“And she kicked and bit more passionately than ever, until the men holding her gasped and let go for a moment – and she was free, and Pantalaimon sprang toward her like a spark of lightning, and she clutched him to her fierce breast, and he dug his wildcat claws into her flesh, and every stab of pain was dear to her.
‘Never! Never! Never!’ she cried, and backed against the wall to defend him to their death.
But they fell on her again, three big brutal men, and she was only a child, shocked and terrified; and they tore Pantalaimon away, and threw her into one side of the cage of mesh, and carried him, struggling still, around to the other.”
Lyra, an unruly twelve- year- old orphan, grows up among the scholars of Jordan College, Oxford. Ever on the look -out for wild things to do, Lyra discovers a plot to kill her influential uncle, Lord Asirel. She also learns about the strange phenomenon called Dust, and the discovery of other worlds very much like her own.
Lyra’s world is indeed different, as is her Oxford. The people here have a personal ‘daemon’ – an animal that represents their inner self. Lyra’s daemon, Pantalaimon, is akin to her soul. Her world is a mixture of the archaic and the modern as we know it. Theology, magic and science are closely connected, and the characters we meet range from scholars to the wandering gyptians; armoured polar bears to clans of witches.
Children begin to disappear mysteriously, and before Lyra can find her missing friend Roger, she is sent off to live with the attractive Mrs. Coulter. She runs away when she discovers that Mrs. Coulter is herself involved with the kidnappings. The Alethiometer (the magic compass) that she is entrusted with, helps her read the truth, and leads her on a quest – first to rescue the children who are being used for dreadful scientific experiments, and onward, to find the imprisoned Lord Asirel, to whom she must take the Aletiometer. Along the way, Lyra finds friendship, love and loyalty among the gyptians and the armoured bear Iorek and the witches. But she also has to cope with mortal danger, terror, heartbreak and betrayal on the cold journey to the north.
Finally, amidst the dancing and spluttering Northern Lights, Lyra and Pan find a whole new world opening out before them – a world they could explore, or turn away from. “ Behind them lay pain and death and fear; ahead of them lay doubt, and danger, and fathomless mysteries. But they weren’t alone.” The book ends with a promise of a new beginning.
The Golden Compass is a fantastic story of adventure and courage. It is exciting, fast-paced, and has a whole lot of wonderful characters. And isn’t it is lucky that anyone who reads this book need not wait for years for the next book? The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass, the books that complete the series, are already available. All three books have won numerous awards both in Great Britain and in the USA. Best suited for children of 13 years and above (and adults of all ages).
Philip Pullman was born in England, but grew up in Rhodesia, Australia and Wales. He studied in Oxford and taught English. He has written many books for children – picture books, historical thrillers, fantasies and plays. His Dark Materials books are hailed as modern fantasy classics for young adults. Philip Pullman lives in Oxford.
Published by: Dell Laurel-Leaf (Random House Children’s Books)
First Published in 1995.
Price: Rs: 214/-
Review by: Revathi.Satchidanandam.