Book Review: Northern Lights

“You cannot change what you are, only what you do…”

Image result for northern lights philip pullman book cover

Lyra Belacqua is an orphan with a murky past. When children start going missing it sparks a chain of events that will take Lyra on a unforgettable adventure in which she will meet a talking bear. I’m struggling to think of any book that wouldn’t be enhanced by the presence of a talking bear…

My first meeting with Phillip Pullman was not a successful one so I wasn’t  super excited to take on Northern Lights despite its dazzling reputation. As usual, I was catastrophically wrong. Northern Lights is a revelation. As a thirty year old pop culture obsessive, you don’t expect to stumble across a new universe in which to lose yourself, but I am totally, utterly cut adrift in the world of Jordan College, dæmons and talking bears. Did I mention there are talking bears in Northern Lights?? My only criticism of Phillip Pullman’s seminal novel is that it made me sad that I will never meet a talking bear, or play chess with a talking bear, or share an ice cream with a talking bear. Wait, what am I reviewing again? Ahh yes Northern Lights.

Pullman’s prose is beautiful without being verbose and his plotting is compelling without being sensationalist or overly sentimental. His description of the utter terror that Lyra faces at the prospect of losing her dæmon is so visceral that it actually made me feel a little uncomfortable. All this from a novel that is supposedly aimed at children. To describe Northern Lights in this way is to do it an injustice however, surely anybody of any age would find something to enjoy in the world of Lyra Belacqua.

It’s such a shame that the distinctly average film adaptation has tarnished the legacy of this classic work. If any film is ripe for a remake, it is that one. A potential BBC adaptation still seems far away so for now we must make do with the novels and I literally cannot wait to tear into the next one. As one gets older, it becomes more and more difficult to find something that makes you feel genuinely excited. Northern Lights made me feel like a kid again. Put simply, one of the best books I have ever read.

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