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The Golden Compass | Philip Pullman

The Golden Compass is about an orphan, Lyra, who lives with scholars on a college campus. One day her friend, and many other children, get kidnapped by evil Gobblers. After overhearing her uncle tell the scholars about a mysterious “Dust” that is causing problems in the North, Lyra decides to set on a journey to rescue the kidnapped kids and help her uncle solve the mystery of the Dust. 

Well…this book was a tough one to get through. I am always leery of starting trilogies since they are such a big commitment. You are basically committing yourself to 1200+ pages if you want a complete story, but typically the second and third books are rushed to get published and are therefore never as good as the first. I was definitely not in the mood for that long-term relationship when I started this book. Honestly, I wouldn’t even have had the strength to finish it if it wasn’t required for my Folklore and Fantasy class. I normally love high fantasy novels—which are basically books that create their own universe. This one just didn’t do it for me. Usually fantasy trilogies are so long because they spend a lot of time creating their own universe and allowing the reader to feel immersed in this new world. The Golden Compass spent very little time describing the setting. I had a hard time picturing this world. It is essentially still our world, but just a parallel dimension of it—or rather our world if we had talking animals, witches, and polar bears with thumbs and human-like skills. I wish that Pullman had spent less time on dialogue (which consumed the majority of the book) and more time on descriptions. This book also took a very long time to build up to the climax. Nothing really happened in the first hundred pages. 

Supposedly this is a controversial book because of its religious/anti-religious undertones. There was no mention of anything related to religion until the last few chapters. By that point I was so fed-up with this book that I was disgusted by Pullman’s attempt to relate the whole theme of the book to an issue of religion and sin. The only part of this book that I really enjoyed was that each human had a daemon—no not an evil creature—it’s actually an external representation of each human’s spirit that takes the form of an animal. Children’s daemon’s can constantly change their forms, but adults’ daemons are stuck in their “true” form. I think it would be cool to have this sort of “spirit animal” as a full-time companion, but at the same time, I wouldn’t want my inner feelings to be displayed to the world via my daemon. 

This book would be good for people who like long-winded adventure books with religious undertones. However, I will not be recommending this book to anyone. I actually will not even be finishing the trilogy. I made no connection to any of the characters and I honestly don’t care how the story continues. I try to be fair in reviewing books, but I really just didn’t enjoy reading this book. Reading should be pleasurable, not dreadful. I started this review thinking that I would give the book two stars, but after relfecting more about the book, I really think that one star is more appropriate. 

Fun fact: the movie version of The Golden Compass did so poorly, that they decided to not even film the last two movies in the trilogy. 

Let me know what you think if you have read this book!

 *   1/5 Stars

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