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La Belle Sauvage

(The Book of Dust #1)

4.15  ·  Rating details ·  93,801 ratings  ·  8,880 reviews
Malcolm Polstead is the kind of boy who notices everything but is not much noticed himself. And so perhaps it was inevitable that he would become a spy...

Malcolm's father runs an inn called the Trout, on the banks of the river Thames, and all of Oxford passes through its doors. Malcolm and his dæmon, Asta, routinely overhear news and gossip, and the occasional scandal, but
Hardcover, 449 pages
Published October 19th 2017 by Alfred A. Knopf
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Alasandra Alawine Yes, but if you have read the Dark Materials you will have a better grasp of some of the characters, but this takes place before the Dark Materials.

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Average rating 4.15  · 
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 ·  93,801 ratings  ·  8,880 reviews

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Emily May
Sep 11, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: young-adult, 2017, fantasy
Malcolm tried to remember the fairy tales he knew. Could you bargain with fairies? Did they keep their promises?

It's hard to believe, but I was ten years old when I first read Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy. Along with Harry Potter, it is one of the standout reads of my childhood and, perhaps, my entire life. So, obviously, when I heard about La Belle Sauvage, I simply had to bury my skepticism and read it.

And I think this book digs up the past pretty well. I’ve had mixed feelings abou
Sean Barrs
Phillip Pullman is clearly capable of great things. He achieves an absolute mastery of tone, style and plot in The Golden Compass. However, I found none of that mastery in this book.

Admittedly, I had major reservations going into it; yet, for all that, I did approach it with an open mind. I tried to appreciate it for what it was, though sadly that really isn’t much to get excited about. The writing is average, the plot slow and the new characters rather bland and ordinary.

For me, the biggest p
Lisa of Troy
Nov 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Philip Pullman is my hero. He is the pinnacle of how an author can make you care about a character. He took a HUGE risk by not relying on established fan-favorite characters to sell this new book. Instead, we have a new character named Malcolm who meets Lyra as an infant. We have a front row seat as Malcolm embarks on many new adventures.

This book was page-turning. I caught myself up at 3:30 am reading this book. It was very captivating.

Here is the link to my more in-depth review (admittedly o
We delve back in to alternate-world Oxford, miles from armoured bears but surrounded yet again by daemons and the mysterious alethiometers, following a young boy named Malcolm who is stuck in a world where young working-class boys are mostly discouraged from learning beyond their schooling and are fervently taught that religion is the only truth.

There is really no great ingenuity here that came previously with His Dark Materials and honestly, that is the only place to start with Philip Pullman.
mark monday
Aug 19, 2014 rated it it was amazing
A wonderful way to start off the new year, especially with the cold and the wet everywhere. I loved the slow pace of the first half, all of the details that brought life to sweet, curious Malcolm's world. I loved the thrill of the second half: its many surreal and threatening episodes, the rise of Malcolm's rage-dogs, the faerie queen and the witch queen, the bravery, and everything to do with grouchy Alice. The appalling villain Gerard Bonneville (and his three-legged hyena daemon) was fascinat ...more
Kristen Peppercorn
*Possible spoilers ahead. Proceed with caution.*

I cannot believe that I am rating this book 2 stars.

This was my most anticipated read of 2017. After reading His Dark Materials last year and falling in love with the world and having the story shatter me and embed itself deeply into my soul, I was so excited for this book, I would honestly go to bed smiling sometimes thinking about how awesome this book was going to be. I think it's safe to say that how I'm feeling now, after reading it, is a litt
Emily (Books with Emily Fox)

I was excited to read more from that world. I have to say the book left me a bit... unsatisfied? I wanted more and I will continue reading this series but it mostly felt like an intro, not a full book.

However, it made me want to reread His Dark Materials ASAP!
Sep 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This was really good. I liked it better than His Dark Materials. The characters were better drawn, the story was more interesting and it really seemed not to be aimed at the same market. There were references to sexual activity and rape and some of the scenes were quite brutal. Not really appropriate for children at all.

