Book Review: Northern Lights by Philip Pullman


Northern Lights by Philip Pullman 

Genre: Children’s/Young Adult, Fantasy

Publishing Info: 1998 by Scholastic Point (first published 1995)

Pages: 399

Star Rating: 4/5

Back Cover Summary:

When Lyra’s friend Roger disappears, she and her dæmon, Pantalaimon, determine to find him.

The ensuing quest leads them to the bleak splendour of the North, where armoured bears rule the ice and witch-queens fly through the frozen skies – and where a team of scientists is conducting experiments too horrible to be spoken about.

Lyra overcomes these strange terrors, only to find something yet more perilous waiting for her – something with consequences which may even reach beyond the Northern Lights…

It’s taken me a while to get around to reading this well-known first book in the His Dark Materials series. I thought it was about time. I’ve seen the film a couple of times but not for a few years, and I’ve decided I don’t like reading books after I’ve seen a film adaptation. The film is really different in many ways, but a lot of it is similar to the books. I feel that it just ruins the element of surprise because you know some of what is going to happen. The bit of the book I found most exciting was the end section, probably because they didn’t include that in the film so I didn’t know what would happen, and the twists were actually a surprise.

There seemed to be quite a bit at the beginning at Jordan College, before she actually left. Having seen the film I knew the plot was going to get interesting, but if I hadn’t known that I’m not sure the beginning few chapters would have pulled me in when I was the target age of the book. It just took a while to get going, and there were points throughout the book that were a bit slow.

I liked Lyra as a main character, she had a really strong personality and I wanted to follow her story, but there were few others that really stood out or were interesting. Iorek and Iofur were good characters. Roger was very bland and lacking in personality, like the author couldn’t be bothered to make him a proper character. What I did like was that the boundary between ‘good’ and ‘evil’ characters was blurred.

Plot-wise the story kept me engaged and the world building is also engaging. It was imaginative, with lots of little details that made it seem like a real place. It deals with quite complex themes and issues in places, which I expect will develop as the series progresses.

I’ve heard that the next two books are quite different to the first one, and maybe not everyone’s cup of tea, but Northern Lights pulled me into the story enough to want to read the next books at some point in the future.

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