Top positive review
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A great little adventure, for fans and newcomers alike.
on 2 June 2008
After the slightly disappointing Lyra's Oxford, Once Upon A Time In The North came as a great relief to me. It was as if Philip Pullman had learned from his last short story from the His Dark Materials universe all the lessons he needed to in order to make this second spin-off the perfect gift for any fan of the trilogy, people who have only seen the film, and even any adult or child who has never even heard of Lee Scoresby or Iorek Byrnison before.
Serving as a companion or even introduction piece to His Dark Materials, the short story part of the book (there are other surprises, though if you have read the product description you probably know what they are by now) is a genuinely exciting account of Lee's (and, of course, Hester's) first meeting with sentient and honourable Polar Bear Iorek Byrnison. What makes this exciting is that both were already fully fleshed out characters, and firm friends, in the novels, yet the details of their first meeting were never revelled - until, of course, now.
I honestly have never read a short story I enjoyed more than this one. Whether that was influenced by my already existing love of the characters, I don't know - but the story was gripping from start to finish.
As for length - I felt it was exactly the right length for a good short story. As someone who has written a number of short stories as a hobby, I know that that is something it is very difficult to get right.
If you are a fan of the series, there's also a nice twist waiting for you in the supplementary material at the end.