Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Once Upon a Time in the North (His Dark Materials, #0.5)” as Want to Read:
Once Upon a Time in the North (His Dark Materials, #0.5)
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Once Upon a Time in the North

(His Dark Materials #0.5)

3.85  ·  Rating details ·  12,999 ratings  ·  1,176 reviews
In this prequel episode from Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials universe, Lee Scoresby -- Texan aeronaut and future friend to Lyra Belacqua -- is 24 years old. The story reveals the origins of Scoresby's friendship with Iorek Byrnison as well as Scoresby's aeronautical career.

After winning his hot-air balloon in a poker game, Scoresby finds himself floating north. On the
Hardcover, 104 pages
Published April 8th 2008 by Alfred A. Knopf
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Once Upon a Time in the North, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
Philip I know I'm a year late but I agree with Vicki and Rebecca. I don't think you'll get much out of this story if you aren't already comfortable with the …moreI know I'm a year late but I agree with Vicki and Rebecca. I don't think you'll get much out of this story if you aren't already comfortable with the characters and the world they inhabit. (less)

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.85  · 
Rating details
 ·  12,999 ratings  ·  1,176 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Once Upon a Time in the North (His Dark Materials, #0.5)
(B-) 68% | Satisfactory
Notes: Its supporting characters are undeveloped, the story is unremarkable, and it expects familiarity with previous books.
Emily (Books with Emily Fox)
The fact that I completely forgot to review this is very telling.

After trying to read the new companion series to His Dark Materials, I was very disappointed. I still wanted to get more from this world and decided to try this prequel. You finally get the story of how Lee Scoresby and Iorek Byrnison became friends... and it was a let down.

Big meh.
Oct 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I'm currently re-reading Northern Lights, the first in the His Dark Materials trilogy. Not too long ago I also found out about the two companion books and this is the first.

This little cloth-bound beauty tells the story of Lee Scoresby, the hot-air balloonist that helps Lyra in the first volume, and how he became friends (the best of friends in fact) with Iorek Byrnison, the panserbjørn. It tells of old rivalries and a conspiracy that Lee has to fight and although we already know the ending to t
May 07, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: reviewed, fantasy, 1-men, own
It's been ages since I reread His Dark Materials, so I don't have a clear image of Lee Scoresby in my head - and I don't remember his, surprisingly kickass, daemon Hester at all. I'm ashamed of this, she is an energetic, cussing delight.

I do remember being incredibly intrigued by Iorek and the whole idea of armored bears, and of course, I think we all wondered how on earth those two ended up as friends. This story does it justice, I think.

It's very short, but it tells a fulfilling and engaging
Oct 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
‘Once Upon a Time in the North’ by Philip Pullman (2008) – with striking illustrations by engraver John Lawrence is a lovely and very well presented hardback book, which also includes the ballooning game – ‘Peril of The Pole’ tucked into the back cover.

In ‘Once Upon’ Pullman revisits the universe of ‘His Dark Materials’ – the main protagonist here being the wonderful character that is Texan balloonist/aeronaut Lee Scoresby and is concerned in part at least, with his first meeting with the armour
Scott Cooperstein
Jan 08, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: young-adult, own
So that's it. I've read every bit of writing that exists in Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials series. It's a sad day for me. I loved the whole thing, and I wish there was more to it. I've seen the movie (regrettably), read the original three books, and now these two side-stories. I cannot recommend the series highly enough. To me it's superior to Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Narnia, ect. The whole concept of this universe fascinates me. Books like these are why I fell in love with reading ...more
Paul E. Morph
Mar 14, 2020 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this little prequel! I haven’t read the main books yet (they’re next) but I have seen both the movie and the t.v. show, so I had all the info I needed not to be completely lost... and it was really cool seeing some major characters meet for the first time.

I wouldn’t recommend starting with this one if you have no prior knowledge of this world, though; you’d be wondering what the heck all this ‘dæmon’ business was, for a start, as there’s no explanation here...
Dannii Elle
This is a prequel novella to His Dark Materials series, following side-character and aeronaut, Lee Scoresby, on his adventures prior to those that occur during the central trilogy.

Lee pilots his hot air balloon to a secluded Arctic community and, upon looking for temporary employment there, discovers a dark figure from his past and becomes embroiled in darker political scheming instead.

