Title: La Belle Sauvage (The Book of Dust #1)
Author: Phillip Pullman
“It welcomed her hands as if they were the very ones that had worn down the golden case over centuries and smoothed away the knurling of the wheels. As soon as she felt it, she wanted to be alone with it; she wanted to spend hours and days in its company; she want it never to be more than an arm’s length away.”
I was sent La Belle Sauvage (The Book of Dust #1) by Penguin Random House to put on my Instagram, and then it was chosen by my book club members as the October book, so I was happy to finally pick it up. When the book arrived, the first thing was that I fell in love with the cover! Having not previously read His Dark Materials, I was excited to read this, but perhaps not as excited as if I’d already read its predecessors. The book is set 10 years before the events of the original trilogy and mostly follows an 11 year old boy called Malcolm. Malcolm has always been curious and as well as helping at his father’s inn, The Trout, he also helps the nuns at the priory across the river. When rumours start circulating about a baby called Lyra, Malcolm is more curious than ever. Along with her arrival at the abbey, comes a warning from a gyptian that the worst flood in history is about to hit. So while Malcolm investigates the suspicious crowds of people Lyra seems to be attracting, he also tries to warn everyone to prepare for a flood that could turn their whole world upside down.
I think my favourite part of the book has to be the dæmons; just the idea that everyone is living with an animal counterpart is so magical. Plus it was so nice to see everyone’s relationship with their dæmons, and prove how unbreakable their bonds are. I think it brings a nice light-hearted element to the novel, so that even when it gets a little dark, I could find comfort in that element of the story.
As a villain, I loved Bonneville. I think the fact we didn’t actually see him much, but rather just felt his presence through Malcom and Alice’s fear, made him all the more terrifying. His behaviour and awful actions proved how truly horrifying he was and I would be scared witless if I had someone that manic chasing me. I think this fear was intensified even more because he was chasing children. It definitely takes someone completely deranged to be so hell-bent on attacking two innocent children.
What’s also great about the book is that you don’t have to have read His Dark Materials for it all to make sense. As a standalone series, it works perfectly fine which is really good because it’s not ostracising those who haven’t read the first series yet. It also meant we didn’t get too bogged down with explanations and details of things which happen when Lyra’s older. All in all the story, plot, and characters melded really nicely to create a fantastic novel.
The only slight criticism I have is that I do feel like this book was just setting the scene for the rest of the trilogy. I hope the next two books have a little more adventure in them. That having said, this has been one of the easiest books I’ve read this year, every page was so engrossing, I just couldn’t put it down. I would recommend this to most readers I know; if you like stories about adventure, fantasy, friendship, magic, or mystery, then read this!