the form of an ermine, which seems to be his favorite form. When he wishes to appear inconspicuous, he can be a moth, or a mouse, or in a protective mode, even a lion.

Lyra and Pan have spent most of their childhood growing up at Jordon College near London. She's an orphan, or so she's been told that her parents were killed in an accident when she was younger. Though she lives at the college, she's friends with the servant's children, some of the town children, and even children from other colleges. The arrival of the "Gobblers" in town has put fear in the adults and children alike, for the "Gobblers" have been stealing children and bringing them North for secret experiments.

As the story progresses, Lyra discovers some hidden secrets about herself, the Gobblers, and the Northern Lights, and progresses through a number of dangerous adventures on her way to find out what's going on and help to save the children. The ending, though coming to a satisfactory conclusion, is left open to pave the way to the second book.

Overall, I enjoyed this book immensely. (I almost gave it an 8 instead of a 7, but the fact that I had to stop and look up some words in the dictionary made me decide to go with the 7.) Plus, at the very end when Lord Asriel and Lyra went into a discussion about "original sin" and quoted a few bible verses, I thought "Oh oh, don't start now!" But it was only in the last 30 pages or so, and it only went on for a few pages and then just became a minor concept again so I was okay with it. However, I'm wondering if leading into the 2nd book, this whole concept of "original sin" (which is one of those things that I have a grudge against) is going to be further explored. I hope not!

(Journal page for this book can be found at http://bookcrossing.com/journal/2934282.