Literary Awards: Odyssey Award Nominee (2018), Goodreads Choice Award Nominee for Young Adult Fantasy & Science Fiction (2017), Waterstones Book of the Year (2017), The World Science Fiction Society (WSFS) Award Nominee for Best Young Adult Book (2018)
My last post was about The Northern Lights by Philip Pullman, which I did read because I enjoyed so much this new released one, La Belle Sauvage. This one is a prequel of the main trilogy, “His Dark Materials”. I have it in a collectable edition (the special edition released after winning the “Waterstone’s Book of the Year” prize), as I like to consider myself, a true book collector – hardcover (obviously) – but it doesn’t really matter. It wasn’t the edition that impressed me, but the story itself which was way more interesting than I expected. I have to say that this was the first book I read from Philip Pullman but it surely won’t be the last.
This was a good book. Why? Because it reminded me of my childhood. I read 200+ pages in only one day. This is something that didn’t happen in ages. I don’t think I did it because of the suspense or the story itself but more because of the way the world was created within the book. I got lost in with, believing that everything was true, living and feeling just like the characters.
I have to mention that I didn’t actually read the main series – His Dark Materials – when I got this one as, blimey, I learned about it only after buying this book. I saw a lot of reviews saying that this particular book is worse than the main series but, the truth is, the book itself is really good, without comparison.
The characters are so well constructed that, even if you find yourself a grown-up with this book in your hands, you get to re-meet the child in yourself. It was a really enjoyable reading.
Starting with the main character, Malcolm, I have to say that he impressed me. It was his innocence that struck me. Especially in the first part of the book, he was really amazed and well-intended about everything around him. He had a childish curiosity that helped build up the story. This made him the perfect character given the action.
Another important character is Alice, which was, in the beginning of the book, really cold and unpleasant. She expressed lack of confidence from the first chapter. She evolved later in the book in a much more confident person as she went through more adventures.
I have to say that even Lyra, at 8 months old, has a really powerful personality. She is curious, friendly, but you can see throughout the book that she is also headstrong.
Almost every character you are going to meet in the book has its own background story (and a really well-outlined personality) that brings the book to a totally new level of credibility and realism. I don’t have anything else to say about this. It is simply a great-written story.
There are downsides though. It might be because this one is simply a sequel but, for me, it didn’t really make sense at the beginning what the rules of the world were. I didn’t know what a daemon was. I didn’t know if there are more fantastical elements in it or not – so when Mr. Boatwright specified something about ghosts for me it seemed really impossible. I think it had to be that way in the first part of the book.
I find that this volume pretty much constructed itself. I don’t know how well-developed it was by Pullman before starting writing it down but I found it pretty annoying for one reason: half of the book was more mystery-like, while the other part of it was more based on suspense. I think I appreciated the first part of the book more, though. There were many details that stood out and were part of a greater puzzle. I wanted to read further to find out about every missing-piece. It was interesting. There was a powerful political/religious message hidden. There were secret associations, fighting one against the other in an informational war. In the second part of the book, all of these seemed to loose significance – the 2nd part was more based on Malcolm’s adventure. Here is the part where the story gains a fantastical tempt. The differences between the two parts of the story are huge. I don’t know what Pullman tried with it but, in my opinion, the difference was made a bit too abruptly.
All-over though, the story was not outstanding. It was cute, but not outstanding. It was relaxing, but it wasn’t the kind of book for which I wouldn’t control myself and stay awake the whole night to read it – even if, actually, I stayed awake to read it, it wasn’t THAT KIND of book. At about the end of the story, many details and side-stories weren’t totally necessary. Maybe it was too much because I found myself bored at some point. It might be because I didn’t read “His Dark Materials” first. The ending itself, whatsoever, was totally dissatisfying. I was looking forward to see the little things – the way Malcolm gets home, his next meeting with Dr. Relf, etc, but this did not happen.
I don’t have to lie, though. I enjoyed the book. It reminded me a bit about Septimus Heap. It was a really nice lecture!
Approved or Disapproved?