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INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER!
"Too few things in our world are worth a seventeen year wait: The Book of Dust is one of them." —The Washington Post
Philip Pullman returns to the parallel world of his groundbreaking novel The Golden Compass to expand on the story of Lyra, "one of fantasy's most indelible characters." (The New York Times Magazine)
Malcolm Polstead is the kind of boy who notices everything but is not much noticed himself. And so perhaps it was inevitable that he would become a spy....
Malcolm's parents run an inn called the Trout, on the banks of the river Thames, and all of Oxford passes through its doors. Malcolm and his daemon, Asta, routinely overhear news and gossip, and the occasional scandal, but during a winter of unceasing rain, Malcolm catches wind of something new: intrigue.
He finds a secret message inquiring about a dangerous substance called Dust—and the spy it was intended for finds him.
When she asks Malcolm to keep his eyes open, he sees suspicious characters everywhere: the explorer Lord Asriel, clearly on the run; enforcement agents from the Magisterium; a gyptian named Coram with warnings just for Malcolm; and a beautiful woman with an evil monkey for a daemon. All are asking about the same thing: a girl—just a baby—named Lyra.
Lyra is the kind of person who draws people in like magnets. And Malcolm will brave any danger, and make shocking sacrifices, to bring her safely through the storm.
"The book is full of wonder. . . . Truly thrilling." —The New York Times
"People will love the first volume of Philip Pullman's new trilogy with the same helpless vehemence that stole over them when The Golden Compass came out." —Slate
About the Author
PHILIP PULLMAN is one of the most acclaimed writers working today. He is best known for the His Dark Materials trilogy (The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife, and The Amber Spyglass), which has been named one of the top 100 novels of all time by Newsweek and one of the all-time greatest novels by Entertainment Weekly. He has also won many distinguished prizes, including the Carnegie Medal for The Golden Compass (and the reader-voted “Carnegie of Carnegies” for the best children’s book of the past seventy years); the Whitbread (now Costa) Award for The Amber Spyglass; a Booker Prize long-list nomination (The Amber Spyglass); Parents’ Choice Gold Awards (The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass); and the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award, in honor of his body of work. In 2004, he was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire.
Philip Pullman is the author of many other much-lauded novels. Three volumes related to His Dark Materials: Lyra’s Oxford, Once Upon a Time in the North, and The Collectors. For younger readers: I Was a Rat!; Count Karlstein; Two Crafty Criminals; Spring-Heeled Jack; and The Scarecrow and His Servant. For older readers: the Sally Lockhart quartet (The Ruby in the Smoke, The Shadow in the North, The Tiger in the Well, and The Tin Princess); The White Mercedes; and The Broken Bridge.
Philip Pullman lives in Oxford, England. To learn more, please visit philip-pullman.com or follow him on facebook at Philip Pullman author, and on Twitter at @PhilipPullman.
Date of Birth:October 19, 1946
Place of Birth:Norwich, England
Education:Exeter College, Oxford University
Read an Excerpt
Eleven-year-old Malcolm lives with his parents at the Trout Inn near Oxford, across the river Thames from Godstow Priory, where the nuns are looking after a special guest. One night his father comes to Malcolm’s bedroom.
“Malcolm, you en’t in bed yet—good. Come downstairs for a minute. There’s a gentleman wants a word with you.”
“Who is it?” said Malcolm eagerly, jumping up and following his father out.
“Keep your voice down. He’ll tell you who he is if he wants to.”
“Where is he?”
“In the Terrace Room. Take him a glass of Tokay.”
“Hungarian wine. Come on, hurry up. Mind your manners and tell the truth.”
“I always do,” said Malcolm automatically.
“News to me,” said his father. But he ruffled Malcolm’s hair before they entered the bar.
The gentleman waiting gave him a start, though all he was doing was sitting still by the cold fireplace. Perhaps it was his dæmon, a beautiful silvery spotted leopard, or perhaps it was his dark, saturnine expression; in any event, Malcolm felt daunted, and very young and small. His dæmon, Asta, became a moth.
“Good evening, sir,” he said. “Your Tokay what you ordered. Would you like me to make up the fire? It’s ever so cold in here.”
“Is your name Malcolm?” The man’s voice was harsh and deep.
“Yes, sir. Malcolm Polstead.”
“I’m a friend of Dr. Relf,” said the man. “My name is Asriel.”
“Oh. Er—she hasn’t told me about you,” Malcolm said.
“Why did you say that?”
“Because if she had, I’d know it was true.”
Asriel gave a short laugh.
