Thursday, January 7, 2016

Mini Reviews: His Dark Materials Novellas

As December was winding to a close I realized that including rereads I was four books away from my reach goal of reading 150 books in 2015. Now I'm a pretty competitive person and so I suddenly became determined to meet that goal. So when it looked like I wasn't going to finish the book I was reading I spent a day reading some novellas to meet that goal.

So after doing the His Dark Materials reread with Britt from Please Feed the Bookworm I decided the perfect novellas were the His Dark Materials novellas which I have never read. I am so glad I did because they were really fantastic. So here you go, my Mini Reviews of the His Dark Materials novellas.

Title: Lyra's Oxford
Series: His Dark Materials #3.5
Author: Philip Pullman
Published: October 28, 2003 by Knopf
(Amazon / Goodreads)                                                                                          

Synopsis: Lyra's Oxford begins with Lyra and Pantalaimon spotting a witch's daemon. Lyra shelters the daemon from the pursuit of a frenzied pack of birds, and then attempts to help by guiding the daemon to the home of an alchemist living in a part of Oxford known as Jericho. The journey through Oxford reveals more dangers than Lyra had anticipated.

My Thoughts:

Well now I want a full length sequel to the His Dark Materials trilogy. There's a reason I don't usually read novellas, they're such a tease. But I don't regret reading this one at all. It was a fantastic addition to the His Dark Materials series.

Lyra's Oxford is just the tiniest taste of life for Lyra after the events of the main trilogy. She's back at Oxford, this time as a student which is fun to see. But things haven't totally slowed down for her if this brief story is any indications. There's a lot of mystery and a little action in such a short period of time. In addition, Lyra's importance within this world has not gone away as well.

It's the same old Lyra just a few years later. It was so great to catch up with Lyra and see her slightly older but I want more. I want more from her, I want to see Will and all the other favorites from the trilogy. Even if it's not a full length novel, maybe a collection of novellas, one from each different world perhaps.

On the whole this was a great little story that had cute woodcut illustrations and extra details to expand the story including a map of Oxford and some info about one of the colleges. Fans of the trilogy should check it out for sure.

Title: Once Upon A Time in the North
Series: His Dark Materials #0.5
Author: Philip Pullman
Published:  by Knopf
(Amazon / Goodreads / Audible)

Synopsis: In this prequel episode from Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials universe, Lee Scoresby -- Texan aeronaut and future friend to Lyra Belacqua -- is 24 years old. The story reveals the origins of Scoresby's friendship with Iorek Byrnison as well as Scoresby's aeronautical career. 

 After winning his hot-air balloon in a poker game, Scoresby finds himself floating north. On the Arctic island of Novy Odense, Scoresby and his dæmon Hester become involved in a deadly plot involving an oil magnate, a corrupt mayoral candidate, and a hired killer who is Lee's longtime nemesis from the Dakota Country. Forming an alliance with one of the island's reviled armored bears, Scoresby fights to break up the conspiracy. 

This clothbound volume features the illustrations of John Lawrence, a removable board game on the inside back cover, and the story that offers a glimpse into the origins of the friendship of two beloved characters in the His Dark Materials trilogy

My Thoughts:

There's nothing like an origin story for how two of your favorite characters in a series met and became friends. That's what Once Upon a Time in the North was, a one-shot meeting for characters that we meet in The Golden Compass.

I absolutely adore Iorek Byrnison so I really enjoyed seeing him again was fantastic. He has such an interesting backstory so it was great learning more about that as well. I also really like Lee Scorsby. He sometimes seems out of place in this world so I liked being able to see how he first joined the world. It was also nice seeing how the two met and became fun.

The book is told from Scorsby's perspective and is full of action and adventure that you would expect from the aeronaut and armored bear so even though it was short, it wasn't dull at all. A short and sweet novella that fans of the His Dark Materials trilogy should read.

I also listened to the audiobook for his one and it was a full cast just like the other books in the His Dark Materials trilogy. It was totally fantastic and I'm so glad I listened.

Title: The Collectors
Series: His Dark Materials #0.6
Author: Philip Pullman
Published: September, 2015 by Knopf
(Amazon / Goodreads / Audible)                                                                                          

Synopsis: "But the thing is," said Horley, "they didn't know each other at all. Never heard of each other. It wasn't about the makers. Only about the works." 

On a dark winter's night in 1970, Horley and Grinstead huddle for warmth in the Senior Common Room of a college in Oxford. Conversation turns to the two impressive works of art that Horley has recently added to his collection. What the two men don't know is that these pieces are connected in mysterious and improbable ways; and they are about to be caught in the cross-fire of a story which has travelled time and worlds. 

The Collectors is narrated by Bill Nighy, the Golden Globe and BAFTA award-winning actor whose work on stage, screen, and radio has included Love Actually, the Pirates of the Caribbean series and a multitude of TV, stage, and radio appearances

My Thoughts:

This is the shortest of the three novella at a 19 page e-book and 30 minute audiobook, but it may honestly have been my favorite of the three. Ir was fantastic despite being super short.

How something so short can have this much mystery I will never know but it definitely did. It was atmospheric and interesting with so many of the complex themes from the His Dark Materials trilogy that make the series so interesting. It included things like the multi-verse and even references to some of this characters that you love to hate.

What may have also made it so good was the audiobook. Bill Nighy did a great job narrating. He gave it a real atmosphere and depth despite it's lack of length.

This is definitely worth a read for fans of the His Dark Materials trilogy.

Final Thoughts on The Novellas:

Taking all three of these books into consideration, I'm kind of glad that I needed some novellas to read at the end of the year and that I could take the time to read these. As a fan of the His Dark Materials trilogy, they added to the overall enjoyment of the series for me. They add a lot of color to the series, offering some backstory on a few favorite characters, make a villainous character seem even more devious, and let us catch up with our heroine after the series. If you are a fan of the series I would definitely recommend you check these out.

Have you read any of the His Dark Materials novels? What did you think? Leave me a comment with your thoughts. Thanks for stopping by and happy reading.


  1. I loved His Dark Materials when I was a kid, but I didn’t know that there were novellas. I’ll have to check them out.

    Aj @ Read All The Things!

    1. I didn't know there were novellas until recently either. They're fantastic!

  2. I've only read Lyra's Oxford. I didn't even know the others existed. I may need to check them out at some point. I don't always read novellas, but they are fun when they're done well.

    1. I think I vaguely knew about Lyra's Oxford but not the others. I'm not a big novella fan. If they're part of a larger series I am more likely to read them but usually I don't even read those. These were fun though.

  3. I've never read any of His Dark Materials! It looks like a great series though.

    1. It's a great series. Darker and more complex than you would expect. A great science fantasy series.

  4. Hmmmm, I haven't read the novellas, so maybe I'll add them to the list and read them soon!! A sequel-ish novella?? YES PLEASE!