Philip Pullman’s return to the universe of His Dark Materials has been highly anticipated since the new trilogy was announced in February. The first instalment of The Book of Dust, La Belle Sauvage, was published this month and is the novel on everyone’s lips…
Why are people talking about it?
Pullman’s original trilogy, published between 1995 and 2000, captivated a generation with Lyra Belacqua’s journey through an imaginative world of alethiometers, daemons and the Magisterium. In the intervening years, several books have been written to supplement the original series, such as Lyra’s Oxford and Once Upon a Time in the North, which stand as a testament to the appeal of the series and the depth to which fans have become absorbed in Pullman’s world.
What is the book about?
La Belle Sauvage is set ten years before the events of His Dark Materials and covers the first months of the life of baby Lyra, heroine of the original trilogy. We return to many of the settings that defined the series, including Jordan College – based on Oxford University’s Exeter College – which is located in an at once familiar but alternative version of our world. Think less tech, more magic. However, La Belle Sauvage is very much its own beast, introducing a host of new characters and weaving an original and thrilling new tale as inquisitive 11-year-old Malcolm Polstead, who takes centre stage, is pulled into an increasingly dangerous adventure.
Who is it for?
While fans of His Dark Materials will be delighted to delve into a new story, La Belle Sauvage works as a standalone novel and as such is perfect for first time readers who passed the first books by and want to know what all the fuss is about. Pullman’s work is celebrated for blurring the line between adult’s and children’s literature, so its appeal extends to all ages.
What do the critics say?
Overall, the book has been warmly received and has even garnered a few favourable comparisons to the original trilogy. The Times praised the new novel for its “dextrous storytelling”, which develops into a “rich, imaginative, vividly characterised rite-of-passage tale”. In The Telegraph, a review proclaimed “everything [Pullman] has to write is worth reading”, while The Independent eagerly awaits The Book of Dust’s next instalment, describing La Belle Sauvage as a “thrillingly entertaining” story which serves as an “extended preface” for the books to come.