Synopsis: This was one of my “waiting on” titles of 2017—the His Dark Materials trilogy is one of my favorites (and one I wish I’d read as an actual young adult), and I’ve enjoyed other books by Pullman as well. The Book of Dust: La Belle Sauvage is the first in another trilogy, it seems, and it’s a prequel to the adventures of Lyra in His Dark Materials. To my mind, it was worth the wait.
This story also concerns Lyra, but she isn’t the main character this time. In fact, she’s just a baby—a mysterious baby, as it turns out, who is being cared for by the nuns of a village priory outside Oxford. In that village lives our main character: a boy named Malcolm, whose parents run an inn. Malcolm lives at the inn, so all kinds of interesting gossip reaches his ears, and thus it is perhaps not such a huge surprise that he witnesses the unfortunate death of a spy and ends up with the spy’s secret message in his very own hands…
Observations: I don’t want to give away too much of the story, because it’s too delightful to watch it unfold (plus you can always read the cover blurb). I will say that I was happy to return to this alternate world very like our own, and root for a hero with curiosity, tenacity, and an innate sense of right. Malcolm is truly good, and his love for the baby Lyra and determination to keep her safe drive the story and keep the reader hanging on every word.
Of course, any story that involves good vs. evil would be incomplete without a truly bad baddie, and Pullman has a talent for pushing just the right buttons to make the reader really uncomfortable—the enemy here takes the form of a truly frightening individual, and the philosophical underpinnings of WHY he is evil are possibly even more frightening.
Conclusion: I can safely say that, despite a few quibbles here and there with the style, I enjoyed this almost as much as the original trilogy, and sank gratefully and willingly back into the vivid world of Lyra’s Oxford. Now I’m anxious for the second book…
I received my copy of this book courtesy of my library’s ebook collection. You can find THE BOOK OF DUST: LA BELLE SAUVAGE by Philip Pullman at an online e-tailer, or at a real life, independent bookstore near you!
Source: Finding Wonderland