Build your an­tic­i­pa­tion for The Book Of Dust with our handy-dandy primer.

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not since Harry Pot­ter headed to­wards his fi­nal show­down with lord volde­mort has there been such a bal­ly­hoo sur­round­ing a new fan­tasy book. on thurs­day 19 oc­to­ber, La Belle Sau­vage, the first vol­ume of philip pull­man’s The Book Of Dust tril­ogy, will be avail­able to pur­chase from book­stores.

Build­ing the sense of an­tic­i­pa­tion, Bri­tish pub­lish­ers pen­guin ran­dom house and david fick­ling have only grad­u­ally re­vealed in­for­ma­tion about a se­ries that’s be­ing de­scribed as an “equel”, rather than a pre­quel or se­quel, to pull­man’s hugely suc­cess­ful and much-loved His Dark Ma­te­ri­als tril­ogy. so what do we know about pull­man’s re­turn to the par­al­lel Bri­tain of lyra Belac­qua?

firstly, while the books will cer­tainly fea­ture lyra, pull­man has a new hero. he’s mal­colm pol­stead, an 11-year-old who lives with his par­ents at the trout Inn on the thames near ox­ford. the ti­tle of the book comes from the name of his ca­noe, it­self named af­ter an inn in london, and trans­lates from french to english roughly as “the wild beauty” or “the beau­ti­ful sav­age”. ac­cord­ing to pull­man, “[mal­colm] had a walk-on part in an­other book, but I’m not say­ing which, and in any case you have to look care­fully.”

an ex­tract from the novel was pub­lished in may in the Guardian and, along with a Q&a re­leased by his pub­lish­ers, of­fers fur­ther tan­talis­ing clues as to what we might ex­pect. the book is set a decade be­fore North­ern Lights, and mal­colm’s home is op­po­site god­stow pri­ory, where nuns care for young lyra. her fa­ther, lord as­riel, cen­tral to the ex­tract as mal­colm takes him across the thames, is barred from see­ing his daugh­ter af­ter killing a man.

Both char­ac­ters share a mu­tual ac­quain­tance in one dr relf, al­though no real de­tails of her im­por­tance to the over­all plot have been re­vealed. at least we can be sure that “the book is set dur­ing a mas­sive flood”, pre­sum­ably mak­ing mal­colm’s ca­noe a use­ful way of get­ting around.

as for the over­all tril­ogy, the ti­tle is a ref­er­ence to a kind of el­e­men­tary par­ti­cle of­ten as­so­ci­ated with the change from child­hood to adult­hood when peo­ple’s dae­mons – fa­mil­iars that are a kind of phys­i­cal man­i­fes­ta­tion of their char­ac­ters – set­tle on a form. as well as fea­tur­ing a younger lyra, La Belle Sau­vage and its suc­ces­sor will also show her 20 years later. No in­for­ma­tion at all has been re­leased about the fi­nal vol­ume in the tril­ogy. ex­pect more de­tails to be­gin to emerge on wed­nes­day 18 oc­to­ber, when pull­man will give a press con­fer­ence in ox­ford.

La Belle Sau­vage is pub­lished on 19 Oc­to­ber.

Philip Pull­man: not giv­ing much away about his new book.

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