Northern Lights by Philip Pullman (His Dark Materials: Book 1)

9/10 Written as a childrens book but equally absorbing to any adult reader.

Northern Lights is the first part of Philip Pullman's acclaimed Dark Materials trilogy. The book was first published in 1995, a year in which the book also claimed the Carnegie Award.

Imagine a world that is as alike as it is disimilar to our own. Where huge zeppelins litter the skyline and a persons' soul is a living breathing animal companion or 'daemon'. This is the world of Lyra Belacqua, orphan and carefree child who lives with the musty old scholars of Jordan College, Oxford. Together with her daemon Pantalaimon, Lyra's uncomplicated life is about to be turned upside down with an amazing and sometimes terrifying chain of events beginning with her uncle Lord Asriel's visit to the College to plan an expidition to the Northern Lights. His goal is to find the source of 'Dust'and a possible gateway to another world. Soon after is the appearance of Mrs Coulter, a cool and charasmatic woman who decides that Lyra should be versed in the etiquette of becoming a young woman and decides to take Lyra away from Jordan College but whom Lyra soons suspects has, together with her golden monkey daemon, an ulterior motive. With a strange golden compass, known as an 'alethiometer' in her possesion, given to her by the Master of the College and the terrible disappearance of many local children at the hands of the 'Gobblers', it is the disappearance of her own best friend Roger and the one too many obsticles put in her way to find out more about 'Dust' that makes Lyra more sure than ever that these events are all linked somehow and the only way to find out more, and her friend, is to travel to the Northern Lights.

"'If I talked to her about Dust? You don't think she'd listen to that?' The Librarian made a noise to indicate how unlikely he thought that was.'Why on earth should she?' he said. 'Why should a distant theoligical riddle interest a healthy thoughtless child?' 'Because of what she must experience. Part of that includes a great betrayal...' 'Who's going to betray her?' 'No, no, that's the saddest thing: she will be the betrayer, and the experience will be terrible'"
Chapter 2: Northern Lights

Written as a childrens book but equally absorbing to any adult reader, I would not hesitate in recommending this first book in the Philip Pullman 'His Dark Materials' trilogy. It is wonderfully enthralling from the first page and paints a world that you long to visit. There are enough twists and turns to keep the pace of the plot zooming along rather nicely and many interesting characters along the way. There aren't many books that can boast daemons, witches, armoured polar bears and possible other worlds; quite a head-full to keep your imagination ticking over. On another level, which younger children may not pick up on but will by no means spoil their enjoyment, is the anti-church theme represented by the controlling Magisterium and a smattering of quantum physics and chaos theory thrown in for good measure. It is in fact this mix of science, theology and magic, a theme that continues throughout the trilogy that ensures this book stands out from the rest. There are some parts of this book that, even for an adult can be quite upsetting; there are instances of death and grief that some might feel are subjects they do not wish their child to read about, however, I believe that such subjects are part of life and Philip Pullman's decision to include these and not to gloss over such subjects shows a real respect for the age group this book was written for. It is no small wonder that the 'His Dark Materials' trilogy has been met with critical acclaim. An unforgettable read that will ensure you read the second book 'The Subtle Knife' without pausing for breath inbetween.

"Then a door opened by means of a large wheel; a hiss of air; and a brilliantly lit chamber with dazzling white tiles and stainless steel. The fear she fet was almost a physical pain; it was a physical pain, as they pulled her and Pantalaimon over towards a larg cage of pale silver mesh, above which a great pale silver blade hung poised to seperate them forever. She found a voice at last, and screamed. The sound echoed loudly of the shiny surfaces, but the heavy door had hissed shut; she could scream and scream forever, and not a sound would escape. But Pantalaimon, in answer, had twisted free of those hateful hands - he was a lion, an eagle; he tore at them with vicious talons, great wings beat wildly, and then he was a wolf, a bear, a polecat - darting, snarling, slashing, a succession of transformations too quick to register, and all the time leaping, flying, dodging from one spot to another as their clumsy hands flailed and snatched at empty air. But they had daemons too, of course. It wasn't two against three, it was two against six. A badger, an owl and a baboon were all just as intent to pin Pantalaimon down, and Lyra was crying to them, 'Why? Why are you doing this? Help us! You shouldn't be helping them!'""
Chapter 16: Northern Lights

