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.