Michael Sheen will narrate the audio version of Philip Pullman’s first instalment of The Book of Dust trilogy.
The "Twilight" actor will read the UK and US edition of La Belle Sauvage, which is to be published on 19th October.
The audiobook is billed as a “unique and unforgettable experience that will delight listeners both old and new” almost 20 years after the final book in His Dark Materials, The Amber Spyglass, was published.
The "Frost/Nixon" star revealed he was “hugely excited” by the news in February that Pullman was returning to the story universe of His Dark Materials.
The highly-anticipated title opens 10 years before Northern Lights, the first in the original series and was described by Pullman as neither a sequel nor a prequel to His Dark Materials but an ‘equel’.
It was revealed in May that a new hero will feature: 11-year-old Malcolm Polstead alongside his dæmon, Asta, who live across the river from Godstow Priory, where the nuns are sheltering a baby, Lyra Belacqua, the heroine of His Dark Materials.
Sheen said that the “extraordinary journey” of Lyra and new hero 11-year-old Malcolm Polstead was “one of the most thrilling and enjoyable experiences” he has had as a performer.
The Welsh actor said: “The His Dark Materials trilogy had a profound effect on me. Rarely have I felt such loss on coming to the end of a story. So, as a reader and a fan, I was hugely excited on hearing that Phillip was returning to the story of Lyra and Dust and challenging the Authority. And, as an actor, it was a true privilege to be asked to record La Belle Sauvage, the first book of this new work.
“It was genuinely one of the most thrilling and enjoyable experiences I've had as a performer to sit in that darkened recording studio for three magical days and live inside the story of Malcolm and Lyra and their extraordinary journey.”
Philip Pullman praised the actor's “passion” and “energy”.
He said: “I’ve long admired Michael Sheen not only for his astonishing versatility but also for the passion and energy he brings to all his roles. I was delighted to learn that he’d be willing to read the audiobook of La Belle Sauvage, and I’m sure that listeners will be very excited by the result.”
Richard Lennon, editorial director of audiences and audio, at PRH UK which is co-publishing the book, said: “In this very special recording Michael Sheen’s passion for Philip Pullman’s writing is evident in every moment, and his magnificent reading brings La Belle Sauvage brilliantly to life.”
He added: “The long-awaited publication of the first volume of The Book of Dust is a hugely exciting publishing moment this autumn, and I hope that many readers will discover the magical world of Philip Pullman through this brand new recording.”
His Dark Materials was dramatised in 2003 in a multi-voice drama for BBC Radio 4 starring Terence Stamp as Lord Asriel and Lulu Popplewell as Lyra, with a version read by Pullman himself for Audible.
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.
The storm-swept cover by British artist and illustrator Chris Wormell was revealed in June around the same time that Pullman announced he would name a character in his Book of Dust series Nur Huda el-Wahabi, after a young Grenfell Tower victim. Around £32,400 was raised for victims of the tower block fire in West London through bidders calling on Pullman to name the character after el-Wahabi in the second Book of Dust instalment.
The Authors for Grenfell auction raised more than £180k for the victims altogether.
La Belle Sauvage: The Book of Dust Volume One will be published simultaneously on 19th October by David Fickling Books in association with Penguin Random House (PRH) Children’s in the UK and Random House Children’s Books in the US and will be priced at £20 (both hardback and e-book).
The audiobook will also be released on 19th October by Penguin Random House Audiobooks and will cost £20.
An audio clip of Sheen's recording is available here.