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The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman

The Golden Compass (1995)

by Philip Pullman

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: His Dark Materials (1)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
24,18753845 (4.1)2 / 717
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    A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle (sturlington)
  5. 176
    The Neverending Story by Michael Ende (Leishai)
    Leishai: Also a story about fantasy with another world
  6. 114
    The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman (ut.tecum.loquerer)
  7. 40
    The Book of Three by Lloyd Alexander (StefanY)
  8. 40
    Fly by Night by Frances Hardinge (Kerian)
  9. 41
    The House With a Clock In Its Walls by John Bellairs (timspalding)
  10. 52
    The Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett (bibliovermis)
  11. 52
    A Ring of Endless Light by Madeleine L'Engle (Anonymous user)
  12. 20
    The Witches of Willowmere by Alison Baird (mene)
    mene: "The Willowmere Chronicles" series includes daemons, but focusing more on the Ancient Greek version. "His Dark Materials" series has a parallel world where everyone has a daemon, but in a different way than the daemons in the Willowmere Chronicles.
  13. 53
    Paradise Lost by John Milton (Jannes)
  14. 31
    The Ruby in the Smoke by Philip Pullman (Aleana)
  15. 53
    The Darkangel Trilogy by Meredith Ann Pierce (VictoriaPL)
  16. 31
    Pavane by Keith Roberts (timspalding)
  17. 10
    Cold Magic by Kate Elliott (Jen448)
  18. 32
    Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve (Jannes)
    Jannes: Epic and awe-inspiring and steampunk-ish... also surprisingly complex characters and moral ambiguity for a YA novel - just like HDM
  19. 21
    Dreamhunter by Elizabeth Knox (SunnySD)
  20. 10
    Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld (Aleana)

(see all 28 recommendations)

1990s (7)
Unread books (1,159)

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English (516)  Danish (6)  French (3)  German (3)  Spanish (2)  Swedish (1)  Italian (1)  Dutch (1)  Portuguese (Portugal) (1)  Portuguese (1)  All languages (535)
Showing 1-5 of 516 (next | show all)
This is the first book in His Dark Materials trilogy. Lyra Belacqua is the young heroine. She has been raised in Jordan College, but when children begin disappearing and Lyra learns more about her background, she takes off for the North to unraveling the secrets of this unusual world. Pullman has created a world with a number of interesting features. Children have daemons who change form (from butterfly to rabbit), armored bears and witches are allies and enemies, and a substance called Dust drives many adults to extreme behaviors. The plot moves quickly and Lyra is a resourceful child who I couldn't help by root for. I'll definitely read the next book in the trilogy soon. ( )
  porch_reader | Nov 21, 2015 |
The Golden Compass is the first book in Philip Pullman's trilogy His Dark Materials. The novel is set in a world where people have daemons, that is spirit animals that accompany them their whole life. While still a child, these daemons can take on any form and change their form quite frequently before the daemons settle on a fixed form when you become an adult. Human beings and their daemons share a special bond and cannot be separated spatially without suffering great pain. The protagonist of the novel, Lyra, is a young girl growing up at Jordan College in Oxford. She is not an ordinary girl, though. She is very curious and spies on a talk between the heads of the college and Lord Asriel, her uncle. There is talk about 'Dust' and people are wondering in how far this 'Dust' generally affects their lives. At the same time, the so-called 'Gobblers' haunt Oxford and many other places, stealing children. Among those abducted children is Roger, a kitchen boy at Jordan College and a friend of Lyra's. Soon, Lyra sets out to find Roger and free him from the 'Gobblers'. Her adventure leads her through many hardships and painful truths about 'Dust', daemons and her family that heavily influence her life and identity.

While this is novel is supposed to be a children's book, I found some passages to be quite disturbing for children. For instance, there is one passage where the killing of a bear is described in gory detail. Additionally, the facts Lyra learns about her mother and father do not seem all too appropriate for younger children. While the hero of the novel is certainly quite identifiable, I found that the novel paints a very bleak picture of children's lives.

What I found to be a strong suit of the book, are the quite vivid descriptions of the parallel universe, the readers find themselves in and also of the people and creatures who live in that world. Generally, though, I thought the book was not fast-paced enough and there was not that much going on on what therefore seemed to be a quite long 351 pages. At the same time, I missed some continuity and some questions were left unanswered or treated only on the surface. Pullman probably leaves those parts open to the readers' imagination. Or maybe they will be answered in the remainder of the trilogy.

