Special Editions of His Dark Materials

2005 marked the 10th anniversary of His Dark Materials, and as such Scholastic Press released beautiful hardback editions.

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Not only do they have gorgeous metallic covers and a bound bookmark to help you keep your place, but each book has an appendix filled with additional snippets of information. These bits and pieces are in the form of letters, notes, and drawings by Lord Asriel currently housed in Jordon College Library, notes and drawings from Dr Grumman, and papers by Dr Mary Malone from Secret Magisterium files.

Pullman also includes a small introduction at the start of each appendix offering details about where these files were found, are being stored etc to give a great authentic element that keeps it in the realm of the story.

In Northern Lights the appendix reads:

These papers were discovered among the effects of an anonymous scholar after his death in Oxford. They were sent for auction with all his other books and papers and their significance was recognised by Mr Ian Beck, the celebrated artist, who bought them for a small sum.

How they arrived in this universe is still a mystery. It is possible that there exists wormholes, or doorways, opening from one universe into another, and that somewhere in the Oxford of this world there is such an opening into the library of a college in another Oxford entirely.

If that is the case, there may be other such items in this world still awaiting discovery.

There are a few drawings but it’s mainly notes by Lord Asriel with random thoughts he has jotted down relating to Grumman, Lyra, and the witches, plus  inventory for his trip to the North.

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Lord Asriel’s notes

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Lord Asriel’s notes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In The Subtle Knife the appendix reads:

The provenance of these papers is obscure. It is possible that they came into the possession of Lord Asriel and were deposited with his own papers in Jordon College Library, but the absence of a library stamp makes that unlikely. It is known that Dr Grumman travelled widely in the Arctic and Siberia, and had numerous acquaintances among the witch-clans and the native people of the north as well as in the worlds of scholarship, politics, and science. Any of them might have acquired such things and inadvertently, or even deliberately, allowed them to slip out of one world and into another.

Items such as these papers are not uncommon. They turn up frequently in auctions, in book-dealers’ catalogues, and the like. Usually their significance remains mysterious; it is only when they are seen in the context of a larger narrative that their meaning suddenly becomes apparent.

This appendix is filled with drawings of the local landscape and points of reference, instructions for making bloodmoss, Grumman’s thoughts about Lord Asriel and his documentation of witch-clans, plus various shaman related notes.

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Drawings by Dr Grumman

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Notes and drawings by Dr Grumman

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

While the others have long introductions, The Amber Spyglass appendix simply has:

Papers of ‘Mary Malone’

Archive of the Magisterium

STRICTLY CONFIDENTIAL

In this appendix are various pages of Mary’s notes about the world she went into and her studies on what she found.

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Dr Malone’s notes

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Dr Malone’s notes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What is wonderful about these items, as hinted by some of the introductions, is when they’re read in the wider context of the narrative you get more to the story. Seeing Mary’s notes upon her arrival in the new world, drawings by Dr Grumman and even Lord Asriel’s papers gives you insight into their character, an extra side of the story, motivations, and discoveries. In these snippets of letters and diary entries it can reveal a lot more about these characters and the wider story itself.

Northern Lights (#1) by Philip Pullman

Published:  23rd October 1998Goodreads badge
Publisher: 
Scholastic Point
Pages: 399
Format: Paperback
Genre: Fantasy
★   ★   ★   ★   ★  – 5 Stars

When Lyra’s friend Roger disappears, she and her dæmon, Pantalaimon, determine to find him.

The ensuing quest leads them to the bleak splendour of the North, where armoured bears rule the ice and witch-queens fly through the frozen skies – and where a team of scientists is conducting experiments too horrible to be spoken about.

