I was very excited to hear on the bookish grapevine yesterday that Philip Pullman is revisiting His Dark Materials in October this year with a new ‘equel’ series – another trilogy of books set both before and after the original.
For those of you who might not have come across these books, perhaps you were so obsessed with Harry Potter that they passed you by in the late 90s / early 00s, this clever, magical narrative explores the adventures of Lyra Belacqua and her daemon companion Pantalaimon as they get sucked into a world of Dust and realm jumping that takes her far beyond her home at Jordan College, Oxford.
I have long been a fan of Pullman’s work – it’s complex and has real depth that takes it farther than most YA fiction dares to tread. Not only is it full of the magical fantasy elements that you might expect, but it deals with interesting concepts of family, loyalty and friendship in a manner that doesn’t simplify or patronise. The relationships displayed are real, flawed and unexpected – keeping you hooked throughout.
Pullman explained that the draw to return to His Dark Materials was built not only on a desire to explore the world of Dust in more depth, but that he has been influenced by recent political events: “at the centre of The Book of Dust is the struggle between a despotic and totalitarian organisation, which wants to stifle speculation and inquiry, and those who believe thought and speech should be free”.
These books have never shied away from controversy – they have been roundly condemned by Christian organisations as promoting a world without God. Pullman is a well known supporter of the British Humanist Association and describes himself as a Church of England Atheist. It will be interesting to see how these ideas are developed further in the new trilogy.
If you haven’t yet got stuck into this brilliant series – do it. The first book in the new series is being released on October 19th.