However I enjoyed it very much indeed. I must admit that credit should be given to Michael Sheen, the narrator of the audiobook. His impersonation of the laugh of a rabid jackal
Simona B
Feb 15, 2017 marked it as wishlist  ·  review of another edition

EDIT 15/02/2017: This comes out in October -do you know what that means? It means that Simona is going to re-read all three books of His Dark Materials before then! Yay!
Mar 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
4ish stars.

My first experience with the Pullman-verse. I never read The Golden Compass, but reading this makes me want to. Malcolm is a great character, and the adventure he embarks on is exciting and interesting. There are some great secondary characters as well, particularly Hannah Relf. I wonder if/hope that they appear in the original series?? The tone is dark and adult for a book obviously meant for a younger audience (including f-bombs, sexual assault), but it's still very much a YA/child
Nov 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The flood changed everything.

... extreme weather had its own state of mind ...

I'm usually weary of prequels of any kind. It often sounds like a movie company, author or whoever wants to cash in on past successes. In case of Philip Pullman, I was a bit more optimistic - especially after reading His Dark Materials only last month (I had only known the very first book up to that point). Also, Pullman was indeed asked if this was a prequel, to which he gave the perfect answer, calling i
Oct 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'm not sure how much is nostalgia for His Dark Materials, but I really liked this book.

I wish that I could remember more of The Faerie Queene
Natasha Hurley-Walker
Short version: Tedious and utterly unnecessary prequel to the brilliant Dark Materials series. DO NOT READ.

Long version:
(view spoiler)
nemo the emo ☠️ (pagesandprozac)
objectively speaking, if you divorce it from HDM, it's probably a 5 star. however, considering how utterly superb HDM is, and considering this a prequel, giving it the same score would imply that i found them to be on a par, or at least nearly so. and i did not.

i liked it a lot, but it just wasn't, y'know, His Dark Materials. typically good pullman-esque character building though, and i am very excited to see where the story goes next.
✨    jami   ✨
must a book be good? Is it not enough for me to just enjoy the daemons and get excited when a character from the original trilogy appears??

Jan 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
reread September 2019
Pure magic.

Wonderful! It feels simpler than Northern Lights, but that may be because we are already used to this alternative Oxford. There are a few new elements of fantasy that I hope will come into play in the sequel. Happily the sequel is already written and should be published later this year. Pullman said in an interview that this was neither a prequel or a sequel, but an equel. But it read like a prequel to me. Malcolm was a most endearing character. I read this with w
Mar 23, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
‘La Belle Sauvage’ (2017) is the first part in Philip Pullman’s ‘The Book of Dust’ – companion trilogy and prequel to his much revered and critically acclaimed ‘His Dark Materials’ series (1995-2000). As such, ‘Belle Sauvage’ is set in the same parallel world(s) of an alternative Oxford, London, England et al, where we find ourselves again in the realm of daemons, alethiometers, witches and of course Dust.

The story of ‘Belle Sauvage’ centres on Malcolm and Alice, their relationship, the quest or
We return into the world of Lyra Belacqua and His Dark Materials with The Book of Dust, a companion triology that begins with La Belle Sauvage, taking place during Lyra's infancy. As with the original trilogy, The Book of Dust shines when it comes to world-building and classical adaptation. Anyone who has started The Golden Compass will be drawn in by daemons, animal-like creatures that represent your soul. Your daemon shape-shifts throughout your childhood before settling into one form, a lifel ...more


Description: Eleven-year-old Malcolm Polstead and his dæmon, Asta, live with his parents at the Trout Inn near Oxford. Across the River Thames (which Malcolm navigates often using his beloved canoe, a boat by the name of La Belle Sauvage) is the Godstow Priory where the nuns live. Malcolm learns they have a guest with them, a baby by the name of Lyra Belacqua . . .

1/10: We open in Oxford, at The Trout Inn, with a pot boy named Malcolm Polstead, and t
Kai Spellmeier
Feb 15, 2017 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned
For everyone who hasn't yet heard the news and is desperate to dive back into Lyra's Oxford: this trilogy is going to be a thing.

Find more of my books on Instagram
Feb 15, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A prequel to the His Dark Materials trilogy, with Lyra as an 8 month old baby? I've waited nearly 20 years for this book, and the anticipation during the countdown to release nearly killed me. I also knew going into this that I shouldn't compare it to the trilogy, and for that reason alone I put off reading it. I shouldn't of though, because as with everything Phillip Pullman writes I fell in love with these characters and this world.