“I understand,” he said. “You want another reference? I’m the father of that baby in the priory.”
“Oh! You’re Lord Asriel!”
“That’s right. But how are you going to test the truth of that claim?”
“What’s the baby’s name?”
“And what’s her dæmon called?”
“All right,” said Malcolm.
“All right now? You sure?”
“No, I en’t sure. But I’m more sure than I was.”
“Good. Can you tell me what happened earlier this evening?”
Malcolm went through it as fully as he could remember.
“These men came from the Office of Child Protection, and they wanted to take her away. Take Lyra. But Sister Benedicta wouldn’t let ’em.”
“What did they look like?”
Malcolm described their uniforms. “The one who took his cap off, he seemed like he was in charge. He was more polite than the others, more sort of smooth and smiling. But it was a real smile, not a fake one. I think I’d even’ve liked him if he’d come in here as a customer—that sort of thing. The other two were just dull and threatening. Most people would’ve been dead scared, but Sister Benedicta wasn’t. She faced ’em off all by herself.”
The man sipped his Tokay. His dæmon lay with her head up and her front paws stretched out ahead of her, like the picture of the Sphinx in Malcolm’s encyclopedia. The black-and-silver patterns on her back seemed to flicker and shimmer for a moment, and then Lord Asriel spoke suddenly.
“Do you know why I haven’t been to see my daughter?”
“I thought you were busy. You probably had important things to do.”
“I haven’t been to see her because if I do, she’ll be taken away from there and put in a much less congenial place. There’ll be no Sister Benedicta to stand up for her there. But now they’re trying to take her anyway. . . .”
“Excuse me, sir, but I told Dr. Relf about all this. Didn’t she tell you?”
“Still not quite sure about me?”
“Well . . . no,” said Malcolm.
“Don’t blame you. You going to go on visiting Dr. Relf?”
“Yes. Because she lends me books as well as listening to what’s happened.”
“Does she? Good for her. But tell me, the baby—is she being well looked after?”
“Oh, yes. Sister Fenella, she loves her a lot. We all— They all do. She’s very happy—Lyra, I mean. She talks to her dæmon all the time, just jabber jabber jabber, and he jabbers back. Sister Fenella says they’re teaching each other to talk.”
“Does she eat properly? Does she laugh? Is she active and curious?”
“Oh, yeah. The nuns are really good to her.”
“But now they’re being threatened. . . .”
Asriel got up and went to the window to look at the few lights from the priory across the river.
“Seems like it, sir. I mean, Your Lordship.”
“‘Sir’ will do. You know them well, these nuns?”
“I’ve known ’em all my life, sir.”
“And they’d listen to you?”
“I suppose they would, yes.”
“Could you tell them I’m here and I’d like to see my daughter?”
“Right now. I’m being pursued. The High Court has ordered me not to go within fifty miles of her, and if I’m found here, they’ll take her away and put her somewhere else where they aren’t so careful.”
Malcolm was torn between saying, “Well, you ought not to risk it, then,” and simple admiration and understanding: of course the man would want to see his daughter, and it was wicked to try to prevent him.
“Well . . .” Malcolm thought, then said, “I don’t think you could see her right now, sir. They go to bed ever so early. I wouldn’t be surprised if they were all fast asleep. In the morning they get up ever so early too. Maybe—”
“I haven’t got that long. Which room have they made into a nursery?”
“Round the other side, sir, facing the orchard.”
“All their bedrooms are on the ground floor, and hers is too.”
“And you know which one?”
“Yes, I do, but—”
“You could show me, then. Come on.”
There was no refusing this man. Malcolm led him out of the Terrace Room and along the corridor, and out onto the terrace before his father could see them. He closed the door very quietly behind them and found the garden brilliantly lit by the clearest full moon there’d been for months. It felt as if they were being lit by a floodlight.
“Did you say there was someone pursuing you?” said Malcolm quietly.
“Yes. There’s someone watching the bridge. Is there any other way across the river?”
“There’s my canoe. It’s down this way, sir. Let’s get off the terrace before anyone sees us.”
Lord Asriel went beside him across the grass and into the lean-to where the canoe was kept.
“Ah, it’s a proper canoe,” said Lord Asriel, as if he’d been expecting a toy. Malcolm felt a little affronted on behalf of La Belle Sauvage and said nothing as he turned her over and let her slip quietly down the grass and onto the water.
“First thing,” he said, “is we’ll go downstream a short way, so’s no one can see us from the bridge. There’s a way into the priory garden on that side. You get in first, sir.”
