Monday, December 7, 2015

His Dark Materials Reread: Joint Review of The Golden Compass withBritt from Please Feed the Bookworm

Hi everyone, and welcome to the first point in His Dark Materials Reread with me and Britt from Please Feed the Bookworm. If you didn't get a chance to see me December TBR, Britt and I decided we wanted to do a reread of the series because it had been awhile since we had read the books after we heard that BBC is making a TV show out them. So the reread was born! We have a bunch of great stuff planned including these joint review, mood board, and more.

But first things first, the review. Britt and I both decided to listen to the audiobook because we like them and this one is a full cast, which is a cool concept. And because both of us have read the books before we decided to something a little different. Instead of a traditional review we're just going to have a conversation about our thoughts. We often talk about the books we read (we have similar taste and read a lot of the same books) so now we're just including you all in the convo. Hope you enjoy.

Title: The Golden Compass
Series: His Dark Materials #1
Written By: Phillip Pullman 
Published: April, 1996 by Knopf (Random House)
(Amazon / Goodreads / Audible)

Synopsis: When Lyra and her daemon Pantalaimon decide to spy on a presentation her uncle, the commanding Lord Asriel, is making to the elders of Jordan College they have no idea that they will become witnesses to an attempted murder, and even less that they are taking the first steps in a journey that will lead them into danger and adventure unlike anything Lyra's unfettered imagination has conjured up. 

Though she has been raised at the college in an atmosphere of benign neglect that has allowed her to become a half-wild child of the streets, Lyra soon finds herself apprenticed to the elegant Mrs. Coulter, and in possession of a strange device called the alethiometer, a "golden compass" that reads not true worth, but truth itself. 

 But truth is a precious commodity, and before long Lyra and Pan are running for their lives, the object of an obsessive hunt by mysterious forces who have been stealing children for dark purposes that no one understands. Lyra will need all her street-learned wiles if she and Pan are to survive.

This is a reread, so how long has it been since you first read the book? 

B: I read this waaay back when I was in the 6th grade. The Lion The Witch and The Wardrobe was my favorite at the time and a librarian pointed me in this direction. Only the first book was out at the time. 

C: Really! I wish I had read it as a kid. But I always wonder if I would have liked it as much if I read it then. Like I think a lot of the themes and stuff would have gone right over my head. It’s been seven years for me. I read it after college. A friend recommended it because she knew I liked fantasy. 

What did you think about the book when you read it the first time? 

C: I was loved it. I felt like it was such an interesting and complex fantasy and I of course loved the characters. I read it at a time when I was just getting back into "kids books" and it made me kind of realize that there is some great stuff that I missed as a kid. So I started reading a lot more MG and YA around that time. The rest is history I guess. 

B: It gave me the exact same feeling as Narnia. That was and has since been my measure of a good book. I loved this alternate universe that was so like our but so different and who doesn't love the idea of having a Daemon?! 

Good segue to the world and the world-building. Thoughts? 

C: I agree with Britt. I love the alternate universe stuff. It’s like out world but only a little different. That’s so key with fantasy for me. I need it to feel like a place like this could maybe exist, as crazy as that sounds. But I also want things to be completely different at the same. Daemons are a good example of that. I loved the idea of having a daemon. And now now knowing what they are and why they have them is so cool. 

Speaking of daemons, what form do you think yours would take? 

B: I would love to have an elephant but I feel that would be rather impractical. I will go with an Ocelot. It is a type of jungle cat that is cunning but also has this really pretty coat. Although it is small it can be mighty aggressive which pretty but sounds like me in a nutshell. 

C: I would maybe want mine to be an owl but I think it would probably be something uncool like a sloth or a skunk. I jokingly say that’s what my spirit animal is. 

What’s your favorite part of the book? 

B: I don't know why but I have always even fascinated with Lee Scorsby, the aeronaut. He pilots this awesome airship which is like a crazy cross between a plane and a hot air balloon. He kinda babbles a bit but I think he's great. I also love hearing the Gyptians tell the tale of Lyra’s parentage 

C: Lee Scorsby is so steampunk! I get it. For me it’s the part with the armorer bears. For one thing, I just love them so much. I also think it’s such an interesting culture and characters. But I also love when Lyra outsmarts the king of the bears by using the knowledge she learned throughout the book. It’s such classic Lyra. It’s so rash and reckless but ingenious at the same time. 

Do you have a least favorite part? 

C: I’d say the part with the Gyptians. There is some good stuff like discussions about the character’s histories and the larger world, plus implications that come in later but in general I think it drags too much. Especially during the reread when I’m waiting for the action-packed stuff I know is coming. I found myself anticipating what comes next when Lyra’s with the Gyptians. 

B: I agree with Cassi on this one. Usually I love backstory but this portion drrraaagggeeeddd. Def because we knew what was about to go down. That's the thing about rereads, you find some parts to be a bit inconsequential. I also don't like the part where they find the severed child. It hurts my heart everytime.  

C: So true! I liked the backstory but I knew it already so I was waiting for the action. 

What about the characters? 

C: I love Lyra. She’s so fierce. I love that she says what she thinks and what she wants and that it gets her into trouble but it also is her biggest strength. That was me as a pre-teen. I was always running my mouth like Lyra. But my favorite character is Iorek Byrnison. I want an armored bear so badly! Imagine how amazing that would be! 

