Review of "The Golden Compass"

Updated: Aug 5, 2019


"The Golden Compass," Book 1 in His Dark Materials series by Philip Pullman.

5 / 5 Stars; Middle-Grade Fantasy


I've had a special place in my heart for this story since I first saw the movie several years ago. Believe it or not, I just read the book for the first time, and HOLY CRAP, YO!


It is both magnificent and heartbreaking.


And now a slow anger is simmering in me as I consider the lame-ohs who made the movie and left out so many poignant pieces of the plot. They straight chickened out, and the movie is worse for it.


To recap, or for those who don't know the plot:


Lyra is an orphan who's been raised at Jordan College. Lately there have been rumors about a group of kidnappers called the Gobblers who steal children off the streets. No one knows why they are taken. But when Lyra's uncle, Lord Asriel, arrives at the college to seek funding for a scientific expedition to the North, Lyra catches a glimpse of the religious politics involving the ruling body called the Magisterium.


One day an agent of the Magisterium, Mrs. Coulter, arrives at the college and takes a liking to Lyra, offering her a position as her assistant. From that moment forward, Lyra finds herself at the very center of the religious politics and on a journey to rescue her friends from the Gobblers--and the Magisterium. As Lyra dodges formidable enemies, makes dear friends, and cleverly aligns the pieces in this political puzzle, she begins to understand the vast significance and dire consequences of her role in this existential conflict.


She and her friends are fighting for their souls.


The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman is the first book in a series called His Dark Materials. This first book is so rich with vivid, significant detail, magical prose, and living, breathing characters that it is a truly immersive experience. It is a curious, imaginative exploration of adult politics through the pure eyes of a passionate child. The stakes go from high to higher, the implications reach existential heights, and the messages of free will, love, and betrayal run breathtakingly deep.


Lyra is a stubborn, brave, precocious, but passionately loving child, and her unwavering moral compass never allows her a moment's rest as she continues to fight for the people she loves. As we follow Lyra's journey, we get a sense the events unfolding carry a significant message, and it is the ending, the portion the movie missed, that confirms Lyra's journey should speak to us in a very deep way.


The story is a bold, sparkly warning about the dangers of fear and pride, the importance of love, and the implications of free will.


I have begun many book series over the past year, but this is the first of these I plan to continue right away. I cannot wait to watch Lyra step into her destiny!



Which did you like better--the book or the movie?

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