Asriel did so, much more capably than Malcolm had anticipated and his leopard daemon followed, with no more weight than a shadow. The canoe hardly moved at all, and Asriel sat down lightly and kept still as Malcolm got in after him.
“You been in a canoe before,” Malcolm whispered.
“Yes. This is a good one.”
“Quiet, now . . .”
Malcolm pushed off and began to paddle, staying close to the bank under the trees and making no noise at all. If there was one thing he was good at, this was it. Once they were out of sight of the bridge, he turned the boat to starboard and made for the other shore.
“I’m going to come up alongside a willow stump,” he said very quietly. “The grass is thick there. We’ll tie her up and go back across the field, behind the hedge.”
Lord Asriel was just as good at getting out as he’d been at getting in. Malcolm couldn’t imagine a better passenger. He tied the boat to a stout willow branch growing from the stump, and a few seconds later they were moving along the edge of the meadow, under the shade of the hedge.
Malcolm found the gap he knew about and forced his way through the brambles. It must have been harder for the man, being bigger, but he didn’t say a word. They were in the priory orchard; the lines of plum trees and apple trees, of pear trees and damson trees, stood bare and neat and fast asleep under the moon.
Malcolm led the way around the back of the priory and came to the side where the window of Lyra’s nursery would be, if it hadn’t been hidden by the new shutters. They did look remarkably solid.
He counted once more to make sure it was the right one, and then tapped quietly on the shutter with a stone.
Lord Asriel was standing close by. The moon was shining full on this side of the building, so they would both be clearly visible from some way off.
Malcolm whispered, “I don’t want to wake any of the other nuns, and I don’t want to startle Sister Fenella because of her heart. We got to be careful.”
“I’m in your hands,” said Lord Asriel.
Malcolm tapped again a little harder.
“Sister Fenella,” he whispered.
No response. He tapped a third time.
“Sister Fenella, it’s me, Malcolm,” he whispered.
What he was really worried about was Sister Benedicta, of course. He dreaded to think what would happen if he woke her, so he kept as quiet as he could while still trying to wake Sister Fenella, which was not easy.
Asriel stood still, watching and saying nothing.
Finally Malcolm heard a stirring inside the room. Lyra gave a little mew, and then it sounded as if Sister Fenella moved a chair or a small table. Her soft old voice murmured something, like a word or two of comfort to the baby.
He tried again, just a little louder. “Sister Fenella . . .”
A little exclamation of shock.
“It’s me, Malcolm,” he said.
A soft noise, like the movement of bare feet on the floor, and then the clock of the window catch.
“Malcolm? What are you doing?”
Like him, she was whispering. Her voice was frightened and thick with sleep. She hadn’t opened the shutter.
“Sister, I’m sorry, I really am,” he said quickly. “But Lyra’s father’s here, and he’s being pursued by—by his enemies, and he really needs to see Lyra before—before he goes on somewhere else. To—to say goodbye,” he added.
“Oh, that’s nonsense, Malcolm! You know we can’t let him—”
“Sister, please! He’s really in earnest,” Malcolm said, finding that phrase from somewhere.
“It’s impossible. You must go away now, Malcolm. This is a bad thing to ask. Go away before she wakes up. I daren’t think what Sister Benedicta—”
Malcolm didn’t dare think it either. But then he felt Lord Asriel’s hand on his shoulder, and the man said, “Let me speak to Sister Fenella. You go and keep watch, Malcolm.”
Malcolm moved away to the corner of the building. From there he could see the bridge and most of the garden, and watched as Lord Asriel leaned towards the shutter and spoke quietly. It was a whisper; Malcolm could hear nothing at all. How long Asriel and Sister Fenella spoke he couldn’t have guessed, but it was a long time, and he was shivering hard when he saw, to his amazement, the heavy shutter move slowly. Lord Asriel stood back to let it open, and then stepped in again, showing his open, weapon-less hands, turning his head a little to let the moonlight fall clearly on his face.
He whispered again. Then there was a minute—two minutes, perhaps—in which nothing happened; and then Sister Fenella’s thin arms held out the little bundle, and Asriel took it with infinite delicacy. His leopard dæmon stood up to put her forepaws on his waist, and Asriel held the baby down so she could whisper to Lyra’s dæmon.
How had he persuaded Sister Fenella? Malcolm could only wonder. He watched the man lift the baby again and walk along the grass between one bare flower bed and the next, holding the bundle high so he could whisper to her, rocking her gently, strolling along slowly in the brilliant moonlight. At one point he seemed to be showing the moon to Lyra, pointing up at it and holding her so she could see, or perhaps he was showing Lyra to the moon; at any rate he looked like a lord in his own domain, with nothing to fear and all the silvery night to enjoy.
