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Northern Lights: His Dark Materials Trilogy, Book 1

Written by: Philip Pullman
Narrated by: Philip Pullman, full cast
Length: 10 hrs and 45 mins
Categories: Teen & Young Adult
5 out of 5 stars (31 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Captivating, fast-paced and brought to life in glorious detail, the world contained within this audiobook is one that, despite its fantastical nature, feels almost too real to be a work of fiction.

This is the first book in the Carnegie Medal and Guardian Award-winning trilogy His Dark Materials, from Philip Pullman.

Set in a parallel world very similar to our own, Northern Lights tells the compelling story of 12-year-old Lyra's quest to rescue her friend and find her father, aided by her daemon, an armoured bear, and a witch-queen. This prize-winning tale is narrated with vigour and dynamism by the author and a full cast. Written and read by Philip Pullman.

©1995 Philip Pullman (P)2014 Audible, Inc.

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    4 out of 5 stars

Wonderfully bizzare!

This work deserves a five-star for its sheer creativity. In a genre littered with established tropes and creatures, Pullman's imagination gives us plenty of original stuff to marvel at. This includes the "dæmons" that every human has—essentially the manifestation of their souls as a talking, shapeshifting pet. And of course, the race of the panserbjørne—armoured polar bears with human-level intellect—which have now become the poster child of the property.

The story is set in a parallel universe with elements of gaslamp fantasy. Our protagonist, Lyra receives an altheiometer—a GOLDEN COMPASS—that shows you the truth if you know how to read it; and must use it to rescue his uncle, Lord Asriel, on the north pole. He went there to study the Aurora Borealis—THE NORTHERN LIGHTS—which it turns out have mystical properties he wishes to unlock. However, the bad guys got him.

On the surface, it's a kid's story which hits quite a few familiar beats... a wild child, a prophecy, an evil organisation, a dangerous quest... it sounds like the kind of story that's good, but fairly common.

However, the themes that populate this story are decidedly uncommon and more serious than you'd expect. Unlike, say, the first Harry Potter, which deals mostly with "safe" themes like friendship and good vs evil; this book doesn't hesitate to go to dark places. It's anti-religious motif famously became controversial when it was released. And there are plenty of other dark pictures the story forces you to look at. It's hard to elaborate further without spoiling the final act, so I won't.

Despite having some pretty damaging revelations, Pullman refuses to structure the story even remotely like a conventional mystery. The story beats say it's kids' fantasy book; but the grim tone and the cold, harsh themes scream that it's not. If he did write this for kids, he trusts them to handle, umm, His Dark Materials. I personally respect this choice, but it's understandable if some readers find this unsuitable for kids. Having said that, the book received some very prestigious awards in the kids' books department, so what do I know.

The book was adapted once in a 2007 movie. It had good elements, especially the visual effects, but overall failed to capture the magic. A decade later, BBC/HBO are adapting it into a TV series. Let's hope they do it justice. I'm excited to see Dafne Keen as Lyra, having been a fan of her portrayal of X-23.

Finally, a word about the narration. Again, it's unusual. Pullman himself narrates most of the book. However, the speaking parts are narrated by a full cast. It's well done for the most part. A tiny complaint is the lack of pauses in places. One character asks and the other answers the next millisecond, making it feel a tad unnatural. Apart from that, I liked this approach better. If I could venture another comparison with the Harry Potter books... as great as Stephen Fry is, I can't help but cringe a little when he voices Hermione. I wish more audiobooks were produced like this.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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wonderful!

played so well by the artists and Philip Pullman himself. Lyra is exceptional. my first audio book!

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Epic start

Brings back the nostalgia. I really like the world Sir Philip Pullman creates in His Dark Materials Universe. I have this in physical, eBook, audiobook, movie, and now there's a TV show coming up. Good times.

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  • Luna
  • 02-06-19

Better than the movie

I started reading this because I wanted to know what happened after the movie, The Golden Compass, since none of the sequels were filmed. I thought it would be more of a children's book and was pleasantly surprised that it can be enjoyed by all ages, not just children. In fact, the sequels are even too dark for young children I would say. I never expected that I would be as hooked as I was. The movie definitely didn't do it justice. The series is much deeper than a simple fairytale. Questions of right and wrong, religion vs. beliefs and how the universe is made are raised, urging us to ask ourselves why we believe what we believe and to think for ourselves, not to necessarily reject religion, but rather to not let others dictate our worldview and instead take responsibilty and go deeper. That is what an adult might get out of it, while a child would probably enjoy the fantasy without necessarily grasping the philosophical aspect of it. I would recommend it for ages 12/13 and up.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Vinutha
  • 20-12-17

Simply amazing and addictive.