Whilst it was unrelated to the main story-line in any other way than featuring some of the same characters, I
Mar 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing
A nice short story to remind about the prehistory of "His Dark Materials" ...more
May 12, 2008 added it
Recommended to Elizabeth by: ACB
"Nice piece of oratorical flamboyancy." (--Hester)

This book was a gift. I *love* the size and shape of it, its compactness, the cloth cover, the way it fits so perfectly with its companion book, Lyra's Oxford, which I perversely keep with my guidebooks rather than my other Pullman novels.

I am almost certain I would have liked the actual text better had I not been consumed with jealousy over the presentation. The story is less than 100 small pages long, directed at no obviously definable reader o
Nov 07, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ah so many distractions - especially when really I should be getting on with reading books I set out to read, but I guess when books like Once Upon A Time in the North come along you can sort of forgive me.

This is another short special set in the world of His Dark Materials. This time it introduces us to Lee Scoresby and how he started on the path that would eventually lead him to Lyra.

The story is short not reaching 100 pages however it does set the tone for what is to follow. He is a man on
Nov 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: r2017, stars-4-0
It seemed illogical not to read this small volume after having consumed everything related to His Dark Materials, and once again I was charmed. These novellas from Pullman are so compelling, pulling you back into this huge and complex world. Add to this that Lee Scoresby and his daemon Hester have always been favourites of mine, and it’s a winner :O)

The extra material at the end gives another layer to the story, connecting Lyra to this narrative and offering some details of her life since the ev
This short, little tale is a prequel to Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials, set decades before the events in Northern Lights. Here we meet Lee Scorsesby and the armored bear Iorek Byrninson, and learn how they came to know each other.

Once Upon a Time in the North is a lovely story, and the title suggests a homage to Sergio Leone's Once Upon A Time in the West.
But the influence does not end there. Pullman's writing is fantastic and he conveys the steampunk atmosphere of a small port town perfec
Jan 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
A novella that introduces the characters used in the series. This makes me want to read the rest of the series. I hadn't realized it would be so interesting. ...more
Jun 05, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2020
3.5 stars
May 29, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
See my review on my book blog: ...more
Kaethe Douglas
A nice arctic Western. I'm totally down with authors of popular series publishing little related books like this, when they're such good stories. ...more
Jul 04, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: those who like a good, quick yarn
Do yourself a favor, and read this quick little story.
A fantastic little read in a very well presented format. Pullman has a command of language not to be missed. In this little tale we get a beguiling introduction to Lee Scoresby and his dæmon Hester, and who doesn't love Lee and Hester--a wry Texan with a heart of gold and his delightfully sarcastic companion.

A sample-- after crash-landing his newly acquired air ballon:

The pilot gingerly untangled his fingers from the rope he'd been holding on
Winter Branch
Apr 09, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: youngadult, fiction
Short and sweet. It was nice to read about Lee Scoresby and Iorek Byrnison again. This time around, Scoresby seemed a bit brash and more quick-witted than I remembered but he was 30 something years younger so that might have something to do with it.

I’m sure everyone’s main complaint will be that the book is too short (and I admit I was hit with a ting of dread around page 50 knowing that I was already closer to the ending than the beginning). However; just like Lyra’s Oxford, Scoresby’s story i
Jul 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: electronic
just incredible;
the fantasy elements are a bit too much for me, though
Alex Givant
Dec 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing
WOW, now I'm hooked and need more of this stuff! ...more
Alex Telander
Once Upon a Time in the North by Philip Pullman: It's been some time since Philip Pullman has published anything set in the world of His Dark Materials; the last offering was a very short story called Lyra's Oxford. In Once Upon a Time in the North, Pullman returns with an original tale about Lee Scoresby the aeronaut, weighing in at just under a hundred pages - and while fans would wish for three times as much, it's certainly much better than nothing.

In a poker game in his native Texas, twenty-
Roxanne Hsu Feldman
Sep 21, 2008 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fantasy, 4-6grade
I cannot quite figure out who would enjoy this volume: for those who have never read the His Dark Materials Trilogy, daemons and the world around them might be too odd, without explanation at all. I like the "western-gunslinger" flavor but don't see how that can hold the interest of most young readers. Then, it is not enough, not meaty enough, not enough Iorek, at least, for a fan like me. I wanted to know MORE about their past and their earlier personalities and hardship/happiness -- this does ...more
Kai Charles(Fiction State Of Mind)
I have finally been catching up on the novellas and other short stories associated with His Dark Materials. This story chronicles when two very popular characters meet for the first time. Lee has come to a desolate Island hoping to get some fuel and an easy job. Things go bad pretty quickly as Lee is unable to resist getting into trouble by doing what's right.

