THIS REVIEW CONTAINS MAJOR SPOILERS!
Lyra is a young, prepubescent girl, seemingly an orphan who is under the care of a Jordan college, one of her world’s greatest scholarly centers. But her rowdy, restless nature leads her to discover many secrets about her, her uncle, and the world that set her on an incredible journey to find a lost friend.
Pullman has created a marvelous parallel Earth. It is what I like to call shifted earth. It has all the same basics as our world, but there is one element of its reality that pushed it into completely alien territory. In this case, the transformative element is the existence of daemons. Everyone has them. They are magical in the sense that they are can transform themselves into any animal, real or mythical. But only for a time. Until their humans start puberty. Once puberty hits, the animals have to decide what shape they will want to be. Pullman does a great job incorporating daemons into world history, physics, and even ethics. The gravest sin of all is to touch another’s daemon, for example. There are also talking, armor-wearing polar bears, more destructive than Chuck Norris in an average joke.
Like many other books with “The Special One” type of protagonist, Lyra has many trials and tribulations she has to face along the way. I have to say her’s rank among the highest, most mentally and physically taxing that I have encountered.
But the most difficult thing that she had to swallow is the ending of the novel. After she saves her friend, she is reunited with her lost friend. Her uncle, who is also her father shows up and she thinks everything will be fine. Her mother is also there, a great evil who experiments and obducts children. She hoped her father would protect her from her mother, Her father does the opposite. It turns out, both her mother and father have been kidnapping children together. They kill her lost friend to get to the place they want to go. Utterly heartbreaking. I can’t imagine what that must have been like for her. You think you are an orphan, but then you discover that you have parents, but it turns out they are psychopaths who experiment on children they have kidnapped themselves.
Excited to read more of this series.