10 January 2011

The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman

Lyra is content to run wild among the scholars of Jordan College, with her daemon familiar always by her side.  But the arrival of her fearsome uncle, Lord Asriel, draws her to the hart of a terrible struggle—a struggle born of Gobblers and stolen children, witch clans and armored bears.  And as she hurtles toward danger in the cold, far North, young Lyra never suspects the shocking truth: she is destined to win, or to lose, this more-than-mortal battle.

Philip Pullman’s award winning The Golden Compass is a masterwork of storytelling and suspense, critically acclaimed and hailed as a modern fantasy classic.



  • This is a fascinating mix of elements.  This is a book that brought about that rare feeling where you just don’t know what to feel and where there are so many different things going on that you can’t just feel one way about it.  The plot is complex and frighteningly realistic.  Honestly, the writing gave me goose bumps  and the ending gave me chills. 
  • The one thing that really brings so much emotion out of this book, I think, is the world.  Philip Pullman takes his time and leisurely describes the different aspects of life, setting up everything right in the very beginning while being careful not to bore the reader.  I love that measure of detail.  I think what most writers don’t realize is that you can’t rush into the story right away but you also can’t give a soliloquy about how things work.  There’s a careful balancing act and Philip Pullman is a master of this craft.  I didn’t feel brought down by any of the information and I appreciated it in the long run.
  • My dad has no imagination.  Not in the fantasy-world kind of way, at least.  He made a comment to me about armored bears.  “Armored bears?  Don’t think I see that right there.”  And I said, “Yeah, dad, that’s where the imagination part comes in.”  And he’ll just shake his head at me.  Philip Pullman presents things in such a way that your brain doesn’t go, “Oh, yeah, right.”  He presents it as that’s the way of the world and how could you question that?  (Unless you’re my father.)  Philip Pullman has published, like, a billion books so he obviously knows what he’s doing.  And he’s also one of those minds that has me going, “Okay, how did he come up with that of all impossible things?”  The simply wild events kept me riveted and the matter-of-fact prose created the prefect formula to keep me reading.
  • But the ending freaked me out.  Really.  Maybe it’s because I’d seen the movie first and saw how awesome Daniel Craig was.  I don’t want to be spoilerish here, but for those of you who read the book, the ending just…God.  Really gave me the willies.  And, slightly relevant to that, I can see why some parents wouldn’t want their kids reading this book—at least until they’re older.  Philip Pullman pulls from “The Bible” but uses his own verses, adding daemons in there.
  • I think what really made this book come together was Lyra.  She’s an awesome chica.  She’s so stubborn and determined.  If she goes for something, she gets it and that’s that.  Lord help anyone who tries to stop her.  She’s such a real character that she provokes so many feelings for her.  I was cheering for her all the way and wanted to cry with her, too. 
  • Just a little note about the movie:  I think it’s a good adaption.  I can see why it was ended the way it was.  You just gotta think that this is a kids movie and the way the book ended…well…I can’t see that being fit into a kids movie and going over well.  Even being rearranged, I think the movie really captured the voice of the book while keeping it appropriate for kids.
  • In a nutshell, Philip Pullman brought together the complexities of the world and, combining them with a vivid and fresh imagination, created an everlasting story. 
Book Info:
  • pages – trade paperback, 399
  • published – (trade paperback) September 2002, (originally) 1995
  • publisher – Knopf Books for Young Readers
  • genre – fantasy
  • received via – Half-Price Books
  • rating - 5/5