La Belle Sauvage (The Book of Dust #1)

Published: 19 October 2017 Goodreads badge
Publisher:
David Fickling Books
Pages: 560
Format: Paperback
Genre: Young Adult
★   ★   ★   ★   ★  – 5 Stars

Eleven-year-old Malcolm Polstead and his dæmon, Asta, live with his parents at the Trout Inn near Oxford. Across the River Thames (which Malcolm navigates often using his beloved canoe, a boat by the name of La Belle Sauvage) is the Godstow Priory where the nuns live. Malcolm learns they have a guest with them; a baby by the name of Lyra Belacqua . . .

For over ten years I have been waiting [im]patiently for this book to finally be published. From 2005 when Pullman first really mentioned he was working on it I have waited. I’ve check update after update, any little mention from 2005, 2007, 2012 when Pullman said he was taking over a year off everything just to work on it. When the “late 2016” possible publication was announced I was excited but also doubtful, when that got pushed back to 2017 I was heartbroken. When that 19 Oct date was announced in February this year I may have lost my little mind. Then I had to wait, but it finally happened. I finally got it, I finally read it, and I have to say, my word was it worth the long wait.

The Book of Dust is everything I possibly imagined it to be and more. It is a beautiful and magnificent book that draws you right back into Pullman’s world, so much like ours but still completely different. It’s familiar, but not too familiar because it takes place away from the Oxford we know but still feels like slipping into a well-loved pair of shoes. I fell in love again almost instantly and the more I read the more drawn in I became. Every turn of the page I was almost in tears of happiness and I loved this new side of this world we got to explore. (As I said, I have a slight obsession with this series and I have been waiting a long time for this book, so no judgement please).

Pullman’s new characters are as fully formed and unique as his existing ones, and those we’ve met before (technically) are also introduced as if we’re meeting them for the first time, such is the benefits of having a new point of view to focus on. Malcolm Polstead is a great voice to tell this story; he is young, can come off as a little simple or naive, but shows strength and determination when needed. His loyalty and friendship for others, and his love and protection over Lyra is his driving force. His sense of what is right and what’s wrong is clear, and he has wonderful guidance around him to direct his curious mind.

I loved Malcolm. I loved his love of Lyra, and I love his childlike wonder and innocence. Having only really seen Lyra’s interactions with Pan as the example of child/dæmon relationship, it was great seeing Malcolm and Asta’s connection. Pullman also includes subtle and brief bits of information about the daemons through the story, and uses childlike curiosity to cover any questions, much as he did in His Dark Materials.

What I found interesting was that Lyra’s role is so small, she is just a baby after all, and yet she is the entire point of the book as well. One thing I adored, and actually had never thought about before was babies and baby daemons. There’s plenty of children’s daemons in the trilogy, but babies not so much. Seeing baby Lyra and baby Pan interact was joyous, and every time they’re mentioned I found myself aging them forward to the wild girl and dæmon ten years on and thinking of all the great things they were going to achieve.

Important things to note, there is some swearing in this book, one of the Big Ones I guess you could say is said by a few characters. Pullman has used them well so they work, but it was a surprise when they appeared. Also, there is a darker story here, it’s a bit more brutal at times, nothing too explicit, but just darker. Pullman has also said numerous times this is not a sequel or a prequel, he calls it an equal, a companion piece. I would agree in as much as it is separate from the trilogy, and even separate in part from the follow up books he did. But my opinion is you do have to read the original three first. Very much like Star Wars you need to have experienced all that there is in the originals before you go back to the Before. Knowing what it all means and to know the grandeur and power it holds is more impactful as you read this book. Secrets from the trilogy are openly discussed, mysteries are no longer mysterious as they play out before you. All of which is fantastic mind you, but knowing that they have been secrets means that reading the trilogy after this will not have the same effect at all in my opinion. Though I would be interested to speak to someone who does read this first.

