The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman

There are 2 reasons that YA Fantasy is my favorite genre, and this book is a shining example of them both. Adventure and simple effective writing.
I’m a nerd through and through. From Marvel movies to LOTR to GoT – I love an action story that has some magic. Good versus evil. Epic battles. The little guy outdoing the evil monster. Battles. Heroes. Perils and frights and the unknown. Here we had these – in spades. The beginning of the book is a little weird, and there’s a lot of technical jargon to puzzle out. But keep going! It all becomes crystal clear and smooth sailing in a matter of pages.
Which brings me to my second point – simple effective writing. I’m not sure why so many authors who write for adults think they’re getting paid by the word. Or, even worse, the adjective. They write with such a heavy hand that the story is lost beneath characters who are unrealistic or overbearing and imagery that stifles rather than fuels the imagination.
But this book was all show and very little tell. Pullman created all these gorgeous characters and huge adventures – and I learned about them as they naturally unfolded. Hair color? Height? Good looking or ugly? Who cares? I can tell you that in one early sentence Lyra is described as a half-wild cat. Three little words where a hack author would have spent 3 pages cramming useless adjectives down my throat.
This story is huge. Magic. Dust. Daemons. Church. Science. The frozen north. Kidnapping. Witches. Gypsies. And a manbear who stole my heart and made me cry. But each of these huge things was offered in its simplest form. I adore an author with the confidence to trust his or her story and characters this much. The result is a story that reads effortlessly. A mind-blowing adventure that reads like a bed time story.
In parting I will say shout out to Lyra – a little girl MC is the shit. Feisty. Quick-thinking. Wild as the wind. A character I will be honored to read to my son. And a moment of respect to the plot device of the fucking monkey. So creepy. So effective. So masterful. The monkey represents everything wonderful in this book. So understated – and still you’re freaked out as hell. Genius.
Ps – Iorek – you made this book. You gave it that little undefinable something. You are one of my favorite characters ever.

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