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The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman
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The Golden Compass (1995)

by Philip Pullman

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: His Dark Materials (1)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
26,04457542 (4.1)2 / 775
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    The Ruby in the Smoke by Philip Pullman (Aleana)
  13. 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.
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    Jannes: Epic and awe-inspiring and steampunk-ish... also surprisingly complex characters and moral ambiguity for a YA novel - just like HDM
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(see all 29 recommendations)

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English (552)  Danish (6)  French (3)  German (3)  Spanish (2)  Italian (1)  Swedish (1)  Portuguese (1)  Dutch (1)  Finnish (1)  All (1)  All (572)
Showing 1-5 of 552 (next | show all)
The Golden Compass or, if you're across the pond, Northern Lights is the first in the His Dark Materials series by Philip Pullman. I know I saw the movie when it came out but this is my first time reading the book. Luckily I remembered absolutely nothing about the movie so this was like a fresh read.

Lyra has lived at Jordan College in Oxford all her life. She's a typical 10-year-old, enjoying playing games with her friends, inventing stories and getting into mischief all under the watchful eye of the Scholars. All of this is brought to a halt when her best friend goes missing. He's been stolen by the Gobblers, people that abduct kids and take them to the far north for nefarious purpose. Lyra and her daemon Pantalaimon are on a mission to rescue her lost find, discover what the Gobblers are really up to and figure out what Dust has to do with everything.

I had a hard time getting into this one. The story was interesting but it just didn't grab me until the half way point when they discover the poor kid Tony and just how horrible the experiments actually are. Then the race to find Lyra's friend and save as many of the children as possible took on a real sense of urgency for me. Then the story turned into quite an adventure with a small mystery to solve. The story also focuses on the themes of friendship, loyalty and sacrifice. I think what bogged me down was all the politics you are initially dropped in to and that Lyra's character takes a while to develop. She starts off as a bit of a brat but eventually charmed me just like she charms the other characters in the book.

About daemons. I wish I had one. They are the physical representatives of our inner selves that take the shape of animals. Basically your own spirit animal that stays with you for life. As a child they are able to change shape until eventually your daemon will "settle" into the form that represents you best. Pantalaimon is simply awesome. I wonder what form my daemon would take. Such a fun idea.

One of the wonderful things about books is how everyone reads them differently. I admit I didn't quite get all the controversy around this book. Sure, I can see some hard core Christians being upset that at the questions around original sin and how Pullman inserts his world's myths into bible verse. I was definitely drawn more into the ideas around parallel universes than any theological controversies. Perhaps this is something that becomes more prevalent in the next two books?

I think this is considered a middle-grade book. For anyone wondering if this book is ok for their children to read be warned there are some intense battle scenes and are a couple deaths of children that could be considered scary. ( )
  Narilka | Jun 10, 2017 |
When I first read this book in high school, my reaction was "meh". Which surprised me, considering that the people who raved about it to me were the people who I almost always agreed with about books, the people who loved the same things I loved - and I wasn't really sure why I didn't enjoy it as much as they did. So I re-read it now, after college, in an attempt to see if maybe I just hadn't given the book a fair shake as well as to see if maybe I could articulate better what my issues with it were.

It was better on the second go around. Especially since on the second reading, I actually read the whole series (I stopped after the first one last time). I didn't necessarily love this one on its own, but in conjunction with the other two it was better. I enjoyed the trilogy as a whole - not really the first book. I didn't find the characters all that compelling or dynamic, and while the first point showed glimpses of an interesting and creative world, the writing and characters didn't help me to enjoy that world.

That being said, I would definitely recommend reading all three of them before casting judgment on any one book - the third one is by far my favorite, but it relies on much that is built up in the first two. ( )
  LSmith862 | May 31, 2017 |
When I first read this book in high school, my reaction was "meh". Which surprised me, considering that the people who raved about it to me were the people who I almost always agreed with about books, the people who loved the same things I loved - and I wasn't really sure why I didn't enjoy it as much as they did. So I re-read it now, after college, in an attempt to see if maybe I just hadn't given the book a fair shake as well as to see if maybe I could articulate better what my issues with it were.

It was better on the second go around. Especially since on the second reading, I actually read the whole series (I stopped after the first one last time). I didn't necessarily love this one on its own, but in conjunction with the other two it was better. I enjoyed the trilogy as a whole - not really the first book. I didn't find the characters all that compelling or dynamic, and while the first point showed glimpses of an interesting and creative world, the writing and characters didn't help me to enjoy that world.

That being said, I would definitely recommend reading all three of them before casting judgment on any one book - the third one is by far my favorite, but it relies on much that is built up in the first two. ( )
  LSmith862 | May 31, 2017 |
It's been a long time since I last read this novel, but the word of a new Philip Pullman series inspired me to pick it up again. I'm still not sure I do really consider it a young adult novel either. The novel has a young protagonist and is, on the surface, simply written but it is an incredibly complex novel. The comparisons that it receives to middle grade fiction like Harry Potter is frankly unfair.

The world building is incredible. The political and theological background is deep and complex, and the descriptions of Lyra's journey are so detailed that you can vividly imagine each step. While this adds a sense of reality to the story, my only real problem is that it makes the opening chapters very slow and expository. While never boring, the novel doesn't start to feel like it is moving until Lyra leaves for the north, which around a third of the way through.

Yet when the novel picks up pace, it never looses it. Lyra's adventure is tense, exciting and more than a little scary. The plot is very focused and contains a lot of original and memorable adventures, from flying on a zeppelin pulled by witches to Lyra tricking her way into the court of the armoured bear king. The only disappointment I had with the plot after this point was the ending. While it's shocking and more than a little dark (no further spoilers here), it does break off on a cliffhanger which is a really bug bear of mine.

In terms of character, the novel presents a great protagonist in the form of Lyra. Her voice always sounds genuine, being strong willed and childlike and often resolving problems through her quick wit and ability to convincingly lie. Her relationship with Pan is also very sweet, making some of the threats that they face together difficult to read. However, none of the other characters receive this sort of development. They're memorable - especially Iorek, Lee Scoresby and Serafina Pekkala - but they don't get much development over the course of the story. Even the villains are a little two dimensional, doing terrible things because they want power, which is a little disappointing.

All in all, the book had some great moments but wasn't as fantastic as I remembered it on the whole. I will read on with the series to see if it gets better though, because the word building did blow me away. ( )
  ArkhamReviews | Mar 13, 2017 |
I just love the adventure this book takes you through. A young girl's journey. It's fabulous. ( )
  RinHanase | Mar 11, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 552 (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.
 

» Add other authors (20 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Pullman, Philipprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Astrologo, MarinaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bailey, PeterIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Baylay, KateCover artistsecondary 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
Williams, StuartCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
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
Dedication
First words
Lyra and her dæmon moved through the darkening hall, taking care to keep to one side, out of sight of the kitchen.
Quotations
We are all subject to the fates. But we must all act as if we are not...or die of despair.
...this was in the seventeenth century.  Symbols and emblems were everywhere. Buildings and pictures were designed to be read like books.  Everything stood for something else.; if you had the right dictionary you could read Nature itself.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
Northern Lights was published in the US as The Golden Compass
Please distinguish between the book, abridgements and the movie.
Publisher's editors
Blurbers
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Original language

References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English (1)

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
Haiku summary

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)

(see all 10 descriptions)

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.

» see all 18 descriptions

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