The Golden Compass by author Philip Pullman is the first tale in what is called His Dark Materials trilogy. I had heard a bit of buzz about this series and it got on my radar, and when I happened to see the books in my local library, I decided to dive in. The story takes place in a world similar to our own but with some interesting differences, including an intelligent race of warrior bears, witches, ghosts, and personal benevolent creatures called daemons which are intimately linked to each human. The main protagonist in the story is a 12 year old girl named Lyra Belacqua. She is believed to be an orphan of noble birth who has been left in the care of the master and scholars of Jordan College in England. Her larger-than-life uncle, Lord Asriel, arrives to address the college elders and Lyra sneaks into the meeting. There she learns of a secret and mysterious struggle that is taking place in the frozen lands of the north that somehow is expected to have an impact on the very fabric of humanity. When Lord Asriel leaves with plans to go to the north, Lyra is captivated by a longing sense of adventure and exploration and she yearns to attend her uncle. However, he will have no part of it and heads out on his way.
After Lord Asriel leaves, Lyra is smitten with a visitor to Jordan college, a young woman of style, of substance, and of adventure named Marisa Coulter. Mrs. Coulter invites Lyra to be her assistant and takes her back to London. During Lyra's stay in London, she comes to sense that Mrs. Coulter is not who she claims to be. There is something dark, something hidden in her aspect that continues to bubble to the surface. At the same time, we find that children are disappearing all across England, kidnappings attributed to a group called the "Gobblers". Soon Lyra gets wind that Mrs. Coulture is associated with the Gobblers and she sneaks away and meets up with a group of gypsies who know who she is and who her parents really are. They also tell Lyra that she has been destined for bigger things than roaming the halls of Jordan College, that she is fated for something of a much bigger design.
Ultimately, Lyra follows her heart when she begins a trek north with the gypsies to search for the lost children, to rescue Lord Asriel who has been imprisoned, and to understand what is so special about the north and the talk of some magical dust and alternate worlds in which humanity's destiny seems ensconsed. A fun tale with an inspiring and spunky hero. Now, onto the second story in the trilogy, The Subtle Knife.