I love young adult fantasy fiction, it’s my favourite type of novel. I used to think that I probably need to grow up and read more serious books. I’ve had my Charles Dickens and Jane Austen moments and I’ve enjoyed them, but I keep coming back to fantasy. For some reason I’d known about the Golden Compass books (by Philip Pullman) for years and didn’t feel the need to read them until I saw a reference to them in another book that I was engrossed in (Alif the Unseen).
But even then, the first time I saw Northern Lights at the library, I passed it by. The thing that drew me to it eventually was that I remembered hearing comments about the book being heretical and having to do with religion. Obviously, parents would be concerned if their kids are unknowingly reading a book that has strong views on religion.
Anyways, the book was stunning. It took about 100 pages to really get into it but the alternate reality created is breathtaking.
The story follows Lyra, a young rambunctious girl who throws herself headlong into adventure (unwitting to the fact that she has been destined to change the world), but much to my delight the cast of characters is also filled with daemons, witches, gyptians and armoured bears.
The hints of religious philosophy are scattered throughout the book and really only comes to a head near the end, where there is discussion of original sin and the Church. Being an adult and able to brush these references aside, I really fell deeply into the story…but I wonder if I would want my potential future children – or nephews and nieces – reading it until they are well into their 20s, because the obscure religious references may have an impact. But maybe it’s good for kids to see all these divergent views, that may lead them to look deeper into their own religion and history.
I’ve heard that the Chronicles of Narnia also have a religious undertone but that was so subtle as to go completely over my head when I read the series, years ago. It may be time to crack open the cupboard door to Narnia for a re-read.