Excerpt from La Belle Sauvage by Philip Pullman, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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La Belle Sauvage

The Book of Dust #1

by Philip Pullman

La Belle Sauvage by Philip Pullman X
La Belle Sauvage by Philip Pullman
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  • Published:
    Oct 2017, 464 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Michelle Anya Anjirbag

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Excerpt
The Book of Dust: La Belle Sauvage

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."

"What's that?"

"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?"

"Lyra."

"And what's her dæmon called?"

"Pantalaimon."

"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.

Excerpted from The Book of Dust: La Belle Sauvage (Book of Dust, Volume 1) by Philip Pullman. Copyright © 2017 by Philip Pullman. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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