1:30 pm EDT, October 20, 2017

‘The Book of Dust’ review: A masterful return to Pullman’s mythical world

Philip Pullman invites you back into the world of His Dark Materials after 17 years with The Book of Dust. A whimsical, mandatory read for fans.

The first book in the new “equel” series from Philip Pullman The Book of Dust unearths the long-lost joy once attributed to reading His Dark Materials for the first time. La Belle Sauvage gently welcomes readers back into Pullman’s mastery of language, philosophy, and grand adventure with Malcolm Polstead and his daemon Asta.

Familiar faces are abound in Pullman’s latest release. Lord Asriel, Lyra, and Farder Coram all enter the world early in the novel. Instead of serving as familiar guideposts, their appearances fuel a new story all together. Nothing in La Belle Sauvage is on the page for the sake of being on the page. Everyone and everything adds to the tapestry of the world already known to so many readers.

Seventeen years later, Pullman’s words retain their the mythical wonder as he embarks on another adventure, just trailing his previous stories, but with a fresh look at new lore and challenges to overcome.

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‘La Belle Sauvage’ Book Review

La Belle Sauvage builds upon His Dark Materials, fleshing out the world that Lyra unearths in her own time. The protagonist Malcolm, son of innkeepers and a naturally inquisitive boy, seems quite content with his lot in life. He spends his days lending a helping hand, never asking for more than he is given. Happy to give his time in exchange for the opportunity to be in the room where it happens, Malcolm (and by extension Asta) provide our lens into this slightly-skewed world.

While we know the future, through His Dark Materials, it does not guarantee we understand the past. Malcom’s inquisitive nature ushers him into the role of Lyra’s first protector and companion on her journey to Oxford. His counterpart, a sharp teen Alice plays well against our pure protagonist, offering a mysterious character worthy of unpacking.

Pullman continues to pull from his literary inspirations — you’ll see elements of The Faerie Queene for one — that provides the current that sends Malcolm on his journey in his canoe. Not to mention the literal interactions with fairies. Additionally, new lore moves away from the more religious focus of the previous series.

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The adventure from The Golden Compass is once again prevalent in the first installation of the “equel.” Strong right out of the gate, you’ll be as satisfied watching Malcolm prepare Brussel sprouts with Sister Fenella as you will be watching him navigate the great flood that sets him on his journey.

The villain, the unstable and literally soul-crushing, George Bonneville, terrorizes the reading experience. While organizations such as the Consistorial Court of Discipline (CCD) provide the untouchable, overbearing grip on the freedom of the world.

The Book of Dust passes by in one tumultuous wave of literature that leaves you queasy, but wanting the next volume as quickly as possible. It deserves not only a reread, but an unpacking. It is not a one-and-done novel, something that, in a time where binging and passing is the status quo. This is a novel to digest. One to take in, to let settle, and then revisit.

In a recent reread of His Dark Materials, as an adult, I discovered an entirely new world in something I thought I knew. The pages of The Book of Dust reintroduce the world again. We are lucky to have Pullman’s words. Words that will continue to nourish the souls and imaginations of readers for a long, long time.

Book of Dust Volume One: La Belle Sauvage is available now.

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