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Northern Lights: Adult Edition (His Dark Materials) Paperback – 14 Sep 2001
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Lyra and her daemon are eavesdropping when they uncover a plot to murder Lord Asriel. He has returned from the far North where he tells of strange sights-a beautiful city hovering in the sky above the pole, a shimmering Dust that settles on and delineates all but human children. Lyra is scarcely able to save his life before Lord Asriel is off again, on a quest to answer the riddle of the world. Meanwhile, children are disappearing, and when Lyra's dearest friend is taken by the Gobblers, she determines to save him-a decision which leads her on a great journey, a journey that will lead to the discovery of her mother, a disastrous betrayal and the beginning of the unravelling of the mystery of Dust.
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I love every single character.
The only reason I give this book 4 stars is because 2 and 3 in the series are so so amazing!
If I try to put myself into the place of that target audience I see that Philip Pullman does not talk down to it. There are aspects of the book which it would require a rather bright young person to enjoy. Notably, the vocabulary can be testing: in J.K.Rowlings' Harry Potter books it is quite clear which words are invented by the author; in Pullman's it is, intentionally, not: he is after all concerned with creating a world which resembles but is different from the world we live in, so that would apply to the language also. A youngster (or an adult, for that matter) who would want to look up in a dictionary the meaning of unusual words might be quite frustrated: he or she would find the word `chthonic' there, but not the words `anbaric', `cahuchuc', `coal-spirit'. (These all occur within four pages).
In this first volume of the trilogy, there is as yet relatively little discussion of philosophical issues. Near the end there is a brief discussion of Free Will; there an important re-telling of the myth of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden; and the story's famous hostility to the Church comes into focus about 25 pages from the end.
I cannot understand the mysterious connection in the book between Original Sin, Dust (particles that are supposed to come from another world and cling especially to adults), the quest to find the source of Dust in that other world, daemons, and the Church sponsoring cruel experiments in separating children from their daemons - and I see that scholars have produced the most complex guesses of what was actually in Pullman's mind. A teenage reader will surely be equally perplexed, but may be carried over these difficulties by the sheer impetus of the story. I gather that philosophical issues will become increasingly important in the succeeding two volumes in which the characters have actually crossed over into another universe, and maybe I would then become more enlightened about the puzzles presented in this one - but this book has not gripped me, as an adult, sufficiently to want to read the sequels. Shame on me?
I highly recommend it!
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