Philip Pullman’s ‘His Dark Materials’ is a trilogy of fantasy novels, which takes place across a multiverse, moving between many parallel worlds. These thrilling adventures tell the story of Lyra and Will — two ordinary children on a perilous journey through shimmering haunted otherworlds.
The trilogy that make up ‘His Dark Materials’ —
Northern Lights (1995)
The book is published as The Golden Compass in North America. It tells about 11-year-old Lyra Belacqua, who lives half-wild and carefree among the scholars of Jordan College, Oxford, with her daemon Pantalaimon always by her side. But the arrival of her fearsome uncle, Lord Asriel, draws her to the heart of a terrible struggle — a struggle born of Gobblers and stolen children, witch clans and armoured polar bears.
The Subtle Knife (1997)
Lyra journeys through Asriel’s opening between worlds to Cittàgazze, a haunted city whose denizens discovered a way to travel between worlds. Here, the soul-eating Spectres stalk the streets and wingbeats of distant angels sound against the sky. Twelve-year-old Will Parry, fleeing for his life after taking another’s, has also stumbled into this strange new realm. During their journey, Lyra and Will uncover a deadly secret — an object of extraordinary and devastating power.
The Amber Spyglass (2000)
The book sees kidnapping of Lyra by her mother. Will and Lyra, whose fates are bound together by powers beyond their own worlds, have been violently separated. But they must find each other, for ahead of them lies the greatest war that has ever been and a journey to a dark place from which no one has ever returned.
Pullman followed the trilogy with three novellas set in the Northern Lights universe; Lyra’s Oxford (2003), Once Upon a Time in the North (2008), and Serpentine (2020).
Northern Lights won the Carnegie Medal for children’s fiction in the UK in 1995. In June 2007 it was voted, in an online poll, as the best Carnegie Medal winner in the seventy-year history of the award, the Carnegie of Carnegies. The Amber Spyglass won the 2001 Whitbread Book of the Year award, the first time that such an award has been bestowed on a book from their ‘children’s literature’ category. In 2005, Pullman received the Swedish government’s Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award for children’s and youth literature.
- The London’s Royal National Theatre staged a two-part adaptation of the trilogy in 2003–2004.
BBC Radio 4 broadcasted a radio play adaptation in three episodes, each lasting 2.5 hours.
- A film adaptation of Northern Lights, ‘The Golden Compass’ was released in 2007.
- A BBC television series based on the novels commenced broadcast in November 2019.
Although His Dark Materials is marketed as young adult fiction, Pullman wrote with no target audience in mind. Fantasy elements include witches and armoured bears; it alludes to concepts from physics, philosophy and theology.