The Book of Dust 1: La Belle Sauvage

Publisher: Penguin

Review

Eleven-year-old Malcolm Polstead and his dæmon, Asta, live with his parents at the Trout Inn on the bank of the Thames. It’s here that Malcolm discovers the nuns across the river are guarding a baby named Lyra.

Malcolm soon finds himself drawn into a dangerous world of secrets and intrigue – and a mission to protect Lyra, whatever the cost.

La Belle Sauvage gives readers a not-to-be-missed chance to be back in the world of His Dark Materials. Everything that made that trilogy of books so enticing is here – there is even more on dæmons (a person’s “animal self”) and the mysterious Dust. It’s wonderful to see Lyra again too, although – being just a baby – she is not the main character.

It needs noting that Pullman mentions, but does not dwell, on some very dark issues, such as rape and paedophilia. There are a few swear words. Bonneville, the villain, is terrifyingly nasty and provides a lot of peril. However, Malcom is a sweet hero – earthy and eager – and seeing things through his eyes helps to ease the intensity. Chris Wormell’s beautiful, evocative illustrations also ground you in the action. 

The book bubbles away with Pullman’s trademark ideas around philosophy, physics and religion, but it is first and foremost a really good yarn. Any teen (or adult) who loves thrills and chills will lap up the adventure.

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