Fans of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy have been eagerly awaiting this since 2005. The first in The Book of Dust trilogy, La Belle Sauvage, was published 22 years to the day since Northern Lights came out in 1995.
For those of you who haven’t read His Dark Materials, La Belle Sauvage is an exciting opportunity to dive into the expansive, magical, and slightly strange world of Pullman’s Oxford. We guarantee you that once you’ve opened the pages of these books, you’ll be looking for Dust everywhere and wishing desperately for your own daemon.
A quick refresher for those who haven’t read the series (and for those who it’s been a little while since you’ve read it): His Dark Materials introduces a world which seems almost to be our own. Northern Lights begins in Oxford, England, but there are subtle differences that distinguish this world from ours. Electricity has a different name, people have animal-like extensions of their soul called daemons, and there are strange particles called Dust that have a fascinating secret effect…
La Belle Sauvage introduces us to Malcolm Polstead (who readers of the original trilogy might remember). He’s eleven years old, and the son of a couple who owns a local pub, named The Trout. He’s a bright boy, but thinks he will probably end up managing the inn in his father’s stead, rather than studying philosophy and history, as he really wants to do. He enjoys spending his time paddling up and down the River Thames in his trusty canoe, La Belle Sauvage.
It’s a quiet but content life, until one day, three strangers come to The Trout asking about the priory across the river. Malcolm’s been there many times, learning about all sorts of things from the kindly and intelligent nuns that live there, but he’s never seen any strangers – particularly people who look as important as these men do – take an interest in it before.
When he goes to the priory to find out what the men wanted, Malcolm meets someone who will change his life forever. A baby. A baby, they tell him, whose name is Lyra, and as soon as Malcolm sees her perfect little face, he knows he will be devoted to her safety.
And when a flood of literal Biblical proportions breaks the banks of the River Thames, Malcolm knows he needs to get Lyra to safety on his canoe. But the ensuing odyssey on La Belle Sauvage will lead them far away from home, and into the paths of dangerously dedicated organisations determined to reclaim the baby…
Fans of His Dark Materials will immediately know who Lyra is – the heroine of the first three books. Even though The Book of Dust begins when she is a baby, Pullman has been quick to assure you that La Belle Sauvage is not a prequel but an ‘equel’. It’s been written to expand the world that many have come to love, and we can assure you, if you think you knew the world that Pullman has so skilfully created – think again. He’s about to blow it wide open.
We recommend La Belle Sauvage for readers 13+.
Philip Pullman is one of the most highly respected children’s authors writing today. Winner of many prestigious awards, including the Carnegie of Carnegies and the Whitbread Award, Pullman’s epic fantasy trilogy His Dark Materials has been acclaimed as a modern classic. It has sold 17.5 million copies worldwide and been translated into 40 languages. In 2005 he was awarded the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award. He lives in Oxford.