The Bookshelf, A Teen Review: The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman

Courtney Bowers

“The Golden Compass,” the first novel in Philip Pullman’s “His Dark Materials” series, introduces readers to another world that is quite similar to ours. The difference is that people in this world have external souls that take on an animal form known as daemons.

In this parallel universe lives Lyra Balacqua, a young orphan who has been raised at Jordan College in Oxford. Lyra is a curious child, fascinated by the scholars who surround her and the infinite knowledge that they hold. Lyra is also extremely stubborn and has a knack for getting herself into difficult situations.

The story begins with Lyra hiding in a wardrobe with the help of her daemon, Pantalaimon. While keeping herself from being seen or heard by anyone, she overhears an important meeting between Lord Asriel, her “uncle,” and the leaders of Jordan College. They are discussing something called dust, which can be found in the North near the Aurora Borealis. Lyra doesn’t quite understand what she hears, but she is eager to know more.

Soon, a strangely beautiful and elegant woman arrives in Oxford named Ms. Coulter. Lyra is lured by her lavish lifestyle and charming mannerisms. When Ms. Coulter offers to take her away from Jordan College to explore the North, Lyra jumps at the chance, leaving her Oxford family and best friend Roger behind. Before she departs, Master, who has served as a father figure to Lyra, gives her a golden compass filled with symbols. He tells Lyra the device is an alethiometer, or a truth meter, and if one asks a question using the symbols, the compass will always lead them in the right direction.

Soon, Lyra discovers that Ms. Coulter is not the kind lady she pretends to be. Instead, she has a darker purpose which includes stealing Lyra’s golden compass and leading the people known as Gobblers who kidnap children. But why do they do so? As Lyra further explores this mystery, she learns that it all has to do with dust. No one is quite certain what “dust” is, but people become attracted to this “dust” once they reach puberty.

Ms. Coulter and her followers believe that dust is evil, and they are on a mission to stop it from accumulating. They steal children and perform an operation that separates them from their daemons, leaving the child with a soulless existence. Lyra is determined to stop this from happening, so she embarks on a journey to the North in hopes of saving the kidnapped children, including her friend Roger.

Lyra hopes to save her world from being destroyed by Ms. Coulter, and according to prophecies of the witches, she is the only one who has the power to change their destiny.

It is an enchanting story that unfolds in “The Golden Compass.” It is a world of magic and wonder, but also deep evil and deceit. The novel is a story with deep moral and religious undertones, but is also a wonderful fantasy that will captivate readers of any age. I’m certain readers will be desperate for the next book in the trilogy once they dive in.

Have you read “The Golden Compass?” Discuss your thoughts on the book below.

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