La Belle Sauvage by Philip Pullman

La Belle Sauvage

Malcolm Polstead is the kind of boy who notices everything but is not much noticed himself. And so perhaps it was inevitable that he would become a spy... Malcolm's father runs an inn called the Trout, on the banks of the river Thames, and all of Oxford passes through its doors. Malcolm and his dæmon, Asta, routinely overhear news and gossip, and the occasional scandal, bu...

Title:La Belle Sauvage
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Edition Language:English

La Belle Sauvage Reviews

  • mark monday

    A wonderful way to start off the new year, especially with the cold and the wet everywhere. I loved the slow pace of the first half, all of the details that brought life to sweet, curious Malcolm's world. I loved the thrill of the second half: its many surreal and threatening episodes, the rise of Malcolm's rage-dogs, the faerie queen and the witch queen, the bravery, and everything to do with grouchy Alice. The appalling villain Gerard Bonneville (and his three-legged hyena daemon) was fascinat

    A wonderful way to start off the new year, especially with the cold and the wet everywhere. I loved the slow pace of the first half, all of the details that brought life to sweet, curious Malcolm's world. I loved the thrill of the second half: its many surreal and threatening episodes, the rise of Malcolm's rage-dogs, the faerie queen and the witch queen, the bravery, and everything to do with grouchy Alice. The appalling villain Gerard Bonneville (and his three-legged hyena daemon) was fascinatingly perverse. I enjoyed the brief appearances by Lord Asriel and especially Mrs. Coulter. Loved all of the daemons (except hyena daemon of course, because hyenas are the worst) and

    was a lovely little boat. Pullman ratchets up the darkness a few notches but also makes certain that light is always present. So many entrancing, haunting, and exciting moments!

    This was a satisfying and exciting prequel that I look forward to rereading.

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  • Emily May

    It's hard to believe, but I was ten years old when I first read Pullman's

    trilogy. Along with

    , it is one of the standout reads of my childhood and, perhaps, my entire life. So, obviously, when I heard about

    , I simply

    to bury my skepticism and read it.

    And I think this book digs up the past pretty well. I’ve had mixed feelings about

    It's hard to believe, but I was ten years old when I first read Pullman's

    trilogy. Along with

    , it is one of the standout reads of my childhood and, perhaps, my entire life. So, obviously, when I heard about

    , I simply

    to bury my skepticism and read it.

    And I think this book digs up the past pretty well. I’ve had mixed feelings about this trend of revisiting old series and retelling everything from classic fairy tales to

    . When the publishers dug down to the 1950s and pulled out

    , when Stephen King published a sequel to

    almost 40 years after the original, every time Stephenie Meyer and E.L.James tell the same story from yet another point of view… I am reminded that we live in a world where marketability is far more powerful than just

    . Why work on building a new brand and creating a new audience when there is already one right there for you?

    That being said, I think

    does it right. Pullman captures the feel of the original trilogy but, at least so far, I don't feel like you need to read

    to understand this book (though, why wouldn't you? ^_^). However,

    . This book is clearly called "Volume 1" for a good reason, as it reads like the first section of a full novel, not as a standalone.

    Here we are taken back in time to when Lyra was a baby. We meet her parents and her spirited dæmon, Pantalaimon, through the eyes of the curious and adventurous, Malcolm Polstead, who finds himself forced to protect infant Lyra from the many threats she faces. Floods, disgusting villains, and scathing critiques of organized religion abound!

    But I should advise that it is

    . Though tantalising tidbits of magic and secrets are hinted at throughout the book, the action doesn’t really get going until over halfway through. To me, though, this is classic Pullman, and I wasn't bored for a second.

    climbs, slowly at first and then faster, towards a dark and brutal climax. Readers may wish to be aware of a potentially triggering

    .

    I can't deny that it was an absolute pleasure to find myself once more in this world of dæmons, alethiometers and mystery. Only time and further volumes will tell if this trilogy really needed to be reopened, but I'm definitely coming along for the ride.

