The Golden Compass follows a young orphaned girl named Lyra Belacqua and her daemon Pantalaimon who both live in Jordan College at Oxford. She gets herself and Pan into a sticky situation with her uncle Lord Asriel that sparks a curiosity in Lyra. On top of that, there is rumor going around about a group of people called The Gobblers that take children in the middle of the night and they've seemed to have arrived close to Oxford.
I know that I am so late to the His Dark Materials series hype train but I am so excited about continuing on this series. I absolutely loved it. I will have to say that it is a slow moving story especially about the first half or so, but I think that it is completely worth the time and energy it takes to get to the more action packed scenes. Pullman writes this world so elegantly and I felt myself attached to Lyra and Pan pretty quickly.
"You cannot change who you are, only what you do."
Like I said earlier, it's a slow start. I was listening to the audiobook while reading the physical copy because I had heard that the audiobook had an amazing full cast (which it does and its absolutely brilliant). Because of the audiobook I think that it helped me get through the more slow parts of the story. I was never bored or uninterested, but there were times where I did wish I could speed up the story a little. However, by the end of the book and looking back at all that happens in 400 page story it definitely feels worth it. There's a part of the end of the story (no spoilers don't worry) where Lyra mentions something that happened earlier on in the book and it was in that moment I realized it felt like it had happened a book previous to the one I was reading. I hadn't realized how much actually happened. So although the beginning can feel slow, it's important that it is in the book.
"Lyra has never seen such a sight, never heard such a bellow; it was like a mountain laughing."
The cast of characters were absolutely amazing. Lyra has definitely earned her spot on my list of favorite characters. She's so clever and determined which I absolutely love reading. She's such a strong female character at only eleven years old. She literally stops at nothing to do the right thing, even if shes absolutely terrified. I love the friendship that is formed between Lyra and Iorek Byrnison (and the fact that they always call him by his full name just like Seraphina Pekkela). They genuinely care about each other, which is a really sweet thing because Iorek is such a guarded creature even if he is revealed to be a big softy. I love that he takes care of her. I also loved her friendship with Farder Coram. I loved seeing that Lyra did have protectors, people who wanted the best for her, especially since although she is so independent but she still is only a child.
"It was such a strange tormenting feeling when your daemon was pulling at the link between you; part physical pain deep in the chest, part intense sadness and love. Everyone tested it when they were growing up; seeing how far they could pull apart, coming back with intense relief."
I absolutely love the idea of a person with their daemon. I think any good pet owner can understand that kind of love and bond you have for your pet is unbreakable. My dog is basically my emotional support animal. We are incredibly attached to each other and I bring him everywhere I can. In The Golden Compass the bond is even stronger than what we have. When a person and their daemon are separated a certain distance and farther, they can feel a physical pain from being apart from each other. It's like a piece of their soul is gone. The scene where Lyra meets Iorek Byrnison for the first time, and Pan goes to talk to him before Lyra, they pull too far from each other and between the voice acting on the audiobook and the beautiful writing I felt myself tear up when Pan and Lyra collided with each other once more sobbing. Every moment the bonds of people with their daemons is brought up and revealed more and more I feel more in love with the story. Because of my attachment to just the idea of people having life long animal companions, I found myself choked up anytime a character was separated from their daemon. Pullman's world building and writing just really pulled you into the world he had created. The majority of the story has Lyra in cold temperatures where she's absolutely freezing, and I found myself feeling cold a lot of the time, and having to turn up the heat or grab a sweater. I absolutely felt like I was in Lyra's shoes, and it's been so long since I was inside a story to that extreme.
"We are all subject to the fates. But we must not act as if we are not, or die of despair."
The one thing that shocked me about this book was the fact that although it is definitely a middle grade book, it let itself get pretty dark. The adventures and excitement would be so much fun to read, but there are themes in this book like death of children and death of some animals (the daemons). Obviously all kids are different and some will handle it no problem where others may not, but it's definitely something to look out for. Also I didn't know this starting the series that there are religious themes. You see it a little in The Golden Compass but from what I hear the themes are more in the second and third books. I don't have a problem with that, but apparently some people have had a problem with it, so that's also something to consider.
"Men and women are moved by tides much fiercer than you can imagine, and they sweep us all up into the current."
This story had me so happy. I cried a lot and had my anxiety on high with all the situations Lyra found herself in. I cannot wait to pick up the sequel as soon as I can so I can see what happens next. I am excited to see what happens with Lyra and Pan, and I hope we get more questions answered about the city in the Aurora, the alethiometer and where the characters are that Lyra got separated from (staying vague to avoid spoilers). Also I really [really, really, really] want someone to stop Mrs. Coulter. I plan on picking up the second book from my library as soon as possible.
Thanks for reading!
Have you read the His Dark Materials series? When did you read them? I'm really interested to see how old people were when reading this book because of the dark moments.