I first read this book in 2009 when a friend gave me his copy of the paperbacks. After finishing The Golden Compass, I decided to take a break from the series. I would keep falling asleep in the middle of the book, dreaming about polar bears and adventures. Then I'd wake up and be confused about what was actually going on in the book until I'd go back and start rereading, just to start the whole process over.
Recently, in 2012, I found the audio book version of His Dark Materials trilogy. Since I have two hours worth of commute to work every day, I decided to give the series another try. I'm very glad that it didn't put me to sleep while driving. I think Phillip Pullman did a wonderful job narrating his stories, I just didn't find the stories themselves all that great.
SUMMARY: SPOILERS AHEAD!
Lyra and her deamon, Pantalaimon, were looking around the Retiring Room at Jordan College where they lived. This room was especially of limits to her because she was a child and a girl. Pan is anxious to leave, but Lyra wants to stay. She ends up winning out on the argument when the Master of Jordan College arrives. He puts a powder into the drink of their coming visitor, Lord Asriel, who is also Lyra's uncle. While Pan wants to leave still, Lyra won't allow it until she warns her uncle somehow. When it is just Lord Asriel in the room, waiting on the other scholars to arrive, Lyra stops him from drinking the poisoned wine and he allows her to hide in the wardrobe and watch the meeting. The Master (trying to prevent terrible future) and Librarian (never comfortable with murder) discuss whether Lord Asriel knew about the poison or not. Eventually, Lord Asriel shows the scholars the head of his research predecessor. He shows them slides where they can see Dust, how it doesn't affect children, and how there is a city in the Aurora. Master and Librarian will later discuss in private the difficult journey Lyra will undergo.
A young, beautiful, charming woman with a golden monkey deamon is stealing children from the streets. The children willingly follow, being made promises that will never be kept.
Lyra is described as slightly barbaric. She has many adventures with her friend, Roger, the kitchen boy. When Roger goes missing, Lyra and the other kids are worried and start searching for him and Billy Costa (a Gyptian boy). Mama Costa had once had her boat taken over by Lyra and her gang, but bore no hard feelings, she just wanted to get her son back from the Gobblers.
Lyra is introduced to Mrs. Coulter, who is a widow with a golden monkey deamon. Lyra is completely taken with her and when asked, is quite devoted to the idea of leaving Jordan College to be Mrs. Coulter's assistant. Before she leaves Jordan, the Master sends for her and gives her the alethiometer, an instrument that measures truth.
While living with Mrs. Coulter, Lyra learns about navigation and other things, waiting for the day when Mrs. Coulter will make good on her promise to take her up north. Just before their cocktail party, Lyra mentions dust and Mrs. Coulter and her deamon freak out. At the party, Lyra learns that Mrs. Coulter is head of the General Oblation Board, which is the gobblers. She decides to run away before the party can end. Some men come after her, but the Gyptians save her and take her aboard their boat confirm Lyra's suspicions of the Gobblers.
At the first Roping (large meeting of Gyptians pulling resources and making plans), Volunteers and money are gathered to save the children and they decide to meet again in three days to finalize everything. In that time, Lyra meets with John Fah and Farder Coram, whom she tells her entire story to, including her possession of the alethiometer. After word, John Fah tells Lyra that she is the illegitimate child of Lord Asriel and Mrs. Coulter. Farder Coram teaches her about the alethiometer and with some practice, she is able to read it.
At the Second Roping, Lord Fah explains the Gyptians connection to Lord Asriel and how he has helped their people many times. It is also announced that Lyra will be going with the team because she can read the alethiometer.
the first stop for the Gyptians and Lyra as they set out to search for the missing children is at the witch's counsel. The man there tests Lyra to find out that she is the child that has been prophesized about. After he explains what that means to Fader Coram, he agrees to make contact with Seraphina, a witch that Fader Coram had saved and loved about 40 years earlier. The council also tells them that they should employ the armored bear for their journey.
The bear, Iorek Byrnison, being held captive by hiding his armor, agrees to help John Fah if it is returned to him. Lyra uses the alethiometer to make sure Iorek knows where to find his armor. This angers the villages, but aeronaut Lee Scoresby, convinces the men to leave him alone if he never returns. the Gyptians, the bear, the aeronaut, and Lyra set off, guided by the witch Seraphina's deamon.
On the way, Lyra and Iorek travel off to investigate a ghost in a nearby town. They find that it is a boy who's deamon has been cut away (severed). They bring him back to the Gyptians, but it is too late, and the boy dies.
The party is eventually attacked by some hunters. They kidnap Lyra and sell her to the General Oblation Board, where she tells them that her name is Lizzie. She finds Roger and Billy. There is a fire drill shortly after she arrives and the workers give her clothes back so that she will not freeze outside. She, Roger, and Billy find the severed deamons and with the help of Seraphina's deamon, they set them free. Mrs. Coulter arrives in a zeppelin. Lyra has Billy and Roger spread the word of escape around the kids, planning to signal them with the fire alarm. She quickly hides her clothes in the drop ceiling. She then sneaks around in the ceiling and spies on a meeting. All of her fears of Bolvanger are confirmed, but she is caught due to her surprise. The men are about to sever Lyra and Pan until Mrs. Coulter stops it. She tries to sooth Lyra, but the girl knows better. She gets away and pulls the fire alarm. In the commotion, she is able to get her stuff and lead the children to freedom while the Gyptians make their attack. The children are returned to their homes. Except Lyra and Roger, who head north with Iorek and Lee Scoresby, and Seraphina's witches pulling their balloon.
The trip is long and eventually the balloon is attacked by cliff ghasts. Lyra is the first to fall out and she is claimed prisoner by the armored bears. She tricks the king of the bears, Iofur Raknison, into thinking that she is Iorek's deamon. Since the bear desires to be human, he is intrigued. She further tells the king that if he kills Iorek in a fair fight, she will become his deamon. Iofur Raknison agrees to these terms. Iorek kills him, claiming his rightful position as king. He and a few other bears take Lyra to see her father.
Lyra arrives and her father is not happy to see her until he sees that she has brought Roger with her. Lord Asriel explains everything he knows about Dust to Lyra: that it is original sin, that Mrs. Coulter wants to keep it from sticking to people, and that he is going to make a bridge into the other world. Eventually Lyra goes to sleep, but is woken by her father's servant's excitement of Lord Asriel taking Roger somewhere. Lyra has Iorek take her as far as he can after them. When she arrives, Roger is struggling to get away. Mrs. Coulter arrives. Lyra tries to save Roger, but is unable to after Lord Asriel severs Roger's deamon to make the bridge. Lord Asriel and Mrs. Coulter embrace. He asks her to go with him, but she refuses. He leaves their world, and Lyra and Pan decide that they are going to follow. They are going to find out the truth and do what is right, always checking the alethiometer to make sure they know what that means.
His Dark Materials:
The Golden Compass
The Subtle Knife
The Amer Spyglass