Philip Pullman returns to the world of His Dark Materials with this magnificent first volume of The Book of Dust.
Eleven-year-old Malcolm Polstead and his dæmon, Asta, live with his parents at the 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 by the name of Lyra Belacqua . . .
Reviewed by Olivia at Angus & Robertson Bookworld:
If there was ever a character that deserved an origin story, that would be Lyra Belacqua of Philip Pullman’s groundbreaking His Dark Materials trilogy. Thankfully Pullman saw fit to give us one, because La Belle Sauvage is both the perfect start to that incredible series and a stunning book in its own right.
Taking place ten years before the events of Northern Lights and telling the story of how exactly Lyra ended up in Jordan College, La Belle Sauvage is Pullman’s magnificent return to the world of Dust and dæmons, and it sings with the same intrigue and wonder that the original trilogy inspired. If you’ve loved the original books and want to introduce your kids to this incredible narrative world, look no further than La Belle Sauvage. Or read it yourself and be astounded all over again...
Philip Pullman on The Book of Dust series:
"I know from their letters and tweets that my readers have been waiting patiently (mostly) for The Book of Dust for a long time. I’ve been writing it for several years, and I’ve been very parsimonious with information about it. It gives me great pleasure and some excitement at last to satisfy their curiosity (and mine) about this book.
What can I tell you about it? The first thing to say is that Lyra is at the centre of the story. Events involving her open the first chapter, and will close the last. I’ve always wanted to tell the story of how Lyra came to be living at Jordan College and, in thinking about it, I discovered a long story that began when she was a baby and will end when she’s grown up. This volume and the next will cover two parts of Lyra’s life: starting at the beginning of her story and returning to her 20 years later.
So, second: is it a prequel? Is it a sequel? It’s neither. In fact, The Book of Dust is… an equel. It doesn’t stand before or after His Dark Materials, but beside it. It’s a different story, but there are settings that readers of His Dark Materials will recognise, and characters they’ve met before. Also, of course, there are some characters who are new to us, including an ordinary boy (a boy we have seen in an earlier part of Lyra’s story, if we were paying attention) who, with Lyra, is caught up in a terrifying adventure that takes him into a new world.
Third: why return to Lyra’s world? Dust. Questions about that mysterious and troubling substance were already causing strife 10 years before His Dark Materials, and at the centre of The Book of Dust is the struggle between a despotic and totalitarian organisation, which wants to stifle speculation and enquiry, and those who believe thought and speech should be free. The idea of Dust suffused His Dark Materials. Little by little through that story the idea of what Dust was became clearer and clearer, but I always wanted to return to it and discover more. Questions about our existence are infinitely interesting to me. There’s always more to explore.
I’ve hugely enjoyed getting to know the new characters, seeing Lyra again, and exploring the world(s) they live in. I’ve loved watching the story expand across the years, and take me to places I’d never dreamed of. As for future volumes, my lips are sealed."