‘Golden Compass’ introduces new fantasy world to readers | TahoeDailyTribune.com

‘Golden Compass’ introduces new fantasy world to readers

Samuel McCauley / Neighbors Bookstore

“The Golden Compass” by Philip Pullman

What if you had a device that would let you know what someone was really saying to you? Better yet, what if that device could tell you if someone was lying, what someone was really thinking about or what their true intentions were? You could even know what someone was doing half a world away, whether they were well or ill, or if you were going see them again soon.

For a free-willed young girl named Lyra, the Alethiometer (also known as the Golden Compass) is just such a device, the only catch being that it is extremely difficult to read.

Lyra was raised among the scholars and professors of Oxford College, in a time not far from our own but in an alternate version of England. In Lyra’s world, things are somewhat different than in our own; gas-filled balloons and zeppelins are commonplace, and every human on the planet has an animal partner called a daemon.

While a daemon may resemble an animal – any animal, in fact – it is far more than a pet. A daemon is more like an avatar or familiar, its form an outward expression of the human’s soul. Daemons can change form at will while their person is a child, and it is only in adulthood that the daemon takes on a final form that best represents the disposition of their person.

Lyra and her daemon, Pantalaimon, who is able to change his shape because Lyra is still a child, find themselves caught up in what seems to be a government conspiracy to abduct children for purposes unknown.

Many children have vanished, but it is when a dear playmate named Rodger and his daemon go missing that Lyra really begins to take notice. So begins Lyra’s journey to find and save her missing friend from the Gobblers, an organization shrouded in mystery and rumors.

The ensuing epic adventure takes the young girl across countries, oceans and vast frozen tundra through mysteries and wonders of dramatic proportions. Along the way, she meets dozens of memorable characters, such as Lord Asrial with all his knowledge and a great snow leopard deamon; the Gyptian King, John Faa; and the mighty armored bear Iorek Byrnison.

Philip Pullman does an excellent job with this continually engaging story that never seems to lull or sag but keeps you reading and wanting to know what happens next. “The Golden Compass” is the first of three books in the “His Dark Materials” series, followed by “The Subtle Knife” and finally “The Amber Spyglass.” This is not a new series, having been originally published in 1995, but it has enjoyed a revival thanks in large part to the movie that has just come out in theaters. “The Golden Compass” has such a cliffhanger ending that I immediately decided to get the other two books to see how it all ends. These books are a must for fans of the “Narnia” and “Middle Earth” series or any of the other great fantasy epics. I dare say they shall not disappoint.

– Samuel McCauley is a sales associate at Neighbors Bookstore.

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