Critics give La Belle Sauvage thumbs up

Critics give La Belle Sauvage thumbs up

Philip Pullman's La Belle Sauvage (PRH Children's/David Fickling Books) has been "worth the wait" and is "full of wonder" according to reviews.

The book is the first in The Book of Dust trilogy, described as an "equel" to Pullman's His Dark Materials series - made up of Northern Lights (called The Golden Compass in America), The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass.

La Belle Sauvage follows Malcolm Polstead, an 11-year-old son of an innkeeper in Oxford, who is drawn into the world of Dust when a baby - Lyra - is taken in at a nearby nunnery.

The first reviews of the book, which has been heavily embargoed, have been overwhelmingly positive.

The Guardian's Marina Warner said that "Pullman’s immense powers of kinaesthetic visualisation keep the story pulsing on".

Sam Leith in the Telegraph said that "Pullman, generously, makes sure that you can come to this one fresh without having to read, or reread, what went before".

Leith said there was a "slight question mark over who the book is for - the pretty childish, and the very adult, share space in its pages", but said: "Pullman is an easeful storyteller and an intricate and inventive world-builder, and everything he has to write is worth reading."

In the Independent, Lucy Scholes said the desire to find out where the series - the next two books will be set 10 years after the events at the end of His Dark Materials - will "be at the forefront of most readers' minds after turning the final page, since despite its impressive length, La Belle Sauvage has the feel of an extended preface; thrillingly entertaining and beautifully written, but ultimately something of an introduction to the story proper we know follows thereafter".

Scholes said fans of His Dark Materials would find themselves "joyfully" immersed in the world of the original books, while "awaiting first time readers is all the pleasure of commencing their own journey into this most captivating of universes at the very beginning of Lyra's story".

Sarah Lyall in the New York Times said La Belle Sauvage "occasionally lags", but added that "even with its longueurs, the book is full of wonder".

"It's a stunning achievement, the universe Pullman has created and continues to build on. All that remains is to sit tight and wait for the next instalment," said Lyall.

Katy Waldman in the Slate Book Review said: "I am confident in pronouncing that people will love the first volume of Philip Pullman's trilogy, The Book of Dust, with the same helpless vehemence that stole over them when The Golden Compass came out in the mid-'90s, or even when they first met their partners or held their newborn children."

The Bookseller's acting children's editor Caroline Carpenter and children's news reporter Heloise Wood share their thoughts on the book here.