Lyra overcomes these strange terrors, only to find something yet more perilous waiting for her – something with consequences which may even reach beyond the Northern Lights…

Northern Lights is the first book in the His Dark Materials trilogy and it introduces us to Lyra, her dæmon Pantalaimalon, and her world, similar to our own but so different at the same time. In Lyra’s universe people have dæmons, kind of like animal spirits that are a representation of their true self, their soul. The story is a retelling of sorts but with so much more depth and complexity is reads almost as new story. Granted this becomes much more evident in later books, but Northern Lights is a starting point to the greater story being told. In this first book Lyra heads North to rescue her friend Roger and other children that have been kidnapped for terrible experiments, and in doing so is introduced to something much bigger than she ever could imagine. This book leads onto the others and from captivating beginnings drags you deep into the world of Dust, other worlds, and destiny.

Away from the other two books, Northern Lights is a wonderful story on its own. Pullman brings this parallel universe to life absolutely magnificently, and in a world so foreign yet so familiar it is easy to accept Lyra’s world as being possible. What is wonderful about it as well is that it doesn’t read as an introduction book, we join Lyra in the middle of a moment and pick up the rest of the world as we go along, slowly gaining a picture of the world and its people, joining together snippets of information and details as the story goes on.

What is fantastic about Pullman is that he does little obvious explaining for the reader. There are hardly any, if at all, long explanations and expositions that are there for the reader’s understanding. Everything we need to know can be worked out from details and information provided in the narrative, and any explanations that are there have been woven meticulously through the story and provided through Lyra or other characters, and always keeping with the natural flow of the narrative. But Pullman is such a masterful writer that even when things aren’t explained it is easy to comprehend and to gain an understanding about the various levels and elements about the world.

Pullman writes with style and elegance, and with huge ideas, but the story is told so simply, with such passion, that it is easy to lose yourself in the story and imagine yourself beside Lyra as she explores Oxford or travels North. It is easy to become invested in these characters, you fear for them, rejoice with them, and worry for them all at once. From the first to last page you can picture everything that is happening: Lyra hiding in the wardrobe with Pan, armoured bears fighting for a kingdom, and golden monkey’s luring unsuspecting children.

Even with such exquisite description, Pullman also limits the details for his characters. Simple descriptions for many of his characters allow readers to create their own visions, and instead Pullman brings their complexity to life through their character, their personality and their actions. While general physical descriptions are important and still there, a greater understanding of who a character is is much more common. This is where the dæmons play a wonderful role; they help to understand who a character is as well as what they are feeling. While Lyra stands tall and bravely walks into danger, Pan is a mouse in her pocket, or a leopard to show the confidence she is trying to have.

What astounds me most about Northern Lights really is how simple it sounds as a plot, but when you read it, and get into the heart of the narrative it becomes quite clear just how complicated the story truly is, and yet Pullman writes it like it is the simplest thing in the world. It really is a masterpiece.

There is a mixture of light heartedness, danger, magic and mysteries, as well as heartbreak and horror in this book. Despite dealing with things that seem so foreign and incomprehensible, Pullman makes you understand and makes you invest in the characters so that every joyful time or moment of sadness is like your own.

This truly is a phenomenal story; it is one that will stay with you long after you have finished, and not only from wonderment, but also from admiration of the world and story Pullman has developed and more importantly, the intense envy that you too can’t have your own dæmon.

You can purchase Northern Lights via the following

Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Book Depository | Booktopia

Bookworld | QBD

Dymocks | Kobo

Why I Love His Dark Materials

HDM trio Disclaimer: I really wanted to make a post gushing about how amazing His Dark Materials was, and how much I adore it, cherish it, and am fascinated by it, and I hope in part to have done that. Writing about why I love a series was harder than I thought, there is too much to say and too many feelings to try and put into words without taking a week to write it and have it be a few thousand pages long on each book. So forgive the clunkiness of this post and just remember this post is simply an extension of “Oh my god this series is amazing, it will make your mind dazzle, your heart break, and make you envious, disgusted, proud all at once. It is a masterpiece of literature I have loved since I was 12 years old and I will continue to adore it for as long as I can read. READ THIS SERIES! READ NORTHERN LIGHTS! Fall in love with Lyra and Iorek, read the entire trilogy and be moved by Will, fascinated by the mulefa and have your heart beat out of your chest in so many moments of anticipation, suspense, action and dismay. You will not regret it.” So keep that in mind 🙂