When I finished reading I did find myself with a few tears. Not so much for what happens but for all of it: for the big, gorgeous new story, for Lyra and Pan and Malcolm and his beloved canoe. For the strength and love Malcolm has, and the beautiful innocence and unbridled sense of doing what is right. And of course, because who can read any book about this world and not end up in beautiful tears of happiness? When I finished that last page I wanted to hug the book close to my chest because it was perfect in all the ways that mattered. Pullman brought long time devoted fans the book they’ve been longing for for over ten years. He made us wait, but for what has come of that waiting I couldn’t ask for anything more. I can only imagine what is going to come in the next two volumes, and I’m sure Pullman will come up with something much better than I ever could imagine.

In a Sydney Morning Herald article Pullman said that the second book is written but not yet edited. With a hopeful release date of next year I have something to look forward to that’s much less vague than it has been. If you’re interested, it’s a great article, Pullman talks about his Australian connection to parts of La Belle Sauvage, and his experience with the whole writing experience.

You can purchase La Belle Sauvage via the following

QBD | Dymocks

Booktopia | Book Depository

Amazon | Publisher

Audible | Wordery

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The Greatest Thing in the World

The greatest thing has happened this morning. After years of hearing about it, having publications dates pushed back again and again, Philip Pullman is FINALLY publishing his book The Book of Dust. Followers of the blog may already know my slight love affair and obsession with HDM based on the month-long tribute I did a couple of years ago, and this has been something Pullman has been talking about for years and I’ve been checking in every few months to see if there’s been any new news.

When I saw the article in The Guardian this morning I effectively lost my mind – as people on Twitter may have noticed – I even woke my sleeping puppy by practically shouting “Oh my god, it’s finally happening!”. I then actually opened the article and went on a journey of emotions with my hand over chest like a shocked aristocratic woman, tears welling up in my eyes and not breathing as I read. It was all terribly dramatic but I was so excited.

The greatest part is that we’re getting not one, but THREE, count ’em three books. It’s a whole new trilogy and I just cannot wait to get my hands on these books. From the details in the article they are taking place at various points in Lyra’s life. We knew already that it was originally going to be years after the end of The Amber Spyglass, but Pullman has said there will also be one from when Lyra was a baby. I can’t wait to see baby Lyra and a little bubby Pan!

The first volume is due out 19th October and runs parallel to HDM. Pullman has said that it doesn’t stand before or after His Dark Materials, but beside it. “It’s a different story, but there are settings that readers of His Dark Materials will recognise and characters they’ve met before.” Just the chance to return to Jordan College and see how Lyra ended up in their care is going to be incredible, I was hyped to get the book set 20 years after, three books is more than I could have dreamed for. With Lyra the focus of the first two volumes, volume three is going to be entirely new again and I know is going to be all kinds of wonderful. The sad part is we don’t even have a cover image that we can swoon over yet.

I think I could gush about this forever but I won’t. I am so excited it’s finally actually happening, just thinking about what’s in store is creating all sorts of theories in my head and possibilities. Oh my goodness, this new trilogy is going to break my heart I know it. October 19 cannot come fast enough! When can I preorder?

Books I’m Looking Forward to in 2016

ReadingThere are so many great books due to come out in 2016, I know I will not get a chance to read all of them, I’m behind the ones I wanted to read for last year and the year before, but I will add them to my TBR pile all the same.

However, there are a few exceptions, a select few books that I will be snatching up as soon as possible and reading right away. The first is The Book of Dust by Philip Pullman. This has no release date yet and a late 2016 publication is tentative at best, but I have been waiting for years for this book to be finally finished and so far from what I’ve read 2016 seems like the year it is possibly going to happen. There isn’t even a cover yet I can admire either which is entirely unfair.

The next one on my list is Awaken by Heather McCollum. The third and final in The Guardians series I cannot wait to read this. I adored the first two (Siren’s Song and Broken) and I have no doubt Awaken will be of the same exhilarating and captivating quality.

Third is Wish List by Belinda Williams. Fourth and final in the City Love series, I am eager to hear Cate’s story and revisit the amazing group of women and William’s engaging writing.

Finally, The Shadow Hour, the second The Girl at Midnight book by Melissa Grey. I wanted this beside me ready to pick up when I finished The Girl at Midnight earlier last year so I will be ready to grab a copy and keep Echo’s story going and find out where Grey is taking her.

