I know, I know! I am very late to the party with this review! The Book of Dust is the eagerly anticipated prequel from Philip Pullman. We all remember His Dark Materials, but now we have a prequel to set us up for Lyra’s journey. I will hold my hands up and say that I didn’t look into the story or plot before but rather read it blind. From some of the other thoughts on this, I think I may have made the best choice for this. But I will address this other criticisms further down!
********* There are spoilers in this review! If you have not read the book, and do not wish to read spoilers please leave now. **********
Malcolm was the landlord’s son… he had friends enough, but he was happiest on his own playing with his daemon Asta in their canoe, which was called La Belle Sauvage.
Since I saw this book was due to be released last year, I have been waiting to get my hands on it and read it. Unfortunately, I had to wait till February this year to pick it up and I didn’t get round to reading it until September. Lax I know! I was intrigued how the story would play itself out and I liked the introduction of Malcolm as the lead role. His place within his surroundings seemed to dwell on the insignificant but needed, often helping out at the local priory and with his mum and dad in the inn.
As I’ve not read HDM for a while, I wasn’t sure at which point The Book of Dust was set, or how it linked in with the rest of the narrative we already love. I like how this new character was shaped and added into the universe, if not intrigued how his role would be furthered.
I found the start of the this to be a little all-over the places with jumps to different settings to paint a clearer picture. It was interesting, however, to see what was already known about the Aleitheometers and what their further significance could mean. It is the little things like this which make this book better to read after the initial HDM trilogy.
Malcolm is your usual middle grade hero; kind, helpful, inquisitive and intelligent. He is aware of his surroundings and able to make the best decisions to help the people within his life. Although he might not be the most realistic of 11 year old boys, he is one that is needed for this situation. Also, we are dealing with a world where each person has a daemon who is intrinsically linked to their being. A pinch of salt is often needed for the telling of fiction stories.
I liked Malcolm for what he portrays. He is the sort of person to give you hope in the world. His love and determination to keep Lyra safe were things that were noted the first-time hat he saw her. Even though he is only young, he has be able to take advantage of his situation by learning from the scholars who pass through the inn and taking notes from the local carpenter. All of this set up nicely to take on his role as Lyra’s protector once the flood hit.
Although he is the archetypal hero, he is also able to make selfish decisions based on his age. It is this which makes his character more believable and why we want him to succeed. In a way we know that he must be able to keep Lyra safe as we know how her story begins in The Golden Compass. I don’t think that this detracts from Malcolm’s role within the Book of Dust, more exemplifies its importance. Without him, how would she have been kept safe?
Should Lyra have been a baby through The Book of Dust?
Now this is something that I’ve seen a lot of people complain about on Goodreads. They were expecting Lyra to be older, and one person thought this book showed Lyra being older than in HDM. This is why I’m glad I went into The Book of Dust blind. I didn’t have any preconceived ideas of what to expect, more I was looking forward to another story within this universe.
Personally, I enjoyed the telling of this story. I thought it was an interesting place to start off Lyra’s story. Having her as more of the passive counterpart allowed for a bigger story to be told. It goes into more detail about why the church are wanting to ban any knowledge of dust. I think it also gives a better telling as to why they are wanting to get hold of Lyra so badly.
As much as I enjoyed His Dark Materials, I do enjoy being able to read a story from another perspective. And in this case, to read it from the point of view of someone who has a clear connection with the dust gave it a bit more of an edge for me with what I wanted to see.
Although I took this book on holiday as a light read, despite its page length. I feel like it was less light than expected. For a book aimed more at children, there were a fair few dark areas contained within. I feel like this was purposefully done, as Pullman will have known his original readers are no longer children. Sure, we may encourage younger family members to read HDM. But he will have known that we were buying this book for us.
Honestly? I liked the darker elements to it. It didn’t gloss over the regime that was being put in place within Brytain. It showed the reality of how they were taking control of the country and the people. The thought of the St Alexander’s group being sent up sent chills through my spine. Having children spy on the people they live and learn with made me really uncomfortable. But it is not outside the realm of possibility which I think is the part that worried me the most.
***** 4 out of 5 stars
I would recommend this book to everyone. It’s a good read, and also a good place to start with this fictional Brytain woven by Philip Pullman. The Book of Dust is able to weave together the backstory needed for the previous trilogy and enables people to get a good understanding of what is happening.
I really enjoyed the new characters, and getting a bigger insight into the different factions within the world.
Have you already read The Book of Dust? If so, what did you think to it?
Hasta la fuego