At long last, Philip Pullman returns to us with volume one of The Book of Dust, a companion trilogy to his much beloved His Dark Materials. I, for one, was a little nervous to read it. The Golden Compasswas such a defining part of my childhood. My friends and I spent hours on the school courtyard, seriously debating what shape our own dæmons would take (for the record, mine is a lynx). And with all due respect to J.K. Rowling and George Lucas, we've all seen creators go a little overboard in adding extra backstory to their respective fantasy realms.
But I am here to tell you that The Book of Dust Volume One: La Belle Sauvageis the perfect reintroduction to the steeples and canals of Lyra's Oxford. I should have trusted in Philip Pullman, an undisputed master of the fantasy novel. Only Pullman could start off a book with cozy, comforting descriptions of fried potatoes and friendly nuns, and then catapult his reader into a pulse-pounding, surreal river voyage that is half spy adventure, half mythical odyssey.
This first volume follows Malcolm Polstead, an innkeeper's son, along with his dæmon Asta and his trusty canoe, the titular La Belle Sauvage. While paddling the canals of Oxford, Malcolm accidentally finds himself at the center of a strange mystery, with dire consequences that could reshape the whole of his world. La Belle Sauvage captures the spirit of the original trilogy without undercutting Lyra's own story, and Pullman's writing is as sharp and as transportive as ever. Here are a few of the most striking quotes from this first volume of The Book of Dust: