Lyra’s Oxford / Once Upon a Time in the North / The Collectors

Please note that this review may contain spoilers for earlier instalments of this series. You can read my review of these novels [here], [here] and [here].

As there’s only a month to go before Philip Pullman releases his new and exciting novel, I thought that I should probably finish off my series of reviews of His Dark Materials. In previous posts, I’ve already taken a look at the main trilogy – Northern Nights (published in America as The Golden Compass – 1995), The Subtle Knife (1997) and The Amber Spyglass (2000) – but today I’m going to be looking at the three companion stories that complement these.

All three shorts were published in separate short volumes – Lyra’s Oxford (2003), Once Upon a Time in the North (2008) and The Collectors (2014). They are each set in a different time period, with Once Upon a Time in the North and The Collectors being prequels to the main series, and Lyra’s Oxford set some years after the events of The Amber Spyglass. The collections also contain a number of other titbits, ranging from maps to newspaper clippings, some of which are reported to tie into Pullman’s upcoming The Book of Dust trilogy.

Lyra’s Oxford contains a short story called Lyra and the Birds, in which Lyra and Pantalaimon manage to protect a witch’s dæmon from a mob of angry starlings. The dæmon has come to Oxford in search of an alchemist who can save his partner’s life, however Lyra soon grows suspicious of his story. The alchemist is reported to be an unstable individual and there is clearly something that the dæmon is hiding from her. Just what is the dangerous secret that he is protecting?

Once Upon a Time in the North focuses on the adventures of a young Lee Scoresby and his dæmon, Hester. Scoresby has recently won a hot air balloon in a game of cards and is using it to explore the world. In this early adventure, he finds himself caught in a tense political situation that involves a politician who wants to wage war against the armoured bears, and a murderous gunslinger who bears a grudge against Scoresby.

The Collectors paints the creepy tale of a man who has come into possession of a pair of works of art – a painting of a young woman and a bronze statue of monkey. It is rumoured that if the two are separated, they will eventually find their way back to each other. However, the strangest thing is that when the collector shows the painting to his friend, he recognises the young woman as a former lover. Yet how can that be when the portrait is over eighty years old? The answer is stranger than he ever could have imagined…

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The Amber Spyglass

Please note that this review may contain spoilers for the earlier instalments of this series. You can read my reviews of these novels [here] and [here].

The Amber Spyglass was written by Phillip Pullman and first published in 2000. It is the final part of the epic His Dark Materials Trilogy and draws all of the threads of the previous instalments together. As the novel follows on directly from where Northern Lights (published in America as The Golden Compass – 1995) and The Subtle Knife (1997) left off, you really need to have read both of these novels to have any idea of what’s going on in this one.

Lyra has been kidnapped by Mrs Coulter who now keeps her drugged in a remote Tibetan cave. She hopes that it will be enough to keep her hidden from the Magisterium, who plan to have her killed to prevent her from beginning a second fall of man. To achieve this end, they have already dispatched an assassin to locate Mary Malone – the one they call the serpent – in the hope that the doctor will lead him to Lyra.

Meanwhile, Will has been approached by two angels who wish to take him to Lord Asriel. They are aware of the powers of the knife and know it will be vital in Asriel’s war against the Authority. Will agrees to go with them, but only if they help him find Lyra first. Their journey takes them half way around the world and necessitates that he joins forces with one of Lyra’s oldest allies in order to find her.

Meanwhile, the sides have been drawn and the final battle against the Authority is beginning. Lord Asriel’s army has taken arms against the angels of the Authority, led by the warrior known as the Metatron. The result of this war will affect all worlds. Either the Authority will be destroyed, or the Metatron will seize control of everything…

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