The Golden Compass (His Dark Materials Series #1)

The Golden Compass (His Dark Materials Series #1)

4.4 971
by Philip Pullman

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Grades 7 - 12. The action follows 11-year-old protagonist Lyra Belacqua, accompanied by her daemon, from her home at Oxford University to the frozen wastes of the North, on a quest to save kidnapped children from the evil 'Gobblers,' who are using them as part of a sinister experiment. Lyra also must rescue her father from the Panserbjorne, a race of talking, armored,… See more details below

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Grades 7 - 12. The action follows 11-year-old protagonist Lyra Belacqua, accompanied by her daemon, from her home at Oxford University to the frozen wastes of the North, on a quest to save kidnapped children from the evil 'Gobblers,' who are using them as part of a sinister experiment. Lyra also must rescue her father from the Panserbjorne, a race of talking, armored, mercenary polar bears holding him captive. Joining Lyra are a vagabond troop of gyptians (gypsies), witches, an outcast bear, and a Texan in a hot air balloon.

Editorial Reviews

Trudi Miller Rosenblum
Pullman's fantasy masterpeice and the first of a trilogy...has become a classic of the genre.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
If Pullman's imagination dazzled in the Victorian thrillers that culminated with The Tin Princess, in this first volume of a fantasy trilogy it is nothing short of breathtaking. Here Earth is one of only five planets in the solar system, every human has a daemon (the soul embodied as an animal familiar) and, in a time similar to our late 19th century, Oxford scholars and agents of the supreme Calvinist Church are in a race to unleash the power that will enable them to cross the bridge to a parallel universe. The story line has all the hallmarks of a myth: brought up ignorant of her true identity, 11-year-old Lyra goes on a quest from East Anglia to the top of the world in search of her kidnapped playmate Roger and her imprisoned uncle, Lord Asriel. Deceptions and treacheries threaten at every turn, and she is not yet certain how to read the mysterious truth-telling instrument that is her only guide. After escaping from the charming and sinister Mrs. Coulter, she joins a group of "gyptians" in search of their children, who, like Roger, have been spirited away by Mrs. Coulter's henchmen, the Gobblers. Along the way Lyra is guided by friendly witches and attacked by malevolent ones, aided by an armored polar bear and a Texan balloonist, and nearly made a victim of the Gobblers' cruel experiments. As always, Pullman is a master at combining impeccable characterizations and seamless plotting, maintaining a crackling pace to create scene upon scene of almost unbearable tension. This glittering gem will leave readers of all ages eagerly awaiting the next installment of Lyra's adventures. 100,000 first printing; $250,000 ad/promo. Ages 10-up. (Apr.)
Publishers Weekly
Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy now appears in sophisticated trade paperback editions, each title embossed within a runic emblem of antiqued gold. The backdrop of The Golden Compass: His Dark Materials, Book I sports a midnight blue map of the cosmos with the zodiacal ram at its center. The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass carry similarly intriguing cover art, and all three titles offer details not seen in the originals: in Compass and Knife, for example, Pullman's stamp-size b&w art introduces each chapter; Spyglass chapters open with literary quotes from Blake, the Bible, Dickinson and more. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Children's Literature - Jan Lieberman
This is a complex fascinating fantasy, the first volume of his "Dark Materials Trilogy." The heroine is Lyra Belacqua who lives with the scholars of Jordan College. Headstrong and independent, she is caught in a web in which science and politics are entangled. Why are hideous experiments being performed on children? Alliances with Gyptians, witch clans, battles with trained mercenaries and armored bears keep the reader on edge. Warning: Don't begin this late in the evening.
To quote KLIATT's Sept. 1999 review of the Listening Library audiobook: Lyra, the heroine in this first book of the trilogy, is tenacious, courageous, and nearly foolhardy. She joins forces with friends, witches and an armored bear to battle evil forces that kidnap children for cruel experiments. Lyra is caught between the conflicting plans of the mysterious and scholarly Lord Asriel and the wicked, self-serving Mrs. Coulter. The golden compass helps steer Lyra, and her daemon Pantalaimon, towards truth in this multi-layered fantasy adventure... riveting story... wonderful series... (His Dark Materials, Book I) KLIATT Codes: J*—Exceptional book, recommended for junior high school students. 1995, Random House, Dell Yearling, 404p., $5.99. Ages 13 to 15. Reviewer: Bette D. Ammon; Director, Missoula P.L., Missoula, MT , July 2001 (Vol. 35, No. 4)
School Library Journal
Gr 7 Up-A novel set in London and in the Arctic regions of a world that is somewhat like our own. Lyra, apparently an orphan, lives among the scholars at Jordan College, Oxford. She becomes aware of a nefarious plot to steal children and transport them to the far north. As Lyra is drawn deeper and deeper into this mystery, she finds that the children are being made to suffer terribly. What she does not-and must not-know is that she is the keystone in an ancient prophecy. Her destiny is to save her world and to move on into a parallel universe. She dives headlong into harrowing adventures, totally unaware of her importance. She also discovers the identity of her parents, who are major players in the unfolding drama. In Lyra's world, every human has a daemon, an animal that is sort of an extension of one's soul. This fact is central to the story as the church, the academic world, and the government seek to understand the significance of the phenomenon. Also important, but never fully explained, is a substance called Dust. This is a captivating fantasy, filled with excitement, suspense, and unusual characters. The armored bears are wonderful and more interesting than most of the humans. There is some fine descriptive writing, filled with the kind of details that encourage suspension of disbelief. The story line moves along at a rapid clip, but flags when it delves into philosophical matters. The ending is less than satisfying, but serves as a lead-in to part two of the series. Fantasy lovers will be clamoring for the next installment.-Bruce Anne Shook, Mendenhall Middle School, Greensboro, NC
From the Publisher
“Extraordinary storytelling at its very best.” —The Detroit Free Press 
“Superb . . . all-stops-out thrilling.” —The Washington Post
"Very grand indeed." —The New York Times
"Powerful […] a fantasy adventure that sparkles with childlike wonder." —The Boston Sunday Globe
"Marvelous […]  the writing is elegant and challenging." —The New Yorker
"Arguably the best juvenile fantasy novel of the past twenty years […]  If [The Subtle Knife] is as good as The Golden Compass, we'll be two thirds of the way to the completion of a modern fantasy classic."
—The Washington Post Book World
“Pullman is quite possibly a genius…using the lineaments of fantasy to tell the truth about the universal experience of growing up.”  —Newsweek

