Seventeen years after the ﬁnal book in the His Dark Materials trilogy, Philip Pullman returns to the same world for a new trilogy, La Belle Sauvage. While this ﬁrst book in the new series does include the character Lyra who was the heart of the ﬁrst series, she is only a baby here, though you could still argue the story largely revolves around her even so. But this isn’t a sequel; Pullman calls it an “equel,” which he clariﬁes, “doesn’t stand before or after His Dark Materials, but beside it.”
Our viewpoint is mostly through a boy named Malcolm, owner of the canoe La Belle Sauvage. He works in his father’s inn and tavern and helps out at a convent across the river, which is where he meets Lyra. Fully taken with her, he feels drawn to protect her. Unwittingly he intercepts a secret message and by chance he crosses paths with its intended recipient, drawing him into a world of philosophical and political intrigue. Later in the book, a disastrous ﬂood sets oﬀ a chain of events in which La Belle Sauvage becomes a rescue vessel, taking its passengers on a voyage through some magical worlds.
This book is much more mature than The Golden Compass and the other books in the ﬁrst series, with more graphically described violence. It also feels a bit less complete as a singular novel, ending on a rather charged note. Pullman has already ﬁnished the next book in the trilogy, so hopefully it will be published quickly.