And then there
was the word Dust
with a capital D,
as if it wasn’t ordinary dust
but something special . . .
For as long as I can remember, I have been a huge Pullman fan. His Dark Materials has to be one of the greatest literary creations of all time – the characters, the world he created, the nuances I was too young to understand upon first reading all make for a marvellous mash up between what we know, what is yet to be discovered and what our imaginations can conjure.
I remember meeting Lyra and Pantalaimon for the first time – I couldn’t have been much more than 11 or 12 the first time I read The Northern Lights. They absolutely captured me – the idea of having a daemon of my own encapsulated me (I vividly recall pronouncing it as d-a-mon and being shocked when I found out it was demon). I remember running around the garden pretending I had my own daemon, a sometime fox, sometime ferret, whirling and changing around me.
It’s been a long wait to return to that world. 22 years after The Northern Lights was first published, Pullman has returned with Volume One of The Book of Dust: La Belle Sauvage.
Malcolm was the landlord’s son, an only child . . . he had friends enough, but he was happiest on his own, playing with his daemon Asta in their canoe, which was called La Belle Sauvage.
Malcolm Polstead’s life in the pub beside the Thames is safe and happy enough, if uneventful. But during a winter of unceasing rain the forces of science, religion and politics begin to clash, and as the weather rises to a pitch of ferocity, all of Malcom’s certainties are torn asunder.
Finding himself linked to a baby by the name of Lyra, Malcolm is forced to undertake the challenge of his life and to make a dangerous journey that will change him and Lyra for ever . . .
It’s not often I can’t find fault with a book – usually there’s a character I dislike, the story is slow paced, the writing style a little sluggish. I think Pullman may have done it. I think Pullman may have written the perfect book. Sometimes, follow ups or prequels or sequels can feel a bit forced – a bit cash cow. Pullman has managed to seamlessly integrate Malcom into Lyra’s past – nothing about the story felt shoehorned in – nothing had to be tweaked to make it fit… It just did.
It’s hard now to imagine the Lyra I once knew – now I know Malcolm’s story, I am excited to see how he guides her, how he leads her, how he shapes who she will become in His Dark Materials.
Personal highlights for me – Asta, Malcolm’s demon is one of the most charming character’s I’ve come across. Her devotion to Malcolm is evident throughout the book, and she is cheeky, careful, wise and naive all in one throe of emotion. She’s got to be one of the best characters I have seen for a long time. If a person moves too far away from their daemon, it causes them physical pain – the daemon and human are linked by their soul, intrinsically and intensely feeling the emotions of the other. I honestly felt like I was linked to Asta – I really cared about her.
I also absolutely loved the way Malcolm was written. He was all an 11 year old boy should be. So often, you read novels which contain child characters and they are written so wrong – they’re too wise, too adult in their thinking, too world weary. Malcolm is full of the ideals of childhood; he complains when he is tired and aching, he longs to learn and asks inquisitive questions constantly, and he demonstrates unfailing loyalty towards people, even those he barely knows. His mind is incapable of fathoming horror, despite encountering it, and we see such horrors through his eyes – through the innocence of an 11 year old boy. It’s marvellously crafted.
If you haven’t read His Dark Materials, you honestly need to. La Belle Sauvage perfectly complements what has come before (or after, in actuality…)
I haven’t done a giveaway for a while and this seems the perfect place to do one. For your chance to win a brand new copy of La Belle Sauvage, all you need to do is tell me what animal you think your daemon would be; is there an animal you feel a particular affinity with? Let me know in the comments below, or on my Facebook page. I will be choosing a winner on SUNDAY NOVEMBER 19th!
PLUS you’ll be getting the hardcover copy and it honestly took my breath away when I sneaked a peek under the dust cover… or should that be Dust cover…?