I am not a fantasy reader.
I avoid really long books.
I rarely read books written by older male authors.
Therefore, I wasn’t super excited when Philip Pullman’s The Book of Dust: La Belle Sauvage was announced, even though I knew it was a Big Deal. As well as the points above, it had been so long since I first (and last) read the trilogy that it was difficult to get caught up in the buzz. I read the popular fantasy books more than 10 years ago, aged 17. I discovered them in my sixth form library and now I could barely remember anything about Lyra’s adventures. As I saw more and more tweets about it, and the publication date for La Belle Sauvage loomed closer, I figured it was the perfect opportunity to re-read the books. It was actually something I’d wanted to do ever since I bought a beautiful Everyman’s Library edition five years before. Over the years, dystopian books and sci-fi books and contemporary books beat Pullman to the top of my TBR, and I never got round to reading them. And so I picked up my 1000 page-long brick, downloaded the audiobooks, and began.
Much to my surprise, I quickly became entranced by Lyra’s world, the characters, and the clever, twisty, exciting story. I have been telling everyone that I only read Northern Lights and The Subtle Knife, but once I began the third book, I realised that wasn’t the case – scenes and characters from The Amber Spyglass started to come back to me. I must have started the book and never finished. And only 17-year-old Stacey knows why!
As for my recently discovered love of the trilogy, I have the audiobooks to thank for this. They’re narrated by Philip Pullman himself, accompanied by an excellent cast, and meant that I was able to watch my very own thrilling His Dark Materials film in my head. I’d lie in bed – the perfect place to listen to audiobooks, in my opinion – not wanting to fall asleep. I found myself eager to get back to Lyra’s Oxford, thinking about the stories even when I wasn’t reading them. I finished The Amber Spyglass the night before La Belle Sauvage was published. I was officially a fan.
A friend encouraged me to go along to midnight launch of La Belle Sauvage and I bought my ticket – mainly because the words ‘supper club’ were mentioned – and I’m really happy I got to attend this monumental publishing event. I missed out on Harry Potter midnight launches and the one for La Belle Sauvage was only my second (the first being for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child). At the event, we sat on a boat and ate stew, listened to Gyptian music and partook in a quiz in which I did better than I thought, before heading upstairs at the stroke of midnight to pick up our copies. I finished listening to La Belle Sauvage (narrated by Michael Sheen!) within a few days and now I’m eagerly awaiting the next one, The Secret Commonwealth. I know that I’ll sit happily amongst longtime fans when it’s published – maybe even at another midnight launch, proof that it’s never too late to dream about your very own daemon!
I originally posted a shorter version on Instagram but thought it’d make a fun blog post too!