Titles / Northern Lights, The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass
Author / Philip Pullman
Publication date / 1995, 1996, 2000 (first published)
Overall star rating / ★★★★★
In the first book, we meet Lyra Belacqua – a young orphan child, whose life at Oxford’s Jordan Collage is shattered by the arrival of two powerful people. All the while children are disappearing across the country and when Lyra’s good friend Roger disappears she vows to get him back from the hands of the Gobblers’. Along the way we meet an array of characters as Lyra begins the path to her destiny. It is a coming of age story of Lyra, and later Will – who we meet in book 2. In this trilogy each person has a daemon. An animal companion that can shift between different animals until the age of puberty where it settles to one animal. A daemon is essentially a person’s soul – the form of your daemon is representative of the person, and so it shows that as children have yet to fully find themselves and be secure in who they are, their daemons are forever shifting between animals. A daemon is also a representation of your sexuality – a straight person would have their daemon as the opposite sex, but if you are gay then your daemon is the same sex as you. Obviously this is quite simplistic representation of sexuality, especially in this day and age, as their are now many different types of sexuality. As a child I loved the idea of a daemon, and as I have grown I have found the idea of a daemon extremely interesting.
The plot is engaging throughout the trilogy and has so many layers that you can read it many times and see/learn something new with each reading. Although originally published as kids books (I think) this trilogy can be enjoyed by a variety of ages. I first read it when I was younger and have reread it a few times since – I will continue to reread it in the future. Much of the content of the books touches on topics that children won’t fully understand, for example as a child I did not fully understand description of someone touching Pan (Lyra’s daemon) – its description is akin to rape, but obviously as a child you understand the horror but don’t quite understand it as a whole.
“It was as if an alien hand had reached right inside where no hand had a right to be, and wrenched at something deep and precious. She felt faint, dizzy, sick, disgusted, limp with shock. One of the men was holding Pantalaimon”
Yet when you read it as an adult whole new layers are revealed. Even with these many layers, it can and is enjoyed by both children and adults. As a child I loved the adventure Lyra is thrust into and was completely engrossed by the characters, such as the witch Serafina Pekkala and the bear Iorek Byrnison. As an adult it is still an enjoyable adventure and coming of age story but it is also really interesting to see the things that you missed or didn’t quite understand as a child. It is a book that makes you think – about many different things and each person will take different things from reading. That is what makes this book so enjoyable and yet also very interesting. It is an adventure story woven with so many topics including morals, religion, philosophy etc.
Overall I would highly recommend this trilogy. It has an engaging and entertaining plot with some amazing characters and is accessible to a variety of ages. You will feel so many emotions throughout the books. I think it also has great reread potential as it has many layers to it. I think this trilogy showcases how much children’s literature has to offer to adults as well as the market audience. I absolutely love this trilogy and would recommend it to everyone, especially if you are a fan of fantasy. For me this is a childhood classic and I will forever have an all encompassing love for this trilogy. I actually remember when the film was being made because my year group was around the same age as Lyra is supposed to be – some girls in my year actual took part in some auditions – I remember it being a very big thing. Anyway let me know if you have read this trilogy and your thoughts on it.