Review by

35 positive reader review(s) for Northern Lights

64 positive reader review(s) in total for the His Dark Materials series


Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials series

Northern Lights

His Dark Materials: Book 1

The Subtle Knife

His Dark Materials: Book 2

The Amber Spyglass

His Dark Materials: Book 3

Northern Lights reader reviews

from UK

A great read for anyone aged 9 and up. It is a book that can be enjoyed on 2 levels, either as a tale of action and adventure, or as a tale that explores themes as challenging as the practice of religion and experimentation on both humans and animals. Set in a world both familiar and magically different, the concept that our spirits/souls take the form of dæmons (think a witch's black cat) is arguably the hook that catches you and reels you in. A very deep book if you wish it to be, and re-reads are highly beneficial.

from England

One of the most enchanting books I have ever read of to be honest the most enchanting I have picked up. From line one, ‘Lyra and her deamon moved through the great hall, taking care to keep out of site of the kitchen, to the last line, ‘So Lyra and her deamon walked into the sky.’ I think it should be 10 plus before they read the books beacase it’s contains aspects of death. I could give it more than 10 stars.

from New Zealand

Even though it was for homework and I am a slow reader, not so interested in books, I still very much enjoyed it. Aspects about the Gobblers and what they 'did' reminded me of 'The Promised Neverland' a.k.a. 'Yakusuko no Neverland'.

from Scotland

Brilliant! Great story, I am only half way through the first book but I have a question I am a person of the same age as the author. Why do the characters in the book speak in such terrible English No decent grammar at all, Is there a reason?

from Spain

It will take you away from your bedroom to a world with talking bears, spying beatles and shape shifting daemons. When you start reading you just can't stop! =) I would recomend it for teens.

from London

Love the book can’t stop the reading so just read read read read

from Kent uk

This books is so good! I can’t stop reading it, the tension and excitement and mystery in the story line is amazing. At first I wasn’t sure as the book was thick and looked a heavy read but as I got more into the book I found it more interesting. I haven’t finished it yet but nearly there!!! I recommend this book to 12+ as it is complicated and a heavy read however perfect for adventurous readers!! Enjoy reading 😉

from England

One of the best books I've ever read. Would recommend to 10-12 readers!

from Rivendale

This book really pulled me in from the very start. Pullman creates vivid fantasy scenes which create strong images in my mind. I wasn't ever bored throughout my reading of the book and think it's absolutely amazing! I recommend it to ages 10/11 and adventure lovers. A extremely great book.

from Scotland

Amazing book would definitely recommend, do not read any reviews under 8 stars its a fantastic book!!

from New Zealand

Very good book but a little slow starting.

from UK

I had to read this book as homework from my new school and was so excited when I heard the reviews. It turned out to be extremely slow-starting and I stopped reading it halfway. When I gave it another shot I still found it slow-starting but the middle and ending were amazing and very enjoyable. I'd denfinitely be recommending this book to young teenagers and adults but be prepared for a slow start!👍 Good Luck

from Unicornland

Liked it but was a bit boring but have it 10 stars due to the thought process used in making it

from UK

Very good indeed Phillip Pullman. Best book ever.

from England

I am loving this book!

from Derby, UK

I would give it 8 seeing as it is very intriguing .I have only read half the book and I would like to finish the book ASAP! Also I am learning about this in my form in school. I just LOVE the fantasy in it. However, there's quite a lot of description and direct speech!

from Australia

The best book and also very addictive. Can't stop reading it!

from US

Great book, but not the best I have ever read so I will give it a 9.