On the whole, I was a little disappointed in this book which I had been looking forward to reading for quite some time. Since I bought a copy of the while trilogy, I will still give the following two novels a chance. But my expectations are certainly lower now.
A disappointing 2.5 stars for The Golden Compass. ( )
  OscarWilde87 | Oct 15, 2015 |
This book just makes me all kinds of happy. I'm not sure why it's taken me so long to read these, really... Granted, I do go to a Christian university and it is such a great time to see people's reactions when I say that I'm reading these. Honestly. My advice to those people would be to read them for yourself and stop letting other people make decisions for you. Because this book was lovely as well as relatively complex. The plot has a lot going on in it that you don't necessarily catch on to right away.
With that said, usually I'm not a huge fan of talking animals (there are reasons as to why I never made it past the first Narnia book. I just couldn't handle the talking animals.) So I was a tad bit nervous as these books get compared to Narnia a lot (or should I say contrasted? The atheists alternative? whatever.) partly because of the animals aspect and I'm not a huge fan of Narnia...
Anyway, comparisons aside, I loved the world that was built up. One in which each human had a daemon companion. I loved all the little rules that went with these daemons. They are always animals, they are always the opposite gender of their companions, they can shift fluidly through any animal shape until the human reaches adulthood in which they remain in a set form, and that touching another person's daemon is considered to be the 'great taboo.' Even though the daemons did talk, they only talked to their humans. So Pantalaimon is really one of the only animals that talks (thank goodness). Also, as a side note, I'm pretty sure that he doesn't stay in this form, but Pan's ermine form was always my favourite. I want an ermine daemon...
The setting was amazing. It started out in Oxford and moved into the arctic north. I loved how the fantasy elements could be injected into the real world almost seamlessly. With daemons, witches, and giant talking bears, everything seemed to fit so perfectly in the setting it was given. And yes, there are talking bears... and, ok, they were badass so I let that slide. I mean, there's a battle between two armoured bears at the end. If that's not awesome, I don't know what is.
I also am genuinely a fan of Lord Asrial but darned if i have any idea what his place in the story is going to be. Everything is really focused in on Lyra. So much so that it's hard to get a real grip on the other characters. Most of the time I'm ok with that, but occasionally it just became really boring for me. There's a dry patch around the middle of the book that i had a really difficult time getting around. Lyra is a girl who is bold, strong, and analytical. She's described as someone who really doesn't have much of an imagination, and while that seems kind of weird and something of an off putting trait, it fits with her. She's not like the typical girl protagonist and that was what I really really liked about her and the story as a whole.
As a whole, I loved this book. It has controversy along with it, and personally I think that makes it even better. There's nothing wrong with a little controversy. I mean, yeah The Church was the painted baddy of the book, but it's not like it wasn't done in a way that was legitimate. The Dust (the thing that sets the whole plot into motion) was something that the Church thought was linked to original sin, and that it was connected with when a child's daemon set its form, thus if a child and their daemon were severed from each other, it would keep this 'original sin' away from the person. Thus, some pretty horrible experiments went on in the North.
It all just added up to a genuinely interesting book. It was just good. The writing is fantastic and the story is interesting and just dark enough as a whole. ( )
1 vote glitzandshadows | Oct 12, 2015 |
Philip Pullman creates and interesting version of our world. I love the idea of "demons" and the cultural aspect of them. The world he creates is a bit dark and has a strong religious aspect to it. There is a message that the author is trying to get across, but it doesn't distract from the story or take anything away from the characters. I took it more as that is the world they are living in. The main character grows throughout the book, but I also like that she never loses her innocence of being a child. She goes through a wide range of emotions that get detailed really well. Some of the storyline was a bit simple and seemed to work out too well, but overall it was an enjoyable read.

I listened to the audiobook, which was excellent. It was narrated by a full cast, with different voice actors for each character. It flowed really well, and many of the narrators did a great job showcasing the emotions of the characters. ( )
  renbedell | Sep 24, 2015 |
My brief review in 2007 as I remembered reading it, from 2000:

Fantastic. For the daemon idea alone, I would love this book. But Lyra is a spunky character and there are tons of great scenes and characters and action, and I won't go into it here. Can't wait for the movie, yet am dreading the movie coz it'll never be as good as the book.

And I was right, the movie wasn't that good. ( )
  GoldieBug | Sep 19, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 516 (next | show all)
As always, Pullman is a master at combining impeccable characterizations and seamless plotting, maintaining a crackling pace to create scene upon scene of almost unbearable tension. This glittering gem will leave readers of all ages eagerly awaiting the next installment of Lyra's adventures.
added by Shortride | editPublishers Weekly

» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Philip Pullmanprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Astrologo, MarinaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bützow, HeleneTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Beck, IanIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Brooks, TerryIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Nielsen, CliffCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rohmann, EricCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Torrescasana, AlbertTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Tutino, AlfredoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Into this wild abyss,
The womb of nature and perhaps her grave,
Of neither sea, not shore, nor air, nor fire,
But all these in their pregnant causes mixed
Confusedly, and which thus must ever fight,
Unless the almighty maker them ordain,
His dark materials to create more worlds,
Into this wild abyss the wary fiend
Stood on the brink of hell and looked a while,
Pondering his voyage...

     — John Milton, Paradise Lost, Book II
First words
Lyra and her dæmon moved through the darkening hall, taking care to keep to one side, out of sight of the kitchen.
We are all subject to the fates. But we must all act as if we are not...or die of despair.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
'The Golden Compass' was originally published in Britain, Australia and elsewhere as 'Northern Lights'
Publisher's editors
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Book description
In a universe somewhat like our own, children are beginning to disappear from cities around England. For Lyra Belacqua, a half-wild orphan girl living at Jordan College, Oxford, the kidnappings are just another excuse for games, battles and tall stories - until her best friend Roger is reported missing. Vowing to rescue him, Lyra embarks upon a journey to the savage North, where physicists and theologians alike are conducting controversial research into the nature of something known only as 'Dust'. Apart from her friends the gyptians, her only guide is a curious golden instrument called an alethiometer. If she is to survive her ordeal, she will have to learn to interpret its cryptic and peculiar messages. 432
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0440418321, Paperback)

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 soul 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

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:24:41 -0400)

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Accompanied by her daemon, Lyra Belacqua sets out to prevent her best friend and other kidnapped children from becoming the subject of gruesome experiments in the Far North.

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