After seeing the (terrible) movie The Golden Compass years ago, I wasn’t in the least bit interested in reading Pullman’s acclaimed His Dark Materials series, no matter their fantastic reputation. But the rumours of their excellence continued to follow me – as someone who loves both fantasy and YA, the series seemed like a natural fit, or so I was (often) told. There are always so many things to read that they were never a priority. Until about three weeks ago, when I visited Oxford.
Oh my goodness. Oxford is amazing. It’s a gorgeous city, one big university town, made of white stone buildings that date back for hundreds of years. It’s been home to so many incredible figures, including writers like Tolkien, C. S. Lewis and, of course, Philip Pullman. While visiting, I saw an exhibition at the Bodleian Library called Magical Books, about works that inspired these great writers to their enchanting worlds. Pullman set the His Dark Materials sequence in a parallel Oxford. I was so intrigued by my visit here that I finally read the first book in the series. Here’s what I thought:
Oxford University is a place of learning and knowledge. But to Lyra and her daemon Pantalaimon, it’s just home. The rooftops, the alleyways, the underground hidey holes are all part of their domain. Before long, however, destiny calls for Lyra and Pantaliamon. Lyra’s famous uncle, the intimidating Lord Asriel, brings reports of strange doings in the north. And in Oxford, children are going missing. When Lyra’s friend vanishes, she refuses to be left out of the plans to find him. Soon, Lyra’s on the run from mysterious forces, racing to the mysterious north to find answers. And all the while, strange forces who mark Lyra out as important are gathering ever closer. Take Me Home, I Can’t Stand This Place: