Book Review: The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman

You cannot change what you are, only what you do

When the movie The Golden Compass came out, I wanted to know what the book was about. Now I finally did it.

Book Review: The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman


Title & Author: The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman
Genre: Fantasy, Adventure
Release Date: April 16, 1996
Series: His Dark Materials
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf


Here lives an orphaned ward named Lyra Belacqua, whose carefree life among the scholars at Oxford’s Jordan College is shattered by the arrival of two powerful visitors. First, her fearsome uncle, Lord Asriel, appears with evidence of mystery and danger in the far North, including photographs of a mysterious celestial phenomenon called Dust and the dim outline of a city suspended in the Aurora Borealis that he suspects is part of an alternate universe. He leaves Lyra in the care of Mrs. Coulter, an enigmatic scholar and explorer who offers to give Lyra the attention her uncle has long refused her. In this multilayered narrative, however, nothing is as it seems. Lyra sets out for the top of the world in search of her kidnapped playmate, Roger, bearing a rare truth-telling instrument, the alethiometer. All around her children are disappearing—victims of so-called “Gobblers”—and being used as subjects in terrible experiments that separate humans from their daemons, creatures that reflect each person’s inner being. And somehow, both Lord Asriel and Mrs. Coulter are involved.

First of I have to say I started reading The Golden Compass in Dutch, when the movie first came out. I thought it was written for a child. Someone that had trouble reading. But when I started reading this novel in English I noticed it was not that childishly written.

But I still gave it only three out of five hearts. I felt it lacked something and it was not very original except for the Alethiometer, which gives proper answers whenever it is the most convenient.

Lyra is ‘The One’ and Pantalaimon acts kind of as a conscious. It seems so very stereotypical it started to annoy me fast. The other kids were not much better developed. The only thing that held for me some interest are the armoured bears, character wise. Due to them having almost human behaviour.

The story overall was a lot better, Lyra lives in a college and is taken by Mrs Coulter to help her on her expedition to the Northpole. As an older reader, you can immediately see through this woman. Because she never actually says they are going there to research Dust. It is what Lyra wants. It is something that children do. I liked that realisme. But then the story goes from the Dust and Magisterium story to saving the Gypsy children from the Gobblers to saving Lord Asriel from the bears in Svalbard. All the story elements by themselves are great, it just felt a bit like it was going from one thing to the next without a gradual change.

The Movie

Back in 2007 the movie The Golden Compass was release with Nicole Kidman, Daniel Craig, Eva Green en Christopher Lee in it. The cast was pretty well known, but I don’t think it was very well received.

I actually had to watch it again for this review, so I could compare it better to the book. Because there were mostly pieces left out. Overall it was a good film, but just like the book it went from one thing to the next without a good change.

Let me know what you thought of this book and/or movie!
If you have any requests for which book I should talk about next, please let me know in the comments down below.

For now, let books enrich your life!


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