“The Golden Compass” by Philip Pullman

This was a delightful read. The Golden Compass is a book I’ve wanted to read for over 10 years now, but I kept putting it off. I’d attempted it shortly after graduating college, but didn’t feel drawn to the story and had difficulty with the concept of daemons, so I gave up on the book but vowed to return to it when I felt more receptive to the story. I’m glad I did that. Reading it in 2023 was the best time to pick it up.


GENRE

MG Fantasy

SERIES

His Dark Materials, book 1

Pubbed

1995

Quick summary

The Golden Compass is the first novel in a middle-grade fantasy series. In this book, the story is set in a world that mirrors our own and is centered on Lyra Belacqua, a brave golden-haired girl who’s supposedly an orphan, which is why she’s raised among the Scholars of Jordan College (which I thought of as the equivalent of Oxford) — the only girl there as women are not often Scholars.

It’s natural, in this world, that every human has a daemon, a being in the form of an animal that’s an outward expression of the human’s inner self. A daemon completes a human, so to see a human without one is akin to seeing someone without a head, or other essential body part. Children’s daemons are quite versatile and can take on any animal form, it seems, but daemons stop changing as the human grows older and more settled into who they are.

The story here is focused on Lyra beginning to fulfill her destiny, which is prophesied to be great and lead her away from her present world. This begins to come about when she learns from her Uncle Asriel, an explorer, about the presence of Dust — which I think of as magic particles. From Asriel she learns that there are Dust particles in the Aurora Borealis, which provides a window into other worlds that people can sometimes glimpse. Asriel is interested in travelling to these other worlds and visits Jordan College to seek its Master’s approval, and funds, to do so.

However, the Magisterium, which is basically the headquarters of the Holy Church, is also interested in Dust. Why? Apparently they believe it to be physical evidence of the original sin (harking back to biblical days and Adam and Eve’s gallivanting in the Garden of Eden… with their daemons). Anyway, with the help of the singular Mrs. Coulter, a Scholar in her own right, and her Oblation Board, the Church researches Dust with the unwilling help of children, to whom the abominable is done.

Without realizing, Lyra gets caught up in both Asriel and Mrs. Coulter’s explorations into Dust. Sent to live with Mrs. Coulter for a while, Lyra later runs away and ends up travelling with gyptians to help them rescue their kidnapped children — and her best friend, Roger. With the help of an alethiometer, a queer device bestowed to her by the Master of Jordan College, Lyra is able to navigate many obstacles and dangers and get much-needed help in her effort to rescue the kids and help her friends, such as the armored bear Iorek Byrnison. It all makes for an exciting, intriguing read from beginning to end. (Goodreads)


My thoughts

It’s obvious that I enjoyed reading this. What made me choose to read it now was having watched and enjoyed the TV show. I know the 2007 movie adaptation wasn’t to everyone’s liking, but I enjoyed that too. The world fascinated me, even in that movie adaptation, and it did so in the TV show too. Curious about how closely the TV show stuck to the book, I finally decided to read it and was surprised that it is pretty faithful to the source material. There are some differences of course, but, as far as the first book goes, I don’t mind what’s changed and even agree with some of the tweaks.

The book itself is good. Again, the world immediately fascinated me because the daemons so interest me. I’m also curious about the undercurrent of political schemes regarding what Mrs. Coulter is up to and what the Magisterium is trying to achieve. I think we are quickly drawn into the political intrigues in the TV show, but in the book, it’s mostly a low rumble for now, which I guess makes sense since this is geared toward kids.

I also took an immediate liking to Lyra and her fiery, independent, adventurous spirit. I like how fearless she is, politely yet stoutly inserting herself in often-adult discussions to get what she wants, and using her “silvertongue” to manipulate folks into doing what she wants. But I also like how her character is written, especially when the story shows her trying on different identities that fascinate her, because it’s something all kids do. An example that comes to mind is when she begins trying to act and talk like a gyptian, and even believes she’s managed to become one, but Ma Costa had to sit her down and explain that simply talking and acting like a gyptian doesn’t make Lyra one, that there’s more to gyptians than that.

The concept of Dust and its connection to daemons and the world is interesting too, and I can’t wait to learn more. I hope they are further explored in other books. I wonder how a person’s daemon appears when they are born (if the worldbuilding digs that far), and why it’s odd for a person and their daemon to be of the same gender. It’s interesting that it’s a huge faux pas to touch another person’s daemon (is it like touching the person’s soul?), but daemons can interact with and touch each other.

The other beings in the world were fascinating too, like the armored bears living on Svalbard and the witches flying around on cloud-pine (would love a story about the witches and that initiation journey they have to take). I enjoyed watching both fight in the TV show; those parts made me realize that TV show seem to have taken some inspiration from the movie adaptation. And although I do not like her, Mrs. Coulter is a curiosity to me, in both the book and TV show, and I’d love to learn more about her and her connection to her daemon.

