The Book of Dust

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Publication Date: October 19, 2017

Author: Philip Pullman

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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.

The Book of Dust by Philip Pullman had so much potential. The world he had created decades ago with The Golden Compass was already fully fleshed out. He had a dedicated following of adults and teens who had grown up with his novels, and were just itching for this prequel to come out.

Sadly, I don’t think this book lived up to the hype. Which isn’t to say it wasn’t good. It was simply slow, and the characters mildly interesting. In fact, I only, truly got invested at the very end, and by then the story was over. Ironically so were the characters, because the next book in this series will be about Lyra, the protagonist from the author’s last series, set when she’s in her 20’s.

Okay, the good:

  • Once again, the world was rich, full of complex, realistic people.
  • The main character was smart. He made intelligent choices, which gave him some redeeming quality. A book can definitely get away with making their main characters flawed, but not when they’re kind of boring.
  • The church was super scary. Like in The Golden Compass, the church of Lyra’s world was intense and evil. In The Book of Dust we get to see them rise to power, which was interesting, as well as see the other side of the church, the side that wasn’t into murder and corruption.
  • It was well written. Obviously.
  • The two main characters were the younger versions of, cleverly, minor characters in the beginning of The Golden Compass. But its not obvious who. Try and figure it out.


The Bad:

  • It was boring, to the point where I finished it in a day trying to get to the interesting bit.
  • All the action was pretty trippy and, while I liked the non-linear time thing they were going for (no spoilers, can’t explain), the protagonists randomly just meeting a bunch of random mythological creatures with no explanation was kind of odd. At least in The Golden Compass, all of Lyra’s mythological meetings were somewhat explained. The world of the dead was just another world in the multiverse, ect. Here it was…out of place.
  • Lastly, the most exciting parts seemed to be when they talked about characters from The Golden Compass It shouldn’t be like that. The protagonists in this book should be compelling enough on their own


I can’t wait for the next book in the series to come out, as Pullman goes back to the characters we know and love and abandons the prequel approach. But still, I think there was a lot of potential for this book and, while it was by no means bad, it simply wasn’t that exciting.