La Belle Sauvage (The Book of Dust #1) by Philip Pullman - Book Review

Write on: Wed, 20 May 2020 by  in Archive Read 3755

So, my 20th read of 2020! La Belle Sauvage


After all the craze about the new His Dark Materials programme, I though it would be a good time to delve into The Book of Dust series, which I have had waiting on my shelf for quite a while now. And I am glad that I finally did.


La Belle Sauvage is a prequel to Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy. The events of that series have faded in my mind in the past few years, so I was worried it would hinder by experience reading this, but I was wrong to do so. This would actually be a good book to read before delving into the adventure of His Dark Materials.


“Words belong in contexts, not pegged out like biological specimens.”


This goes back about a decade, when Lyra, the central protagonist of His Dark Materials, is just a baby. The main protagonist is Malcolm Polstead, an inquisitive, kind and intelligent boy. He meets the baby Lyra, and feels a purpose to protect her. I loved the character of Malcolm. His genuine kindness was heartwarming and executed believably. I hope to see more of him in the rest of this series.


I read this on audiobook, narrated by the wonderful Michael Sheen. He was brilliant! His array of accents, in particular his hyena impression, was just amazing to listen to. I felt every emotion of this journey. The laughter, the intrigue, the fear. Truly a rollercoaster of emotions.


La Belle Sauvage saw the creation of a villain whom I truly learnt to fear. They were absolutely terrifying. Whenever they were present, everyone was at risk, and nothing could be predicted. And the delivery of Michael Sheen just made this more prominent and scary. This was one of the strengths of this book in my opinion.


I don’t know how to summarise Pullman’s prose other than labelling it as lyrical. It really is just consistently smooth and wonderful. Enchanting. This aspect to the story allowed me to get through this audiobook in basically two slots, carrying me smoothly along.


“He was liked when noticed, but not noticed much, and that did him no harm either.”


Regarding the plot, La Belle Sauvage is a slow-burner. It takes quite a while to kick off, with a few important moments occurring in the first half. But the second half is where it all kicked off. After that point, there was hardly time to breath as the story swept you from one tribulation to another.


 While I enjoyed the prose, characters and plot, there wasn’t the extra part that really hooked me to the story. I was invested in Malcolm, but not really the rest of the cast, and there wasn’t much that was at stake. But despite this, I still thoroughly enjoyed La Belle Sauvage, and look forward to starting its sequel, The Secret Commonwealth, soon!


Last modified on Monday, 23 May 2022 15:46

William is from Sussex, UK.

He has a passion for literature and enjoys reading all sorts of books. His hobbies are numerous and consist of medieval/viking reenactment, writing, karate and of course reading.