So being a huge fan of Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials series, I was pretty excited when La Belle Sauvage came
out at the end of 2017. It had been seventeen years since I’d read the original series so I went back and read The Golden Compass again! But so cool to get back into the world. I love love the idea of having your own daemon.
Malcolm Polstead is the kind of boy who notices everything but is not much noticed himself. And so perhaps it was inevitable that he would become a spy…
Malcolm’s father runs an inn called the Trout, on the banks of the river Thames, and all of Oxford passes through its doors. Malcolm and his dæmon, Asta, routinely overhear news and gossip, and the occasional scandal, but during a winter of unceasing rain, Malcolm catches wind of something new: intrigue.
He finds a secret message inquiring about a dangerous substance called Dust–and the spy it was intended for finds him.
When she asks Malcolm to keep his eyes open, Malcolm sees suspicious characters everywhere; Lord Asriel, clearly on the run; enforcement agents from the Magisterium; an Egyptian named Coram with warnings just for Malcolm; and a beautiful woman with an evil monkey for a dæmon. All are asking about the same thing: a girl–just a baby–named Lyra.
Lyra is the kind of person who draws people in like magnets. And Malcolm will brave any danger, and make shocking sacrifices, to bring her safely through the storm.
Fans of the series I think will be happy – the story starts 10 years before The Golden Compass begins. While it doesn’t have the same oomph, it is still a natural part of the series and does it justice.
The story is narrated by Malcolm who through the course of events is trying to get baby Lyra to Jordan University where we will meet her again in His Dark Materials. Malcolm is a vibrant hero who is exceptionally clever and has similar qualities to Lyra. While we are engaged with Malcolm though, Alice fell a little flat for me. And Dr. Relf vanished half way through the book with no explanation which felt odd (though she does pop up in the later trilogy).
The Church isn’t as powerful (yet), but we are seeing the ways where they are gaining control and taking over to become the dominating force in the later series. We also meet Mrs. Coulter briefly and have Small mentions of Dust, the particle discovered by Bonneville. Bonneville is a strange villain and his hyena daemon is definitely the creepiest! Though Bonneville’s intentions for pursuing Lyra aren’t super clear he also plays a prominent role in the later trilogy.
The first half of the book sets up Malcolm and the differences in the world while the second half feels like Odysseus’s adventures. On a raft. It was definitely more magical and fairy tale like than the later series. With new and quite different magical characters.
I’m still not sure if I’m super invested though I felt like the series started and ended really well and we didn’t need a whole lot of extra information. But we’ll see where the series goes. You’ll definitely remember why you fell in love with His Dark Materials! The next book will take place a decade after The Amber Spyglass where Lyra is 20.