The Golden Compass

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I don't live in a world with dæmons, armored bears, and Dust but Philip Pullman brought me into this world with incredible description, fanciful storytelling, and a great ending even with the sequel The Subtle Knife looming.

Lyra Belaqua, the main character is an 11 year old orphan growing up in Jordan College who is very mischievous. Lyra is the reason I enjoyed this book, because her raw talent reminds me a lot about real world talent and how it gets developed. Her growing wisdom is a model that all talented people should follow. One of the main themes in this book is freedom through knowledge. Other themes include coming of age, and power struggles between two ways of thought.

The Golden Compass is mostly from the point of view of Lyra's. The gripping book starts with Lord Asriel, Lyra's uncle and a very powerful explorer and scientist returns from the North to Jordan with new discoveries including how Dust only gathers around adults, the city in the Aurora, and the news that he will build a bridge to enter this new world. Lyra and her dæmon, Pantalaimon, who can change animal shapes because they are young, become insatiably curious about Dust and why notables care about it. Lord Asriel heads North shortly thereafter.

Lyra is a tomboy and extremely wild. She spends her days playing Gobblers and Kids with Roger Parslow and the other children of Jordan. The Gobblers is an urban legend, they kidnap kids, and their reasons are not known. They are all fun and games until Roger is taken by the Gobblers.

Lyra is very sad about Roger but she forgets all about him when a scholar, Mrs. Coulter and her golden monkey dæmon come to Jordan. Mrs. Coulter entrances her into coming to the North with her to explore and Lyra is absolutely admiring her. Before she leaves, she is given an alethiometer by the Master of Jordan College. The alethiometer is like a clock without the time, it has 3 hands which one can control but there is one hand which points to all these symbols around the alethiometer which no one knows how to work. You can ask the alethiometer any sort of question and it is a truth measure so it will show the answer if one knows how to read it. It is her understanding that she is to bring the alethiometer to Lord Asriel.

Lyra and Mrs. Coulter spend time in London preparing for the trip and although Lyra is given fancy clothes and is living a life of luxury, she becomes suspicious that the golden monkey is spying on her and she finds out that Mrs. Coulter is the head of the General Oblation Board (Gobblers) so she runs away. The turning point in the perspective on Mrs. Coulter went like this: “She didn't finish the sentence, because Mrs. Coulter's dæmon sprang off the sofa in a blur of golden fur and pinned Pantalaimon to the carpet before he could move.” Lyra is rescued by Gyptians who seek to rescue the kidnapped children.

Along the way they learn that the Gobblers take the kids North to an “experimental station” the outsiders call Bolvangar. They also learn that Lord Asriel is in captivity in Svalbard, kingdom of the armored bears. The Gyptian crew picks up an armored bear outcast Iorek Byrnison, an aeronaut Lee Scoresby, and a witch Serefina Pekkala along the way. Lyra also begins to learn how to read the alethiometer.

Will Lyra and the Gyptians rescue the kids up North? Will Lyra bring the alethiometer to Lord Asriel? Will they learn about the mysterious Dust? Will Iorek Byrnison ever be accepted as an armored bear again? Will Lord Asriel build the bridge to another world? Will they ever find out what horrifying thing they are practicing on the children in Bolvangar? Will Lyra learn of her destiny so enthusiastically described by the witches?

The description and creation of this new world and incredible plot development and story telling make The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman a must read for fantasy lovers, heroine lovers, or anyone who just likes a good story.





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