from India

It is a fantastic book for anyone over 10 years old. It is enthralling from first page. PERFECT!!

from Japan


from England

Couldn't put it down, such an amazing book. The film is exactly the same.

from England

Fantastic storyline! Great imagination and brilliant characters!! Great for old and young!! Would recommend everyone reads the full series.

from England

A fantastic book for everyone!!!!!

from England

AMAZING, couldn't put it down.

from From

A wonderful tale, if only because its sequels are so great! Only one warning: if you're not one for sad endings, this series may not be for you. Nevertheless, a full-hearted 10/10!!

from Candyland

Amazing book. I loved it soooooo much!! It takes you away from ordinary, boring old life to a magical place! I envy anyone who is reading it for the first time. I couldn't stop reading it and my mum got annoyed because I didn't come to dinner xP

from Unknown

6/10 I liked it but didn't love it.

from Jamacia

I give it 6/10. It was a fantastic story but they overdone it with all the fantasy. Though I have to say the book did not disappoint.

from England

Northern Lights was originally written as a children's book but is equally absorbing to any adult reader. I would not hesitate in recommending this wonderfully enthralling book which paints a world that you will long to visit. There are many twists and turns throughout to keep the pace of the pot racing along as well as enough interesting characters along the way. There are very few books which can boast about daemons, witches, armoured polar bears and which keep your head full of imagination. It is no small wonder that the Dark Materials trilogy has been met with an unforgettable read that will unsure you read the second book The Subtle Knife without pausing for a breath in between.

from Hammons

This book seems to be a little over rated...

from Stanford Essex UK

An excellent fast-paced book involving childish wit yet a somewhat sophisticated air. I could not put it down and would recommend it to any book, or fantasy lover. One of the most imaginative books in some time with just the right amount of suspense towards the end. 9/10.

from Adelaide

A well-written, fast-paced book. It was witty and filled with action, although sometimes it may have moved slightly fast, without much description. With a slow start, and a tedious and confusing middle, the ending was more convincing and exciting. A great book, though not something I would recommend!

from New Zealand

Overall I think this book is amazing, it's suspenseful and exciting and the ideas are very, very witty and original. I have grown to love Lyra and her friends and am looking forward to reading The Amber Spyglass.

from Reading

I read this trilogy a number of years ago and couldn't put it down. The depth of emotion conveyed in these books and the manner in which it is done is simply enthralling. The writing is magnificent and the story brilliant, I felt myself being fully pulled into these books. I have noted that there are comments that books such as Ruby and the Smoke were better, I think these earlier books showed how Mr Pullman developed his characters, scenes and story lines, they certainly are not as good as His Dark Materials. I think I also like this trilogy because it has a dig at the Catholic Church, however that is a small bonus.

from Vancouver, BC

A fantasy book out of comprehension. Philip Pullman clearly writes with creativity and raw intensity. His characters are as interesting as they are believable. The story is complex, yet easy to follow and there are clearly moments that are well thought out. The Golden Compass is not the archetypical fantasy novel, it's a genuine masterpiece.

from Basildon Essex UK

A wonderful, magical journey. It is fast paced and takes you away from the mundane and ordinary to the wonderful and extraordinary. I could not put it down.

9.3/10 from 37 reviews

Write a reader review

Your rating out of 10

More reviews of Philip Pullman books

Books you may also enjoy

The Earthsea Quartet

Ursula Le Guin

The Hobbit

JRR Tolkien

Ptolemy's Gate

Jonathan Stroud

The Amulet of Samarkand

Jonathan Stroud

The Ring of Solomon

Jonathan Stroud

The Golem's Eye

Jonathan Stroud

James and the Giant Peach

Roald Dahl

Following reviews

Nine Princes In Amber

Roger Zelazny

The Power That Preserves

Stephen Donaldson

The Darkest Road

Guy Gavriel Kay

Wolf In Shadow

David Gemmell

The Gunslinger

Stephen King

The Dragonbone Chair

Tad Williams