B: *See Cassie's above explanation about Lyra.* I was also a bit of a smartass child. This is why Cassi and I are friends we might be the same person in some ways. I'm going to go with Lord Asriel as my second favorite. He is so intelligent and I find him quite dashing. 

Can talk about Mrs. Coulter? She’s such a great villain. 

B: I have such a hatred for Mrs. Coulter. Usually I like or at least respect the plight of the Villians but not in this case. She is just an evil woman and that damn monkey of hers is just as wicked 

C: The monkey! He’s the worst. Mrs. Coulter is someone that I love to hate. Cunning and charismatic but so devious. There are moments when I’m thinking “you are such a liar” but I also understand why people would follow her and listen to her. That’s the mark of a good villain to me. 

What did you think about the audiobook?

C: I love the fact that it’s like a radio play with different narrators for every character. The girl playing Lyra is so perfect. She’s sassy and precocious. I didn’t love Pan at first but the more I listen the more I think it works for him. I also really like that Phillip Pullman narrates the part that isn’t dialogue. I always like when authors narrate their own books, it makes me think that the tone of the book is spot on. Although I think he was a little calm during some the action scenes. I usually like when you the narrator talks faster during those parts because then I get all amped up. He doesn’t do that and sometimes I missed it. But towards the climax he did pick things up. 

B: Oh Lyra is literally perfect in this book. I also really loved the voices the Gyptians were given. There not Egyptians per say but more along of lines on like Gypsies so I feel there speak was on point. I did NOT know that this was Phillip narrating so that is just awesome. The full cast absolutely adds so much to an already amazing book. I don't think one narrator could do this book justice so I'm pleased they choose to do it this way. The only person who's voice I wasn't a fan of was Iorek. I wanted him to sound….not so bear-ish, even though he is indeed...a bear. 

C: I felt like that about Iofur. I wanted him to be more bear-like. Like a deeper more gravely voice. But I guess he’s trying to be human so it works. 

So this was a reread, did you get more out of the book? Notice things you missed the first time? 

B: I get a little bit more each time. Cassi and I spoke about how we were able to appreciate some of the more mature themes as we got older too so I'm looking forward to that as well. 

C: I think like with most rereads, I realized how well-plotted the series. Like there are little things in this book that come in later in such a big way. And there were so many moments where I was thinking like, “I know what that is,” or “I know why that is happening!” I always love that as someone who likes solving twists. I also think I was really critical about some things, especially with characters like Mrs. Coulter and the larger themes too like the religious stuff.

Still excited for the rest of the books? 

B: Pshaw! Of course even more so now. The second and third books are even better! 

C: YES! I love how the series escalates. And I’m super excited for Will.

Yay! Thanks for chatting with me about the book Britt. I hope you all enjoyed it. Come back throughout the month for more His Dark Materials Reread related stuff. And of course, head over to Please Feed the Bookworm to say hey to Britt if you haven't already.

Have you read The Golden Compass? What did you think? Thanks for stopping by and HAPPY READING!


  1. I love the Golden Compass, and I agree the audiobook is wonderful. I listened the first time as an adult. It's such a great adventure story. I really like the whole series. I love how it explores daemons and existential questions from an atheist perspective. It's interesting that you both found it after reading Narnia - such a deeply Christian series.

    1. I agree Kate, it's very existential especially about the talk on daemons and the puberty stuff. It's different from Narnia in the way it views religion. I think that's one of the things I liked about it when I read as an adult.

  2. YAAAAYYY!!! *High fives friend!*

  3. My friend Jessie from Jessie Marie Reads and I did a readalong for His Dark Materials a couple of years ago and it was a lot of fun. Neither of us had read the books before (at least, I don't think she had read any of them--I definitely hadn't) so it was interesting to read it for the first time as an adult. I will have to reread them sometime and I think I'll have to check out the audiobooks. I've never listened to an audiobook with a full cast like that and it sounds amazing! Also, I loved Iorek!! I've forgotten a lot about this series so I'll have to read it again soon. Great review, guys!

    1. Cool! I definitely think I looked at it very differently reading it as an adult. I wonder how I would have felt as a kid. It's like when you notice all the adult humor in movies and TV shows you missed as a kid. But yeah for Iorek, he's the best! Armored bears forever and always! The audiobooks are great. I've never listened to one that has a full cast either and it gives it a little something else.

  4. Oh that was an interesting insight. You've convinced me now. Unfortunately I only watched the first movie way back then, so I can't really remember what it was actually about other than magical closets, lions and blizzards (or was that Narnia?). But the books have been on my TBR list for (far too) long though, so in the spirit of the season I might just pick it up after my finals are done :D

    Nana @ whatabadpoem.

    1. That's Narnia. I mean there are blizzards. But no lions, just bears. No magical closets, but magical portals. I think of this series as like a response to or parody of Narnia. It has a lot of the same elements but is very different in it's delivery and handling of the themes.

  5. Oh guys, you really are making me want to -reread this series soooo much!! I think I need to work on it as soon as I can dig up my lovely copies from their box... I read this one as an adult, but quite a few years back (probably around 7, like Cassi) and I loved it to pieces!

    1. I'm both sorry about the fact that you can't reread with us and happy that we're making you want to. But definitely do it when you can. We'll be here to fangirl with you I'm sure! And yay to reading it as adult.