Feb 24, 2011

The Golden Compass Series (His Dark Materials), by Philip Pullman

Disclaimer: All reviews are the result of my personal opinion from a Christian stand-point. These reviews are provided for those who share my beliefs and morals, to help guide what fiction a reader may wish to pick up. For those who do not share these beliefs, please refrain from hateful comments. It is due to rude commenting that I must now include this note prior to all reviews. For more information, visit my purpose behind this blog. Thank you for your understanding.

A few years ago, American Christians had an uproar about Philip Pullman's series of "Dark Materials" (aka. the Golden Compass series). I've never reacted well to these uproars, partially because there was such a fuss about the Harry Potter series and Harry Potter had been a very positive experience in my childhood. I disliked the negative Christian reviews because I felt that most of the reviewers were biased, over-reactive, and hardly read the novels themselves. So, naturally, when I started seeing "Philip Pullman, evil author!" across the internet, I bought the entire series.

Here's my reasoning:
1) I prefer not dishonor an author by believing negative rumors.
2) Everyone was asking my opinion already so I felt called to form one.
3) I wanted to give this fantasy author the benefit of the doubt.
4) The boxed set was really cheap. ;)

I read the first book of the trilogy (The Golden Compass) and greatly enjoyed it until the  end. The story takes place in an alternate reality where people's souls walk in animal form outside of the human's body, called daemons. Main character, Lyra Belacqua, is a young girl who's daemon, Pan, hasn't settled (it can still change form). She overhears her uncle talking about a bridge to a new world, a bridge accessible by a mysterious substance called Dust. When children start disappearing and Dust becomes a dangerous, whispered word, Lyra releases her curiosity and follows dark clues and guidance from a golden compass (alethiometer) to find and save her best friend, Roger.

The first book is quite thrilling and interesting, but then ended with child sacrifice. As the series went on, I was shocked and disgusted by the twisted depth of some of the characters. In book two, The Subtle Knife, Lyra meets a new friend, a young boy murderer named Will. Lyra's character has become somewhat selfish and a conniving liar. They join together to search for her maniacal uncle as they flee from her child-torturing mother.

I gave the series the benefit of the doubt as long as possible, wading through the confusing worlds, homosexual angels, ventures into Hell, main characters I didn't like, and the goal of ultimately killing God (who's portrayed as a deceptive angel trying to run the world). I made it halfway through the last book before stopping for good after feeling physically ill from the content. I'd completed my goal--I now knew my opinion of the books. Based on my preferences, my morals, and my beliefs, I found the content of the series to be disturbing and inappropriate, and I would never recommend them. Solely out of personal decision and conviction, I ended up burning them so I wouldn't be tempted to read them again or accidentally allow them to fall into the hands of my younger siblings.

Pullman is a good writer with a passion against God. His work is imaginative and well-written, but the content was disheartening. It makes me sad and angry at the same time, knowing he is missing out on such a deep relationship with Christ and that his books might be steering others away from Him.

I end this post with a strong negative opinion concerning the series...and that's all it is: an opinion, but one made with a clear mind and as much logic as I can muster. If you have questions, I'd love to answer them (either in comments or e-mail). I encourage you to form your own stance concerning things you're passionate about, but in the case of Philip Pullman, I pray you take my opinion to heart and pick up the books with caution. For me, they provided no gain--imaginative or spiritually--only loss.

Violence Level: ****

Romance Level: **
Christian Focus: * (if I could rate with negatives...)
Readability Level: **** (see the 6-Point Nutshell for further explanation...)
Story Depth Level: **** (several layers of plot, but I got a bit lost.)
Recommendation: *

For a more detailed explanation of the above ratings, visit the 6-Point Nutshell post.

**note: this post was modified by the author on 7.24.13 for reasons of simplification and tighter subjective content.

Nadine Brandes is an adventurer, fusing authentic faith with bold imagination. She writes stories about brave living, finding purpose, and other worlds soaked in imagination. Her debut dystopian novel, A Time to Die, releases 2014 from Marcher Lord Press. When Nadine's not taste-testing a new chai or editing fantasy novels, she is out pursuing adventures. She currently lives in Idaho with her husband. You can find out more about Nadine and her books at http://nadinebrandes.com.


  1. Great view and very honest, but I still plan on getting my self this set one day.

    I enjoy stories where there is not always a happy twist and a controversial outlook, even if it is, as you put it, "disheartening for Christians." I'm Christian myself, but I still would never burn a book no matter how much I disagreed with the contents (example that retarded book recently released by that sluty Jersey Shore girl, Snooky). More power to you if that's the statement you wanted to make, just not the route I would have gone.


  2. Well aren't you just a crazy bitch.

  3. I don't think you're crazy. Books shouldn't make you ill. Good choice to burn them. They won't make anyone else sick either.

  4. Thank you, Kelly. :) It's been several years since I burned them and I'd still make the same choice today.

  5. This is definitely one of the biggest overreactions to a book series I've witnessed on the book blog-sphere. Honestly, I find this whole review to be rather insipid.

  6. Some may consider it an over-reaction. They're entitled to it. I just hope that I never grow numb or immune to disturbing things. I'd much rather feel and be considered an "over-reactor" by this numbed world than to train myself to immunity and only live a half life.
    I just hope that you are still able to feel something when you read books that you don't like (or that you do!). I don't care what series it is--I just hope that you aren't growing numb. It sure makes one miss out on a lot.

  7. I've never burned a book, Nadine, but I've thrown a few in the trash, and I shredded one a few pages at a time. (It was actually fun.) The thing is, some books do more harm than good. And I there are people who would say that about my books. And if they want to burn or shred my books, they have that right. I find that some people are too concerned with what is politically correct rather than what is good and pure and noble, etc.

    I found a trashy novel when I was in 7th grade. My uncle had left it in our house, and I read the whole thing. It has haunted me my entire life. Books have power. It should not be taken lightly.

    Plus, a girl has gotta do what she feels is right.


  8. Books DO have power, Jill. I've discovered that the hard way one too many times. I like your book-shredding experience. Maybe I'll try that next. ;)

    Thank you for your comment. :)

  9. Maybe you could borrow books at the library to check if you like them or not, then you probably wouldn't have to burn them.

    1. A wise thought. :)
      I burned these books almost five years ago. Since then, I've outgrown my "buy-every-book" phase and I've discovered the joys of libraries. It's served me well as I've found more books that are, in my opinion, not worth owning or reading (and, on the other hand, wonderful thrilling books!). It's been quite nice to just return them.
      Book-burning is not a common practice with me. :)