The story itself will make you cling towards it until it's end. The narrative (audio book) makes it even more interesting.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Mitchell
  • 29-07-18

Golden comps

I love lira and pan we even named our dog pan after him this trilogy is wonderful

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 13-12-18

Philip Pullman leest eigen werk voor!

Ik moest wennen aan de snelheid van de opname. Ik vond het heel leuk dat alle stemmen voor acteurs zijn ingesproken maar nog leuker dat Philip Pullman zijn eigen prachtige werk voorleest.

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  • Jessica
  • 06-07-18

Great Reading of a Much Loved Book

I first read The Northern Lights as an eleven year old, and it continues to be one of those stories that stays with me. I had a tradition of re-reading it every year or so right up until I was 18, and found that every time I did, I got something more out of it. So much of it had gone over my head when I was younger, but that was part of the draw. Reading these books where like spying on the adults in the other room.

I was thrilled to listen to it once again. The reading is wonderful. The full cast is a treat. What a lovely way to revisit a much loved story from my childhood.

Give it a listen.

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  • James
  • 07-01-15

Great listen, great cast

Northern Lights by Philip Pullman is a great listen with a great cast and one the best stories ever written. I absolutely loved it. I wish it was possible for more stories to be read this way, it just makes the story so much better. His Dark Materials is probably one of the greatest stories out there that is available to young readers, and audible has provided a fun way to listen to the story at bedtime.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 14-08-17

Great reading of a great book

When you listen to an audio book of your favourite childhood work there is a very reasonable fear that the performance will not meet your expectations. That is not the case here at all. Pullman and cast did a fantastic job of bringing this piece to life

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • NATALIE LANGLEY
  • 13-02-15

Exceptional

Fantastic book worked well in the audible format. Good acting and lovely narration from Pullman. Thoroughly enjoyed it and was better than anticipated.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Frank
  • 23-01-18

rubbish

the narration is "full cast". the story is so wishy-washy it gets. there is nothing in the main character that is appealing

1 of 10 people found this review helpful

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  • Clair
  • londonUnited Kingdom
  • 16-10-07

BRILLIANT, BRILLIANT BRILLIANT

This is a fantastic dramatization of the book. I heard this on tape and wanted to buy the cds from audible, they didn't have it at that time so I bought the other version - a big mistake! This version is superior in every way. The author Philip Pullman is a brilliant narrator and the characters are great too especially Lyra. I cannot recommend this highly enough. For adult and older children, you will not want it to end! Can we have the next 2 cds soon!! I can,t wait.

118 of 126 people found this review helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 16-02-18

Wonderful book ruined by voice acting

Wish whole book had been read by Phillip Pullman, as the description suggests. The full cast voice acting is heavy-handed and hammy, and Lyra, to my great disappointment, is teeth-grindingly annoying. Also the editing between narrator and actors is rushed and unnatural. Please get Michael Sheen in, who has done such a wonderful job with the prequel Book of Dust. He is able to both narrate, and voice any character convincingly, from a teenage scullery maid to Lord Asriel, and bring Pullman's world to life. Sticking to print for His Dark Materials.

46 of 49 people found this review helpful

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  • Robert West
  • Oxford, UK
  • 11-09-17

Gripping story but mediocre dramatisation

I love this series and Pullman is a good narrator but I found the dramatisation jarring and detrimental to the experience. I much prefer a narrator who can effectively play all the parts.

10 of 10 people found this review helpful

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  • Gordon
  • 03-12-07

One of my favourite books ever!

I read the book, listened to the dramatised version and then the unabridged version here on Audible. This helped while away the commute very nicely thanks. Pullman?s narration is perfect and his creation in this trilogy is incredible. His invention of the Alethiometer is fascinating, the out-of-kilter world that Lyra lives in and the rest of the cast of characters and their daemons are superb. Once I have listened to these I don?t know what I am going to do as I will miss them so much!

27 of 29 people found this review helpful

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  • Paula
  • Bagillt, Clwyd, United Kingdom
  • 22-10-07

One for your Collection!!

This is fantastic! Pullman is excellent as the narrator and the characters bring the whole story to life. You feel as if you are on the sidelines watching as the story unfolds.

This is definately one to listen to and lose yourself in. Great for adults and older children.



