17 years after the final book in the His Dark Materials trilogy was published, Philip Pullman finally released the first in another trilogy set in the same world. As some of this trilogy will take place before and following His Dark Materials, Pullman has described The Book of Dust as an ‘equel’ rather than sequel or prequel.
In the first novel, La Belle Sauvage, Lyra Belacqua, the protagonist of His Dark Materials is only a baby. She has been placed in the care of a group of nuns, but when a catastrophic flood hits Oxford, a young boy called Malcolm rescues her from both the water and her enemies and tries to take her in his canoe, named La Belle Sauvage, along the Thames to her father, Lord Asriel.
This is without a doubt darker than its predecessors – there’s swearing, rape and child abuse, and Bourneville with his hyena daemon is a horrific villain. Pullman’s storytelling is still fantastic, and this is a gripping read. My only very small criticism is the rescue attempt by Malcolm in the canoe becomes a little repetitive by the end. There are also a lot of unanswered questions and unexplained symbolism, but I’m hopeful that these will be explained in the future novels.
A fantastic companion to His Dark Materials, and well worth a read.