'What His Dark Materials means to me...'

'What His Dark Materials means to me...'

With two days to go until the publication of Philip Pullman's latest novel La Belle Sauvage (PRH Children's and David Fickling Books), we took a trip down memory lane and asked authors to share with us their reactions and memories of the original trilogy.

We'd love to hear from you too - please share your memories with us over Twitter (@thebookseller, #LaBelleSauvage).

"His Dark Materials has been a constant companion and source of inspiration. I was 10 when I read Northern Lights for the first time, having stolen a copy from my mum’s friend’s house - a move Lyra would have been proud of. It unstitched the world in a way I’d never felt a book do before – opened it up at the seams to let wonder pour in. I devoured the second and third books in my early teens, and they didn’t only change the way I saw love, religion, storytelling: to some extent they formed my opinions on them. To me, His Dark Materials is the most perfect story ever written. It’s savage and tender and epic and intimate. It’s about all that people are and can be. Most of all, it formed my belief that stories matter as much as air: they are what make us human. Pullman is my favourite storyteller, and his books are the reason I write my own."

Kiran Millwood Hargrave, author of A Girl of Ink & Stars and The Island at the End of Everything


"My sister bought me Northern Lights and The Subtle Knife for my twelth birthday. I sat down to start the first one the following Saturday, and by that evening I had finished both books. I remember feeling so stunned by them, at the beauty of the writing, at the strange and marvellous world that Pullman had created. I had been a huge fan of the Narnia books up to that point, and was just beginning to grapple with an understanding of the religious allegories contained within the narrative. Pullman's books felt like the opposite side of the coin, urging me to examine my own Catholic faith and the power with which the Church had historically wielded in Ireland. These were big questions for a twelve year old, but important ones, and I will always be grateful to Pullman for that. In many ways, His Dark Materials prompted a journey of reflection and introspection that continues to this day."

Louise O'Neill, author of Only Ever Yours and Asking For It



"I came late to YA fiction and was heavily prejudiced against it when I got there. 

Northern Lights showed me what an idiot I was to believe that only a fantasy aimed exclusively at adults could make my head and heart spin at the same time. What a magnificent creation it is! Varied and deep; magical and yet gritty. 

And as for Lyra herself, she showed me just how complex and satisfying the portrayal of a child protagonist could and, indeed, must be."

Peadar Ó Guilín, author of The Call




"I can still vividly remember the first time I read the opening pages of Northern Lights. From that first scene - Lyra and Pan hiding in the Retiring Room at Jordan College, watching Lord Asriel - I was spellbound. Then, as now, Pullman’s writing was enormously inspiring. His Dark Materials is a unique and wonderful achievement - I can’t think of anything else even remotely like it." 

Katherine Woodfine, author of The Sinclair's Mysteries series


"My child was born one month early with a lung infection so scary we thought she would die. She didn’t. Even so, she and I still needed to stay in a room in the special care unit for several nights until she was healthy enough to go home. Those nights I desperately needed the comfort of something familiar that also spoke of a future I’d genuinely believed she and I weren’t going to have. So my husband brought me my copy of Northern Lights and I read to her, of a girl clever and brave and curious who knew how to survive a world with Dust and Gobblers and armoured bears. A world my daughter will soon get to explore all on her own."

Non Pratt, author of Trouble and Truth Or Dare


"His Dark Materials really showed me the possibility and scope of young adult fiction. Let's be clear, the trilogy is revolutionary! Its boldness borders on what some would consider blasphemous and yet, under the banner of 'children's fiction', Pullman completely slipped under the radar.

On a more personal note, I'll never forget reading The Subtle Knife on a sunny Sunday in the Pavilion Gardens in Brighton. No spoilers but - Lee Scoresby and Hester - I was crying so loudly a stranger had to intervene and ask if I was OK."

Juno Dawson, author of This Book is Gay and Margot & Me



"I remember thinking when I first read Northern Lights as a child that this was different; this was a world I would go back to for the rest of my life; this was a series with bite and texture and a thumping heart; this an author who wrote children's fiction as if he'd been alive a thousand years and loved the world anyway. I thought it was one of the best books I'd ever read. Now, twenty years on, I believe exactly the same thing."

Katherine Rundell, author of Rooftoppers and The Explorer