Sunday, 17 December 2017

Book review: La Belle Sauvage (The Book of Dust #1) by Philip Pullman


Twenty-two years after publishing the ground-breaking His Dark Materials, Philip Pullman returns to his amazing parallel world in a masterful new novel: La Belle Sauvage, the long-awaited volume one of The Book of Dust. This first volume is a prequel of His Dark Materials, set ten years before Northern Lights, while the next volume will be set twenty years after the events of La Belle Sauvage, and ten years after the events of the His Dark Materials trilogy.

My copy of Northern Lights is from 2002, a portuguese second edition (!), so I must have been around 10 or maybe slightly older when I started the series. I was thrilled when I found out the author of one of my favourite series as a teen was finally going to release a new series of books set in the same universe! The long wait was finally over! I have a friend who is as much obsessed as I am and I sent him the same book edition I got over the Atlantic Ocean so we could read it together and let me tell you: despite the package having arrived in less than perfect conditions (we still don't know which country's post office we should blame) the book was perfect. Let me tell you: being able to read something at the same time as someone else and discussing as you go is amazing!

Eleven-year-old Malcolm Polstead and his dæmon, Asta, live with his parents at a pub called Trout Inn near Oxford. Across the River Thames (which Malcolm navigates often using his beloved canoe, a boat by the name of La Belle Sauvage) is the Godstow Priory where the nuns live. Malcolm learns they have a guest with them: a baby called Lyra Belacqua and her dæmon Pan (who shifts into every adorable baby animal he knows). Malcolm's life in the pub beside the river is safe and happy enough, if uneventful. But during a winter of unceasing rain the forces of science, religion and politics begin to clash, and as the weather rises to a pitch of ferocity, all Malcolm's certainties are torn assunder. Finding himself linked to the baby Lyra, he is forced to undertake the challenge of his life and to make a dangerous journey that will change both of them forever.

The book is fast paced. A lot. I mean, it takes a while to get to the main issue: it climbs slowly at first and then all at once and then you won't be able to put it down! Philip Pullman manages to take us to his world again, capturing the feeling of His Dark Materials as it was like no time between the two series has passed. We get to see old characters of that series, fall in love with new ones and burn with hatred towards the villan! I'm sure this book stands on its own if you've never read His Dark Materials (why wouldn't you, though?) but I believe you'd be able to get more out of it if you'd read it first because there are few returning characters you'll like to see. You can also choose to do the other way around, that is, read La Belle Sauvage first and then embark on the amazing His Dark Materials journey (and then cry because The Secret Commonwealth still has no release date).

So please do yourself a favour a read La Belle Sauvage by Philip Pullman and get it on Book Depository with free shipping or Amazon and the let me know which animal do you think your dæmon is!

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