Ever heard of witch’s familiars? The idea of a daemon is sort of like that, just better. Lyra Belacqua and her daemon Pantalaimon (or Pan for short) live at Jordan College in Oxford. Pantalaimon is a shape-shifting manifestation of her soul (only animal shapes though). Before I continue, I think I should note that only children’s daemons can shapeshift. Adults have daemons, but theirs have set forms, showing the sort of person they are. At the start of the story, Lyra and Pan go to the Retiring Room (a room only men are allowed to enter), just to see what it’s like. At least, that’s what Pan thinks. Lyra also wants to find out what they talk about, and because of this desire, she sees the Master of the College put poison into a bottle of wine that was set out for Lord Asriel, her uncle. When she was about to leave (after the Master had gone), the steward’s bell went off, and footsteps could be heard, meaning she was trapped. So she hid in the wardrobe.
When her uncle arrived (his daemon is a snow leopard by the way, she’s named Stelmaria), he sent for coffee. After having that, he went to have wine. Lyra made a noise, alerting Lord Asriel to the fact that there was someone else in the room. She burst out of the wardrobe and knocked the glass from his hand. He twisted her arm and asked what the hell she was doing there. She told him to let go, then she’d tell him. But he said he’d break her arm first, “how dare you come in here!” Then she said the (in this case) magic words: “I just saved your life!” After she explained about the poison, they heard someone coming, so he told her to get in the wardrobe, and if she made a sound, he’d make her wish she were dead (pleasant sort of man isn’t he?)
When the scholars finally came, she spied on the Master for Lord Asriel (he’d made sure the bottle got knocked off the table, it broke of course), and the first thing the Master did was look for the wine. Anyway, Lord Asriel showed a couple of pictures of the Aurora Borealis (a.k.a. Northern Lights), then…. then came the head of a person (Dr. Gruman, I think that’s how his name is spelled) who used to serve as a professor at the college. After that it was all boring talk so Lyra fell asleep. Her uncle left shortly after that, and her life returned to “normal”. That night though, the Master and the Librarian met and discussed the night in the Retiring Room, Lord Asriel’s expedition to the North, and they mention another world, invisible and untouchable. And while all these events go on, children are disappearing. The group who abduct the children are eventually given the name “the Gobblers”.
No one can agree on what the Gobblers do with children, do they eat them? Do they sell them to Tartars? Do they take them to Hell? What exactly happens? Of course, no one knows. Finally, it happens. They come to Oxford. Lyra first learned of their arrival when Ma Costa, a Gyptian boat mother, starts searching for one of her sons, Billy Costa. The thing that makes it abnormal is the fact that she seems terrified over his having gone missing. Other mothers are usually able to see the child if the child’s own mother isn’t able to see them. Lyra’s friends and the Gyptian kids, who were going to start a little war, forgot it when faced with Ma Costa’s fear. After gathering stories from the Gyptian kids, Lyra and the rest started searching for Gobblers (and their big white truck!) There was no luck, no one could find Billy Costa or any Gobblers.
When they reached the College, one of Lyra’s cronies told her that there was another person who had disappeared the day before, a girl. She went and asked some teens from another college about it, but left when she realized that she had no idea where her friend Roger Parslow, a kitchen boy, was. She rushed back to the college and found he was missing as well. Now she was afraid and angry. Roger was her devoted friend, her best friend, and the Gobblers had had the nerve to take him! She was distracted from this by the fact that she had to have dinner with the Master and a couple of guests he had. One of these guests was a lady called Mrs. Coulter. Mrs. Coulter was the most beautiful lady Lyra had ever seen! And her daemon was a golden monkey.
Lyra was to be Mrs. Coulter’s personal assistant, the next day, before she left, the Master summoned her to his study, (and strangely enough, he was saying that he couldn’t prevent Lyra from going with Mrs. Coulter) and gave her something. An alethiometer. A truth measure. It looked like a golden compass, and there are thirty-six symbols all around the rim. Here’s a picture of it from one of the covers of the book.
