The long-awaited prequel to Phillip Pullman’s classic YA series, His Dark Materials is finally here. And fans of the original series will not be disappointed with not only a return to the world of the beloved main character Lyra Bellacqua, but a return to Lyra herself.
Just an infant, Lyra is still driving the narrative of La Belle Sauvage. Hidden away with nuns, Lyra is already being pursued by a number of groups, and especially the real villain of this novel, Gerald Bonneville, a man so evil he torments and savages his own daemon (remember the charming quirk of this world is that each person expresses a part of their soul as a small animal).
The main character of this series though is Malcolm, a young boy who stumbles onto adventure whilst working in his parents’s pub. Malcolm hears both about the existence of the hidden baby Lyra, and those pursuing her and takes an interest in her prospects. This also leads him to connect with a group opposing the Magisterium – a rapidly growing group of religious zealots which we know take over the political landscape from His Dark Materials. The closest relationship he forms is with Dr Hannah Relf, who reads Alethiometers.
Malcolm’s tender heart is captured by the baby, and when a flood occurs, he decides to take her to Oxford to seek sanctuary. He is joined by Alice, a plucky girl he meets in the kitchens.
The two spend the second part of the novel hiding the baby from a variety of magical and non-magical foes. This meanders a little, and feels a little like padding out the real story. But all is clever and engaging.
A delightful return to a beloved magical world – it’s undoubtedly going to be popular with fans. Pullman has given them more of what they want.