I look forward to reading the next book later this year (which is my way of saying soon since it usually takes me years to continue with series, unless I’m buddy-reading them). This one ended on a sad note that left me feeling sorry for Lyra and disliking both Lord Asriel and Mrs. Coulter even more than I already do. Although I have an idea of what comes next due to having watched the TV show, I’m still eager to see what comes next in the book.

Overall: ★★★★☆

It a good read and a captivating one. I highly recommend it.

Buy | Borrow | Bypass

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“Ring Shout” by P. Djèlí Clark

This novella received a lot of praise when it was published, and I can see why. However, I procrastinated on reading it myself until it popped up as a pick for my book club. I expected to love it — and normally I would — but unfortunately, the reading experience didn’t go as I’d hoped.


GENRE

Horror, Fantasy

SERIES

n/a

PUBBED

2020

Quick summary

Set in early-1920s Macon, Georgia, during the Prohibition era, Ring Shout is about a young woman named Maryse Boudreaux hunting demonic members of the Ku Klux Klan with her two friends.

The demons are attracted to the hatred that fills members of the Ku Klux Klan, and they were able to cross over to this world during a ritual that took place in November 1915, when The Birth of the Nation (a real and controversial film) was shown. Only a few people have the ability to see the demons, which disguise themselves as White men and are all members of the Ku Klux Klan.

Continue reading ““Ring Shout” by P. Djèlí Clark”

“Best Served Cold” by Joe Abercrombie

Emily of Embuhleeliest and I are working our way through Abercrombie’s First Law books; we completed buddy-reading this one in December. I liked the books in the First Law trilogy, but this one, a standalone novel set in the same world with some familiar characters, wasn’t as appealing.


GENRE

Grimdark Fantasy

SERIES

First Law

PUBBED

2009

Quick summary

As the title suggests, Best Served Cold is a story of revenge. The famous and talented female mercenary Monza Murcatto and her brother Benna were betrayed and murdered by their employer and close, somewhat trusted, associates. However, death didn’t take to Monza despite her being thrown down a cliff (or mountain, someplace high). Angry and bent on revenge, Monza gathers up a group of misfits — the Northman Shivers, self-important poisoner Morveer and his assistant, a former member of the Inquisition named Vitari, the once-famous mercenary and now drunkard Cosca, a killer with a love of numbers called Friendly — to hunt and kill the eight men (I think it’s eight… or was it seven?) responsible for her murder, which includes Duke Orso, father of the new queen of the Union.

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“The King of Crows” by Libba Bray

Here we are at the last book in the Diviners quartet, a YA series I’ve been enjoying since 2019, managing to read a book a year with Rachel at Life of a Female Bibliophile.

So far, I’ve enjoyed each book in the series more than the one that precedes it. But after completing the third book, Before the Devil Breaks You, I became worried that the last book wouldn’t measure up to the previous books and successfully wrap up all the plot threads. Well, now that I’ve completed the last book, it certainly wasn’t the reading experience I hoped for or expected.


GENRE

YA Historical Fiction; Paranormal

Series

Diviners, book 4

Pubbed

2020

Quick summary

The King of Crows picks up immediately after Before the Devil Breaks You. Will and Mabel are dead. Jake Marlowe is gaining more influence and painting the Diviners as threats to society by posing the deceased Sarah Snow as some sort of saint. The Diviner Crew are at a loss and are running out of options on how to figure out their powers and defeat the King of Crows.

Continue reading ““The King of Crows” by Libba Bray”

“The Shadow Saint” by Gareth Hanrahan

I picked up The Shadow Saint based on Aquavenatus’s recommendation. She’d commented on one of my posts saying this second book in the Black Iron Legacy trilogy is worth checking out and is more of a world-building book, which got me curious. You see, I was conflicted about continuing with the series. I liked the first book, but there were some faults that didn’t make me too eager to continue with the story. But the story stuck with me, because I love fantasy stories about gods and religion, and Aquavenatus’s recommendation was just the nudge I needed to give it another chance. I’m glad I did.

Thanks, Aqua!


GENRE

Fantasy

Series

Black Iron Legacy, book 1

Pubbed

2020

Quick summary

spoilers for the first book

“The Ishmeric pantheon is always in flux, always changing as the gods of one island rise in prominence, or one god metamorphoses through sheer madness into some new aspect.”

The Black Iron Legacy trilogy is set in a world that is drowning in a war fought by gods through their saints — the humans they choose to serve as their avatars. It’s said that the gods have all gone mad, which has brought on the Godswar. All the countries are involved in the war, except Guerdon, which is playing both sides — because it’s profitable.

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“Last Argument of Kings” by Joe Abercrombie

Here I am, just now reviewing this book while I’m nearing the end of the standalone novel that follows it — Best Served Cold.


