Summary and book reviews of La Belle Sauvage by Philip Pullman

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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     Not Yet Rated
  • Published:
    Oct 2017, 464 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Michelle Anya Anjirbag

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About this Book

Book Summary

Winner of the 2017 BookBrowse Award for Best Young Adult Novel

Philip Pullman returns to the parallel world of his groundbreaking novel The Golden Compass to expand on the story of Lyra

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.

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 ...

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    BookBrowse Awards
    2017

Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Alice has quickly become one of my favorite characters ever written, and Pullman shows us again that he is a master of writing, not only for children, but for anyone. All readers who come to his books will find something for them. It is not a text that can be easily simplified to mean any one thing, and I am certain that those who come to this series first, and then look to read His Dark Materials, will have an utterly different experience. That is the mark of a good fantasy; it should be approachable for all, but not one-size-fits-all in what a reader might take from it. The narrative should provide us each with our own journey into our perceptions of the world. And in a time of prescriptive fantasies, Pullman has given us an adventure, again, and with it an appeal to the myriad complicated emotions we had when we once were young.   (Reviewed by Michelle Anya Anjirbag).

Full Review Members Only (570 words).

Media Reviews

The Washington Post

The Book of Dust feels more earthbound — in the best way — than the earlier trilogy. The cosmic clockwork of His Dark Materials, with its multiverses and metaphysics, becomes grounded in this new novel... This is an alternate world where a clever boy reads both Stephen Hawking and Agatha Christie, and the first stirrings of sexual desire are as puzzling to him as the uncertainty principle. But there is plenty of magic here, too, not just daemons and startling prophecies but witches and specters, forays into Faerie, and Malcolm's eerie, migraine-like visions of the aurora borealis. Too few things in our own world are worth a 17-year-wait: The Book of Dust is one of them.

The Wall Street Journal

A phantasmagoric waterborne odyssey. Mr. Pullman is a supple and formidable writer.

Entertainment Weekly

Once again, Pullman’s fantasy arrives precisely when it can teach us the most about ourselves, as if it were guided by Dust itself.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. This tense, adventure-packed book will satisfy and delight Pullman’s fans and leave them eager to see what’s yet to come.

Kirkus Reviews

Starred Review. Magisterial storytelling will sweep readers along; the cast is as vividly drawn as ever; and big themes running beneath the surface invite profound responses and reflection.

School Library Journal

Starred Review. Luminous prose, heady philosophical questions, and a lovable protagonist combine with a gripping plot sure to enchant fans and newcomers alike.

The Guardian (UK)

Philip Pullman is the living heir of Lewis Carroll and George MacDonald and, yes, CS Lewis – in spite of Lewis being his chief bugbear, whom he attacks furiously for his religiosity and misanthropy. While JK Rowling carried on the tradition of jolly school adventures and gripping supernatural yarns, he has chosen the pilgrim road of fantastic metaphysical allegory, and his new book nods to Spenser's The Faerie Queene in the same way as His Dark Materials took on Milton and Paradise Lost. In this longed-for opening volume of the new trilogy, Pullman faces his lineage without apology: his young heroine is even called Alice, and the story follows her as she is swept down the Thames in the eponymous canoe of the hero, Malcolm. But whereas the Thames offered Carroll's Alice an idyllic, pastoral meander, a very contemporary apocalypse explodes around this older Alice.

The Times (UK)

High-octane adventure accompanies ingenious plotting.

The Bookseller

Pullman’s imagery is as dazzling as ever. La Belle Sauvage reveals the incredible ways in which ‘ordinary’ children can react when placed in extraordinary circumstances: with kindness, bravery and cunning.

The Sunday Times (UK)

Full of acute observation. A rich, imaginative, vividly characterized rite-of-passage tale.

The Telegraph (UK)

Pullman is an easeful storyteller and an intricate and inventive world-builder, and everything he has to write is worth reading.

The Guardian (UK)

Pullman’s immense powers of kinesthetic visualization keep the story pulsing on an epic scale.

Financial Times (UK)

To connect once more with a fictional universe of such great power is a delight.

Author Blurb Siân Gaetano
The highly anticipated first book in the companion series to Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials is out today, 17 years after The Amber Spyglass, the final book in the trilogy, was released. 'The [new] story begins before His Dark Materials and continues after it,' Pullman said on NPR's Morning Edition. 'You don't have to read it before you read [the original trilogy]... it's not a sequel, and it's not a prequel, it's an equel.' Equal indeed--the masterful writing, fantastic elements and heroic journey that made the first three books shine are in full force in La Belle Sauvage.

Reader Reviews

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Beyond the Book

Godstow Abbey

Godstow AbbeyIn his first trilogy, His Dark Materials, Philip Pullman brings readers into the story through an intense use of space; he gives us a fantastical Oxford, but described in such a way that readers could visit the real place and trace Lyra's adventures around the city and colleges and thus bring the fantasy world into their own. Pullman's new book, La Belle Sauvage is no different; Godstow Priory, which plays such a large role in shaping the plot and setting of the text, is based on a real place: the Godstow Abbey or Nunnery. The Trout Inn is also real.

Godstow Abbey WindowGodstow is a hamlet on the River Thames about 2.5 miles northwest of the center of modern day Oxford. The abbey (in our world, at least) was built in the 1130s. Founded by Edith of ...

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