Synopsis: Here lives an orphaned ward named Lyra Belacqua, whose carefree life among the scholars at Oxford’s Jordan College is shattered by the arrival of two powerful visitors. First, her fearsome uncle, Lord Asriel, appears with evidence of mystery and danger in the far North, including photographs of a mysterious celestial phenomenon called Dust and the dim outline of a city suspended in the Aurora Borealis that he suspects is part of an alternate universe. He leaves Lyra in the care of Mrs. Coulter, an enigmatic scholar and explorer who offers to give Lyra the attention her uncle has long refused her. In this multilayered narrative, however, nothing is as it seems. Lyra sets out for the top of the world in search of her kidnapped playmate, Roger, bearing a rare truth-telling instrument, the alethiometer. All around her children are disappearing—victims of so-called “Gobblers”—and being used as subjects in terrible experiments that separate humans from their daemons, creatures that reflect each person’s inner being. And somehow, both Lord Asriel and Mrs. Coulter are involved.
I read this entire series in 2005 and still, a decade later, it’s my favorite series ever. This middle grade epic follows our heroine Lyra Belacqua “Silvertongue” who resides in an alternative universe from ours. In her universe, the soul lives outside of the body in the form of an animal which follows you every where and you can have conversations with it. Our adventure starts when Lyra is taken from her home in Jordan College (the alternative reality of Oxford) and goes to live with Mrs. Coulter in the city.
The character of Lyra is so well crafted, she’s resourceful, quick-witted yet still a young teen who is very much alone in the world and has had to result to ways of getting around. The supporting cast is stellar from Lee Scoresby – an American cowboy-like aeronaut to Iorek – the King of the polar bears who lives in exile. The world-building is spot-on.
After we leave the first book we get introduced to our second protagonist, Will Parry – he comes from our reality. He and Lyra team up as they attempt to uncover the secret of what it tearing the worlds apart and why her Uncle Asriel is to determined to find the dust.
It’s rich, well plotted and it’s a perfect critique of religion, be warned if that’s not something you’re comfortable with. Pullman does not pull any punches, yes this is a middle grade book but it’s not sugarcoating anything, scary situations arise and not everything has a happy ending. Needless to say, I love this series. I’ve also heard it on audiobook and it’s a cast ensemble, if you’re able to enjoy it that way also.