The Golden Compass

Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy has been sitting on my shelves for many years now. Not totally forgotten, but not a priority for me to read, either. Indeed, I have way too many books that are patiently awaiting my attention. But as I wait for the arrival of Robin Hobb's Shaman's Crossing from HarperCollins, I wished to read something light. Hence, I finally decided to give this series a chance.

Pullman's series has garnered much acclaim, and deservedly so. But although quite entertaining, The Golden Compass remains a Young Adult novel. Which means that if you are not young at heart, you should perhaps consider skipping this book. Having said that, however, there are many hints pointing toward a moral complexity to this tale, which may or may not be explored in the two sequels. But the Church's involvement could give another dimension to this series. In any case, this novel's ending promises a lot of things to come.

The worldbuilding is all right, if a little juvenile. Yet, considering the book's intended readership, that was to be expected. The imagery is at times arresting, making The Golden Compass a visual and colorful story.

As was expected, the dialogues are rather juvenile as well. But the narrative, much to my surprise, is not. Pullman's prose is impeccable, and the narrative flows extremely well. The pace is crisp and quick.

The characterizations are better than I expected, although they are often too cute. But there is a lot more to the Mrs. Coulter and Lord Asriel characters, and hopefully the author will delve a little deeper into their lives in the subsequent volumes.

As I mentioned, concepts such as the Church, the Magisterium, the Oblation Board, the strong bond between children and their daemons, etc, could give a lot more depth to this series. I can only hope that we learn more about these things in The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass.

All in all, a good read for a younger audience. This could be the perfect series to introduce youngsters to the fantasy genre, although it is not as accessible as Harry Potter. And the fact that the heroine is a young girl makes The Golden Compass a book that can be enjoyed by both boys and girls of all ages.

This novel was as light as I expected. But it did offer a few unexpected surprise that will make me read the sequel.

The final verdict: 7/10

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