The Book of Dust (La Belle Sauvage) by Philip Pullman – Book Review.

Title: La Belle Sauvage (The Book of Dust Volume One)

Author: Philip Pullman

Rating: 4.5/5

Genre: High Fantasy, Epic Fantasy, Science Fiction, Young Adult


It has been decades in the making and has garnered legions and legions of new fans every week. In the world of YA fiction, this was going to be a revolutionary event. One that we, as readers of the original trilogy, had grown up adoring and clamouring for. And finally, a  few weeks ago, Philip Pullman’s long-awaited addition to His Dark Materials world was finally published, and I jumped at the chance to get it a day before the actual publication date (it’s handy to know people in the publishing industry).

And here is my official review for La Belle Sauvage: Volume One of The Book of Dust. 

Set 10 years before the start of Northern Lights, La Belle Sauvage follows the tale of the incredibly likable Malcolm Polstead and his daemon Asta and how he came to become acquainted with the heroic Lord Asriel, a baby Lyra Belacqua and help set the course of His Dark Materials. After living a quiet and relatively peaceful life in his parents’ pub, The Trout, on the outskirts of Oxford, Malcolm’s life soon turns upside down when a baby is snuck into the convent and put into the care of the nuns. It is then up to Malcolm to help shield this baby from the nefarious powers which want to cause harm to the child, and the lengths that he will go to protect Lyra.

Like with its predecessors, La Belle Sauvage is heavily influenced by Christian ideology and Biblical stories. Towards the end of the novel, there is an event that is very reminiscent of the Great Flood, and there is also an overlying story arc where the world that Malcolm lives in is controlled by ‘The Magisterium’ – known commonly as The Church. Fans of Pullman’s Dark Materials trilogy will be familiar with this type of world-building, but I also don’t think it provides too much confusion for standalone reading. That is one thing I must stress about this book. La Belle Sauvage (despite being another piece of the world of Lyra’s world) doesn’t need the contextual read of Pullman’s other novels. It has strength and understanding on its own. The novel also deals with bigotry, persecution and the League of St Alexander – a group that is remarkably similar to the Hitler Youth and Orwell’s 1984. 

For me, this novel had its strengths in the first two-thirds of the story. I feel that with the introduction of giants, river gods and fairies in the last third/flood scenes, it became a bit too ‘Studio Ghibli’ for me to digest. I felt that if he had introduced them earlier, it wouldn’t have been so jarring. (Side Note: I love Studio Ghibli, but I feel that it doesn’t blend well when you push them into Pullman’s world without any backstory.)

Once again, the character writing is fantastic. Malcolm is a singularly brilliant and complex character. One so driven by his need to protect Lyra, that he is willing to leave his family and deliver her back to her father. However, we do see moments of struggle with him, which the reader see him for what he is: a mature and conscientious eleven-year-old. The other characters, like the plucky Alice really come into their own as the novel progresses and Malcolm gets to know her. Fans of the original series will also be happy to see the return of Lord Asriel and Mrs. Coulter.

A return to the captivating world of His Dark Materials, La Belle Sauvage feels a bit like coming home. We, as fans of the original series, will love the journey back into the world where humans have daemons (visceral pieces of their soul living as animals) and new readers will be transported to a universe that is so unlike anything they’ve ever read before. With a perfect blend of new material and old favourites, I can’t wait for the next installment!

To buy the book.

Amazon

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What I’m Reading Wednesday – 1st November.

Lately I’ve been a little uninspired with blogging, so I’ve decided to do a What I’m Reading series. This is a brief update on me as a reader, and I’d love if you guys answered it with me.

1: What have you finished reading.

2: What are you currently reading.

3: What will you read next.


1: What have you finished reading?

The Book of Dust by Philip Pullman – review coming soon!

The Good People by Hannah Kent – review also coming soon!

2: What are you currently reading?

Burial Rights by Hannah Kent

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Currently really enjoying it. I’ve never read a book set in Iceland before, and I’m loving finding out about different cultures and worlds.

3: What will you read next?

Anno Dracula – One Thousand Monsters by Kim Newman. (One of my favourite series and I can’t wait to read this on holiday)

Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow (I’m seeing Hamilton in April next year, so I want to clue myself up as much as I can before then)

 

Happy Hump Day everyone ♥

-Alice

 

Top 5 Books- Fantasy Sagas

Now, I’m a girl who loves a good fantasy series. Fantasy books and television series can transport you to new worlds, and through the characters you grow to love, or hate, you can witness political backstabbing, murders, battles and mythical beasts.

