Reviews for Golden Compass


Horn Book Guide Reviews 1996
In Lyra's world, similar to our own but with some important differences, each human has a ""daemon,"" an animal familiar with whom one's life and destiny are entwined. Lyra and her daemon, Pantalaimon, have a great destiny in this sweeping, suspenseful fantasy novel, the first in a projected trilogy. Kidnapped children, armored bears, and evil science experiments are just some of the elements in the touching, exciting, and mysterious story. Copyright 1998 Horn Book Guide Reviews

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Horn Book Magazine Reviews 1996 #4
An extraordinary, compelling fantasy, the first volume of a projected trilogy, is set in an alternate world, parallel to our own earth, but differing in many details. The most fascinating is the existence of dæmons, an integral part of every human being, much like a soul, but taking the form of an animal. Human and dæmon are tied by an emotional bond that cannot be broken without indescribable suffering or, more probably, death. The technology of this world is similar to that of our own of perhaps a century ago, with such things as anbaric light rather than electric, and balloons and zeppelins rather than airplanes. Our heroine is orphaned Lyra Belacqua, who lives with her dæmon, Pantalaimon, at Jordan College in Oxford, under the care of the Master. She is an unusual child: rough, inquisitive, wiry, a born leader, an accomplished liar, almost fearless. Soon after children begin disappearing all over the country and Lyra's guardian, Lord Asriel, is captured and imprisoned during an expedition to the Arctic, she is taken from the college by the beautiful, fascinating Mrs. Coulter. The Master of Jordan College has secretly given Lyra a rare and unusual instrument, the alethiometer, which looks like a compass and can be used to answer questions of every sort, even about the future. Her old friends the gyptians, who live in canal boats, rescue her, and mount an expedition to Lapland to locate the missing children. On the way Lyra encounters and helps to free Iorek Byrnison, a sentient armored bear, who becomes her most powerful defender. Lyra finds the missing children in a scientific experimental station, where they are being subjected to the hideous operation of intercision, which separates them from their dæmons. The reasons for this butchery are only part of the extremely complex plot, in which the unknowing Lyra is deeply involved. The characters of Lord Asriel, Mrs. Coulter, and Iorek Byrnison and the cold and beautiful Northern setting capture the reader's attention; the constantly twisting plot and escalating suspense are riveting; and Lyra and Pantalaimon are among the gutsiest and wiliest of adventurers. Touching, exciting, and mysterious by turns, this is a splendid work. a.a.f. Copyright 1998 Horn Book Magazine Reviews

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Kirkus Reviews 1996 February
~ Pullman (The Tin Princess, 1994, etc.) returns to the familiar territory of Victorian England, but this time inhabits an alternate Earth, where magic is an ordinary fact of life. Lyra Belacqua and her daemon familiar Pantalaimon spend their days teasing the scholars of Jordan College until her uncle, Lord Asriel, announces that he's learned of astonishing events taking place in the far north involving the aurora borealis. When Lyra rescues Asriel from an attempt on his life, it is only the beginning of a torrent of events that finds Lyra willingly abducted by the velvet Mrs. Coulter, a missionary of pediatric atrocities; a journey with gyptian clansmen to rescue the children who are destined to be severed from their daemons (an act that is clearly hideous); and Lyra's discovery of her unusual powers and destiny. Lyra may suffer from excessive spunk, but she is thorough, intelligent, and charming. The author's care in recreating Victorian speech affectations never hinders the action; copious amounts of gore will not dissuade the squeamish, for resonating at the story's center is the twinkling image of a celestial city. This first fantastic installment of the His Dark Materials trilogy propels readers along with horror and high adventure, a shattering tale that begins with a promise and delivers an entire universe. (Fiction. 12+) Copyright 1999 Kirkus Reviews

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Kirkus Reviews 1996 March
~ Pullman (The Tin Princess, 1994, etc.) returns to the familiar territory of Victorian England, but this time inhabits an alternate Earth, where magic is an ordinary fact of life. Lyra Belacqua and her daemon familiar Pantalaimon spend their days teasing the scholars of Jordan College until her uncle, Lord Asriel, announces that he's learned of astonishing events taking place in the far north involving the aurora borealis. When Lyra rescues Asriel from an attempt on his life, it is only the beginning of a torrent of events that finds Lyra willingly abducted by the velvet Mrs. Coulter, a missionary of pediatric atrocities; a journey with gyptian clansmen to rescue the children who are destined to be severed from their daemons (an act that is clearly hideous); and Lyra's discovery of her unusual powers and destiny. Lyra may suffer from excessive spunk, but she is thorough, intelligent, and charming. The author's care in recreating Victorian speech affectations never hinders the action; copious amounts of gore will not dissuade the squeamish, for resonating at the story's center is the twinkling image of a celestial city. This first fantastic installment of the His Dark Materials trilogy propels readers along with horror and high adventure, a shattering tale that begins with a promise and delivers an entire universe. (Fiction. 12+) Copyright 1999 Kirkus Reviews