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  • Joey Woolfardis

    We delve back in to alternate-world Oxford, miles from armoured bears but surrounded yet again by daemons and the mysterious alethiometers, following a young boy named Malcolm who is stuck in a world where young working-class boys are mostly discouraged from learning beyond their schooling and are fervently taught that religion is the only truth.

    There is really no great ingenuity here that came previously with

    and honestly, that is the

    place to start with Philip Pullman.

    We delve back in to alternate-world Oxford, miles from armoured bears but surrounded yet again by daemons and the mysterious alethiometers, following a young boy named Malcolm who is stuck in a world where young working-class boys are mostly discouraged from learning beyond their schooling and are fervently taught that religion is the only truth.

    There is really no great ingenuity here that came previously with

    and honestly, that is the

    place to start with Philip Pullman. It begins idyllic and slow, building the story as the rain falls. Intrigue comes in to place in many parts, but it's quite often when you expect it. We meet characters we met in

    and you are setting yourself up for some major spoilers if you read this book first, but truthfully it is the journey of a book not the ending that makes it.

    Once the magic of the alethiometers turns up and the rain starts to become incredible, the story begins in earnest. It felt more like setting the scene took too long, but this alternate-world Oxford (and England) was altogether comforting and peaceful that it was difficult not to care too much about that. Returning to a world that one likes rather a lot is paramount to forgiving mostly anything.

    Of course, it is written by Philip Pullman and so the writing is almost perfect. There is nothing particularly lacking, though because it is written for children you get the slightly condensed characters that usually come with that genre, where they are not wholly fleshed out but made "simple". It's difficult to defend prequels or even sequels-hey, authors have to make money, too-but the alternate history/worlds of

    is such a vast, blindingly colourful world that there would be no end to the exploration of the place. The ideas, the daemons, the alethiometer, the dimensions and witches, armoured bears and gyptians, good versus evil and science versus religion is a ridiculously large field of such scope that even a trilogy, a double trilogy or a triply trilogy could never quite explore.

    My rating is mostly based on how much I enjoyed the writing (it's so nice to read books by people who can actually,

    write) and the story, along with nostalgia for

    . Really it is a 2-3 star story, with 5+ star ideas and 5 star writing, some 1 star characters, some 4 star. It encompasses a lot of feelings and emotions, and yet the overall feeling was simply comfort.

    This book comforted me, like a freshly change duvet on a warm summer's day, smelling faintly of lavender.

  • Prema Arasu

    Dear Mr. Pullman,

    Please never publish this book as I am writing a thesis on His Dark Materials and the addition of information to the canon will probably invalidate all of it.

    Thanks bro

    P. Arasu

  • Kristen

    This was my most anticipated read of 2017. After reading

    last year and falling in love with the world and having the story shatter me and embed itself deeply into my soul, I was so excited for this book, I would honestly go to bed smiling sometimes thinking about how awesome this book was going to be. I think it's safe to say that how I'm feeling now, after reading it, is a litt

    This was my most anticipated read of 2017. After reading

    last year and falling in love with the world and having the story shatter me and embed itself deeply into my soul, I was so excited for this book, I would honestly go to bed smiling sometimes thinking about how awesome this book was going to be. I think it's safe to say that how I'm feeling now, after reading it, is a little bit more than disappointed. I honestly want to cry when I think about how let down I am. I'm not even sure what I wanted from this book, I just know that I didn't get it.

    Okay, so I'm going to start with what I liked, before this turns into a rant review.

    1.

    I had never given much thought to what a person's daemon is like when they're a baby, but the amount of cuteness that this entails is out of this dimension.

    2.

    Kid did good. Good job, kid.

    3.

    She was the most real character to me in this story. She wasn't beautiful. In fact, she was even described as ratty at one point. I appreciated that and also her strength, tenacity, as well as her vulnerability at times.

    And now for the longer list,

    1.

    Okay, so obviously

    happened, but for a 450 page book, nothing happened. For the majority of the book, it's just about getting Lyra from one part of town during a flood to the next. Pullman said somewhere that this book wasn't going to be a prequel or a sequel, but an

    He lied. If this isn't a prequel, I don't know what is.

    2.

