Trying not to be a fangirl, but wow. This was so good. Not going to lie, I missed Lyra and Will. We do get baby Lyra though, so at least she's in the story. Just not talking and being her Silvertongue self yet. Seeing younger versions of Lord Asriel and Mrs. Coulter though was interesting. Since I know what comes, it gave me a good deal of pleasure of seeing Mrs. Coulter wrong footed. We follow two young people, Malcolm and Alice who do what they can to keep baby Lyra safe.
Philip Pullman offers these tantalizing details: “I’ve always wanted to tell the story of how Lyra came to be living at Jordan College, and in thinking about it, I discovered a long story that began when she was a baby and will end when she’s grown up. This volume and the next will cover two parts of Lyra’s life: starting at the beginning of her story and returning to her twenty years later. As for the third and final part, my lips are sealed.
Look all I am saying is that I want Lyra and Will together. That's it. If I end up sobbing like a child again like I did when I finished "The Subtle Knife" Pullman and I are going to have some imaginary words.
We have two new young adult characters to follow. No they are not Lyra and Will. But I actually think I may have fallen more in love with them than the latter. We have Malcolm and Alice who end up being drawn to baby Lyra.
I think that both characters were very well developed. Though some pieces reminded me of "The Subtle Knife". We have another sexual awakening of sorts. You see a young boy and girl drawn together and willing to fight for each other after having an adventure.
We also get to see familiar characters in this one. I already mentioned Lord Asriel and Mrs. Coulter, but there are some others I don't want to spoil about.
I do think that there were a lot of characters to keep track of, but I didn't mind. Pullman writes them all quite well and they move in/out to the story. I do wish though we hadn't jumped between Malcolm and his goings on and another adult character as much (no spoilers). That took something out of the book for me. I know that Pullman is trying to set up the people for investigating dust and those who did not want to, but as I said, I think most readers are going to read "His Dark Materials" prior to this one, so you don't have to go into it as much.
Volume 1 was really good. Though it starts off slow, the flow gets better and better and you will have your heart in your throat for most of the story. I was so worried about Malcolm and Alice until the very end. And even then I am worried, cause i don't recall these characters in "His Dark Materials" or if they are referenced I am too dumb to not have caught it when I did a quick skim read of the three books a few days ago.
The plot of "The Book of Dust" is about a young boy, Malcolm, and innkeeper's son (I got a great hoot at connecting that with Jesus/inn/etc. who finds out that a baby is living with a group of nuns nearby. Malcolm becomes instantly enthralled with the baby (called Lyra) and her tragic story that most people are not supposed to know about (though everyone does). That would have to be the funniest part of this book to me. People keep mentioning secrets here and there, but it did feel like most of the characters knew about things that they should not have. I think that may have made for a more interesting book if things were slowly revealed. But I bet Pullman figured most of us have read "His Dark Materials" so it's not like it's going to be a shocking reveal to us.
The world building in "The Book of Dust" was really good. We get to see an earlier Brytain that has some similarities to our world, but does not. There is a terrible story about a man called St. Alexander that was appalling. And I swear reminded me of someone else historical, but was too busy/lazy to look it up. How this man and his actions trickles down to a secret group of children that reports on teachers, parents, etc. gives more power to the Consistorial Court of Discipline was appalling to see. I can see at times why Lord Asriel was hell-bent on breaking the hold the Church had on the world that "His Dark Materials" inhabitants.
The ending was very good and links up nicely with the story we were told about how Lyra comes to be at Jordan College. Now can't wait for part two where we find Lyra supposedly 20 years later after the events of this story. I already read "Lyra's Oxford" to just get a nice taste of Lyra and Pan when she's 15. I wish it had been longer.