The first sentence that came to my mind after finishing this book was: anyone who would give this novel less than five stars has to be either a philistine, a charlatan, or a cynic. To add to that: a cynic grown so dull with the slop of the world that they have been rendered unable to see the raw charm of these characters Lyra and Will, and the amazing sad kind of beauty that comes with making the irreversible passage from childhood to adulthood.
Pullman is able to weave together in the thread of this narrative so many aspects of our worldly existence, including physics, evolution, literature, intraspective thinking (or meditative quieting of the mind, I’m not sure what to call it), religion, adolescence, and first love into a story that has all the charm and imaginative freedom of a fantasy work. Perhaps these themes could have been addressed without talking bears and animal daemon-companions, but the wonder of being able to explore this kind of magical world is what people who enjoy fantasy love about the genre.
There are depths here to reward rereading of this novel many times throughout one’s life, and it deserves to be shared with anyone who is sensitive, intelligent, and curious about the world around them. The story itself is thrilling at times, but there is such richness here in ideas that one does not feel the need to plow through the novel in order to find out about what happens in the plot. The chapters allow one to rest and think, and to feel the weight of what the characters are confronting in the deepest part of oneself.
An amazing work that impressed me more and more as I read through it. It truly felt like I went along in a journey that mattered, and will be sorry if the virtues and ideals I saw played out in this work aren’t made a model for myself in real life as well.