Many of these are due later in the year, but it won’t stop me waiting eagerly for them in the meantime. I have a myriad of books to keep me occupied while I wait though which is a good thing in itself.

 

New His Dark Materials Adaptation!

HDM trio

I may have a slight obsession with Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials (as my month-long appreciation in July demonstrated), and I am extremely pleased to say this obsession will continue with the announcement that His Dark Materials is getting another chance at a (hopefully better) adaptation! The announcement was made late Tuesday night here and I was almost too excited to sleep thinking about what this series could do, what we could see. I know I am dying to see Hester and Lee, to see Will and the Subtle Knife, Mary and the Mulefa, certainly more about the intricacies and all the beauty that Pullman has created – basically anything I gushed about in July I am up for in this new series. Just looking at all the headlines of news articles is enough to make my heart swell with joy and excitement about this:

BBC’s His Dark Materials series to ‘sound ever note’ in Philip Pullman’s novels” – The Guardian

BBC to air Philip Pullman’s controversial His Dark Materials fantasy trilogy despite critics saying it is anti-Christian” – The Daily Mail

The series is not going to be one that takes years, at the moment it is being announced as an eight part miniseries, but if each episode is an hour or an hour and a half which the BBC is excellent at doing, then there is ample time for a decent look at each book and to explore everything as it should be told without cutting scenes or corners. Even if the budget isn’t that of a massive feature film I have so much confidence in this project I know they are going to give it the attention it deserves. Just look at the other miniseries that have been produced, Hogfather for one, that captures Pratchett’s book so well, and it was only in two parts!

Edit: Apparently they are now looking at doing FIVE WHOLE SEASONS!

Pullman has given his blessing for the project, which is more than he really gave for the movie, especially any chance at a sequel, and he is also helping to recruit the ideal writer for the job, someone who will be able to produce a faithful adaptation of the novels. With the hit shows like Game of Thrones being adapted for television rather than a film, it’s no real surprise this epic trilogy now has its turn. There is so much more to get from a TV show than a movie sometimes, if this trend continues maybe one day we will get a television show of Harry Potter, just to finally see all the great things we missed out on in the movie. But one epic series at a time!

The series is being filmed in Wales, and produced by new production company Bad Wolf and New Line Cinema, who were in charge of the film admittedly, but Pullman will be an executive producer, and Jane Tranter and Julie Gardner, former BBC executives and Bad Wolf founders, are sure to make this adaptation the one we all deserve.

Tranter spoke to The Guardian about the project saying, “There are some pieces of literature that are wonderfully suited to film. There are some pieces of literature which are better suited to television. To my mind what is great about these trilogy of novels is we can adapt them as Philip wrote them…We can go at episode pace, tell the entirety of the story, take our time and sound every note that Philip sounds in his novels.” That right there is music to my ears.

Pullman also believes television is a wonderful platform, where well told stories and execution can bring about new depths of characterisation and heights of suspense “by taking the time for events to make their proper impact and for consequences to unravel”. And with His Dark Materials being adapted into so many other platforms already: film, radio, and theatre, then a television show really is the next logical step.

If you have any doubts at all about this adaptation then simply look to Pullman’s reaction, quoted as saying he “couldn’t be more pleased with this news” which is all I need to increase my excitement, and I was already quite thrilled.

His Dark Materials: Final Thoughts

20thAs my celebration of all things His Dark Materials comes to an end (kicking and screaming mind you), it is amazing to look back and see the journey that has happened. I started this month thinking I would just post a few fun facts, add a review here and there and show off this great series, but in doing so I have immersed myself into this series and reminded myself just how magnificent it truly is.

There are always questions that are raised when reading the trilogy, the keys ones being ‘Why was Mrs Coulter’s dæmon never named?’, ‘Was Moxie ok?’, ‘Did Lyra’s world recover?’, and of course the big one being ‘Why would you do this to me, Pullman? Why?’.

