Book Review: La Belle Sauvage by Philip Pullman

La Belle Sauvage by Philip Pullman

ONE of the literature’s most popular heroines returns in this prequel to the ‘His Dark Materials’ trilogy, seventeen years after the final volume was published.

Once again, Pullman draws his reader into the world of witches, armoured bears and daemons, this time following the struggle of pot-washer Malcolm and barmaid Alice who become tasked with rescuing baby Lyra from her mother, the formidable Mrs Coulter, and delivering her to her father Lord Asriel.

The society they live in is torn between those who support the resistance movement, known as Oakley Street, which battles to undermine the fascist Magisterium organisation imposing totalitarian rule with a group of sinister agents known as the Stasi.

The Magisterium’s power seems inescapable, highlighted when Malcolm’s school is taken over the League of St Alexander movement, which advises their member to rat on nonconformists which makes teachers become terrified of their students.

Malcolm becomes drawn into the world of political subterfuge early on after he sees a stranger deliver a secret message before being assaulted by a pair of thugs. Meanwhile, Baby Lyra is being sheltered by a group of nuns in a nearby priory. When a flood devastates the town, Malcolm escapes with Alice and baby Lyra in his beloved canoe ‘La Belle Sauvage’, with sinister ex-con Gerard Bonneville in hot pursuit.

Soon they’re wrestling with the powers that govern their universe, including the controversial Dust particles, the Magisterum’s oppression and the strange technology of the aletheiometer.

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