Title: The Book of Dust, Volume One: La Belle Sauvage
Author: Philip Pullman
Page count: 464 (Hardcover)
Published: October 19, 2017
This novel follows an 11-year old male protagonist named Malcolm Polstead and his demon Asta, who lives and works with his parents at the Trout Inn aroud Oxford. Across the Thames river is a priory where the nuns there take care of baby Lyra Belacqua, Lord Asriel’s daughter. Everything is fine until he comes across a message. It takes him to Dr. Relf, a scholar studying the alethiometer, who wants Malcolm to become a sort of spy. However, it brings him into the path of the evil Gerard Bonneville, a theologian, who is in search of Lyra. When a great flood comes along Malcolm and Alice, a girl who works at the inn, take Lyra on Malcolm’s boat “La Belle Sauvage.” The story takes off from there and is basically their journey and all the obstacles they have to face while trying to get Lyra back to safety with her father.
Disclaimer: Gerard Bonneville seems like a bit of a pedophile in this book. After the way Alice talked about him at one point it was kind of weird and made me a little uncomfortable. It’s not a large part of the novel but it’s there and I figured I would mention it just in case.
There are many characters in this story and there is no way I can go through and explain them all. Compared to His Dark Materials trilogy, The Book of Dust wasn’t much different when it came to the characters. They were written the same way, the protagonist being the strong-willed and in charge. That being said, I didn’t feel like Malcolm was as unreserved as Lyra was in The Golden Compass. I do understand that all characters are going to be different and I can’t expect them all to act the same way in certain situations. He seemed very quiet but genuine and loyal. Which is a good personality trait to have when you are stranded in a boat with another person and a little baby. There is no time to be selfish.
Lyra seemed like a very easy baby to take care of. I rarely read at all that she cried. She acted as if nothing was really happening.
Gerard Bonneville and his hyena demon were just strange characters overall. It was interesting to come in contact with a hyena as a demon because I haven’t read that in all of the previous books. It was funny to see how Pullman developed this character. Whenever it came around it had these three distinct short-lived laughs. It actually made me laugh every time because it was just so odd. Bonneville on the other hand was very creepy and unsettling. He was always sneaking around and very rarely ever spoke. I did not like him AT ALL and that was probably what Pullman wanted.
Alice was a very frustrating character, but she did take good care of Lyra. She tried everything she good to make sure she was fed and changed. There was a part in the book where she mentioned that all Malcolm wanted her on the boat for was to take care of the baby. It kind of hinted that it was the only thing a girl was capable of. It bothered me a little bit but it wasn’t something that I was vocalizing about everywhere on social media. Anyway, Alice was a very passive aggressive character that I just couldn’t connect with at all. One moment she was just fine and the next she was angry with Malcolm and I could never keep up.
She did struggle with her self-image a lot and it broke my heart a little bit. She wanted boys to like her and so when Diania dolled her up she felt like she could conquer the world. I could definitely connect with her in that sense. There’s a line in the novel that hit home because it was about Alice only feeling as pretty as the woman wanted her to be. She didn’t feel like she was pretty unless someone told her she was. It was frustrating to read.
All of the other characters that we came in contact with in His Dark Materials Trilogy still seemed true to form. I actually liked Lord Asriel a little bit more in this book.
I will give it to Pullman, he stays very consistent with his characters. They definitely don’t change character from one book to another.
I think that Philip Pullman’s books have just the right balance between description and dialogue. The description is written beautifully but also to the point. It doesn’t take him a whole page to get out what a building looks like. He uses different words throughout so it doesn’t seem repetitive.
The book was average. It was a fun adventure but most of the characters are in and out so fast that I don’t know where they came from or who they are. He will explain them most of the time but it doesn’t always mean it is going to be right when they make an appearance. I like that the dialogue pushes the story further instead of just being dialogue. That is definitely something I’m picky about. It blows my mind that children can read this book but I guess that’s not for me to decide.
I requested this book for an honest review and Random House Kids Publicity was nice enough to send it to me. So, thank you so much!
If you enjoyed this review let me know in the comments or give it a like! Remember to be respectful and happy reading!