Up and down he strolled with his child. Malcolm thought of Sister Fenella waiting in fear—in case Lord Asriel didn’t bring her back, in case his enemies attacked, in case Sister Benedicta suspected something was up. But there was no sound from the priory, no sound from the road, no sound from the man and his baby daughter in the moonlight.
At one point the leopard dæmon seemed to hear something. Her tail lashed once, her ears pricked, her head turned to face the bridge. Malcolm and Asta turned immediately, ears and eyes tightly focused on the bridge, every separate stone of which was clearly outlined in black and silver; but nothing moved, and there was no sound but the call of a hunting owl half a mile away.
Presently the leopard dæmon’s statue-like stillness melted, and she moved away once more, lithe and silent. Malcolm realized that that was true of the man as well—during their journey over the river and through the meadow, into the orchard and up to the priory wall, he had not heard the slightest sound of footsteps. Asriel might as well have been a ghost, for all the sound he made.
He was turning now at the end of the walk and making for Sister Fenella’s window again. Malcolm watched the bridge, the garden, what he could see of the road, and saw nothing wrong; and when he turned, Asriel was handing the little bundle up through the window, whispering a word or two, and silently swinging the shutter closed.
Then he beckoned, and Malcolm joined him. It was very difficult to make no noise at all, even on grass, and Malcolm watched to see how the man set his feet down: there was something leopardlike about it—something to practice himself, anyway.
Back through the orchard, back to the hedge, through the brambles, into the meadow, across to the willow stump—
Then a stronger, yellower light than the moon stabbed the sky. Someone on the bridge had a searchlight, and Malcolm heard the sound of a gas engine.
“There they are,” said Asriel quietly. “Leave me here, Malcolm.”
“No! I got a better idea. Take my canoe and go down the river. Just get me back across to the other side first.”
The idea occurred to Malcolm in the same moment he said it.
“You can go downstream a long way. They’ll never think of that. Come on!”
He stepped in and untied the painter, holding the boat tight to the bank while Asriel got in too; then Malcolm paddled swiftly and as quietly as he could across to the inn garden, though the current wanted to whirl him out into the open water, where they’d be visible from the bridge.
Asriel caught hold of the fixed line on the little jetty while Malcolm got out; then he let Malcolm hold the boat while he got in the right way round, took the paddle, and held out his hand to shake.
“I’ll get her back to you,” he said, and then he was gone, speeding with long, powerful strokes down the river on the swollen current, the leopard daemon like a great figurehead at the prow. La Belle Sauvage had never gone so fast, Malcolm thought.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This book tells the story of how Lyra came to Jordan College. Several of the characters from His Dark Materials are present, but the protagonist is a young boy named Malcolm. He shows a courage and resourcefulness worthy of Lyra. Malcolm and a young girl named Alice rescue Lyra from a great flood and, through many trials and tribulations, bring her to Lord Asriel. The story ends with Asriel putting Lyra into the charge of the Master of Jordan. Malcolm and Alice are also left there, temporarily. In the background is the great struggle between The Magisterium and, for lack of a better description, The Resistance. I hope to learn more about Malcom and Alice in subsequent volumes. Note to Mr. Pullman: Hurry up!
I read the previous books about Lyra years ago and was excited to hear about this new series. I was not disappointed. Actually, I truly loved it. I think you will too.
This was an enthralling book. The story took an unexpected turn, but a great one. Can't wait to read the next one
Excellent beginning to a much anticipated trilogy!
Another great tale of courage & determination.
Enjoyable story. Interesting characters and content.
Another Great book Love to read what happens next. I hope Philip Pullman writes the next one fast.
If you’re a fan of His Dark Materials, this won’t disappoint! Malcolm is like the coolest kid ever... he’s sweet and kind, but don’t mess with him! WONDERFUL book!!!
