The Golden Compass (His Dark Materials #1)

The Golden Compass


Here lives an orphaned ward named Lyra Belacqua, whose carefree life among the scholars at Oxford's Jordan College is shattered by the arrival of two powerful visitors. First, her fearsome uncle, Lord Asriel, appears with evidence of mystery and danger in the far North, including photographs of a mysterious celestial phenomenon called Dust and the dim outline of a city suspended in the Aurora Borealis that he suspects is part of an alternate universe. He leaves Lyra in the care of Mrs. Coulter, an enigmatic scholar and explorer who offers to give Lyra the attention her uncle has long refused her. In this multilayered narrative, however, nothing is as it seems. Lyra sets out for the top of the world in search of her kidnapped playmate, Roger, bearing a rare truth-telling instrument, the compass of the title. All around her children are disappearing—victims of so-called "Gobblers"—and being used as subjects in terrible experiments that separate humans from their daemons, creatures that reflect each person's inner being. And somehow, both Lord Asriel and Mrs. Coulter are involved. (Summary and cover courtesy of


I remember reading this as a kid and hating it at the time, however I believe that was because there was not a sequel at the time which I found particularly obnoxious.  I also remember this book being compared to “Artemis Fowl” a lot at the time though I think people only confused the two because they both had gold book covers.

Confusion aside, I went into this book trying to read it completely fresh and thought it was quite good.  The characters are developed proportionally to their role in the story and the world was described just enough.  This is a very difficult balance to strike and becomes even harder when it’s intended for kids.  In the beginning I felt there was too much going on without enough explanation, but shortly thereafter it hits it stride and I read it straight through. 

I will also say that reading it as an adult the religious connotations make a lot more sense (and within the greater context of the series).  I’d highly recommend this series to my kids because I think it’d challenge ideas they might believe only because they were told and not because they’ve considered or looked into in their own right.

Warning: Contains violence

Rating: 5 stars!

Who should read it? Both kids and adults alike should read it because I think it’s a book with controversy that won’t go away any time soon in schools!

Want to read the whole series?