La Belle Sauvage by Philip Pullman (The Book of Dust Book 1)

La Belle Sauvage CoverLa Belle Sauvage is a 2017 children’s fantasy novel written by Philip Pullman, and the first in The Book of Dust trilogy, a companion series to Pullman’s prior series, His Dark Materials. La Belle Sauvage is set before the events of His Dark Materials, and tells the story of Malcolm Polstead, a young boy working at his parents’ inn, who becomes a spy for a mysterious secret society that opposes the Magisterium and which has just arranged for the six-month-old Lyra to be brought to the priory across the river from the Polsteads’ inn.

I always find myself apprehensive when reading new books to series that I love. Since His Dark Materials is one of my all-time favourite series (you can read my review of it here), the apprehension that I felt picking up this book was quite considerable. At the same time, I knew I would never even imagine leaving it un-read–Pullman’s novels have yet to let me down, and despite my apprehensions that I might be wrong, I was very much hopeful that I would love La Belle Sauvage. And love it I did.

The first thing that has to be mentioned is the writing. Pullman’s writing is just as strong here as it was in His Dark Materials. Pullman is simply a master story-teller, and from the first paragraphs you already get the feeling that you can trust him utterly to take you on a satisfying and magical journey.

The second thing that I noticed about this novel was that, despite it being set before the events of His Dark Materials, it really works best as a follow-up to that series. His Dark Materials begins by being quite tightly focused on Lyra, but by the end of the series, both the reader and Lyra have come to know the wider world much better: what Dust is, what the Magisterium are like, etcetera. Rather than beginning from a point of ignorance, La Belle Sauvage continues where His Dark Materials left off, investigating the same questions that the end of the series did, and adding to our understanding of them. This made the book highly satisfying for me to read (as someone who has read the original trilogy), but does lead me to strongly suggest that readers do not start with this trilogy.

What needs to be mentioned next are the characters. All of the central characters introduced here (mostnotably, Malcolm and Alice) are strong and capable, yet always human and flawed. They are so real that they jump out from the page and come to live with you. Moreover, the relationship between Malcolm and Alice is developed wonderfully and realistically, and I sincerely hope that I get to read more about them.

Finally, the plot of the novel, which is exciting, mysterious, and so engrossing that the pages don’t turn fast enough.

I don’t have anything bad to say about this novel, and I don’t have the words to express how much I love this novel. It is a wonderful follow-up to His Dark Materials, and you are doing yourself a disservice if you don’t pick this book up.

His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman

Northern Lights CoverHis Dark Materials is children’s fantasy trilogy written by Philip Pullman, consisting of the novels Northern Lights (1995), The Subtle Knife (1997), and The Amber Spyglass (2000). This trilogy tells the coming of age story of Lyra Belacqua, who goes on fantastic adventures across the world investigating Dust. The series is both highly popular, and has won numerous awards. The first book in a series trilogy, The Book of Dust, was published just a couple of months ago.

I got into this series quite late, reading the first book seven or so years after the last book had come out (in fact, soon after the movie had come out, and which I had seen the posters of everywhere). Despite that, the series quickly became (and has remained since) one of my all time favourite series. I have waited eagerly for the sequel trilogy to finally arrive, and now that I have time away from university during Christmas break, I’ll finally be able to dive in to it. But before that, I thought I would revisit His Dark Materials here first.

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‘The Call of Cthulhu’ by H.P. Lovecraft

Call of Cthulhu Weird Tales Cover‘The Call of Cthulhu’ is a short story written by H.P. Lovecraft in 1926, and first published in Weird Tales in 1928. Forming one part of Lovecraft’s larger Cthulhu Mythos, this story tells the tale of Francis Wayland Thurston, who discovers notes left by his grand-uncle about a cult surrounding a monstrous being part octopus, part dragon. This leads him on a quest to find out more about both the cult and the monster, but he is made morbidly horrified of what he finds out.

