Philip Pullman’s trilogy His Dark Materials comprises Northern Lights (1995), The Subtle Knife (1997) and The Amber Spyglass (2000), but for Pullman it is all one story. Overall, the project took him seven years to complete and it was in every sense a daring and ambitious undertaking: a reworking of John Milton’s Paradise Lost for younger readers. Pullman reconfigures the story of the Fall, in which Adam and Eve disobey God and are expelled from Eden, to show how dogmatic judgements prove repressive. Instead of obedience to the self-appointed moral authority of a church or a state, Pullman promotes individuality and curiosity.
His story is constructed on a grand scale but its core attraction for readers relies on impulsiveness. Impulsiveness is the authorial energy that determines the action-packed plotlines that sweep across multiple universes, just as it defines both the electrically-charged phenomenon of dancing light that constitutes the beauty of the aurora borealis (the northern lights of Pullman’s title), and the key characteristic of the obstreperous, warm-hearted Lyra Belacqua, the story’s main protagonist.
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