"Masterful storytelling […]  with a cast of instantly beguiling characters." —The Dallas Morning News
“The most magnificent fantasy series since Lord of the Rings.”  —The Oregonian

“Pullman has created the last great fantasy masterpiece of the twentieth century.  An astounding achievement.”  —The Cincinnati Enquirer

"Once in a lifetime a children's author emerges who is so extraordinary that the imagination of generations is altered. Lewis Carroll, E. Nesbit, C.S. Lewis, and Tolkien were all of this cast. So, too, is Philip Pullman, whose Dark Materials trilogy will be devoured by anyone between eight and eighty. The most ambitious work since The Lord of the Rings, it is as intellectually thrilling as it is magnificently written." — New Statesman
"Thrillingly paced and exotic […] breathtaking." — Columbus Dispatch

“[…] a rare few have minds capacious enough to engage in vast cosmos-making, imagining realms and inventing universes. I am thinking of Dante and Milton and Blake. We may now add Philip Pullman.”
—Parents Choice (online)
"The Golden Compass is one of the best fantasy/adventure stories that I have read in years. This is a book no one should miss." —Terry Brooks, author of The Sword of Shannara

"As always, Pullman is a master at combining impeccable characterizations and seamless plotting, maintaining a crackling pace to create scene upon scene of almost unbearable tension.  This glittering gem will leave readers of all ages eagerly awaiting the next installment of Lyra's adventures."
—Publishers Weekly, Starred Review
“This first fantastic installment of the His Dark Materials trilogy propels readers along with horror and high adventure, a shattering tale that begins with a promise and delivers an entire universe.” – Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review
"This first fantastic installment propels readers along with horror and high adventure […] A shattering tale that begins with a promise and delivers an entire universe." —Kirkus Reviews, Starred
“The characters of Lord Asriel, Mrs. Coutler, and Iorek Byrnison and the cold and beautiful Northern setting are captivating; the constantly twisting plot and escalating suspense are riveting; and Lyra and Pantalaimon are among the gutsiest and wiliest of adventurers. Touching, exciting, and mysterious by turns, this is a splendid work.” —The Horn Book Magazine, Starred
“Glorious. And what an ending — simply operatic.” —School Library Journal, Top 100 Children’s Novels (#28)
"This is a captivating fantasy, filled with excitement, suspense, and unusual characters." —School Library Journal
"A totally involving, intricately plotted fantasy that will leave readers clamoring for the sequels." 
—Booklist, Starred review
“Glorious. . . . The Golden Compass is one of those lyrical suspensions like Alice in Wonderland and The Lord of the Rings that crosses all age lines and intertwines mythologies and legends with seamless beauty.” —BookPage

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Product Details

Random House Children's Books
Publication date:
His Dark Materials Series, #1
Edition description:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.00(w) x 7.54(h) x 1.03(d)
Age Range:
12 - 17 Years

Read an Excerpt



Lyra and her daemon moved through the darkening hall, taking care to keep to one side, out of sight of the kitchen. The three great tables that ran the length of the hall were laid already, the silver and the glass catching what little light there was, and the long benches were pulled out ready for the guests. Portraits of former Masters hung high up in the gloom along the walls. Lyra reached the dais and looked back at the open kitchen door, and, seeing no one, stepped up beside the high table. The places here were laid with gold, not silver, and the fourteen seats were not oak benches but mahogany chairs with velvet cushions.

