The title of the first novel in Philip Pullman's new series The Book of Dust, a companion series to his famed His Dark Materials trilogy, has been revealed as La Belle Sauvage.
The book, set for publication this autumn, will feature a new hero, 11-year-old Malcolm Polstead, and his daemon Asta.
Malcolm lives by the river Thames at the Trout Inn near Oxford and La Belle Sauvage (meaning "Wild Beauty" or "Beautiful Savage") is the name of his canoe - which itself has been named after another famous inn.
In a compelling first extract from the book, published in the Guardian this morning, an infant Lyra Belacqua - the heroine of the His Dark Materials trilogy - is being sheltered from her father Lord Asriel (banned by the courts from seeing her, after killing a man) by nuns at Godstow Priory near Oxford. Malcolm is persuaded to help Lord Asriel secretly see his little daughter, and they row to the Priory at night in La Belle Sauvage.
Pullman said: "Who or what is La Belle Sauvage? She is a boat, a canoe to be precise, and her owner is a boy, Malcolm Polstead, the hero of this story whom we have seen in an earlier part of Lyra's story (if we were paying attention. He only had a walk-on part there). The canoe is important in this part of The Book of Dust because some of the story is set during a massive flood."
Malcolm will be an important character in the later novels of The Book of Dust too, Pullman revealed.
Pullman also talks about The Book of Dust trilogy in a new interview on YouTube, in which he promises the first novel will explain more about Lyra's connection to Jordan College, and describes it is an "equel" (rather than "prequel" or "sequel") to the His Dark Materials trilogy.
He also muses on why the character of Lyra struck a chord with so many readers: "When I was a teacher I taught many girls who were like Lyra. They were brave, inquisitive, curious, disobedient: all these interesting things for storytellers. I think the reason that people have read this long, complicated story is because they're with Lyra. She doesn't know the things that are threatening her and she's in the same position as the reader, therefore the reader shares her sense of danger and excitement and curiosity about what's going to happen next. I hope the same thing will be true of Malcolm in La Belle Sauvage."
Pullman's editor David Fickling added: "There is a mystery here, an exciting mystery, and I urge any reader to set out on the adventure. You will not be disappointed. The Book of Dust is magnificent."
La Belle Sauvage, set for publication in October jointly by Penguin Random House Children's and indie David Fickling Books, is to be priced at £20 (both hardback and e-book).
Jack Thorne, who worked with J K Rowling on Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, is currently adapting the His Dark Materials trilogy for BBC1, due for broadcast in 2018.
Pullman has also written an exclusive essay, "Imaginary Friends", for Independent Booksellers Week (24th June - 1st July).