Tuesday, August 8, 2017

The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman

All her life, Lyra has lived at Jordan College in England.  She grew up among the old scholars as a rough-and-tumble rugrat, befriending the child servants who worked at the college, climbing the old buildings, exploring the old crypts, and generally getting up to as much mischief as she could.  One time, as part of a "war" between groups of children, she ended up stealing a houseboat and cruising down the river with it.  That all changed one day when her mysterious uncle, Lord Asriel, came to visit the scholars of the college, only to have the master of the college attempt to kill him...

The Golden Compass was a really interesting book.  It provides an alternate reality that differs in only a few ways from our early-1900's Europe.  Most significantly, every human possess a daemon, which is a sort of animal familiar that serves as an immediate animal companion throughout their lives.  In early life, daemons can shift between forms at will, but around the person's puberty, the daemon will take on a permanent animal form.  While the book is the story Lyra's journey, much of the mystique and conflict revolves around the connection between a person and her or his daemon.  Lyra travels to cities and to the frozen north, befriends a sentient armored bear, and earns the name of Lyra Silvertongue.  It's a heck of an adventure.

I read this with my 8-year old daughter.  It's probably the most mature book that we've read together.  She is a veteran of the Warriors series, which has its share of violence, but other parents should know that bad stuff happens in this book.  Despite the fairly slow and stodgy beginning of the story at Jordan College, she loved the book from the start.  A lot of that probably has to do with Lyra, who is a willful, strong, kid who loves to push boundaries.  We both enjoyed the book a great deal.  We're moving directly into book 2.  A clear 5/5.