My name is Ardis and I am an avid reader and budding writer. I want to share my love of books with others. I work with kids and am interested in finding and creating books that will ignite the reader in everyone. Contact me at: ardis.atkins@gmail.com

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Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Audio Book Review: The Golden Compass by Phillip Pullman

Please Note:  I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.  This did not influence the opinions of my review in any way.

Synopsis (From Goodreads):
Here lives an orphaned ward named Lyra Belacqua, whose carefree life among the scholars at Oxford's Jordan College is shattered by the arrival of two powerful visitors. First, her fearsome uncle, Lord Asriel, appears with evidence of mystery and danger in the far North, including photographs of a mysterious celestial phenomenon called Dust and the dim outline of a city suspended in the Aurora Borealis that he suspects is part of an alternate universe. He leaves Lyra in the care of Mrs. Coulter, an enigmatic scholar and explorer who offers to give Lyra the attention her uncle has long refused her. In this multilayered narrative, however, nothing is as it seems. Lyra sets out for the top of the world in search of her kidnapped playmate, Roger, bearing a rare truth-telling instrument, the alethiometer. All around her children are disappearing—victims of so-called "Gobblers"—and being used as subjects in terrible experiments that separate humans from their daemons, creatures that reflect each person's inner being. And somehow, both Lord Asriel and Mrs. Coulter are involved.  

Recently, I had the immense pleasure of listening to an audio book version of the new book, The Book of Dust, by Phillip Pullman.  It was narrated by the amazing actor Michael Sheen.  I enjoyed it so much that I had to revisit the author's books, His Dark Materials, the first of which, The Golden Compass, takes place about ten years after the end of The Book of Dust.

It is a sweeping saga, filled with action and a large array of characters.  This audio book was produced in 2003, with the author narrating, and a full cast of actors playing the characters.  I whole-heartedly enjoyed listening to this production. While the tone between The Book of Dust, and The Golden Compass are different, they both explore the theme of children making the shift from relying on adults to self-awareness and independence.

What I Liked:
Alternate Reality: 
This book is set in an alternate universe where people have animal companions (called daemons), and religious fascism has taken over Europe.  The "Church" controls much of society, and open scientific research is discouraged.  While there is some technology, there are not high-tech type of instruments.  This creates a timeless quality to the book, which I enjoyed.

This book is filled with many striking characters, from Lyra (the spunky eleven-year old), to Lorek Byrnison (a talking warrior polar bear), to (the deceptively sweet) Mrs. Coulter, and finally Lord Asrial.  

Even though some of the adults are kind and look after Lyra, not everyone is so nurturing.  I think that is a harsh reality children learn: they cannot always rely on the adults in their life to protect them.  This is one of the first books I ever read aimed at young adults that explored this theme.  It was a shock to me twenty years ago, and it is still surprising today.

I also like the idea of each person having a daemon (their "inner being" formed as an animal).  Lyra's daemon is named Pantalaimon.  All daemons have the ability to change from one type of animal to the next until they reach puberty.  As they grow up, the daemon takes on traits that reflect the character's personality which gives the author freedom to make subtle commentary on the adults in the book.  This also shows how children grow and change as they mature.

Audio Production:
It is a treat when a book is narrated by the author, and also has a large cast of voice actors to bring the novel to life.  This was produced by the BBC back in 2003 and it was clearly a labor of love.  The cast is top notch, especially Joanna Wyatt as Lyra.  Her voice is very natural and believable.  I also loved the two actors who portrayed Mrs. Coulter and Lord Asrial.  In their pivotal scene together, I could completely hear their passion and the conflict that their strong personalities would cause.

What I Didn't Like:
As I remember from the first time I read this many years ago, the ending is very abrupt.  If not for the fact that I know the next book in the saga is readily available, I would be frustrated beyond measure!  Not much is resolved in the story.  It's as though the author decided to pause the action to make you wait for the next book.

I still thoroughly enjoyed listening/reading to this book again.  It's themes of growing up, developing a conscience, and becoming self reliant are as relevant today as they were twenty years ago.

Also: DO NOT WATCH THE MOVIE version!!!  It is terrible, and does not do this book justice, at all. 



Release Date:  September 28th, 2004 (first published 1995)

Genre:  Fantasy

Publisher:  Listening Library

Source:  Random House Audio

Format:  Audio Book

Listening Length:  10 Hours, 49 Minutes

Page Length:  399 Pages

Performed by:  Phillip Pullman (Narrator), and a full cast including: Joanna Wyatt (Lyra), Alison Dowling (Mrs. Coulter), Rupert Degas (Pantalaimon), and Sean Barrett (Lord Asrial & Lorek Byrnison).

Recommendation: With a large cast, this lush production will entertain you and remind you why The Golden Compass is a classic.  Read it directly after you read The Book of Dust.
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MsArdychan has read 10 books toward her goal of 120 books.


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