Staff Book Review: The Golden Compass

Thanks to Library Clerk Rachel Hulshult for sharing her thoughts on “The Golden Compass”!


Although Philip Pullman’s “His Dark Materials” series was popular when I was growing up, it’s one young adult fantasy series I had never read. When I heard that HBO was doing a television adaptation, I knew I wanted to read the book series first. I didn’t know much about the series before I picked up the first book, “The Golden Compass”, and I wasn’t sure what to expect. Whatever I expected, I was pleasantly surprised. Set in a rich fantasy world where everyone has animal companions (known as ‘daemons’), the series follows 12-year-old Lyra as she sets out on a long journey in search of her missing friend.

As the protagonist, Lyra is immediately relatable and likable. She’s curious and brave and often gets into trouble. Before she knows what she’s gotten herself into, she finds herself caught up in the plots and plans of the adults surrounding her. But she’s far too stubborn and free-willed to become a pawn in their schemes.

I enjoyed Lyra as a character and her growth throughout the book as she searches for her place in the world. She’s surrounded by a wonderful cast of supporting characters, both as allies and antagonists. (The Texan aeronaut Lee Scoresby and his friend the giant armored bear, Iorek, are particular favorites.) The setting and fantasy world add another layer to the story and Pullman really brings the world to life. One of the most interesting elements of the book is the idea that every person has an animal companion, a daemon, for life. These daemons can talk and interact with the world, but they are forever connected to their person. Lyra’s daemon, Pantalaimon, brings her comfort and often helps her out of complicated situations. The daemons add an interesting element to the story that sets this series apart from many other young adult fantasies.

This book presents a coming-of-age story in a lush fantasy setting with a cast of captivating characters. Though it’s classified as young adult, the story is entertaining and complex enough to appeal to all ages. We can all relate to the idea of growing up and not knowing what our future holds. I have continued on with the series, and though I didn’t enjoy the second or third books quite as much as the first, I’ve loved spending more time in this world with these characters. I can’t wait to see the world brought to life as a television show.


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