So, in this Top 5 post, I thought I’d give my favourite fantasy book sagas, for any readers who have yet to stumble upon this genre.

1: A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R Martin.a_song_of_ice_and_fire_by_ertacaltinoz-d9fzd8e

I’ve actually done a full review of this book saga on my blog, so I won’t go too in-depth here. So what I will say is this book saga is excellent and intricate. Wars, old grudges and bloodlust makes for very interesting reading, and the saga has been made into an award-winning television series. I would rate this a very obvious staple choice if you want to read any fantasy at the moment.

2: The Kingkiller Chronicle by Patrick Rothfuss.

the_kingkiller_chronicle_one_and_twoWith two novels published in this soon-to-be trilogy, this saga is a favourite of mine. The story-telling is good, the plot is highly enjoyable and the fact of it being somewhat of a biography for the main character, a mysterious figure known as Kvothe, makes me love it more. I have read and reread this story, and I still find it as enjoyable as when I first picked it up. If you like high fantasy, excellent writing and a host of unique characters, I suggest this.

3: His Dark Materials by Phillip Pullman.51sf-9svtul-_sx319_bo1204203200_

This is a book series you just have to read. And don’t be put off by the bad adaptation of the first book. His Dark Materials really transcend all age ranges and different audiences. Featuring alternative worlds, witches, polar bear warriors and battles with God and religion, this saga is not only brilliant at world-building, but the writing is easy enough for young teenagers to understand.

4: 200px-thewayofkingsThe Stormlight Archives by Brandon Sanderson.

Once again, I’ve done a review on the first book here, but this series really deserves to be on this list. World-building in this series is done masterfully, and if you like battles, magic, different cultures and history, then you’d like this series. The characters are complex and well thought out, and I never felt bored when reading this ornate world.

5: The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R Tolkien.

I doubt there could be a fantasy book list without this saga. Written in the 1950s as a sequel to The Hobbit, Lord of the Rings revolutionised the world olotr111f high fantasy and epic fantasy and has been influenced authors for years to come. The books are atypical of Tolkien’s florid and highly descriptive writing style, and follow the story of the destruction of the One Ring by the Hobbit, Frodo Baggins and his comrades.  So I would say, if you’re looking for the ultimate of ultimate fantasy novels to read, why not try this? You can’t be worse off. And then watch the movies.

So here are my top 5 choices. I doubt there are any shockers on here, but if you have any comments or queries, just send me a question.

 

 

The Pastry Book Tag

Firstly, a big thank you to the lovely DriftingLexi for nominating me for my first book tag! And with all these yummy pastry-titles, I can tell it is a delicious tag already.

  1. Croissant: Name a popular book or series that everyone (including you) loves.

Harry Potter by J.K Rowling.

Is it cliché of me to write this? But I cannot think of a better example. Now, I cannot speak for every single person in the whole, wide world, but with over 450 million copies sold and countless of fans, huge theme parks, fandoms, merchandise and movies, this is probably one of the biggest and most-loved book series in the world. In my personal view, I started Harry Potter when I was about six years old, and now, as a twenty-one year old English graduate, this book series made me become a reader, a writer, a dreamer and an aspiring author. It helped me become the person I am today, have the values I have, and through Harry Potter, I actually met and made my best friend.

I just love this series too much. It’s in my DNA and part of my soul.

2. Macaron: Name a book that was hard to get through but worth it at the end.

A Clash of Kings by George R.R Martin.

Now, this was a doozy of a book. Physically massive, different narrative voices, a lot of intertwining plot lines, fantastical elements and one hell of a battle scene. Now, I love ASOIAF as a series. I’ve read it countless times, I’ve watched the series and for somebody who hasn’t read a lot of high fantasy, I thoroughly loved it. But I always struggle with this second book, even on these re-reads. It’s so large, has so many voices, so many different worlds and political points which do intertwine, but they are so separate in the same way. But, in the bigger picture, it is crucial for the series, and makes the other books look tiny in comparison!

3. Vol-au-vent: Name a book that you thought would be amazing but fell flat.

Fate by L.R Fredericks.

Okay, I am definitely one of those people who just obsessively buys books when I adore the blurb. And Fate had that. It had the tantalising words of ‘gilded salons of Ancien Regime’ and ‘courtesans and castrati, alchemists and anatomists’, and I basically threw it down on the counter with my money. But this was one of the most disappointing books I’ve read. It was confusing, didn’t live up to the blurb, and only really tied the loose strings together in the last few chapters. I don’t like giving up on books, but this was one I was super close to doing.

