Lucy Turns Pages: Read, Write, Publish, Promote

Lucy Turns Pages: Northern Lights (His Dark Materials Book 1) Review

Northern Lights (His Dark Materials Book 1) Review

Title: Northern Lights
Author: Philip Pullman
Publication date: 1995
Genres: YA, Fantasy
Number of pages: 399
Length of audiobook: 10:45:26

Northern Lights is set in a world similar to our own but people have 'daemons' who follow them around and are inextricably linked to their human. The main character is a young girl named Lyra, who was placed in the care of servants at a college in Egypt by her uncle Asriel.

Without spoiling the story, Lyra discovers some information and ends up going on an adventure. We meet different characters and explore various locations. There are even witches and armored bears, as well as a magical instrument that can tell Lyra information about other people.

Warning: This book becomes quite dark and features death, among other topics.

The first few chapters felt slow. We jumped straight into the story without any background information which was slightly disorientating and resulted in a lack of interest on my part. I didn't feel invested in the characters or the story. However, I kept listening and somehow something was compelling me to continue. This story feels fairly unique and although I didn't really care about most of the characters, I found the concept interesting and I wanted to find out the truth about the mystery that was set up early on. Towards the end of the book, I again felt that the pacing was too slow. Descriptions of what was happening were stretched out and I wished that it had been a bit more suspenseful.

Lyra was a well-developed character. Her parents had died when she was younger and her uncle visited her often. She would run around with the other children and then dress appropriately for meetings with her uncle and other scholars. I really liked her daemon, Pantalaimon, who was a faithful companion for Lyra. He would help her to solve mysteries and he seemed to be slightly more knowledgeable than Lyra herself. If anything I would love to have learnt more about Pantalaimon, how he thought, how he felt and what his relationships with others were like.

I would have liked to have seen more of Lord Asriel to find out more about his character and his past from his perspective. Mrs Coulter was a complex character and I did want to find out more about how she had come to where she was now. This book is the first in a trilogy so we may find out more about her in the next installment.

The witches weren't very well developed. It felt as though they were thrown in for some help but their background and reasons were not explained. The voice actor for one of the witches, Serafina unfortunately sounded a bit over-dramatic in parts. There was a scene where Serafina, and a Texan character were speaking and these for me were my two least favourite voice actors which made listening to the last part of the story a more tedious experience for me.

Reveals and emotions:
Despite having seen the film years ago, I didn't remember very much about the plot. I found one of the reveals in this book suspenseful. One reveal I remembered but when it was revealed I was instantly hit with emotion, with sadness and regret for the characters.

Towards the end of the book, the story became significantly darker and depressing.

The daemons are referred to as a person's soul. This book has symbolism pulsing through it. This can be interpreted differently by different people. We don't find out about any other animals but the armored bears do not have daemons, instead their armor is referred to as their soul. It will be interesting to see how the interpretation of souls in this world is developed further. I do feel that in parts the use of philosophical discussions were unnecessary.

I listened to this book on Audible. The audiobook is narrated by the author, Philip Pullman but there are a number of other voice actors too. I really grew to enjoy the narration and character speech. The cast did a good job. Listening to the beginning of this book, I felt like a child being told a magical story. The audiobook is divided into three parts. The first part was the best part for me, we found out a lot in the second part but by the time I got to the third part I just didn't really care anymore. Listening to the audiobook was the best choice for me for this book but the story was just drawn out to be longer than it needed to be.

Final thoughts:
Northern Lights was an insightful and earlier on, a magical read. I didn't absolutely adore it but it was an interesting book. I found it to be a darker and gloomier read than I expected. I'm not excited about reading the next book, I would like to find out more about what happens next but I am not sure if the next book would be an enjoyable reading experience for me.

Star rating: 3.5/5 stars

Have you read this book? What did you think?


  1. This is a book that's been on my TBR for a while, though I know it as The Golden Compass, so at first I was confused about what book your were talking about. I've honestly kind of been hesitant to read it because I remember watching the movie and feeling a bit disappointed - even though I hadn't previously read the book, but I think I will make the time to read it at some point and hopefully it is better than the movie.

  2. I think in the UK the book was published as Northern Lights but the film was titled The Golden Compass so they are used very interchangeably. If you like children's fantasy you will probably like this book. Give it a go and see how you feel!

  3. Hey, the witches name is Serafina not Selena :)

    1. Thank you for pointing that mistake out for me!