43 of 47 people found this review helpful

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  • Samuel W.
  • 23-03-10

Excellent Listen

I really enjoyed Northern Lights and the other two his Dark Materials books. It is rare for an audio book to be read by different voice actors. Phillip Pullman isn?t bad at all as the main reader and the other voice actors are good. I have heard the radio series of all three books and think that the unabridged versions are miles better. I felt that Terrance Stamp, who played Lord Asriel in the radio series, had more of the ferocity that you would expect from him. However, I felt Sean Barrett sounded more bear like when he played Iorek Byrnison than Steve Hodson. The consepts in the book are very interesting, such as the human sole as an animal and the idea of dust being the name for original sin. Even though it is seen as a book for children, I believe it can be enjoyed by both children and adults. Overall, a highly recommended book.

16 of 17 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
  • Pamela
  • London, United Kingdom
  • 01-05-08

Fantastic Entertainment

This is one of the most entertaining audiobooks I have ever listened to. I say one of the most because the two sequels in this trilogy The Subtle Knife (Unabridged) and The Amber Spyglass (Unabridged) are the other most entertaining audiobooks. Northern Lights is a fantastic tale which has undoubtedly been perfected by having the story narrated by the author and a full cast to play the characters. Philip Pullman has a soothing voice which makes listening to him speak a pleasure. The cast are also excellent at bringing this recording to life which makes you feel like you are right in the middle of the action which I?m afraid you will never experience while reading the book. This recording is definitely five stars and this is a story that I will return again and again and I will never get bored of listening to it. If you want to experience a magical audiobook then you must definitely listen to this one.

38 of 42 people found this review helpful

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  • Daz
  • 22-01-08

an excelent read!

i was recommended this title some years ago by a shop keeper who told me not to be put off by the fact that it was a childrens book. so i spent the money and bought it on tape. only the first title. i listened to it in a day and i went back to the same shop and bought the last two! this book and the whole series has been so well written i never get tired of listening to it. and when i found this title on audible i was so glad to find it as my origional copy i had on tape is now damaged! all i can say is that give this book a try and keep an open mind about it. you won't be disappointed!

21 of 23 people found this review helpful

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  • MumsieWumsie
  • 22-06-10

Extremely enjoyable

Having tried several times to read the book, but getting bored and giving up, I didn't think I'd bother with the audio book as I didn't want to waste either money or a credit if I found it equally boring.

However, when it was on offer for Audible's 5th anniversary I decided it was worth a fiver - and I'm VERY glad I did.

It's an extremely enjoyable listen with the voices being well matched to their characters. All the tension and excitment comes across far better than in the book and you want to know what's going to happen next.

I've got the other two parts of the trilogy on my wishlist for auto-download, but I may not be able to wait that long and I'll have to buy them!

20 of 22 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
  • Aidan Kent
  • 26-09-08

Excellent

Having watched and enjoyed the movie 'The Golden Compass' I heard many friends who had read the original books and expressed how much better they were than the film. I didn't realise how right they were! Fantastically written and brilliantly read by Mr Pullman himself this audiobook was truly a joy. The actors were all of the highest standard and the whole thing left me enraptured from start to finish. Top notch.

20 of 22 people found this review helpful

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  • Clare
  • 17-05-15

Excellent voice acting

This is a fantastic quality audiobook with an excellent voice cast. It's such a great series! The audio quality is fantastic. I ended up getting the other two books in the trilogy. Definitely would recommend to anyone who likes fantasy and adventure.

9 of 9 people found this review helpful

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  • jacqueline
  • 16-02-15

Better than I remember

Perfect narration, but i suppose you can expect that from the author. A wonderful story which I read as a child and I have got so much more out of it the second time around. A wonderful fiction series for young and old.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

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  • Chris Glover
  • 12-05-15

Great

Great book great narration although somewhat cheesy. Very addictive and easy to get hooked into and lost in. Great job.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Courtney
  • 28-11-17

Good Story

A great story, but reading out the cast at the end of each part and a recap was really annoying.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 16-07-19

You're always kept wondering what's next!

A wonderfully narrated and enchanting book. As soon as you start listening to this book, you won't be able to stop.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Victoria
  • 29-10-17

Awesome adventure!

Full of twists, turns, deceit, cunning plans and other worldly stories. An exciting adventure about a girl discovering a world which she thought she knew. Can’t wait to listen to the next book!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • odette carter
  • 05-12-19

Outstanding narratives!

Excellent storyline, told superbly by more than one narrator.....which truly brought the book alive. Fantastic.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 24-11-19

A++

Such a wonderful production. Best audiobook I’ve ever listened to. Brings the books to life!


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  • Ulysses
  • 24-10-19

Brilliant

Brilliant crystalline storytelling of a wondrous imagination, deeply layered, deeply satisfying and beautifully narrated - spellbinding!

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  • Anonymous User
  • 23-10-19

Great story

I didn't like the multiple narrators foe the different characters. Love the story though!