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Publishers Weekly Reviews 1996 February #3
If Pullman's imagination dazzled in the Victorian thrillers that culminated with The Tin Princess, in this first volume of a fantasy trilogy it is nothing short of breathtaking. Here Earth is one of only five planets in the solar system, every human has a daemon (the soul embodied as an animal familiar) and, in a time similar to our late 19th century, Oxford scholars and agents of the supreme Calvinist Church are in a race to unleash the power that will enable them to cross the bridge to a parallel universe. The story line has all the hallmarks of a myth: brought up ignorant of her true identity, 11-year-old Lyra goes on a quest from East Anglia to the top of the world in search of her kidnapped playmate Roger and her imprisoned uncle, Lord Asriel. Deceptions and treacheries threaten at every turn, and she is not yet certain how to read the mysterious truth-telling instrument that is her only guide. After escaping from the charming and sinister Mrs. Coulter, she joins a group of "gyptians" in search of their children, who, like Roger, have been spirited away by Mrs. Coulter's henchmen, the Gobblers. Along the way Lyra is guided by friendly witches and attacked by malevolent ones, aided by an armored polar bear and a Texan balloonist, and nearly made a victim of the Gobblers' cruel experiments. As always, Pullman is a master at combining impeccable characterizations and seamless plotting, maintaining a crackling pace to create scene upon scene of almost unbearable tension. This glittering gem will leave readers of all ages eagerly awaiting the next installment of Lyra's adventures. 100,000 first printing; $250,000 ad/promo. Ages 10-up. (Apr.) Copyright 1996 Cahners Business Information.

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School Library Journal Reviews 1996 April
Gr 7 Up A novel set in London and in the Arctic regions of a world that is somewhat like our own. Lyra, apparently an orphan, lives among the scholars at Jordan College, Oxford. She becomes aware of a nefarious plot to steal children and transport them to the far north. As Lyra is drawn deeper and deeper into this mystery, she finds that the children are being made to suffer terribly. What she does not and must not know is that she is the keystone in an ancient prophecy. Her destiny is to save her world and to move on into a parallel universe. She dives headlong into harrowing adventures, totally unaware of her importance. She also discovers the identity of her parents, who are major players in the unfolding drama. In Lyra's world, every human has a daemon, an animal that is sort of an extension of one's soul. This fact is central to the story as the church, the academic world, and the government seek to understand the significance of the phenomenon. Also important, but never fully explained, is a substance called Dust. This is a captivating fantasy, filled with excitement, suspense, and unusual characters. The armored bears are wonderful and more interesting than most of the humans. There is some fine descriptive writing, filled with the kind of details that encourage suspension of disbelief. The story line moves along at a rapid clip, but flags when it delves into philosophical matters. The ending is less than satisfying, but serves as a lead-in to part two of the series. Fantasy lovers will be clamoring for the next installment. Bruce Anne Shook, Mendenhall Middle School, Greensboro, NC School Library Journal Reviews

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VOYA Reviews 1998 June
In The Golden Compass, Pullman gave us a breathtakingly rich vision of a world shades removed from and more mystical than ours, infused with magic and informed by reason, where everyone has a personal daemon in animal form that is the perfectcomplement of their personality, and to which they are bound with their whole soul. We met Lyra, the impudent, shrewd daughter of the powerful scholar, Lord Asriel. Left to her own wild devices under the benevolent care of elderly professors, shefinds her joy running wild with the Oxford street children. When Lyra foils an attempt to assassinate her dangerous father, events are set in motion that destroy her innocent childhood. A photograph of an alternate world, rumors of mysterious Dust, and the increasing disappearances of children all serve tomove Lyra down the path of a terrible destiny. With Lord Asriel imprisoned, the glamorous Mrs. Coulter and her menacing daemon come to take Lyra from her home. Lyra receives a curious instrument an alethiometer which always tells the truth, if one isable to discern the layered meanings of its pictograms. Frightened when she discovers Mrs. Coulter is not only her mother, but also the leader of the Oblation board those behind the abductions, performing unspeakable experiments, severing childrenfrom their daemons Lyra escapes, determined to rescue her father and a missing friend. She begins a journey to the far North, making strange allies along the way, from the King of the Gyptians to Iorek Byrnison, leader of the great white armoredbears. The conclusion is aching, haunting, and epically beautiful. In The Subtle Knife, Pullman continues Lyra's story, as tensions escalate. Will, a boy from a parallel Oxford, is on a quest to find his own father, who had vanished on a Northern expedition. Fleeing after killing one of the mysterious men whoquestion his mother, Will finds a hole from his modern England into the world of Cittigazze, where adults are prey to soul-eating Spectres, and where people's daemons are on the outsides. There, he meets Lyra, out to revenge the death of her friendand find out more about the elusive Dust. The two join forces and form an uneasy, fierce friendship. Victor in a bloody fight, Will learns that he is destined to be the bearer of the subtle knife, a blade able to cut holes into other worlds. As theskies of Cittigazze fill with the massive movements of angels heading to join Lord Asriel in his epic battle against the Authority, and the evil Mrs. Coulter gets nearer and nearer to Lyra, Will and Lyra are pulled into a growing maelstrom of greatstruggles and betrayals. These first two volumes of His Dark Materials trilogy are, simply, magnificent. Pullman has the power of a master fantasist. He imbues an age-old classical struggle with a new mythic vision, the depth and realization of which are staggering. Hisstyle is tight, compelling, and nearly flawless. Characters quickly become friends, so layered and immediate are they, inspiring the reader to tears of loss or wonder. These two titles stand in equal company with the works of J.R.R. Tolkien and C. S.Lewis. Jennifer Fakolt. [Editor's Note: Slight comfort for readers dying for the sequel during a speech presented at the National Council of Teachers of English conference in Detroit in November 1997, Pullman forecast the release of his trilogy'sconcluding volume in 1998. As of this late March writing, his Knopf publicist reports that he has not yet completed it.] Copyright 1998 Voya Reviews

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