"We are all subject to the fates. But we must all act as if we are not, or die of despair...death will sweep through all the worlds; it will be the triumph of despair, forever. The universes will all become nothing more than interlocking machines, blind and empty of thought, feeling, life..."
The roofs and roads of Oxford are Lyra's home; she has scaled their heights in adventurous play, and mapped their length in bitter warfare against the town’s children. It is a life both endearingly simple and unendingly complex, but it is Lyra's own, and she loves it.
But, just as Lyra cannot stay a child forever, her days of raucous freedom must too come to an end. Forced to leave behind her days of dodging the educating attempts of scholars, Lyra is thrown headfirst into a world he barely recognises. A world where no one can be trusted and nothing is safe - not even a child's soul.
Lyra travels with the Gyptians over land and sea in her attempt to rescue her imprisoned uncle, Lord Asriel, but is stopped at every turn by Gobblers, clockwork beetles and armoured bears.
The Golden Compass (originally/also titled Northern Lights) is a book that doesn't diminish, but rather improves with each reading. Lyra's world is such a richly detailed one that each read surfaces something new and delightful.
It is a wonderful blend of fantasy and science fiction (a good example of steampunk for those so inclined - something the film visually represents remarkably well), using a good balance of both to establish the series.
Intended as a children's book (middle grade/YA), it is, nevertheless, one that should appeal to all ages, child and adult alike. Followed by The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass, Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials Trilogy is a must read. (5/5)