Top positive review
Pullman remains a master storyteller.
22 November 2017
It is difficult to describe the exquisite pleasure of revisiting a fictional world in which I was first immersed as an adolescent, and wherein every living human has an animal companion known as a daemon. Philip Pullman's 'His Dark Materials' series was a life-changing reading experience for me, and I can trace my passion for written storytelling to those three books, as well as other serialised fiction by authors such as J.K. Rowling and John Marsden.
With this book – the first of three titles planned for release in the coming years – Pullman tells a story that begins ten years before the events of 'His Dark Materials'. Its protagonist is an eleven year-old boy named Malcolm Polstead, who is at the cusp of adolescence and intensely curious toward everyone and everything around him. The protagonist from 'His Dark Materials', Lyra Belacqua, is a wordless baby in 'La Belle Sauvage', and as events unravel, Malcolm takes it upon himself to save her from evil forces and seek sanctuary.
This book's title refers to the name of Malcolm's trusty canoe, in which he navigates a great flood that envelopes the lands surrounding his childhood home. Philip Pullman excels at this sort of a coming-of-age tale, and as I was drawn deeper into the story, I felt that familiar tug of fascination that I first encountered as a wide-eyed boy reading 'His Dark Materials' for the first time. My emotional connection to this story and fantasy world is so enmeshed with my childhood memories that I can't really pretend to have any sort of objectivity. I will say, though, that Pullman remains a master storyteller. I greatly enjoyed 'La Belle Sauvage', and I'm now eagerly re-reading the original trilogy while waiting for the next one to be published.