    Yes, this is something I liked and something I disliked. At first, I was all: AWWWW. SHE'S SO PWECIOUS! But then it slowly dawned on me that she was going to be a baby throughout the whole book. I swear to goosh that I read somewhere that Pullman said the story would follow Lyra from the ages of 4 YEARS OLD to 20 YEARS OLD. Am I making this up? I honestly am so confused, because she was 6 months old throughout the whole dang thing. I was hoping that by the time she turned 20, she and Will would find a way to be together again. EXCUSE THE SHIT OUT OF ME FOR DARING TO DREAM! All I want is to live in a world where Lyra and Will can be together.

    3.

    I mean, obviously Pullman includes some controversial topics in his works. In

    , there were obviously

    things happening and some religious boundaries being crossed, but it was so magical, I didn't give a flying fluff. I honestly wasn't offended, just amazed at his creativity, genius and originality.

    I am no super Christian, but what happened with St. Alexander was effed the fuck up! Having a bad group of Christians go to all the schools and tell the kids a story about a kid who told on his parents and got them hung for not being a Christian and then being made a saint is a low blow to Christians, I feel. Honestly, it seems like Pullman is getting bitter in his old age. There are also instances of RAPE, STRONG LANGUAGE, MURDER, FLOATING DEAD BODIES and a WEIRD NAKED BREAST FEEDING/BABY THEFT SCENE that mildly disturbed me.

    4.

    I'm not talking about spells and wizardry and whatnot, I'm talking about that special feeling you get when all of the elements of a story come together to create pure magic in your heart and soul. There really wasn't anything about this book that made it any different than any other book in the world. Nothing special to set it apart from all the rest like

    had. No talking armored polar bears. No nothing.

    5.

    Listen, some people read one book a week and, for them, that is amazing. I'm the kind of person that likes to get through about 3 books a week. Somehow, this 450 page book took me an entire week to finish. And it took away my excitement for reading the entire time. I kind of dreaded picking it back up, because I was afraid that the next disturbing thing to happen would lessen my opinion of the original trilogy somehow. I don't think it did, thankfully. I'm just going to mentally compartmentalize these two series into different categories, and not let this dud dampen my appreciation for

    I think that I will probably pick up the next book in the series, although probably from the library as to not waste my money, because I've come this far and I'm still holding out hope that it will get better. After all, it wasn't until the third book in the original series that my soul was shattered. You never know. I might even like the next book.

  • Simona Bartolotta

    29/05/2017: TITLE TITLE TITLE. IT IS SO LOVELY. AND THERE IS A BLURB TOO!

    15/02/2017: This comes out in October -do you know what that means? It means that Simona is going to re-read all three books of

    before then! Yay!

  • Dannii Elle

    A companion trilogy to

    series!

  • Bookdragon Sean

    Phillip Pullman is clearly capable of great things. He achieves an absolute mastery of tone, style and plot in

    However, I found none of that mastery in this book.

    Admittedly, I had major reservations going into it; yet, for all that, I did approach it with an open mind. I tried to appreciate it for what it was, though sadly that really isn’t much to get excited about. The writing is average, the plot slow and the new characters rather bland and ordinary.

    For me, the biggest pr

    Phillip Pullman is clearly capable of great things. He achieves an absolute mastery of tone, style and plot in

    However, I found none of that mastery in this book.

    Admittedly, I had major reservations going into it; yet, for all that, I did approach it with an open mind. I tried to appreciate it for what it was, though sadly that really isn’t much to get excited about. The writing is average, the plot slow and the new characters rather bland and ordinary.

    For me, the biggest problem this book has is its lack of autonomy. The most exciting episodes of the plot were when characters from

    were mentioned or even appeared in the flesh. Granted, this is a companion trilogy and, certainly, this was clearly meant to be read with the other trilogy in mind, but it still needs enough strength to stand on its own to an extent. And sadly it just doesn’t possess that strength. The plot was exceedingly underdeveloped in the first half and the second half only served to usher Lyra’s arrival in Oxford.