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The first time I read Northern Lights was when I was in year seven at high school. I cannot remember exactly how I was introduced to the series, I have a feeling it may have been a friend at the time, but either way I was hooked from the very beginning. I remember walking between classes, head in the book, navigating around students with instinct alone, never once looking up from the pages. I would read and reread each book in the series incessantly; getting lost in the world of Lyra and Pan, riding on the back of Iorek through the snow covered North, falling in love with Will and being amazed at Mary’s discoveries, but most of all my heart would ache to live in a world with daemons. From my first reading and even now I long to have a daemon of my own, not just for the marvel of having a companion that changed form, that was absolutely a part of you, but because when they settled you are able to discover the kind of person you truly are. It sounded magnificent. There is so much to love about His Dark Materials. I love that the people at Jordan college have come together to raise Lyra. I love that through every book there is so much joy coupled with intense sadness and heartache but also so much bravery and determination. I love that this incredibly complex story remains easy to read but is filled with the most complex ideas and theories. I love that daemons change for kids as often as their emotions change, that they are a visual representation of their soul, their feelings, and their strength. The entire series is an amazing concept and a wonderful retelling of a classic tale. Rereading Northern Lights has reminded me of all the wonderful things that make His Dark Materials the brilliant series it is. The light heartedness, the danger, the magic and the mysteries, the heartbreak and the horror, all mixed together into this phenomenal story. There is a certain magic about revisiting old favourites. Falling in love all over again with Lyra and Pan, Iorek and the Gyptians is easy, each time feeling like a first time read, even knowing where the story will go. The excitement is still there, the fear, and the disgust and sadness when terrible things happen. Another advantage of rereads is the fact you can always pick up something you have never seen before. But while there are new things to discover, there are the same moments, the same characters, that stay with you forever, moments you’ll never forget. In my typical cryptic and spoiler free way I will tell you I have never, not once, gotten over Tony. I find myself thinking about this series quite often, Lyra in the cupboard, Will and his mother, Lee Scoresby and Hester on the hillside, but I still feel so much sadness thinking about that boy with his fish. Reading it again was just as painful as the first time, Pullman has a way of making you feel everything like it’s the first time. It’s spectacular, but very emotional. What was also wonderful is that from the first pages to the last I pictured everything in my head just as I had always done, my images of characters and places were the same as when I was 12 years old, it was like returning to a familiar place after years being gone, to find it was just how you left it, the same faces welcoming you home. From Northern Lights to The Amber Spyglass there is nothing to lose by reading a series like His Dark Materials. The way Pullman migrates from Lyra in Northern Lights to Will in The Subtle Knife is seamless, and the gradual build up of characters, perspectives, worlds, and ideas is magnificent and should be (and has been) commended. I cannot imagine not having read this series, it hasn’t changed my life exactly, but it so much a part of my life it may as well have. These books have given me a story that is simply stunning, one that I will never forget, and one that I look forward to rereading again and again for many years to come.

Fun Facts about Northern Lights by Philip Pullman

Northern Lights (also known as The Golden Compass in America) was first published in 1995 by Scholastic. In the 20 years that have followed, there have been two additional books creating a trilogy, plus two separate stories, one a prequel, and one that explores more of Lyra’s adventures after the trilogy.

Since its publication Northern Lights has won numerous awards. In 1995 Pullman won the Carnegie Medal from the Library Association, which recognises the year’s outstanding children’s book by a British subject. When the Carnegie Medal had its 70th anniversary, Northern Lights was named in the top ten winning works, and won the public vote naming it the all-time “Carnegie of Carnegies” in 2007.

According to Pullman, he thought “it would be hard to find an audience for this story”. Reading that I was amazed because I can’t imagine this book not being successful, it has gone on to become so iconic and beloved and I do think it will last forever. Just seeing the awards it has won, and the public adoration for it demonstrates that Northern Lights, and the entire series, hold a special place in people’s hearts.

