La Belle Sauvage (2017) by Philip Pullman

This is not a bad novel. There are well-realised characters, the themes are imbued into the setting, there’s a lovely sense of a lived-in world, there’s a crackling sense of magic, there’s a considered structure, there’s that wonderful tense interplay between childhood and adulthood that Pullman excels at exploring. But there’s a real question of…why…

The Collectors (2014) by Philip Pullman

A more interesting prequel exercise than the character-focused ones; an efficient little supernatural story with new bit characters. Perhaps the point of it was to confirm a wibbly-wobbly timing issue between the many universes of the series, but the shortness and speed of the story make it feel more like a proper little almost horror…

Once Upon a Time in the North (2008) by Philip Pullman

A nice enough prequel story, more plot-heavy than LYRA’S OXFORD, and less charming as well. It initially feels like a sort of standalone episodic adventure not too tied into the main HIS DARK MATERIALS serious, but of course contrives ways to prequelise. It’s not a bad story, and the characters are enjoyable, but there’s that…

Little Women (1868-1869) by Louisa May Alcott

Lovely sense of character, especially with Jo March, who instantly feels so fully-formed and real, like she could spring off the page. The other characters all receive some powerful and striking moments (Meg and her husband’s struggles with loving each other but not loving their financial solution were particularly well-realised), but it’s Jo who consistently…

Lyra’x Oxford (2003) by Philip Pullman

I’m never really a huge fan of adding little bits of material to a series after it’s very definitively concluded, especially a series like HIS DARK MATERIALS where the ending had such power and finality. But a little short story like this certainly has its charms, especially with its accompanying illustrations and in-universe media like…

A Christmas Carol (1843) by Charles Dickens

Very short, and surprisingly not as mawkish as the reputation (and many of the adaptations) would indicate. A short and sweet, efficient even, distillation of Dickens’s sense of Christmas, the Christmas spirit, the zeitgeist of Christmas. It feels almost Biblical in how the moral lesson unfolds methodically and with such clarity. Scrooge seeing when he…

Dracula (1897) by Bram Stoker

Perhaps the most striking thing about reading DRACULA in 2019 is how overwhelmingly modern it feels. An epistolary, formed of faux-letters and phonograph recordings and the like, it feels like a precursor to found-footage horror films. The real-time way the story develops through these scattered texts creates a sense of tension and suspense that just…