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