Saturday, April 26, 2008

'Once Upon a Time in the North'

by Philip Pullman

Fiction/Fantasy, 2008
David Fickling Books, hardback, 103 p.
prequel to His Dark Materials trilogy
When Lyra is studying at Oxford University, she comes across the story of Lee Scoresby and Iorek Byrnisson's first meeting, many years ago, along with much evidence of the adventure that brought them together. When a young Texan balloonist, Lee Scoresby, comes down to earth in the harbour of an Arctic town in the North, little does he realise that he is about to be embroiled in an out-and-out political brawl. Lee and his daemon, Hester, find themselves the target of political factions trying to take over the running (and oil) of the town. And also resident in the town are huge arctic bears, ignored and patronised by the people and treated like second-class citizens. When Lee and Iorek first meet, they cement a friendship that will continue throughout their lives, as the tensions and pressure in town lead to a deadly conclusion...Another wonderful tale from a master story-teller, giving us more extraordinary insight into the world of "His Dark Materials".
Reading this has made me want to read His Dark Materials (all 3 books) all over again! A short, quick read, it was great fun to revisit the characters of Iorek Byrnison and Lee Scoresby and to read about how they first met. I also really enjoyed the relationship between Lee and Hester, his daemon. The illustrations were great; of course I would’ve loved to have even more of them and it’s just such a cute little hardback. Even the ‘Peril at the Pole’ board game that is included had me chuckling at the various hazards. I do wish Pullman would hurry up and write ‘The Book of Dust’, the purported fourth book in the series that he’s supposedly working on. Recommended for any fans of His Dark Materials.

Face to face, the bear was formidable. He was young, as far as Lee could judge; his body was enormous, and his small black eyes quite unreadable. His ivory-coloured fur waved in ripples as the brisk wind played over it. Lee could feel Hester’s little heart beating fast close to his.
The bear said, ‘You gonna help him?’ He looked briefly at the Captain, watching them from across the road, and then back at Lee.
‘That’s my intention,’ said Lee carefully.
‘Then I help you.’
‘Do you know Captain van Breda then?’
‘I know his enemy is my enemy.’
‘Well then, Mr…Mr Bear -’
‘Iorek Byrnison,’ said the bear.

My Rating: 4/5
(#16 for 2008, Once Upon a Time II Challenge #3)

Also reviewed at:
Things Mean a Lot


  1. awww dang it! Now I have to get this book! I loved His Dark Materials!! Thanks for the review!!!

  2. I'm dying to read this - I don't know what's taking my copy so long! Hopefully it will be here by Monday. I bet it will make me want to read His Dark Materials all over again too. And yes, I wish he'd hurry up with The Book of Dust!

  3. I have never read Philip Pullman. However I went on Book Mooch and they had so many of his books. Which book do you suggest I begin with?

    To Tanabata and Nymeth: Your books will leave here next week, I haven't forgotten, they might leave by regular post 3-4 weeks.

  4. I am dying to read this but I want to read Lyra's Oxford first. I know we have it in the house somewhere but am having issues trying to find it!

  5. Hello - visiting you for the first time via Weekly Geeks, although I see your comments often on Literary Feline's blog.

    I didn't even know there was a prequel to the "His Dark Materials" trilogy coming out; I'll have to be on the lookout for it. Thanks for the informative review!

  6. Hi - fantastic blog, I'll come to read you often. It reminds me of my own life-changing experiences in Japan.

  7. DesLily- Sorry to be an enabler but I'm pretty sure if you loved 'His Dark Materials' you'll love this as well.

    Nymeth- My books took about a week to get here after I ordered them from The Book Depository and they had considerably further to go. Hope yours shows up soon.

    Madeleine- I've only read 'His Dark Materials' trilogy (and a couple of these short books related to that story) and it was great so I'd suggest starting with that. The first book is 'Northern Lights' ('The Golden Compass' in the US).
    And no problem about the book. I have plenty here to keep me occupied. :)

    Rhinoa- Oh go on and read it. It and 'Lyra's Oxford' aren't connected so there's no need to read them in the order they were published. Nudge. Nudge.

    Florinda- Very nice to have you visit. I'll be over to visit your blog in a bit.
    I just stumbled on the info about this book a month or so ago but then I haven't been keeping up with new releases lately.

    Roxana- Thanks for visiting! I'm curious now about your life-changing experiences in Japan. :)

  8. A prequel? I didn't know about this. I haven't even read Lyra's Oxford yet.

    But reading this post makes me want to read this story and reread the rest of his Dark Materials again. Not now! I have a lot of books to read on my pile already!

  9. This is the one, who wrote The Golden Compass and had the movie appear last year. Is teh book better than the movie. Usually is, but I have to ask, because the movie didn't exactly capture me much.

  10. Lightheaded- I have too many on my pile to read too but I definitely will have to reread them when 'The Book of Dust' finally comes out, whenever that will be.

    daydream- Yes, this is the same author that wrote 'His Dark Materials' trilogy of which 'Northern Lights' ('The Golden Compass' in the US) is the first book and was made into a movie. I haven't seen the movie yet but from what I've heard the book is much much better. I think you'd enjoy these books, you should give them a try! :)

  11. I knew this was the case here as well. I will most certainly give them a go.

  12. daydream- I still want to see the movie at some point because I loved the books so much but at least I'll go into it not expecting too much.

  13. I never knew that there would be a prequel to His Dark Materials! Thanks, Tanabata, for sharing! Those little snippets are making me eager to get my own copy. :]

  14. orchidus- You're very welcome. I'm assuming you may not know about 'Lyra's Oxford' then? It was the first small illustrated book with a connection to the world of His Dark Materials. 'Once Upon a Time in the North' is the second one, although they don't need to be read together or in order. I heard a rumour once that there would be one more little book but I don't know what it'll be about.

  15. I've heard of the Dark Materials books, just never gotten around to picking one up. I think you just convinced me to finally pick one up. Thanks for the review!

  16. Rachael- It's a pretty fun series. I'd start with the first book, The Golden Compass (US)/Northern Lights (UK). I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
    BTW, I tried to visit but it said your profile was not public.

  17. I did not know there was such a thing! Ohhhhhh, I am thrilled.


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