A Compass of Gold, off to a Good Start: Pullman's Golden Compass

The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman.

The power of a great opening: Pullman’s The Golden Compass begins, “Lyra and her daemon moved through the darkening hall, taking care to keep to one side, out of sight of the kitchen.” We see a bit of each method of creating conflict. We know Lyra only by name, but it’s a lovely name, likeable and not quite ordinary. We sense that Lyra is also a likeable and not quite ordinary girl. The hook in this case involves action—Lyra is sneaking around in the dark—which provides obvious mystery: why is she sneaking? What on earth is a daemon? Pullman makes us wait.

Pullman continues to keep us waiting. He follows his opening line with a smidge of description—Lyra lives in a fancy place—and then provides a glimpse into Lyra’s character when she taps crystal to hear it ring. She’s curious and playful, yet her response to her worrywart daemon of, “They’re making too much noise to hear from the kitchen,” shows Lyra as a sensible, independent girl.

In effect, we are dumped straight into the action in a strange world. Lyra snoops where girls aren’t allowed, but before our curiosity about Lyra and her world can be sated, she must duck into hiding to avoid detection. Yet more questions arise as she overhears a plot to murder her uncle. Lyra’s character has heart, we have ample hook to propel us forward, and Pullman gives us abundant mystery. If we want answers, we must read on.

The end of the book continues with questions. Lyra rescues a group of children, but the story continues into the next book. Of the three, I thought the first two fit together best. The whole world of the dead/souls/something like that in the third was bizarre and hard to follow.