Very nice adventure and the voice cast is stellar!
Meghan Hughes
Dec 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
This book was an interesting add on to His Dark Materials series. It was a bit of an unnecessary blimp in time as for story development, but entertaining nonetheless! It followed the relationship of Lee Scoresby & Iorek Byrnison. I have to admit, I was a bit lost at times trying to understand the supporting characters. This story was under 100 pages, but had SO many names to keep up with. It was a bit overwhelming, but I liked how it built up at the end. It was well-written for a short story & d ...more
Ashley Marie
3.5 stars

Now I'm excited to dive into the His Dark Materials trilogy, hopefully in a couple months. I'll most likely have to give this another listen once I've finished the trilogy, to get the full effect of it being a prequel, but for what it was this time around I really liked it. I'm not especially familiar with Pullman's work -- the most I remember is that a film adaptation (if you could call it that, from what I heard from enthusiasts the movie was crap) was released a few years back with N
Apr 18, 2008 rated it really liked it
An elegantly imagined Western tale, even though it is set in the far North, when a very young Lee Scoresby and the bear Iorek Byrnison meet and find they are on the same side. It unfolds like a movie, in grey and blue and ice tones instead of dust and dun and gold, but the pacing, spirit, and tone conjure up every great cowboy movie you have ever seen.
A coda offers a tantalizing glimpse into Lyra's life as a graduate student.
Apr 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is a fun little yarn about the armoured bears, our fearless ballooner, Lee, some dubious politicians and companies and heroic Customs Agents. It was a lot of fun.
Aug 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
A Texas cowboy. A gas balloon. A settlement by the Barents Sea. A polar bear. Local politics. Dirty secrets. And ... Action! Philip Pullman's fantasy of derring-do near the Arctic Circle paints a vivid picture that reads like a film script synopsis as well as playing in the mind's eye like a graphic novel. Set some 35 years before the events in the His Dark Materials trilogy Once Upon a Time in the North directly references a Sergio Leone spaghetti western in its title; like Once Upon a Time in ...more
Selena Reiss
2 stars

So, to be fair, this shouldn’t have gotten two stars from me because I shouldn’t have read this. I had to, because I had to read it for a class, but I shouldn’t have read this. This is an extra novella in the His Dark Materials world about fan favorite characters on a side quest for die-hard fans, and so why it was on my fantasy syllabus is beyond me. However, I had to read it, and, predictably, I didn’t like. I tried to read HDM when I was fourteen at the request of my best friend at the
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • The Betrayals
  • The Golden Compass Graphic Novel, Complete Edition
  • A Christmas Requiem
  • The Private Life of the Hare
  • The Golden Compass Graphic Novel, Volume 1
  • Doctor Who: Adventures in Lockdown
  • Rumaysa: A Fairytale
  • The Lost Spells
  • The Girl Who Steals Christmas (The Boy Who Steals Houses, #0.5)
  • The Testaments (The Handmaid's Tale, #2)
  • It's Not a Bed, It's a Time Machine
  • Piranesi
  • The Bee and the Orange Tree
  • Firefly Original Graphic Novel: The Sting
  • Through the Eyes of a Raptor
  • Ness
  • The Dead of Winter
  • Assassin's Creed: Gold
See similar books…
In 1946, acclaimed author Philip Pullman was born in Norwich, England, into a Protestant family. Although his beloved grandfather was an Anglican priest, Pullman became an atheist in his teenage years. He graduated from Exeter College in Oxford with a degree in English, and spent 23 years as a teacher while working on publishing 13 books and numerous short stories. Pullman has received many awards ...more

Other books in the series

His Dark Materials (3 books)
  • The Golden Compass (His Dark Materials, #1)
  • The Subtle Knife  (His Dark Materials, #2)
  • The Amber Spyglass  (His Dark Materials, #3)

Related Articles

If you love the fantasy genre, this is the season for you! Some of the biggest books out this fall promise to be epics full of magic, adventure,...
193 likes · 49 comments
“He was twenty-four, ready for adventure, and happy to go wherever the winds took him. He'd better be, as Hester reminded him; he wasn't going to go anywhere else.” 0 likes
“Well, all right then. Finding out that you're an Arctic hare – that's surprising. Damn, I was surprised."
"Surprised? Why the hell were you surprised? I ain't surprised," said Hester. "Iorek's right. I always knew I had more class than a rabbit.”
More quotes…