Magazine topic: 

His Dark Materials

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Ever heard of Philip Pullman? Let me introduce you. Philip Pullman is an English writer who is widely considered as a brilliant. I agree.

One of his most famous works is the His Dark Materials trilogy, including Northern Lights, The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass. All three of the books in the trilogy are stunning works of fantasy and fiction, interspersed with ideas of life and death, good and evil.

Without giving too much away, the trilogy focuses on Lyra, a girl who lives in Oxford, in a world which may seem like ours, but has some differences, such as the presence of ‘daemons,’ creatures which each person in her world has, which are like an extension of their own thoughts and personality. It means that Lyra always has someone to talk to, play with and discuss her thoughts and ideas with: her daemon, called Pantalaimon.

Lyra’s world is turned upside down as her friend Roger mysteriously disappears, as have many of the other children in Oxford. She sets out on a dangerous quest to find him and the other children, and along the way encounters lots of other characters. On her journey she realises that other worlds exist apart from hers, and within all of these worlds there are problems and forces which could lead to much death and destruction, so with her new friend Will, she vows to try and resolve the problems.

The introduction of death and danger makes the stories seem much more exciting and compelling. As you read, you are drawn into the worlds of fantastical creatures and characters, which seem almost real, if you imagine hard enough.

Good and evil are strong themes within the trilogy. These two opposites are portrayed through the characters and their actions. Yet sometimes, both good and evil are present within the same character; for example, Lord Asriel and Mrs Coulter. This presence of good and evil makes these two characters very difficult to understand. On one hand they seem to be working against Lyra, but on the other hand, their actions and feelings are described in a way that seems to justify what they are doing. The result of this is that throughout the novels, you are not sure how to react to them, and whether they really are working for the forces of good or evil is only revealed at the end of the trilogy, when...well, you’ll have to read it and find out!

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Have you ever read any books by Philip Pullman? If so, what do you think of them? If not, would you like to? 


catastrophe's picture
catastrophe 18 June, 2017 - 14:41

This trilogy was the first fantasy read that made me fall in love with fantasy novels. It is a masterpiece. At first Lyra seems to be a very young child, with just enemies around her. Only after she returns from the World of the Dead (or whatever it is, I read the book two years ago) can we understand that she is grown up. It was a great movie, filled with fantasy, action, friendship, love, and of course, fantasy. I loved the part where they moved from world to world. And how the Subtle Sword breaks. He thought of his mother and it didn't break. Finally he held it in front of his hand and thought of Lyra. Swish! And clank! It broke.
One part was confusing. In the end when Pan and Lyra talked about creating heaven, does the author mean that it was them who created heaven? Did this world exist before ours was created? Someone please tell me!!!

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SemaSou's picture
SemaSou 12 June, 2014 - 17:31

I have just finished reading "the golden compass" the first book of the trilogy that I got to own accidently and to my great chance, in a secondhand books market and I am earger to devour the second one "the subtle knife" which seems to be even more exciting and amazing from its very beginning ... No doubt about the tribute that was given to the book and its author with all the excitement and magic that is held in between the lines ... Surely none of you should miss this masterpiece .

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Jo - Coordinator's picture
Jo - Coordinator 13 June, 2014 - 09:01

Hi SemaSou!
Thanks for your comment and your excellent explanation of what a "daemon" is in the Dark Materials trilogy. I just wanted to say that I loved these books too and I'm sure you'll enjoy the second and third books of the trilogy. When I finished reading them I really missed sitting in my bed, really cosy, while I immersed myself in Lyra's world... Happy reading! :)
Joanna (LearnEnglish Teens team)

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MALINE's picture
MALINE 22 April, 2014 - 20:00

The books sound very interesting,I belive there´s good and evil in all and each of us. I´d like to read them.

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SemaSou's picture
SemaSou 12 June, 2014 - 17:48

the deamon is a charcter that was invented by the author and that will play a major part through the story , it is like it was said in the article a part of each human being that takes usually the form of an animal and should stay near its possesser as exceeding a certain distance between them (the human and the deamon) will cause both of them a horrible harm and may lead to death , it is then like a personal physically detached part of the human being but not mentally as the couple are able to communicate through thoughts and are able to sense the pains and sorrows of eachother as well as the comfort and happiness and the mood of the human being would be reflected on his deamon through his behaviour and the form it takes, in fact before the child reaches the stage of puberty his deamon is able to change from one form to an other it can be a cat and then changes instantly into a bird or a snake but this ability fades with the age .. I hope I have given you a clearer idea about what is a deamon .. yeah one more thing that needs ro be clarified : each deomon has a personal name and pantalaimon is Lyra's deamon's name , lyra is in fact the main character of the whole story.

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Jonathan - Coordinator's picture
Jonathan - Coor... 23 April, 2014 - 04:09

Hi! Thanks for the question! Yes, it's ok. The daemon called Pantalaimon is the "someone" who is referred to in the previous line. Can you make sense of it?

I've only read the first book in the series and I quite liked it, although it isn't one of my absolute favourites. I'd recommend it, though, so give it a try!

Jonathan (LearnEnglish Teens Team)

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lavanya's picture
lavanya 2 January, 2014 - 04:10

Yes, I've read all 3 of His Dark Materials. And I think they're really good, but a bit too religious.
As a Buddhist, I find it a bit confusing. And the ending could have been better. I think it's too sad.

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Natalija's picture
Natalija 5 November, 2013 - 13:27

No, I haven't read any books by him, but I'm not sure whether I'd like to read it. I don't like that topic very much-death and stuff like that, but I think I'll try to read it, I can't judge about it before seeing what is it about. Who knows, maybe I'll like it. ;-)

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ElizabethS's picture
ElizabethS 6 November, 2013 - 10:24

Cool! The main focus is on the fight between good and evil - a bit like Harry Potter I suppose, so if you like fantasy fiction then I'm sure you'll like these books.

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