The tone of the novel is much darker, I feel, than His Dark Ma
Dec 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
From the moment its existence was announced, there hasn’t been a novel I’ve looked forward to more than La Belle Sauvage, the first volume in The Book of Dust, Philip Pullman’s prequel trilogy to His Dark Materials. I had little doubt the book would be good; the pleasant surprise is that it turned out to be great, if not quite the unparalleled classic that is The Golden Compass/Northern Lights. Set a decade or so before, La Belle Sauvage is the story of eleven-year-old Malcolm, who, with the hel ...more
Matt Quann
Jan 19, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: fantasy
I'd like to say, right at the top of the review, that a three-starred review does not mean I didn't like this book.

Pullman's original His Dark Materials trilogy made an immense impact on me when I was younger, maybe 12 or 13, and there's much of the same to be enjoyed here. Yet, for all the joy I had in returning to a world filled with daemons, religious tyranny, and Dust, La Belle Sauvage does not land with the same impact as I remembered all that time ago.

I'll admit that this is partially my
Jan 08, 2019 rated it liked it
“War asks many people to do unreasonable things.”

I am not quite what I can say about this one, I found it fantastically good fun, a plot driven children's adventure story.

I thought that the language was a bit simpler (view spoiler) than in His Dark Materials, maybe my recollection of that series is wrong though, or maybe I am right and this book is aimed at a slighter younger audience, but then less of the background setting is explained, for example the relationship between each person and their Daemon, so I thi
Kitty G Books
Nov 09, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a book which has been long anticipated by most. I read His Dark Materials both as a child and as an adult just a year or so ago. I loved the series both times through, and so I was very excited to hear that this book was going to be set before the HDM series and follow the young childhood of Lyra and the guardians who have protected her...

In this story we're following a young boy called Malcolm who is the main protagonist. He's a sweet-natured if inquisitive child, and the adventure he g
One of my favorite trilogies I’ve read is ‘His Dark Materials’. It was such a brilliant series. This is the prequel trilogy to the original. I wonder if there really needed to be a trilogy. I do know this book needed to happen. What a wild ride it is. It starts off one way and in the middle it becomes a completely different book.

Lyra is a baby in this book and she is vulnerable here. Luckily she has Malcolm to look after her interests from afar. The book has fairies and nuns, conspiracies and fl
Peter Boyle
Oct 22, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What a joy it is to return to the world of daemons and alethiometers! The original His Dark Materials trilogy is one of the greatest reading experiences I have ever known, and I could not have been more excited at the prospect of a new episode. I am delighted to report that it did not disappoint.

Eleven-year-old Malcolm Polstead is the hero of this tale. A kind, intelligent boy, he lives above The Trout inn, which is owned by his parents. Malcolm spends his evenings serving guests at the pub, alo
Lucy Banks
Nov 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Stellar storytelling (as you'd expect), thoroughly immersive.

Words cannot describe how profoundly I adored the His Dark Materials series. Reading them as a teen, I remember being so relieved that here was an author who didn't pander to his young audience; who wasn't afraid to show brutality and fear; but also who gave his characters such depth and personality that they'd stay with the reader forever.

So, as you can imagine, I dived into this book with huge excitement, but also trepidation. Would
Mar 20, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, audio-book
I’m not old enough for this, Malcolm thought.

Right you are, Malcolm.

There are two important things you should know about this book, so I’ll discuss them at the beginning of my review. One—if you decide to read this book, do yourself a favor and listen to the audiobook, narrated by actor Michael Sheen. His narration was one of the best I’ve ever heard, each character’s voice given equal care, whether the character had one line or a thousand. Whether young or old, male or female, daemon or human,
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As a passionate believer in the democracy of reading, I don't think it's the task of the author of a book to tell the reader what it means.

The meaning of a story emerges in the meeting between the words on the page and the thoughts in the reader's mind. So when people ask me what I meant by this story, or what was the message I was trying to convey in that one, I have to explain that I'm not going

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