The Golden Compass

Written by Philip Pullman

Book #5 of 2012

Nationality: U.K.
Publisher: Ballantine Books
First Edition: 1995, Great Britain
My Edition: 1997
Original Language: English

The Golden Compass is Book 1 of the “His Dark Materials Trilogy.” It was formerly titled “Northern Lights.”

Let me begin by saying that the only reason I grabbed this book off my local used book store shelf was because I knew it came with a lot of controversy, which is always intriguing to me. I come from the Christian community, and a couple years back when the book was released as a movie there was an awful lot of hubbub about whether or not people should go see it. (Now, as far as I’m concerned if it looks good, watch it. If you’ve got a strong enough faith, then you won’t be swayed just by watching a movie for goodness’ sake.) My pastor made a church-wide announcement on his view of the movie, and media was going crazy over the Church’s reaction to the movie.

*Let me put in a little note here to say that the fact that there was an introduction by Terry Brooks is a big deal, and it was one more thing that helped me pick up this book.*

I thought it was GREAT! It was thoroughly entertaining, written very well, and was extremely creative. What I loved most, however, was that it had a little fact, and a little fiction, mixed together. Most fantasy books do not do this – it’s found in regular novels, spy novels, romance novels, but never fantasy novels. It had quotes from the Bible that were slightly altered, and spoke of Biblical history in a familiar, but unusual, way.

But think of Adam and Eve like an imaginary number, like the square root of minus one: you can never see any concrete proof that it exists, but if you include it in your equations, you can calculate all manner of things that couldn’t be imagined without it.  (Page 327)

It had regions of the world (African, northern, etc.) that were comparable to the real world. It had gyptians, a mixture between gypsies and pirates. Anyways, as far as I can tell, all that hubbub and excitement was for naught. People tend to get worked up about things they know nothing about. And once again, my favorite quote comes to mind…. “People are dumb.”


Cover of "Northern Lights (His Dark Mater...

Cover of Northern Lights, before the name was changed.

Lyra was an incredibly well-developed character. She had a big, adventurous, kind, brave, fighting spirit. And I loved her. People were drawn to her. All through the story she knew how to speak to people and act around them, and they were drawn in.

In Lyra’s heart, revulsion struggled with compassion, and compassion won. (Page 189)

Being a practical liar doesn’t mean you have a powerful imagination. Many good liars have no imagination at all; it’s that which gives their lies such wide-eyed conviction. (Page 217)

I loved Lyra’s relationship with the Armored Bear, Iorek. He was passionately devoted to her. Secretly, I think he did not just do it because he was sworn to, but because he truly cared for Lyra. He was strong and stately and powerful, and as it turns out, a prince. Or a king, however you wish to look at it. But what I really enjoyed was the extra depth of character that Pullman added to his character at his introduction: he was a hollow bear without his armor.

If I knew where they keep it, I would tear down the town to get it back. If you want my service, the price is this: get me back my armor. Do that, and I shall serve you in your campaign, either until I am dead or until you have a victory. The price is my armor. I want it back, and then I shall never need spirits again. (Page 159)

And then, of course, there is a twist at the end. And that twist (of course!) makes me want to read the next book in the trilogy. So there you have it. I thought this book was fantastic. Yes, I said it – I am a CHRISTIAN and I LOVED this book. And I’m going to read the rest of them, too. And while I’m at it, I might as well say that I loved the Harry Potter books, and pretty much every other kind of book with magic and talking animals. So there.

Happy reading, friends.