Saturday, March 19, 2022

Book & Audio Review: The Book of Dust: La Belle Sauvage by Philip Pullman

The Book of Dust: La Belle Sauvage

Philip Pullman
Narrator: Michael Sheen
Series: Book of Dust (Volume 1)
Publication: Knopf Books for Young Readers (October 19, 2017); Listening Library (October 19, 2017)
Length: 463 p.; 13 hours and 8 minutes

Description: Malcolm Polstead and his daemon, Asta, are used to overhearing news and the occasional scandal at the inn run by his family. But during a winter of unceasing rain, Malcolm finds a mysterious object—and finds himself in grave danger.

Inside the object is a cryptic message about something called Dust; and it’s not long before Malcolm is approached by the spy for whom this message was actually intended. When she asks Malcolm to keep his eyes open, he begins to notice 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 at the center of a storm, and Malcolm will brave any peril, and make shocking sacrifices, to bring her safely through it.

My Thoughts: This is an epic fantasy adventure starring eleven-year-old Malcolm Polstead who works in his parents' inn and also with the sisters at the Priory. There he becomes involved with the fate of a baby named Lyra who is left at the Priory by her father and who is the target of many different factions.

This story is largely concerned with protecting her during an epic flood which sees Malcolm, his friend Alice, and baby Lyra fleeing various villains including Gerard Bonneville - a mad physicist with a sick passion for young girls - and the CCD - an agency of the Church concerned with heresy and unbelief. The trio faces all sorts of obstacles during their trip to bring Lyra to her father Lord Asriel.

The world building will be familiar to those who have read Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy. It is a fascinating world where every person has a personal demon. There are witches and fairies and all sorts of paranormal creatures. There is also a complex political system which is being invaded by a religious system which encourages children to spy on their parents and turn them in to the authorities if they have "heretical" opinions. And there is a secret underground trying to overthrow these religious fanatics.

Young Malcolm finds himself involved in the revolution when he innocently sees a man drop an object and then be arrested by the CCD. Returning it leads him to various spies and into a conspiracy that he is too young to understand.

The story was fast-paced, packed with adventure, and excellently read by Michael Sheen. I couldn't put it down and am now off to devour book 2 even knowing that book 3 hasn't yet been written. 

Favorite Quote:
"This is a deep and uncomfortable paradox, which will not have escaped you: we can only defend democracy by being undemocratic. Every secret service knows this paradox. Some are more comfortable with it than others."
I bought this one September 9, 2019. You can buy your copy here.

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