Book Review: The Book of Dust : La Belle Sauvage

It’s a decade and a half since The Amber Spyglass – can you believe it? I can’t myself, but Phillip Pullman brings us back into the world of His Dark Materials so easily it’s as if no time has passed. The novel sinks you in slowly, before tensions rise and you become submerged into the world of daemons, spyglasses and mystery once more.

La Belle Sauvage is the beginning of a thrilling new trilogy set ten years before we meet Lyra in Oxford, along the start of the River Thames. We meet new characters; protagonist Malcom, a young charismatic boy, helps out at the waterfront pub his parents own. Along this river are a group of kindly nuns, where baby Lyra is placed into care, an inquisitive choice. A curious and sullen character named Alice, whose silence once broken releases a journey of life, death and knowledge Malcolm would never believe.

What’s so interesting about The Book of Dust; La Belle Sauvage is how well Pullman manages to tell the story of Lyra, a backstory many craved after reading The Amber Spyglass, when she is only in babyhood. Her world is filled in ways she will not understand later, nor remember, yet Pullman creates a world where we the reader can sink into without hesitation. We gain more clues of this world, the obsession for the truth on Dust, of daemons and the ways they link themselves to their human companion. There are hints of Lyra’s future, her abilities as a child. They say to us ‘look closer. Listen carefully. What can you see?’

And see we try. This book may be Y/A but it is a work of pure genius. The action never stops; your reality ceases to exist as La Belle Sauvage demands your every attention. Everything that happens, to Malcolm and Alice, to Lyra, to the young professor, you feel. The battle of deciding right from wrong begins again. And a hyena’s laugh becomes ominous.

By Lou Ramsay