Winter is here, so bundle up and get ready for a trip to the North Pole with Lyra, a strong-willed orphan from Oxford and Pantalaimon, her shape-shifting daemon!
The Golden Compass is the first book in one of my favourite young adult series -Phillip Pullman's His Dark Materials. If you loved Harry Potter, the Lord of the Rings, Narnia, or any other of the major fantasy series I couldn't recommend this book more highly.
Although at first the setting seems somewhat familiar—the furnishings, the college setting—Lyra’s world is not the same as our own. The existence of Pantalaimon, Lyra’s daemon, quickly makes this clear. In Lyra's world every person on earth has a daemon, a magical animal companion that serves as best friend, confidante, and conscience all rolled into one.
The first book in a trilogy (Pullman just released the first book in companion series The Book of Dust), The Golden Compass tells the story of Lyra, a fierce, stubborn, and completely charming heroine who travels north to research a mysterious substance she knows only as "Dust" and to attempt to rescue her best friend Roger.
In this multilayered story, however, nothing is as it seems. Lyra sets out for the top of the world in search of Roger, bearing a rare truth-telling instrument, the alethiometer. All around her children are disappearing—victims of so-called "Gobblers"—and being used as subjects in terrible experiments that separate humans from their daemons Lyra's long, arduous journey is only made possible by her ability to make friends and talk her way into things wherever she goes.
On her way to the north she manages to secure the help of Gyptians (her world's version of Gypsies), witches, a hot-air balloon pilot and, most impressive at all, an exiled bear king.
Pullman created well thought out and memorable characters that stayed with me long after I finished the series. Stubbornness aside, I think that Lyra is a character that all children can admire. She pushes herself very hard to reach her full potential, is fiercely loyal, and learns from her mistakes.
Strong readers and fantasy fans will love The Golden Compass!