Title: The Golden Compass
Author: Philip Pullman
In The Golden Compass, readers meet for the first time 11-year-old Lyra Belacqua, an orphan growing up in Oxford, England at Jordan College.
Lyra is a precocious girl who loves to stroll through Oxford`s motley streets on mad quests for adventure. She spends most of her time with her friend Roger, a kitchen boy. Together they scamper across the roofs of the college, racing through the streets of Oxford, or waging war with the other children in town.
In The Golden Compass we also meet Lord Asriel. He is to Lyra first known as her uncle, but she will later find out that he is her father. She also learns that a beautiful and bewitching woman named Mrs. Coulter is her mother.
Creatures that play a big part in this story are Serafina Pekkala, the witch queen who reveals that the fate of universe lies in Lyra’s future, and Iorek Byrnison, an armored polar bear, dethroned as king of his clan by a deceitful brother.
The Golden Compass forms the first part of a story in three volumes. The first volume is set in a universe like ours, but different in many ways. You will quickly realize that Lyra’s Oxford is not like our own – nor is her world. In Lyra’s world, everyone has a personal dæmon, a lifelong animal familiar. Children’s dæmons shapeshif, but they settle on a single form during puberty. This is a world in which science, theology and magic are closely intertwined. It is also a world where the Church has tight control over the government and science.
Lyra’s life changes forever the day Lyra and her dæmon, Pantalaimon, hears the hushed talk of an extraordinary particle. Microscopic in size, the magical Dust is something Lyra will learn a lot more about, weather she wants to or not. Dust was rumored to possess properties that could unite whole universes. But there were those who feared the particle and would stop at nothing to destroy it. (The Church, by the way, is one of them). Right before she hears about Dust, Lyra witnesses an attempted murder on Lord Asriel.
It is at this time children mysteriously began to disappear. Someone known as the “Gobblers” are kidnapping them. Who the Gobblers are and what they want is unknown. Suddenly, without a trace, Lyra’s good friend Roger disappears at the hands of the gobblers.
But before she can begin her search for Roger, Lyra is introduced to Mrs. Coulter. Mrs. Coulter is a scholar and an explorer, and she employs Lyra as an assistant to help in the next expedition to explore the Arctic North. On the morning she is to leave Jordan College, the Master of the school gives Lyra an alethiometer (The Golden Compass), a rare instrument with the power to reveal the truth in all things.
While working for Mrs. Coulter, Lyra learns that her employer plays a big part in the party responsible for the disappearing children. She also learns that the Church has captured Lord Asriel. Lyra’s horrified by this information and she and Pantalaimon runs away in the middle of the night. They are rescued by to gyptian men who keep them safe while Mrs. Coulter and her men are looking for them. The gyptians are the ones who have suffered most from the Gobblers and they take Lyra with them to the North to rescue the captured children. To succeed in the rescue they get help from Serafina Pekkala, Iorek Byrnison and Lee Scorsby, a Texan aeronaut and commander of a hot air balloon. Lyra also gets a lot of help from the alethiometer, witch she now has learned to read.
While on their long, hard journey in the far North, Lyra and Pantalaimon are kidnapped by hunters who take them to Bolvangar. This is the place where all the kidnapped children have bin brought, and Lyra is happily reunited with Roger. Here, she witnesses intercision, the gruesome Dust experience. It separates child and dæmon who normally must stay within a few feet of each other. Together the children and their dæmons escape from Bolvangar. They flee into safety of the gyptians, Serafina Pekkala’s witches, Lee Scoresby’s balloon and Iorek Byrnison.
Although the children are rescued, the journey is far from over for Lyra and Roger. They set of to travel further north and rescue Lord Asriel. He has experimented with Dust and has found out that Dust is the way to other universes. He wants to make a bridge between to universes, and that requires such an amount of energy that only an itercision can provide it. Unable to sacrifice his own daughter, Lord Asriel chooses Roger to be his prey. Lyra finds out about this, but is too late to rescue her dear friend. She finds him lying dead on the ground. She leaves this universe to get revenge on her father and discover the secret of Dust.