Tuesday 17 June 2008


I'm having trouble trying to think of what to say here. I could say I love Philip Pullman and that His Dark Materials - the trilogy to which Once Upon a Time in the North is a sort of prequel - includes some of the best books I've ever read, but I'm sure I've said that before. I could say that I'm glad Pullman is keeping these characters literarily alive while we await the release of what promises to be the massive Book of Dust - but I'm sure I've said that already too.

The fact is, I didn't have a particularly engaging time reading Once Upon a Time in the North, and so I'm drawing a blank on pretty much every front.

The book is about some of my favourite characters in the series - Iorek Byrnison and Lee Scoresby (and, of course, his daemon, Hester) - but somehow it didn't really offer anything of interest. I would like to know how they all got to where and who they are 30 years later in The Golden Compass et al and Once Upon a Time in the North is supposed to do that - but it was all so...half-hearted and unrevealing.

This book read in the end, I'm sad to say, like a throwaway. I think that I might, in the grand reading scheme of things, have been happier if I hadn't read it at all because then I'd still believe, as I mostly did before (Lyra's Oxford was pretty good but it also wasn't a show-stopping number), that Pullman is playing at a higher level than most fantasy writers. I'm not so sure anymore that he can do no wrong, and that's an unpleasant realization to have about a literary hero. Le sigh.


Yuri... said...

Le sigh echoed from the maritime provinces, amplifying as it rebounds back across Quebec to bounce amid Toronto's concrete towers.

I haven't read Once Upon a Time in the North, but it was high on my list until I read your deflating commentary.

I just finished Theft, however, and enjoyed it less than a "hurrah" but much more than a "meh".

Keep reading Dreamqueen, there are many great words and phrases yet to unravel!

Bookphilia said...

sorry to burst your bubble about once upon a time in the north. i really did try to like it...but trying to like something is a failure in itself, isn't it?

i liked theft in about the same way you describe. i'll be interested to hear what you think of his illegal self...