Asked in an interview if there was something he had read, a painting he had seen, or a certain incident that led to the writing of His Dark Materials, Pullman stated that one of the places it came from was Milton’s Paradise Lost. This was a poem he read at school that he loved immediately, not because he understood a lot of it, but because he loved the wonderful sounds the words made when they were read aloud. There are also influences from Blake and Kleist but just because it sounds literary and erudite, it does not mean it shows, these grand literary gods bring influence and inspiration, but Pullman makes it real and makes it readable, while still having the importance and the impact of something powerful.

Aside from its influences, the book itself is immensely complicated, in lots of little ways. Just the creation of the alethiometer and the way it works is admirable, not to mention the stunning and immense parallel world Pullman has created with Oxford, the north, and the numerous types of people and creatures that reside there.

Even small details like the images that accompany new chapters are a small thing that seems inconsequential, but have meaning and a story. Pullman mentions on his website the wonderful illustrations that appear at each chapter are intentional and symbolic. Suggested by his publisher Pullman agreed to include them and asked to do them himself, despite not being an illustrator. His publisher agreed so each of the little drawings included at the start of each chapter were done by Pullman himself.

Another fun fact is that originally, during pre-publication, the prospective trilogy was known as The Golden Compasses, referencing Milton’s Paradise Lost and God’s poetic explanation of the world.

Then staid the fervid wheels, and in his hand
He took the golden compasses, prepared
In God’s eternal store, to circumscribe
This universe, and all created things:
One foot he centred, and the other turned
Round through the vast profundity obscure

— Book 7, lines 224–229

This was obviously changed, but interestingly, the reason it remains The Golden Compass in America is because the publisher had been calling the first book The Golden Compass, mistakenly believing the reference was to the alethiometer. Despite the UK name change, the American publisher insisted keeping the name because they had grown attached to it and it has stayed the same ever since.

There really are so many fascinating things to discover about Northern Lights, not only about how Pullman developed it and how it has been received, but the world complexity and fantastic characters, the subtle differences with our world and the glaring differences, but the profound ideas that are explored through a story that is so original and unique, but at the same time telling us a story we already know so well.

You can read an extract from Northern Lights here.

 

July Brings Celebration

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July has arrived which is the start of many wonderful things. Not only am I taking a month off of reviewing, I’m using this time to bring to light one of my all-time favourite trilogies and show off its grandeur for all to see.

His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman is a series that has sold around 20 million copies, won numerous awards, and been translated into over 35 languages. It has become a movie, a play, and even a radio production, and even twenty years after the first book was published Pullman’s words still captivate readers and amaze them.

Northern Lights is the first book in the His Dark Materials trilogy and it is where we are introduced to Lyra, Pantalaimon, and Oxford for the very first time. From these beginning Pullman drags us into a magical alternate world where daemons, witches, and other worlds are possible and through three brilliant books takes us on a fascinating, treacherous, and emotional journey that will amaze, frighten, and astound.

In honour of the 20th year of publication for Northern Lights I am dedicating the entire month of July to the celebration. Over the next 30 days I am going to be posting a variety of things about Northern Lights, as well as the rest of the His Dark Materials series. I have reviews, trivia, awesome fan art from some very talented people, as well as a few rambles of my own discussing the things I love most about these books. There really is so much to discuss with these novels, Pullman has created a tremendously complex and intricate universe and you can’t help but admire him for what he has not only created, but what he has achieved with these books.

If you have read these books you will know about their delights, and if you haven’t, I hope my constant praise will make you pick up a copy and start reading because it is truly a joy to experience, and it is an experience that will stay with you.

I know the entire trilogy was published from 1995-2000 but I am going to include the other two in this month as well because discussing just Northern Lights is not enough. There are also two additional books that are set in the same world but outside the trilogy which I am going to look at too. By the end of it you will either be in love with this series like I am, or you will never want to see or hear about it again, but I’m pretty sure it’ll be the former though.

So join me for a wonderful month of delving deep into the world of daemons, armoured bears, the alethiometer, and Dust, and relive or be introduced to the magical and superb world of Lyra’s Oxford, and a series that has brought joy to millions!

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