"Outside a dog a book is man's best friend, inside a dog it is too dark to read!" -Groucho Marx========="The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid." -Jane Austen========="I don’t believe in the kind of magic in my books. But I do believe something very magical can happen when you read a good book."-JK Rowling========"I spend a lot of time reading." -Bill Gates=========“Ahhh. Bed, book, kitten, sandwich. All one needed in life, really.” -Jacqueline Kelly=========

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

A prequel to a wonderful series...La Belle Sauvage (The Book of Dust #1)

La Belle Sauvage, the first book in a three-part prequel to His Dark Materials series by Philip Pullman, is a magical trip back in time and back to a favorite series. It tells the story of baby Lyra, protagonist of the first series, and her rescuer, Malcolm, owner of the little green boat named La Belle Sauvage.

Malcolm, son of the innkeeper in Oxford, becomes interested in Lyra when she is given into the care of the kindly nuns who live across the river from his home. When he witnesses the strange behavior of a man near the convent, Malcolm becomes embroiled in a mystery that is certainly bigger than his young years should have to handle. It puts him right into the path of the dastardly villain, Bonneville, who is determined to kidnap or kill the baby Lyra. When the Thames overflows its boundaries due to a rain storm of the century, Malcolm rescues young Lyra with a crazy plan to float her down the swollen river to safety with her father in London. Little does he know how dangerous the journey would be. Bonneville pursues the small craft with preternatural speed, strength, and resolve. Not surprisingly, Malcolm seems to be guarded by some supernatural beings which allow him to navigate the flooded Thames, with its many obstacles, in relative safety.

La Belle Sauvage isn't just a book with an exciting chase scene, however. In it we meet important characters and concepts from the original series. We are introduced to the golden compass, an alethiometer, which is powered by dust and can determine the answer to a plethora of questions. We meet Lyra's father, a great adventurer, and her mother, a brilliant but decidedly dark individual with motives as yet unknown. We are also reminded about the wonderful daemons, attached to each person, acting as conscience, guide, and protector. Lyra's daemon is Pantalaimon or Pan. Malcolm's daemon is Asta. Neither Asta or Pan have settled yet and can change into a variety of creatures at will. One of the ways that the reader knows that Bonneville is a villain is because he beats his own daemon, a hyena. The daemons play an important role in the story.

One of the things that makes La Belle Sauvage so special is that it quite clearly gives a nod to children's literature that came before it. Set in Oxford, we are left with the feeling that Alice is likely to pop up at any time. And, as you know, C.S. Lewis lived and wrote in Oxford. The adventures into Narnia with the supernatural elements weren't far from my mind as I read this book, too. One cannot embark on a water journey without giving a small nod to the Odyssey. It is as if Pullman wanted his readers to know that this book, this series and his characters fall safely into the confines and rules of good storytelling.

I read His Dark Materials series years ago and LOVED the books. I was always disappointed that I couldn't talk more of my students into reading the series when I was a librarian at a high school library. Perhaps La Belle Sauvage, and the whole The Book of Dust series, will revive an interest in the original series. I certainly hope so. I can't decide if this is a good place to start or if you should start with the Golden Compass, the first book in the His Dark Materials series. Usually I recommend that readers start and read the books in the order that the author wrote them. So I will stick with that advice. Pick up The Gold Compass (US title) or Northern Lights (U.K. title) and be ready for a wonderful and exciting fantasy. And while I am offering advice, let me offer one more suggestion---avoid the movie "The Golden Compass". It is terrible and will put you off from wanting to read the books.


7 comments:

  1. I am going to have to get me a copy of this book. I read His Dark Materials when they first came out and i NEED to know the back story lol

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    1. That is exactly the way I felt when I heard about this book. Plus, I understand that Pullman has written all three books in this series already so it shouldn't take too long before #2 is released. Hopefully before I forget details from this book.

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  2. A three-book prequel makes me think of the Star Wars series, it's a great idea.

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  3. I loved the first series, and the prequel was intriguing. Pullman is so imaginative and such a talented writer.

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  4. It's interesting how the two series will mesh together, isn't it, and what order to read them in. I've seen Pullman talk of these new ones as "equels" as in not prequels or sequels but happening around the same time. I am going to make sure I get hold of this myself soon.

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  5. I will be the black sheep in that I didn't enjoy His Dark Materials so I didn't bother with this book. I read it twice (once for my YA class in library school and the other for my high school book club pick) and it failed to capture my attention.

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    1. If you didn't like The Golden Compass, et al, I would recommend that you avoid this book, too. though this book answers many of the questions the other books don't answer.

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