Lyra stopped beside the Master's chair and flicked the biggest glass gently with a fingernail. The sound rang clearly through the hall.

"You're not taking this seriously," whispered her daemon. "Behave yourself."

Her daemon's name was Pantalaimon, and he was currently in the form of a moth, a dark brown one so as not to show up in the darkness of the hall.

"They're making too much noise to hear from the kitchen," Lyra whispered back. "And the Steward doesn't come in till the first bell. Stop fussing."

But she put her palm over the ringing crystal anyway, and Pantalaimon fluttered ahead and through the slightly open door of the Retiring Room at the other end of the dais. After a moment he appeared again.

"There's no one there," he whispered. "But we must be quick."

Crouching behind the high table, Lyra darted along and through the door into the Retiring Room, where she stood up and looked around. The only light in here came from the fireplace, where a bright blaze of logs settled slightly as she looked, sending a fountain of sparks up into the chimney. She had lived most of her life in the College, but had never seen the Retiring Room before: only Scholars and their guests were allowed in here, and never females. Even the maid-servants didn't clean in here. That was the Butler's job alone.

Pantalaimon settled on her shoulder.

"Happy now? Can we go?" he whispered.

"Don't be silly! I want to look around!"

It was a large room, with an oval table of polished rosewood on which stood various decanters and glasses, and a silver smoking stand with a rack of pipes. On a sideboard nearby there was a little chafing dish and a basket of poppy heads.

"They do themselves well, don't they, Pan?" she said under her breath.

She sat in one of the green leather armchairs. It was so deep she found herself nearly lying down, but she sat up again and tucked her legs under her to look at the portraits on the walls. More old Scholars, probably; robed, bearded, and gloomy, they stared out of their frames in solemn disapproval.

"What d'you think they talk about?" Lyra said, or began to say, because before she'd finished the question she heard voices outside the door.

"Behind the chair—quick!" whispered Pantalaimon, and in a flash Lyra was out of the armchair and crouching behind it. It wasn't the best one for hiding behind: she'd chosen one in the very center of the room, and unless she kept very quiet...

The door opened, and the light changed in the room; one of the incomers was carrying a lamp, which he put down on the sideboard. Lyra could see his legs, in their dark green trousers and shiny black shoes. It was a servant.

Then a deep voice said, "Has Lord Asriel arrived yet?"

It was the Master. As Lyra held her breath, she saw the servant's daemon (a dog, like all servants' daemons) trot in and sit quietly at his feet, and then the Master's feet became visible too, in the shabby black shoes he always wore.

"No, Master," said the Butler. "No word from the aerodock, either."

"I expect he'll be hungry when he arrives. Show him straight into Hall, will you?"

"Very good, Master."

"And you've decanted some of the special Tokay for him?"

"Yes, Master. The 1898, as you ordered. His Lordship is very partial to that, I remember."

"Good. Now leave me, please."

"Do you need the lamp, Master?"

"Yes, leave that too. Look in during dinner to trim it, will you?"

The Butler bowed slightly and turned to leave, his daemon trotting obediently after him. From her not-much-of-a-hiding place Lyra watched as the Master went to a large oak wardrobe in the corner of the room, took his gown from a hanger, and pulled it laboriously on. The Master had been a powerful man, but he was well over seventy now, and his movements were stiff and slow. The Master's daemon had the form of a raven, and as soon as his robe was on, she jumped down from the wardrobe and settled in her accustomed place on his right shoulder.

Lyra could feel Pantalaimon bristling with anxiety, though he made no sound. For herself, she was pleasantly excited. The visitor mentioned by the Master, Lord Asriel, was her uncle, a man whom she admired and feared greatly. He was said to be involved in high politics, in secret exploration, in distant warfare, and she never knew when he was going to appear. He was fierce: if he caught her in here she'd be severely punished, but she could put up with that.

What she saw next, however, changed things completely.

The Master took from his pocket a folded paper and laid it on the table beside the wine. He took the stopper out of the mouth of a decanter containing a rich golden wine, unfolded the paper, and poured a thin stream of white powder into the decanter before crumpling the paper and throwing it into the fire. Then he took a pencil from his pocket, stirred the wine until the powder had dissolved, and replaced the stopper.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

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