Wednesday, June 6, 2018

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

Philip Pulman explores the dangers of theocracies where religion is used to silence people that question the government instead of not single-mindedly following societal rules that infringe on freedoms. In all his novels, he celebrates intellectual curiosity and denounces demagoguery and tyranny in favor of tolerance and justice. While His Dark Materials trilogy explores daemons, an anthropomorphic animal that is connected to humans, this prequel assumes the reader knows about them, the altheiometer, and more. I recommend not reading this book first in the series not only because background knowledge is helpful, but because the content involves a stalker/ pedophile that is for a young adult versus middle-grade audience. It is well-written with tension, has great character development, a nasty villain, and some pacing issues.

In the trilogy, the Church viewed daemons as sin and the symbiotic relationship between daemons and humans is established through figurative language. The daemon is the human psyche and often acts as a foil or reveals character traits. For instance, Mrs. Coulter was charming and people were drawn to her but her golden monkey daemon was malicious showing her ruthlessness. The villain in this story is similar. He can be charming but his daemon is evil. The daemon symbolizes the how the inner psyche of a person never fully revealed to others. It's also taboo to touch another's daemon because it is too private. In this novel, Lyra's daemon is touched suggesting it is a learned trait. The daemons add insight and self-awareness to characters and readers. This novel focuses on the Church using school children to indoctrinate them to turn against those that speak against the government and gain power versus the daemon as a symbol of sin. The protagonist, Malcolm, is a bright, curious boy who helps the nuns protect Lyra as a baby.

The first part of the plot involves Malcolm uncovering the mystery of Lyra and those who want to take her. The second part involves a flood of biblical proportions and one long chase. While the second part has more action and magical elements, I liked the mystery of part 1 better. It's slower paced but Pullman pulls in more themes that I thought added depth such as the nuns that refuse to question the Church's dogmatic position even though they are good, reasonable people or the establishment of the League of St. Andrew's that mirrors the Nazi's indoctrination of youth. Part 2 has characters from the previous books and I couldn't remember them as I read the series over ten years ago and I thought they slowed the plot. I should have reread the trilogy. Pullman does use the symbol of the flood during Noah's time that cleansed the world of sin in part 2, but I thought the idea was undeveloped in terms of plot. He also uses the youth indoctrination in another scene but it felt repetitive and forcing the action.

Let's talk about the villain. He's a convicted sex offender, pedophile and stalks women; however, his first impression is likable and smart. His daemon is evil and Malcolm's progression from innocent boy protecting a child to being forced to do the unthinkable was disturbing. Writer's mention creating memorable villains and while this character achieves that goal, it was too extreme for me. You'll have to decide for yourself.

4 Smileys

No comments:

Post a Comment