I'm sure that many of you know that this week is "Banned Books Week" here in the US. The week where we celebrate all those books that get challenged for their content and themes which are "unsuitable" and should therefore not be taught in schools or even for sale according to some people. Many of the books which have shaped my upbringing and view of the world are in fact "banned books" so for today's Throwback Thursday and in honor of Banned Books Week I have decided to review one of my favorite banned books/series...
The Golden Compass by Phillip Pullman (Published 1995 by Scholastic UK)
The Subtle Knife by Phillip Pullman (Published 1997 by Scholastic UK)
The Amber Spyglass by Phillip Pullman (Published 200 by Scholastic UK)
His Dark Materials by Phillip Pullman. You may also know this as The Northern Lights trilogy or by the first book in the series which became a movie, The Golden Compass. It is an incredible Middle Grade/Young Adult Fantasy series with interesting and complicated characters, a thrilling and mysterious plot, and a complex and interesting world that develops with each passing book.
One of the things I love about this series is that with each book it takes on a very different tone as it explores a different subgenre or trope in Fantasy novels. In The Golden Compass the series seems like it's your typical YA/MG High Fantasy adventure story. Our plucky heroine Lyra Belacqua goes on a mission to find her lost friend with the help of some interesting and unlikely characters (more on them later). Then at the end of the book we are left with a cliffhanger. This leads us to book 2, The Subtle Knife, which takes a more Science Fiction feel as it takes place in multiple worlds. Then in the final book in the series, The Amber Spyglass, we get the end of the world epic fantasy vibes that the Fantasy genre has been known for. But this is not your typical story of good versus evil.
Even the main characters, Lyra and Will, are far from perfect. Lyra, the ultimate heroine of the series, is your typical strong female characters. When we first meet her she is a tomboy who would rather be running around the roof with the gyptian children than being a proper "young lady." She is intelligent and curious but she often uses her quick thinking skills to manipulate people and is a notorious liar. Her lies and manipulations do get her out of many a tricky situation that her impulsiveness got her into in the first place. Her Hero's Journey in this series actually leads to more corruption than anything else. It all makes her rather dubious and you guys know how I feel about dubious characters. Will on the other hand is arguably Lyra's polar opposite (comment if you get that pun). He is honest and kind and unlike Lyra who is in a perpetual state of childhood, he has had to grow up too quickly. He has a strong sense of right and wrong but still often does things that breaks with his moral code. But as they say opposites attract and I totally ship Lyra and Will. They are great well-rounded characters that make this series interesting.
|Lyra being careless and Pan changing shape!
But that probably explains the plot of this book pretty well, interesting and enthralling but quite creepy. I've already given a little explanation about each of the books in the series and some of it's themes. What this series does really well is combine classic fantasy adventure with mystery and plot twists and larger themes about humanity and society.Throughout most of the book, as the reader, you are easily along for the ride as Lyra and later Will go on their missions to save someone or something. You enjoy exploring the world and meeting new characters. But along the way there are so many questions about what is happening in the world and why. It is all a little unsettling at times as it makes you question what you thought was good and real about society as you know it. Phillip Pullman throws in ingenious plot twist after ingenious plot twist keeping you on your toes and questioning things. There's a great sense of mystery with the adventure of the series.
I give the His Dark Materials by Phillip Pullman series 9.5 out of 10
It's a complex and interesting series with complex and dubious characters, a creative and engaging world, and a interesting and mysterious plot that combines fantasy elements with a criticism of society and religion.
Have you read His Dark Materials? What did you think? If you could have a daemon what form would it take? Leave me a comment with your thoughts. If you haven't read His Dark Materials (or even if you have) tell me what is your favorite banned book? Thanks for stopping by and HAPPY READING!