It is so awesome! 😀 Anyway, Lyra goes with Mrs. Coulter to London, and discovers many different things…. she also discovers that Mrs. Coulter isn’t as nice as she seems. On the night of a cocktail party, Mrs. Coulter told her not to wear a shoulder bag around the house (the shoulder bag held the alethiometer, which the Master made Lyra promise not to tell Mrs. Coulter about). When Lyra refused, the golden monkey leapt at Pantalaimon and held him down, then started pulling one of his ears. Lyra, being connected to Pantalaimon, could feel his pain when this happened, and after the golden monkey released Pan, she went to her room and slammed the door.
Mrs. Coulter gave her trouble for it, and later, when the party was in full swing, Lyra found out a bit more about Dust (a.k.a. elementary particles), and that Lord Asriel was trapped in the fortress of the armored bears. And she found out that the General Oblation Board were the Gobblers, and that Mrs. Coulter was the head of it. In fact, it had been her idea that started it! And Lyra knew that something involving cutting happened to the children. She just didn’t know what. So she ran away, and was almost captured by some slave traders. But luckily, some Gyptians saved her.
The story progresses with Lyra finding out that Lord Asriel and Mrs. Coulter are her parents, and she goes to the North with the Gyptians to rescue the kids stolen by the Gobblers. On the way, she meets an armored bear named Iorek Byrnison. Iorek is a prince who was exiled from Svalbard because he killed another bear. Iorek and an aironaut (Lee Scoresby) join their group. Lee and Iorek are old friends it turns out. And on the way to Bolvangar, Lyra goes to a village with Iorek and discovers a child. And in finding the child, Tony, she discovers what the Gobblers do. They cut children’s daemons away.
Lyra is kidnapped later by some hunters, and is taken to Bolvangar, where she finds Roger and Billy. During a fire drill, Lyra finds the children’s daemons and a snow goose daemon named Kaisa, who belongs to Serafina Pekkala, a witch that had once been the wife of Farder Coram, one of the Gyptians. Anyway, later, Lyra eavesdrops on Mrs. Coulter and some men (Mrs. Coulter arrived the day that Lyra and Kaisa set the children’s daemons free). She’s caught and almost has Pantalaimon cut away from her, but Mrs. Coulter finds out and stops it from happening. This is partially unfortunate (Lyra didn’t want to come face to face with Mrs. Coulter). Her mother tries to take the alethiometer, but luckily, Lyra had had Iorek made a tin (there were two, one inside the other) that held a spy fly that Mrs. Coulter had sent after her. While Mrs. Coulter was occupied with it, Lyra escaped and turned on the fire alarm. She made some flour explode in the kitchen then went and grabbed her outside gear and the alethiometer, then she rushed outside with the other children, who knew that they were going to escape.
They were almost captured again by the guards, but Iorek came and saved them, so they could go on. Then they reached the Gyptians. However, Lyra didn’t have much time to be with them seeing as Mrs. Coulter came after her and almost caught her again, Roger attacked Mrs. Coulter to help Lyra, and before either could be seriously hurt, a witch swooped down and saved them. Other witches were shooting at the guards (no witches were actually hit though, which I find amusing for some reason). Lee Scoresby had filled one of his balloons with gas out of the zeppelin, and they flew to Svalbard with Iorek. Lyra met Serafina, and the witch and Lee had a discussion about fate.
It’s a really good book, and is well worth the read. There’s a movie adaption too. Before you continue reading this, be warned, I think the movie is garbage. So you’ve got a warning that I’m biased about it. Now I may continue. So, the movie got the Bolvangar and Svalbard parts mixed, and Mrs. Coulter was BLONDE, plus, scenes that were never in the books were added (I know this happens in lots of movie adaptions, but it just never occurred to me that they’d do that to as good a book as The Golden Compass). And Lord Asriel seemed almost wimpy compared to the Lord Asriel from the book. Pantalaimon was good, but my sister thinks I could have done Lyra better than the girl that was chosen (I seriously doubt it, but it’s a nice thought).
There was not enough time with the Gyptians either, Lyra met Lord Fa almost as soon as she was saved by the Gyptians in London, and Iorek could have been better. I think the choice for Lee Scoresby was good, but honestly… even though there were some good actors for that, that does not save the movie from being bad. It was just wrecked. If I didn’t know better, I’d say someone who didn’t like the book directed the movie. Anyway…… there’s my rant done. It feels good to rant. 😛 Until next time, bye! ^_^