4. Pain au chocolat: Name a book that you thought would be one thing but turned out to be something else.

The Company of the Dead by David Kowalski

Once again, I judged it by the blurb. But this book, which initially had the premise of an alternate history linked with the Titanic and, I thought, would be focusing on a retelling of the Titanic and what happened really turned into this spy/detective novel that had far-spacing sections of Titanic that proved unsatisfactory. The novel wasn’t the best, as it was confusing, too long, rambling and unnecessary. If Kowalski just stuck with a retelling of the Titanic story, and did present an alternate timeline, it would have been far more interesting.

5. Profiterole: Name a book or series that doesn’t get enough attention.

The House of Special Purpose by John Boyne.

Now, if you don’t know me, you won’t know that I have a vast (and I mean VAST, such as 150) collection of Imperial Russia books. I adore the Romanovs, and the period that surrounds them. So I will always read any fictional accounts of this period. And, completely by accident I found this book in a charity shop. Written by the same author as The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, Boyne is already an accomplished author, and this is another historical fiction novel. Set in pre-Revolutionary Russia, it focuses on a tale of a rags-to-riches peasant boy called Georgy who became the tsarevich’s personal bodyguard. However, when revolution swept over the country, Georgy has to follow the family to their exile, and his fate is sealed and tied to this family forever. Written in a very historically accurate manner, I found it highly enjoyable, and did catch myself actually crying at some bits. And for such a fanatic about the Romanovs, who usually hates the rumours of Anna Anderson and all the myths that came about one of the daughter’s surviving the assassination, this is a big deal for me.

6. Croquembouche: Name a book or series that’s extremely complex.

A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess.

Now, I adore this book so much. I love, love, love it. The story is just so interesting, Alex is a fascinating protagonist, and it has all the qualities of a brilliant dystopian novel that I search for. But I did find it very complex, just because of the Russian-influenced argot that Burgess writes in. And I think it if you read it and just didn’t over think about the language, it would be fine. But, of course I didn’t. I basically demanded a glossary next to me.

7. Napoleon: Name a movie or TV show based off a book that you liked better than the book itself.

Northern Lights by Philip Pullman.

I feel like this is a universal acknowledgement  that Northern Lights was just significantly better than the 2007 The Golden Compass. Despite the film having a fairly good cast, the novel was just better. Lyra in the film was annoying, whilst Lyra in the book seemed rebellious. The daemon-human bond was better explained in the book, and it actually tugged on the heartstrings of everyone reading it, and the film changed the plot too much and had an entirely different, and worse ending. I remember feeling like this when I saw it in the cinema, and I certainly feel like it now after revisiting both.

8. Empanada: Name a book that was bittersweet.

The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafron.

One of my favourite books of ALL time. Set in Barcelona, this book has a labyrinth of books, a masked figure, mystery, romance, decadence, abandoned mansions, death, obsession and the past catching up with the present. What more do you want? But there is one character in this novel. And this one character is the reason I put it under this particular heading. Because it is a tragic character. This person loved, lost and never really got over that loss. And this character, who is pretty central to the book, has to watch as their world is dismantled around them, and watch other characters find love, family and companionship, yet they can never truly be at peace. I don’t want to give too much away, but please, read it!

9. Kolompeh: Name a book or series that takes place somewhere other than your home country.

Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden.

Another favourite, this novel is set in pre-war Japan, and surrounded by the cherry-blossoms, kimonos, geishas, tea houses and beautiful Japanese gardens. Written in a first-person perspective, this novel follows the life of a geisha working in Kyoto, and follows her as she goes through all the traditions of becoming a geisha, and working in a cruel, female-dominated world where her fellow geisha are as fake as the face-paint they wear. It also has war, death, destruction, abandonment and a little bit of star-crossed love, which I am very partial too.

10. Pate a Choux: Name one food from a book or series that you would like to try.

Now this is a difficult one. Because a lot of the books I read don’t have food that is too difficult, or hard to find in my life. Like, I happily eat Japanese food, and Spanish food and Russian dishes. So, I’m going to finish as I started, and choose something from the Harry Potter universe. And I want to be left alone in Honeydukes, eat my heart out, have a dinner of Pumpkin Pies, and then wash all those delicious sweets down with a pint of Butterbeer (or even a tiny drop of Firewhisky).

So once again, a HUGE thank you to DriftingLexi for the tag.

Now, I pick my three!

Wallace @ Thoughts, Musings and Storytelling.

Becca @ Shih Tzu Book Reviews

Catherine @ Books Bird 

Thanks guys!

– Alice