It has been 14 years since Phillip Pullman closed out the His Dark Materials trilogy with the astonishing The Amber Spyglass. Fourteen long, dark years in which we could only wander (and wonder) in the wilderness as the rumors constantly swirled of a mysterious follow-up, known only in whispers as The Book of Dust. There were glimmers of hope, like Lyra’s Oxford and Once Upon a Time in the North, but they remained just that: glimmers in the long, dark night.
But then…then it happened.
The official announcement was made!
Our time in the wilderness is at an end, for Pullman just announced he’ll be releasing a new trilogy—a TRILOGY!!—set in the world of His Dark Materials. And, yes, it’s called The Book of Dust. Volume one is set to take place 10 years before The Golden Compass, when Lyra is only a few months old (but still the focal point of the story). The as-yet-untitled books two and three will pick up the story 10 years later, with Lyra as a 20-year-old. (This means that years from now we could be having all kinds of Star Wars–style debates about the best order to read them in!)
As Pullman recently told NPR, the trilogy is not a sequel, and it’s not a prequel. Rather, it’s an equel.
Whatever it is, we need it. Now. You thought you had this “waiting patiently” thing on lock because you waited 14 years? Nah. The next few months are going to go sloooowly. The Book of Dust is due out in October 2017, and since we’re still wading through March, here are a few reading suggestions to help you shine a light into the darkness of your book-haunted longing.
Fairy Tales From the Brothers Grimm, by Phillip Pullman
Let’s jump right in with a masterpiece of storytelling precision from Pullman himself: his take on a series of Grimm’s fairy tales. If you’ve never read Grimm, this collection is a fantastic place to start. Pullman retells 50 of his favorites, giving us an extraordinary collection of lyrical, mystical, witty, sometimes dark, sometimes gory, always enchanting stories. Even better, after each one, he adds his own commentary, so you get to read a master storyteller analyzing stories…50 times! Those long, lonely months before October will be much easier to handle if you work your way through this essential addition to the bookshelf of anyone who loves fantasy, fairy tales, or just great writing and storytelling.
Interworld, by Neil Gaiman and Michael Reeves
Joey Harker is an average kid…who just happens to live in one of a trillion alternate Earths. His terrible sense of direction and knack for getting hopelessly lost leads him to one of these parallel worlds. There, he meets other versions of himself—some female, some part robot, all slightly different—and finds out he is a Walker, a rare kind of person who can move freely throughout the Altiverse. The Altiverse is ruled by two opposing factions, one that believes in science and technology, the other believing in magic and mysticism. Joey must team up with other versions of himself to form a literal army of Joeys to battle these factions and ensure balance between worlds. It’s a heady mix of genres and styles, fueled by awesomely chaotic imagery and ideas, with the two factions subbing nicely for the more traditional good vs. evil approach. Thoughtful and provocative.
Sabriel (Abhorsen Series #1), by Garth Nix
If you’re jonesing for a fiery female lead, magical animal companions, a grounded, realistic approach to the fantastical world, and some genuinely scary creatures that cross the borders between worlds, check out this series. Sabriel is stuck at Ancelstierre boarding school in the modern world when she receives word that her father, the Abhorsen, a necromancer, is stuck in the world of the Dead, beyond the Wall in the Old Kingdom, a place where magic still exists. Sabriel must make a long, dangerous journey back to the Old Kingdom, where she was born, to face her past and a deadly foe, and rescue her father from the Dead.
Godless, by Pete Hautman
If you appreciated the clear-eyed look at organized religion that underpinned Pullman’s trilogy, this book is for you. Although it has fewer armored polar bears and magic knives, Godless uses its contemporary setting to explore the concept and nature of religion, as well as the struggles one teen faces with a loss of faith. Disillusioned with the church, agnostic-bordering-on-atheist Jason Bock decides to form his own church, worshipping a water tower (aka, the Ten Legged One). He gathers some like-minded friends, and they start meeting and dealing with the nitty-gritty of writing their own bible. But things get chaotic, dark, and dangerous fast, and Jason has to dig deep to find out what he truly believes in.
A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L’Engle
L’Engle’s rich, classic fantasy, currently being made into a movie by the brilliant Ava DuVernay, is always worth a first read or a reread, especially if you have a large, ambitious, complex fantasy novel–shaped gap in your life right now (Thanks, Phil). It combines fantasy, sci-fi, religion, and the power of love into a thrilling, dimension-crossing rescue story. The story belongs to Meg Murry, who must lead her genius younger brother, new friend, and the mysterious Mrs. Whatsit and her gang on a daring journey through a tesseract (otherwise known as a wrinkle in time) in order to rescue Meg’s father from evil forces in another world. Part one of a series, so get reading!
The Collectors, by Phillip Pullman
And what better way to finish than by going back to the source? This is an e-short set in the world of His Dark Materials, which offers up an intriguing look at the young woman who will grow up to become Mrs. Coulter, making this a prequel of sorts. The story begins with two art collectors discussing new pieces in their collections: a portrait of a distinctive young woman, and a bronze statue of a frankly terrifying monkey. Thus begins a brief but striking adventure—so make it last, because there are still months to go before The Book of Dust!