LA Belle Sauvage, the first book in Philip Pullman’s new trilogy of fantasy novels, The Book of Dust, went on sale on October 19, writes ESTELLE SINKINS.
A companion series to the His Dark Materials trilogy, the first novel is set 10 years before Northern Lights (known as The Golden Compass in North America and some other countries) and centres on Lyra Belacqua, one of the protagonists of the original trilogy.
Alethiometers, dæmons and the Magisterium return, alongside new characters, including 11-year-old Malcolm Polstead and his dæmon, Asta.
The fantasy is also very topical. It deals with the struggle between a despotic and totalitarian organisation that wants to stifle speculation and enquiry, and those who believe that thought and speech should be free.
The book has been a long time coming for fans. Pullman first conceived The Book of Dust in 2003.
“I know from their letters and tweets that my readers have been waiting patiently (mostly) for The Book of Dust for a long time,” he said.
“I’ve been writing it for several years, and I’ve been very parsimonious with information about it. It gives me great pleasure, and some excitement, at last to satisfy their curiosity (and mine) about this book.”
The author said Lyra remained at the centre of his new story, adding: “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 20 years later.
“I’ve hugely enjoyed getting to know the new characters, seeing Lyra again, and exploring the world(s) they live in. I’ve loved watching the story expand across the years, and take me to places I’d never dreamed of. As for future volumes, my lips are sealed.”
Pullman always thought Lyra was an interesting character, but never thought fans of the series would be so captivated by her.
“The thing about Lyra is that she’s not a special child. She’s not especially gifted or talented — she’s a very ordinary child,” he said.
“When I was a teacher, I taught many girls who were like Lyra. They were brave, inquisitive, curious, disobedient: all those interesting things for storytellers.
“I think the reason that people have read this long and complicated story is because they’re with Lyra.
“She doesn’t know the things that are threatening her and she’s in the same position as the reader, because the reader shares her sense of danger and excitement and curiosity about what’s going to happen next.
“I hope the same thing will be true of Malcolm in La Belle Sauvage.”
The Book of Dust novels will be jointly published by Random House Children’s and David Fickling Books in the United Kingdom, and by Random House Children’s Books in the US.
The cover for the first book was illustrated by Chris Wormell, who specialises in linocuts and wood engraving, as well as illustration.