GENRE

Fantasy

SERIES

First Law, book 3

PUBBED

2008

MY THOUGHTS

Last Argument of Kings is grimdark fantasy and the last in the First Law trilogy. It picks up after the events in the second book, Before They Are Hanged, but I’ve since forgotten exactly what that means since the books have all melded together in my mind now. One thing that stands out about the starting point in this, though, is that Bayaz and crew (Ferro, Logen, Jezal, Quai, and Longfoot) are just returning to Adua after their journey abroad in search of “The Seed.” (Goodreads)

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“Storm Front” by Jim Butcher

Here’s another book I read some time ago — back in June, in fact. It’s one I’ve often heard mentioned in the fantasy sphere, so I decided to finally try it when I was at a loss about what next to borrow from the library.


GENRE

Urban fantasy

SERIES

Dresden Files, book 1

PUBBED

2000

MY THOUGHTS

Storm Front is urban fantasy and the first novel in Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files series. It follows a wizard for hire named Harry Dresden (Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden, to be exact), who uses his wizardly skills to help people find things… or other people. I thought of him as a wizardly private investigator. He even pitches in at the Chicago police department sometimes. For this story, he’s helping a woman find her husband, who seems to have gotten mixed up in some dark magic doings, and helping his detective friend (a woman whose name I forgot) solve a series of grisly murders that seem to point to Harry as the probable perpetrator. (Goodreads)

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“Elder Race” by Adrian Tchaikovsky

It’s been a while since I’ve posted a book review. As usual, life has been busy, so there has been less time to work on them. But I’d love for this to be the year in which I complete reviewing all the books I read in it. That has never happened for me before. There’s always a spillover into the new year because I procrastinate on chatting about what I read. I try to review everything I read in the order I read them. But that hasn’t been the case this year.

The order in which I review things this year has been as haphazard as my reading. The result is that I now have six books to review that range from completion in early April (about seven months ago!) to just a few weeks ago. That means I’m foggy on the details on some of the books I’ll try to wrap up in the coming weeks, but I’ll try my best, of course.


Genre

Sci-Fi; Fantasy

Series

n/a

Pubbed

2021

My thoughts

This is the one I completed back in early April, about seven months ago! And although I haven’t read as many books this year as I’ve done in previous years, I’m finding it hard to recall some of the details of this story. All I remember now is that I enjoyed what I read, had a wonderful time with this book, and consider it one of the best books I’ve read this year.

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Comics Roundup #68: DCeased, vols. 1-4

DCeased is a comic-book series I learned about from Lashaan and read for the first time last year. I’d only read the first volume, but I was immediately hooked. You see, it’s a zombie apocalypse comic-book series featuring superheroes — a story I was hoping for but never knew I’d get. I was sure to like it.

I enjoyed the story so much that I quickly bought the other available volumes but didn’t get around to reading them until earlier this year. Due to busyness and several blogging slumps, I’m just now getting around to chatting about them.


Genre

Horror

Series

DCeased, vols. 1-4

Pubbed

2019

Quick summary

DCeased is a zombie apocalypse series set in the DC universe. How did the zombie apocalypse start? Well, the villain Darkseid wanted to create an anti-life equation that he could use to control all sentient races. To do so, he needed Cyborg and Death. But by adding a bit of Death, the equation became corrupted. Cyborg was then sent to earth with the equation inside him and once he touched down, his system automatically went online, causing the anti-virus equation to become a techno-organic virus that not only spreads via social media (as soon as they see the equation online, people first try to tear it from their mind before spreading it), but also the traditional way of an infected zombie biting another being.

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Top 5 Tuesday #76: Books Set in the Past

Top 5 Tuesday is a weekly meme created by Shanah, the Bionic Book Worm, and now hosted by Meeghan at Meeghan Reads.

This week’s topic:

Top 5 books set in the past

(How far back in the past is completely up to you.)


A couple months ago, I did a tag thing that made me realize that historical fiction is one of my most read genres, and apparently one of my favorites too, so there were many books I wanted to mention for this post. Instead, I chose to focus on five I haven’t chatted about in a while.

Mother of the Sea by Zetta Elliott

I consider this a short story because of how short it is. It’s a mermaid story that’s set during the Atlantic slave trade, and it’s about a young girl who is abducted from her village and sold into slavery. The majority of the story takes place during her journey across the Atlantic, and it also includes an appearance by a Yoruba deity named Yemoja (or Yemaya in the Americas), which is a water spirit. It was an interesting story, but I wish it was longer.

Dominicana by Angie Cruz

I enjoy reading Cruz’s books. Dominicana mostly takes place in New York City during the mid-1960s. It’s about a young woman named Ana who marries a man twice her age when she was just 15 years old to get the opportunity to immigrant to the U.S. from the Dominican Republic to better support her family. It was an engrossing read.

Continue reading “Top 5 Tuesday #76: Books Set in the Past”