Since his death, Lovecraft and his short stories have gained an immense cult following, to the point that Lovecraftian horror is its own sub-genre. I have thus been, for many years, curious to read some of his writing so that I could judge it for myself, but until now I have just never got around to doing it. I am, however, glad that I did so now.

Continue reading “‘The Call of Cthulhu’ by H.P. Lovecraft”

Peter and Wendy by J.M. Barrie

Peter And Wendy CoverPeter and Wendy is the 1911 children’s fantasy novel by J.M. Barrie based on his earlier 1904 play Peter Pan; or, the Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up. It tells the story of Wendy Darling, and her two yougner brothers, John and Michael, who are visited and taken to Neverland by Peter Pan, the one boy who does not grow up, and his fairy Tinker Bell, whose dust allows the Darling children to fly. The children join the Lost Boys in Neverland, and together they have multiple adventures involving mermaids, American Indians, and Captain Hook’s pirate crew.

Of course, the fame of the characters Barrie created is so great that it is impossible to not be aware of them; in fact, Peter Pan seems more famous than either the play or the novel, or even Barrie himself. Because of that, I was very excited to read the novel so that I could see where it all started from. To some extent, I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the novel; but, on other fronts I was also quite disappointed with what I found there.

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Five Children and It by E. Nesbit (Psammead Trilogy Book 1)

Five Children and It CoverFive Children and It is a 1902 children’s fantasy novel by E. Nesbit, and the first in a trilogy of books about concerning the core five children. The book tells the story of Cyril, Anthea, Robert, Jane, and their baby brother Lamb, and how they find a Psammead (a sand-fairy) after they move to the countryside, who agrees to grant the children one wish every day. The plot consists of a series of adventures concerning those wishes.

Despite the immense fame of E. Nesbit, before this book I had actually never read any of her works. This made me particularly excited to finally read something of hers. Despite my awareness of her, however, and the fact that she wrote children’s novels, I had no idea what to expect from this story.

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Lud-in-the-Mist by Hope Mirrlees

Lud in the Mist CoverLud-in-the-Mist is a 1926 early fantasy novel by Modernist author Hope Mirrlees. It is set in the city of Lud-in-the-Mist in the land of Dorimare, who shares a border with Fairyland. Following a brief but bloody revolution in the city’s past, the Duke of the city was replaced by the merchant class, and fairy fruit was made illegal and taboo. Somehow, however, to the present day fairy fruit keeps creeping into the city, and the novel focuses on the mayor of the town, Nathaniel Chanticleer, who gets caught in a fairy fruit-related controversy and must get to the bottom of who is behind it.

On many fronts, this novel has always been well-regarded: it was reprinted in the 1970s in the highly influential Ballantine Adult Fantasy Series, and in the 2000s in Orion Books’s Fantasy Masterworks series; furthermore, many notable contemporary fantasy authors, such as Michael Swanwick and Neil Gaiman, are active proponents of the book. Despite this, however, the book has never reached a particularly wide readership. Knowing all of this, I was particularly interested to see how I would like the book.

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Everything Change: An Anthology of Climate Fiction, edited by Manjana Milkoreit, Meredith Martinez, and Joey Eschrich

Everything Change CoverEverything Change: An Anthology of Climate Fiction is exactly what the subtitle says that it is. The short stories are the twelve best stories submitted to the 2016 Climate Fiction Short Story Contest held by the Imagination and Climate Futures Initiative at the Arizona State University. Perhaps best of all, the anthology is freely available from Arizona State University’s website (a google search of the title will lead you to the right page easily enough).

I went into this anthology wanting to love it. I feel strongly about climate change, considering it a disgrace that it is not being taken more seriously, and as I had yet to read any stories about the topic, I was excited to fix that now. With that excitement came, admittedly, rather high expectations: I wanted to be blown away. Which is why it saddens (and, to be honest, angers) me to say that this anthology was a big let-down.

Continue reading Everything Change: An Anthology of Climate Fiction, edited by Manjana Milkoreit, Meredith Martinez, and Joey Eschrich”