Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Genre: Children, Fantasy
Here lives an orphaned ward named Lyra Belacqua, whose carefree life among the scholars at Oxford’s Jordan College is shattered by the arrival of two powerful visitors. First, her fearsome uncle, Lord Asriel, appears with evidence of mystery and danger in the far North, including photographs of a mysterious celestial phenomenon called Dust and the dim outline of a city suspended in the Aurora Borealis that he suspects is part of an alternate universe. He leaves Lyra in the care of Mrs. Coulter, an enigmatic scholar and explorer who offers to give Lyra the attention her uncle has long refused her. In this multilayered narrative, however, nothing is as it seems. Lyra sets out for the top of the world in search of her kidnapped playmate, Roger, bearing a rare truth-telling instrument, the compass of the title.
The Golden Compass is a tough book to rate because I enjoyed the idea of daemons and the mystery surrounding the Dust and the Church. However, I thought the pacing was too slow for a large portion of the book and I thought the main character, Lyra, was annoying.
The Golden Compass is heralded as a modern fantasy classic and critically acclaimed. I understand why since it features unique fantastical concepts melded with real world places and ideas creating a realistic fantasy novel. I especially loved the daemons. The idea that they are in constant flux until their companion reaches puberty and settles into an identity is a fascinating concept. Each of the daemons reflects whom their companion is in subtle and obvious ways throughout the novel, which creates interesting relationships between the two.
The mystery of the Dust and its relation to the Church is intriguing despite it being dragged out throughout the entire novel. The payoff at the end when the information is finally revealed is well worth the wait. It’s also the reason I rated this book three stars instead of two.
Lyra annoyed me to no end throughout the entire novel. She’s a young child thrust into something much bigger than herself or anything she could have imagined. So, for much of the novel, she’s constantly yelling and acting like a child until randomly she understands everything and is cleverer than all the adults around her. I, personally, do not like main characters that are children because of their immaturity and sudden ability to complete tasks no other child their age would ever be able to do.
Overall, The Golden Compass is an interesting children’s fantasy novel with ideas, concepts, and writing that aren’t childish. For the most part, the story doesn’t read a children’s novel, but as a classic fantasy with themes of religion, ethics, morality, and politics that are deeply rooted in the real world.