La Belle Sauvage is not The Golden Compass, but it is quite enjoyable. Like many of the people reading this book, I have a history with Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials. I read them growing up... over and over again... and Lyra and Will are a part of my heart. When La Belle Sauvage was announced as a prequel, I was a bit skeptical about the choice of setting, but immediately pre-ordered it because of course I was going to read this book... I've only been waiting about 20 years for it. If a reader is expecting for find Lyra and Pan back in all their glory, think again. THAT SAID, lets talk about Malcolm and Asta, because they're also delightful new characters. Mal isn't this big, brave child - he's the sort that simply does the things that need doing. The things he feels are right. This quality is so important to me in Lyra's character, and it was amazing to see it in Malcolm. These children are regular children who see a bad situation, are very careful, and do the right thing as best they can. Malcolm is good to his parents and kind to baby Lyra. He is helpful to the nuns when he visits them. He does what he needs to do, but he doesn't do it was a self-righteous flash and flare... something fairly rare in heroes. It's an awfully long book. This is not a complaint, necessarily... more of an observation. La Belle Sauvage comes in at nearly 500 pages, but most of that is just travel. There are little adventures along the way, and they are all interesting in their own right, but they are pointless. They do nothing to move along the plot - they merely distract the reader while we wait for the trio to reach their destination. There were sections when I found myself asking "Wait, what's going on? Who is this? Why do I care?" which is not particularly good. For as much as I liked Malcolm and grew to like Alice... I just felt like this book was really draggy and lacked the overall purpose that pulled you into The Golden Compass and the other books. Plot of The Golden Compass: stop the horrible people who are severing daemons! Plot of La Belle Sauvage: make sure Lyra stays safe. No wonder it's a bit draggy and underwhelming. It's fun and interesting, don't get me wrong, but I felt strongly that it didn't live up to the original series. It felt like a quite long sub-book, like the novellas Once Upon a Time in the North and Lyra's Oxford. Fans of His Dark Materials may be disappointed. I am not, by any means, saying that you should not read this book. You should. Malcolm is great, Alice is great, and baby Pan will make your heart melt into a puddle of goo. But you absolutely cannot go into this book expecting a brilliant revival of His Dark Materials. It doesn't happen. Not even a little. I think even the most open-minded readers will fall into this feeling as though it lacks something. I feel it's also interesting to know... the second book in the Book of Dust trilogy is called The Secret Commonwealth. It's not set after this one, so we'll never know what happened precisely with Oxford Street or The League of St. Alexander or Mal and Asta. It's set twenty years in the future, long after the events of all the currently published books in this world. This really further cements my feeling that this are extended novellas and I have mixed feelings about the whole thing.
I remember the first time I picked up Philip Pullman’s The Golden Compass. I was nine and staring at the shelves in my school library trying to figure out which ONE book I wanted to check out (it was a rule – only one book) when I stumbled upon the His Dark Materials trilogy. I don’t remember much else but I DO remember rushing back to the library the very next day for the second book in the trilogy because I had fallen in love. So, when I got an email from one of my FAVOURITE humans in the publishing industry, asking me to sign an NDA to get a coveted ARC of one of my most anticipated reads of the year, I jumped around with joy. I’ve taken almost a week to finish to finish La Belle Sauvage and I loved every second of reading it. Let me give you my thoughts: MY THOUGHTS: 1. I fell in love with Malcom, the main character in this book, by the time I had finished the second chapter. He was this PURE SOUL with an INQUISITIVE MIND and a HEART OF GOLD and I loved his story SO MUCH. 2. I also LOVED Malcom with Lyra. In La Belle Sauvage, Lyra is a mere infant, only a few months old and it shows you the story of Malcom’s connection with her and all about how Lyra ended up at Jordan College, which is where Golden Compass opens ten years later. 3. I should warn you that the pace of this book is slow. If you’ve read Philip Pullman’s previous works, you already know what I’m talking about, but just in case you haven’t, it’s always better to be prepared. 4. I loved how this book contained SO MANY CHARACTERS we’d seen in the His Dark Materials trilogy. I probably didn’t remember some of them (blame the memory of nine year old me) but the ones I did, I had FANGIRL moments over. It was AMAZING to see everyone before Lyra’s story and see the pieces of Lyra’s circumstances come to be. 5. I didn’t remember much about the workings of the Althieometer from when I read The Golden Compass, but the way it was explained in La Belle Sauvage was stunning. I felt like I was there, in the midst of the scholars that were talking about it and absorbed everything as best as I could. La Belle Sauvage brought back memories from ten years ago in a way that almost no book can. Reading it was a JOURNEY that I wouldn’t trade for anything. A beautiful new instalment into Philip Pullman’s breath-taking world that I HIGHLY recommend diving into.
Wonderful plotting, high adventure, complex characters, and endearing protagonists - what more could you possibly want in a great read?
Honestly worth the wait. I bought the book yesterday and have since read it twice. Malcolm is an exciting protagonist and the journey he goes through is exciting.
What a great book! As wonderful as the others. I love this prequel so much. I can't wait for the next one in this trilogy. Thank you Mr Pullman!