Peter Boyle's Reviews > La Belle Sauvage

La Belle Sauvage by Philip Pullman
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really liked it

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, along with an older girl called Alice, but he also runs errands for the nuns who live in a priory across the river. When three strange men arrive at The Trout one night, everything changes. They are somehow connected to a baby girl named Lyra, who has been discreetly entrusted to the nuns. Lyra is a very special child, and dangerous people want to capture her, none moreso than the creepy Gerard Bonneville. With the aid of his trusty canoe, and an unlikely companion, Malcolm will have a major part to play in Lyra's survival.

The story is split into two main sections. The first involves Malcolm being drawn into the world of the resistance, a shadowy cabal of spies and secrets. And the second half is a gruelling, breathless journey set during a biblical flood.

As in the previous trilogy, religion has a big part to play in this story. Society is ruled by the oppressive Magisterium, a totalitarian regime that regards science and knowledge as the enemy. They have the power to kidnap and torture anyone who dares to question their authority. This wicked organisation even sets up a movement called the League of St Alexander, which encourages schoolchildren to inform on their teachers. But not all religious figures in the book are evil - the nuns that Malcolm befriends are a benevolent and well-intentioned bunch.

Phillip Pullman's rich imagination is once again a treasure to behold, but I think the reason La Belle Sauvage works so well lies in the strength of its main character. Malcolm is as brave and as noble as any hero you would like to meet. He is always tenacious and resourceful, especially in times of great danger. But he is also incredibly thoughtful, caring deeply about the fate of Lyra from the moment he first lays eyes on her. Even in the slow thaw of his relationship with the prickly Alice, I couldn't help cheering him on.

If I do have a slight criticism of this story, it's that it doesn't quite possess the same level of ingenuity that the previous trilogy was famous for. It's a more straightforward tale, where the truth slowly unravels and an almighty chase ensues through a dreamlike landscape. But it is always thrilling and gripping, full of memorable characters and unpredictable twists. La Belle Sauvage is the worthy beginning of an exciting new trilogy, and I will be first in line for the next installment.
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Reading Progress

October 22, 2017 – Started Reading
October 22, 2017 – Shelved
October 30, 2017 – Finished Reading

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