    The new characters Pullman has written aren’t exactly remarkable or interesting. Malcolm, the protagonist, is a very typical leading man with his heroic traits and natural intelligence that has yet to find a proper channel. All in all, he’s a pretty standard person whose only real passion seems to be his boat named

    His friend, and possible love interest, Alice is angry with Malcolm because he doesn’t notice her. She kicks him, shouts at him and wishes for his attention. Her feelings were firmly established early on yet were majorly underworked through the rest of the novel.

    In terms of narrative progression, I feel like the story barely moved forward. Again, for the first half it stayed in the same place with Malcom running errands, spying on people, checking on a six month old Lyra and reading a few books. In the second half he spent most of it on a boat arguing with Alice and looking for Lord Asriel. It lacked a certain sense of purpose and urgency. I never felt like the important characters were really in danger, obviously because we know where they’re going to end up from reading the previous trilogy.

    Whist this book is far from being dreadful, it is completely unengaging. There’s so much in

    worthy of literary criticism, but absolutely nothing here. I have no reason to actually read the rest of the series. At this point I have to ask myself the essential question: why did he even write this?

  • Trish

    I'm usually weary of prequels of any kind. It often sounds like a movie company, author or whoever wants to cash in on past successes. In case of Philip Pullman, I was a bit more optimistic - especially after reading

    only last month (I had only known the very first book up to that point). Also, Pullman was indeed asked if this was a prequel, to which he gave the perfect answer, calling it an "eque

    I'm usually weary of prequels of any kind. It often sounds like a movie company, author or whoever wants to cash in on past successes. In case of Philip Pullman, I was a bit more optimistic - especially after reading

    only last month (I had only known the very first book up to that point). Also, Pullman was indeed asked if this was a prequel, to which he gave the perfect answer, calling it an "equel". Besides, I was curious where he would take us readers as it was known in advance that we'd meet baby Lyra and a few well-known characters alongside a host of new ones here. And we did.

    La Belle Sauvage is the name of a canoe that belongs to 11-year-old Malcolm who lives with his parents. They have an inn near Oxford and it is there (as well as at a priory where Malcolm helps the nuns) that he hears strange rumours and makes a discovery that will change his life forever.

    He is sucked into a whirlwind of intrigue and religious oppression, becoming a little spy even. And he is shown an alethiometer.

    At some point, he and a girl named Alice, who works at the inn, have to save baby Lyra from the forces converging around her exactly at the moment a huge flood sets in.

    The rest of the book is a wonderfully strange quest through a half-drowned world to get away from the bad guys and save innocent little Lyra and her daemon (which is a quest to save every inquisitve mind that advocates free speech and a free spirit).

    It was very gratifying to read about

    .

    Pullman even

    .

    What is once again so remarkable (apart from the wonderful daemons) is Pullman's ability to weave in so many ideas and social/political criticisms into the narrative without it ever getting boring or preachy. The League of Alexander as a nod to the Red Scares in the US and the SS/Stasi in Germany, respectively, but also the trademark criticism of religious institutions and their despotic and totalitarian way of stifling speculation and enquiry are just two examples of this author's mastery.

    I was very glad to have recognized Malcolm almost at once from the later books and was so pleased about how he was portrayed and put in the spotlight here (

    ). Ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances rising to the challenge to do the right things even if it is dangerous and hard.

    As the other three books, this too gets metaphysical but never so much that the reader (no matter the age) can't follow. In fact, Pullman always makes sure to balance the science aspect with folklore (in this case the king's roads and fae realm especially).

    By the way, as

    was a nod to Milton, so this new trilogy apparently is a nod to Spenser’s

    which is even quoted in the end. Or maybe it's just this first book, I'm not sure yet, because the second one will make a huge time jump to 10 years after Lyra comes back from the Arctic at the end of the previous trilogy (this second installment is already finished and is scheduled to be published in about a year). I can't wait to see where Pullman is taking us next because one thing is for sure: he never does not have anything to say!

    P.S.: This version is the signed hardcopy but I did also listen to the wonderful Michael Sheen narrating the audiobook and was enchanted.

  • Emily (Books with Emily Fox)

    3.5?

    I was excited to read more from that world. I have to say the book left me a bit... unsatisfied? I wanted more and I will continue reading this series but it mostly felt like an intro, not a full book.

    However, it made me want to reread His Dark Materials ASAP!


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