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The Northern Lights

The Northern Lights

Blurb

Lyra is a young girl living in Oxford. Only the Oxford she lives in is in another world that differs from ours in one very special way: every human in this world has something called a ‘daemon’. Their daemon takes the form of an animal and reflects their inner personality. It is an outer manifest of their soul.

Lyra and her friends have heard rumours of children going missing in Oxford and other places around the country. Rumours about a group of people called The Gobblers. Lyra and her friends aren’t really concerned though and make a game of playing Gobblers.

All that changes when someone they know goes missing. Despite having an ongoing feud with the Gyptian families who frequent Oxford, Lyra and the others are concerned when one of their children goes missing, Ma Costa’s son Billy. Lyra’s concern grows though when she realises that she hasn’t seen Roger since that morning.

Lyra decides she needs to find and rescue Roger. Her journey takes her North and leads her to many new friends among the Gyptians, the witches and the armoured bears.


Our Review

Late last year I went to a book talk by Phillip Pullman on The Book of Dust and I decided to reread The Northern Lights because I loved it so much the first time around.

When I began to read I was struck by what a good opening line it was because it instantly lets the reader no that this is no ordinary book:

Lyra and her daemon moved through the darkening hall.

Lyra is a young girl living in Oxford. Only the Oxford she lives in is in another world that differs from ours in one very special way: every human in this world has something called a ‘daemon’. Their daemon takes the form of an animal and reflects their inner personality. It is an outer manifest of their soul.

As children the daemon has no fixed form and often takes a form that reflects their mood, as they enter adulthood. For example, servant’s daemons will often take the form of a dog as they like to follow rules and to have a master.

Lyra lives among a group of elderly scholars in Jordan’s college in Oxford. She spends her days roaming its halls and playing with Roger, a kitchen boy.

When we first meet Lyra she is exploring the halls with her daemon Pantalaimon. She decides to explore the Masters rooms ahead of her uncle Lord Asriel visiting.

Lord Asriel is a man whom she feared and admired greatly.

Whilst she is in the master’s rooms she ends up having to hide in a wardrobe when she realises the Master is returning to his rooms. Whilst she is there she sees the Master pour some powder into a drink intended for her uncle.

When Lord Asriel enters and is alone in the room Lyra can’t stop herself from bursting out of her hiding place to warn Lord Asriel not to take the drink.

Lord Asriel is not happy to find she has been spying but tells her to return to her hiding place and to observe the reactions of the others in the room when he presents his findings from a recent trip North.

He tells the group how he has recently returned from a trip to the North to find a missing expedition party headed by a man called Grunnman. Whilst there he discovered a strange light coming down from the sky: Dust.

With him he has some slides, one of these shows another city visible through The Northern Lights. A city in another world.

Later that evening, after Lyra has escaped from her hiding place unnoticed, we learn why the master had attempted to poison Lord Asriel.

“The alethiometer warns of appalling consequences if Lord Asriel pursues this research. Apart from everything else, the child will be drawn in, and I want to keep her safe as long as possible.”

We also learn from this conversation that Lyra could be more important than she realises.

“Lyra has a part to play in all this, a major one. The irony is that she has to do it all without realising what she’s doing. She can be helped, though, and if my plan with the Tokay had succeeded, she would have been safe for a little longer. I would have liked to have spared her a journey to the North.”

Lyra is probably when of my favourite young female characters. I like that she is not weak and reliant upon men in her life. She is a person in her own right and in many ways she is a walking contradiction.

“She was a course and greedy little savage, for the most part. But she always had a dim sense that it wasn’t her whole world; that part of her also belonged in the grandeur and ritual of Jordan College.”

Lyra and her friends have heard rumours of children going missing in Oxford and other places around the country. Rumours about a group of people called The Gobblers. Lyra and her friends aren’t really concerned though and make a game of playing Gobblers.

All that changes when someone they know goes missing. Despite having an ongoing feud with the Gyptian families who frequent Oxford, Lyra and the others are concerned when one of their children goes missing, Ma Costa’s son Billy. Lyra’s concern grows though when she realises that she hasn’t seen Roger since that morning.

One evening in the college Lyra is introduced to a number of female scholars including a woman by the name of Mrs Coulter. A woman with a golden monkey as her demon. Shortly afterwards the Master tells Lyra that she needs more female company even though he would like her to stay safe at Jordan College.

Lyra doesn’t want to leave initially until she realises that she will be going to live with Mrs Coulter.

Before she leaves the Master gives her an alethiometer, 1 of only 6 made. The Alethiometer is a compass like instrument with symbols along the edge and dials which can set to pose specific questions if someone knows how to read the symbols. The master tells her to keep it hidden and to tell no one about it.

Lyra’s life with Mrs Coulter is a whirlwind of new experiences and information. Lyra enjoys spending time with her and is eagerly anticipating a trip to the North with her. Then, one night, Lyra discovers a horrifying secret about Mrs Coulter, one that sends her fleeing into the night.

Whilst on the run Lyra decides she needs to find and rescue Roger. Her journey takes her North and leads her to many new friends among the Gyptians, the witches and the armoured bears.

The Northern Lights is a magical tale.

Our Final Rating...

Our Rating

  • Currently 5/5

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