Northern Lights

Northern Lights
Image source: Google

Rating: 4.6/5

Author: Philip Pullman

Publisher: Scholastic; 3 edition

Publication Date: 31 August 2017

Language: English

Genre: Adventure

ISBN-10: 1407130226

ISBN-13: 978-1407130224

Format: Paperback

Pages: 448

Cost: Rs.284 (Paperback) , Rs.135 (Kindle)


Northern Lights introduces ‘Lyra’, the feisty and resourceful heroine of His Dark Materials trilogy. The depth and strength of Lyra's character pulls the reader into this book as she goes in search of a missing friend and is drawn into a parallel universe where her father has been imprisoned.

The novel is set in a world dominated by an international theocracy, the Magisterium also commonly called "the Church. In this world, humans' souls naturally exist outside of their bodies in the form of sentient "demons", talking animal spirits that constantly accompany, aid, and comfort their humans. Children's demons can freely and instantaneously change their appearance into that of any creature; during puberty, however, their demons settle into one permanent form.

Northern Lights is the first book of the trilogy, His Dark Materials (1995 to 2000). Alfred A. Knopf published the first US edition April 1996, entitled ‘The Golden Compass’.


His Dark Materials trilogy is probably the most socially relevant fantasy series for young adults, considering how badly organized religion is currently affecting the world, & especially India. Although he sees His Dark Materials as "stark realism" and not fantasy.

Northern lights is really descriptive and has the perfect balance between what’s real and what’s magic. There’s magical realism and there are plenty of fairy tale elements.

There are beautiful descriptions in the book such as;

‘Looking up at the stone pinnacles of the chapel, the pearl-green cupola of the Sheldon Building, the white painted Lantern of the Library.’

‘Men and women are moved by tides much fiercer than you can imagine, and they sweep us all into the current.’

‘The bleakest barest most inhospitable godforsaken dead-end of nowhere.’

Pullman describes himself as a totalitarian despot while writing. He doesn’t know or think about the reader while he is writing, writing is none of their business, he comes first and then his editor. Readers all bring their own experiences and expectations when reading, interpretations can be varied and the reader decides what it means. The voice of his narration is thoughtful, someone who goes in to characters minds; Almost as if floating, in free-indirect style.

Fact About the Book:

In the US, publisher Knopf had been calling the first book The Golden Compass (singular), which it mistakenly understood as a reference to Lyra's alethiometer (depicted on the front cover shown at the head of this article), because of the device's resemblance to a navigational compass. By the time Pullman had replaced The Golden Compasses with His Dark Materials as the name of the trilogy, the US publisher had become so attached to the original title that it insisted on publishing the first book as The Golden Compass rather than as Northern Lights, the title used in Britain and Australia.

Milestones of the Book:

  • Pullman won both the annual ‘Carnegie Medal’ for British children's books and the annual Guardian Children's Fiction Prize for Northern Lights, an award which authors can only win once in their lifetime. Six books have won both awards in 45 years through 2011.
  • Northern Lights won the public vote from that shortlist and was thus named the all-time "Carnegie of Carnegies" on 21 June 2007.
  • In the US, The Golden Compass was named Booklist Editors Choice – Top of the List, Publishers Weekly Book of the Year, a Horn Book Fanfare Honor Book, and a Bulletin Blue Ribbon Book in 1996.


  • A film adaptation of Northern Lights, titled ‘The Golden Compass’, was released in December 2007 by New Line Cinema, starring Dakota Blue Richards as Lyra, along with Daniel Craig, Nicole Kidman, Eva Green, Sam Elliott and Ian McKellen.
  • His Dark Materials TV series was produced by the BBC and HBO, broadcast began on BBC One on 3 November 2019. London's Royal National Theatre staged a two-part theatrical version of His Dark Materials in December 2003. The same adaptation has since been staged by several other theatres in the UK and elsewhere.

About the Author:

Sir Philip Pullman (born 19 October 1946) is an English novelist. He is the author of several best-selling books, including the fantasy trilogy His Dark Materials and the fictionalised biography of Jesus, The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ. In 2008, The Times named Pullman one of the "50 greatest British writers since 1945".

In a 2004 poll for the BBC, Pullman was named the eleventh most influential person in British culture. He was knighted in the 2019 New Year Honours for "services to literature." Pullman has been a vocal campaigner on a number of book-related and political issues. Northern Lights, the first volume of Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy, won the 1995 Carnegie Medal from the Library Association, recognising the year's outstanding English-language children's book.