The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman

The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman

What Lyra enjoyed most was scrambling across the rooftops of Oxford, committed to the serious fun of war that raged amongst the children of all the colleges and the townies in between. There were pummelings with armfuls of rock-hard plums, mud fights, and even the occasional kidnapping. Yet for all of her wild behavior, Lyra was not an ordinary child. She was a lonely, genius child with aristocratic blood in her veins, and every so often some unfortunate young Scholar would be dispatched by the Master of the College to round her up for a hot bath and tedious lessons at the start of The Golden Compass, by Philip Pullman.

Sometimes Lyra was even brought around for an audience with her uncle, the dark and mysterious Lord Asriel. On those occasions, Pantalaimon, her personal daemon, would accompany her, as he was never more than a few feet from her, no matter whether he wore the form of a mouse or large brown moth. Her uncle's daemon took the fierce form of a sleek ocelot. Lord Asriel never showed much interest during these interviews, and Lyra bore them as patiently as she could, eager though she was to rejoin the fun outside the stuffy walls of her college home.

Perhaps she was drawn to the college's Retiring Room that evening because she was on no account allowed to be there. The elegant old room, filled with portraits of past Masters, was off limits to all but Scholars. Certainly no females were permitted in the chamber.

It was after dinner, and the Scholars would soon be filing in for their poppy and wine. Voices and footsteps echoed down the hall towards the Retiring Room. Lyra and Pantalaimon scrambled into hiding behind an armchair. She waited, listening intently as the Master ordered a decanter of the '98 Tokay, remarking as he did so that it was a favorite wine of Lord Asriel who was an expected guest that evening.

Before her incredulous eyes, Lyra watched as the Master dismissed the Steward and carefully emptied a packet of powder into the rich, golden wine. He threw the packet that had held the powder into the fire, stirred the liquid, and replaced the stopper. The old Master's daemon, in the form of a raven, squawked softly, but he spoke to it quietly before leaving through the same door he had entered. What he had said to calm his daemon, who was a reflection of his own soul, Lyra could not imagine.  But soon a Lyra's interference in the plot leads her into a web of intrigue, kidnappings, and evil designs.

The Golden Compass is the first book in the His Dark Materials trilogy. It has also been made into a movie.