There is so much to love in this series, grand intricate plots; complicated, flawed characters; powerful emotions and a beautiful approach to huge ideas, all of which are all explored with flawless execution. Pullman is a master at big ideas in small bundles. He says so much indirectly and what he says directly has a great impact.

Another thing Pullman is great at is reaching deep within you and playing with your emotions, which is an amazing experience. He builds you up, raising your tolerance and making sure you are totally invested before he pounces. While Northern Lights was hard to read at times, it was nothing compared to what The Amber Spyglass would do to you. And while you thought The Subtle Knife was emotional, it was nothing compared to what The Amber Spyglass would do. Basically, The Amber Spyglass for all its brilliance will ruin your life. It’s wonderful.

HDM trio

There were many benefits in having this celebration, not only because I got to show off my favourite series to everyone, introducing it to people who haven’t read it yet and shared my love with fans who have, but I also got a great deal out of it as well. There were the little things such as learning more about the series I didn’t know, discovering fun facts about characters, title origins, discovering some brilliant fan art. But there were bigger things as well. Something much more profound happened to me these last couple of weeks. I came to the realisation that these books are my books. These are the books that make me proud and make me cry, and bring me so much joy and make me cry, and they teach me so much about things I didn’t know I needed to be taught about.

his_dark_materials_by_pyreoI have always felt strange listening to people talk about books they love, Sabriel, Harry Potter etc, books that have been their books. The books they know inside and out, the books they read as kids and loved, the books that are ingrained in their lives, that they obsess over and feel deep emotional connections with. I stupidly felt guilty for not feeling the same way about those same books. I thought I clearly hadn’t been reading Sabriel properly, a book so popular and loved and big. And while I adore Harry Potter I wasn’t at that ‘love above all else’ adoration for it either. I didn’t think I had been reading any books properly because I didn’t have this level of love for any of them, even the ones I had claimed to love for years like the Tomorrow Series or Thursday Next. That is until I reread His Dark Materials. It had been a few years since I had last read this series and while I remember loving it as always, and knew the scenes that always stayed with me, that was all I remembered. But being more than five years later a lot has changed, and upon rereading them now I realised that this was what I had been missing out on: the intense passion and admiration for a book. Northern Lights, The Subtle Knife, and The Amber Spyglass. These are the books that I have held in my heart without knowing it; that made me cry (a lot) despite having read them so many times. That can still break my heart and astound me to no end. And as silly as it may sound, I am glad to have gotten that out of this past month if nothing else.

I realise it sounds terribly trivial, and that this isn’t a thing most people think about or care about, but the moment I realised that these books filled that empty feeling I had, it was a truly wonderful moment.

alethiometer_wallpaper_by_wingedcelerityThere is so much magic to a series like His Dark Materials. There are things in this series you won’t recover from; they will be burnt into your heart and soul forever. There is so much beauty that you want to climb into the pages and experience firsthand. There are gut wrenching emotions and absolute joyous experiences of admiration and pride and triumph which will brighten your entire day. Even just admiring Pullman creativity and imagination is bewildering enough. It amazes me that someone could do all that with just words, to make this pain, joy, and heartache, not only for the first time but each and every time after that.

I am aware as I type this it sounds like the ramblings of a madman, which I am totally willing to accept. One of my biggest loves for this series, away from the characters and the grand ideas and the intricate plot, is just the complexity. Pullman fills these books with so much, all fitted neatly beside one another, interacting and bouncing off one another. The detail is astonishing, the tiny details that have huge consequences like the wings of a butterfly is impressive. The entire book is one big butterfly effect and Pullman knows it, it all started with Lyra in the Retiring Room. If you look at this series closely you get lost amongst the complexity and the adoration of just how well it all works.

tumblr_nk92s8XjUX1qiwuabo1_1280I will be sorry to see this month come to an end, but I do believe if I kept going any longer I would fall so far into the rabbit hole I may have a hard time convincing myself to climb back out again. I truly and sincerely hope you have all enjoyed this past month. I know I have had an absolute ball bringing it to you. Thank you for sticking by me through it all and who knows, I may do it all again in a couple of years for the 20th anniversary of Harry Potter!

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