Penguin Random House is marking the 25th anniversary of Philip Pullman's Northern Lights by releasing a previously unpublished manuscript featuring a teenage Lyra Silvertongue.
Serpentine, a novella set after the events of His Dark Materials but before those of The Secret Commonwealth, was written in 2004, but has remained under wraps until now.
It will be released on 15th October 2020 by PRH Children's in hardback and e-book, with illustrations by Tom Duxbury, alongside an audiobook narrated by Oscar-winning actress Olivia Colman.
Pullman's standalone story was originally written for a charity auction at the request of the National Theatre's then-director, Nicholas Hytner, during the stage production of His Dark Materials. The hand-written manuscript and printed typescript were auctioned and bought by philanthropists Glenn and Phyllida Earle for a substantial sum, with all proceeds going to charity.
A book is finally being published 16 years on, following the publication of The Secret Commonwealth: The Book of Dust Volume Two last autumn, where readers were introduced to an adult Lyra.
Pullman explained: “Why are we publishing this story now? Because with the development of The Book of Dust, especially after the events described in The Secret Commonwealth, we can see a change in the way Lyra understands herself, and her relationship with Pantalaimon, which is prefigured in this little Arctic episode. When I wrote Serpentine, I had no idea that I was going on to write another trilogy, showing Lyra as an adult, but she and her world wouldn’t leave me alone. When it comes to human affairs, a billion invisible filaments connect us to our own pasts, as well as to the most remote things we can imagine; and I hope that, above all, these books are about being alive and being human.”
In Serpentine, a teenage Lyra returns to the town of Trollesund, the setting of her first encounter with Iorek Byrneson and Lee Scoresby in Northern Lights. Lyra and Pan are older and a little wiser, and in search of an answer to a shocking, secret condition—their ability to separate—from the witch-consul, Dr Lanselius. What unfolds is billed as “a tender, revelatory scene that foreshadows Lyra's future struggles as a young woman, and provides insight into Pullman's own early exploration of a previously unthinkable plot development that would emerge in his The Book of Dust sequence: the idea that a human's bond with their daemon can be irreparably broken”.
The publication caps off a year that has seen confirmation of series two of the TV series of His Dark Materials, as well as the forthcoming publication of three new editions of Pullman titles. The Secret Commonwealth: The Book of Dust Volume Two (David Fickling) is out on 17th September in paperback, essay collection Dæmon Voices (David Fickling) is released on 1st October and Scholastic's Northern Lights: The Illustrated Edition follows on 5th November.