Review: ‘Once upon a time in the North’ by Philip Pullman

This is a sweet little hardback book (no paperback apparently available, although there is a Kindle version). It is both inexpensive and beautifully produced. To augment the interesting story there are illustrations purporting to be engravings and facsimiles of documents referred to in the text. There is also a game with a map, a compass (as you might expect) and counters, all delightfully rendered in light card, tucked into a pocket at the back of the book. The whole thing would fit in a hip pocket.

This book is set before The Golden Compass trilogy. Big, dirty, industry is being developed, mainly in the north – way up near the Arctic circle where ‘they’ are taking all the fish-oil, coal and hides they can lay their dirty hands on. The story is an old one: those with scruples versus those with none, the difference that one man can make when confronted with a mob (if he is resourceful enough). Not a particularly original story, you may say; but it is a well told and exciting yarn none the less. Especially when the story is spiced with a hot-air balloon (which crashes a lot), the animal-form (various) daemons which accompany every human and the armoured polar bear whose story will tug at your heart strings.

When I first saw this I imagined it was going to be like the little books tacked onto the Potterverse (eg The Tales of Beadle the Bard ). But this is a complete story, of substantial novella-length, rather than discontiguous ‘tales’. It stars Lee Scoresby and his unflappable hare, Hester (I am a big fan of these two, especially Hester). It tells how he became an aeronaut, hiring out himself and his balloon while he learns how to fly it, and drifts through the industrial Northlands. It is gripping from beginning to end and absolutely not just for children.

I wonder how the illustrations fare on the Kindle version. But then, the original book is little larger than a Kindle screen, so perhaps they survive better than usual.


Published by Judi Moore

Hi there, I hope you find something to interest you here. In December 2017 I published my fourth book – ‘Wonders will never cease’. It’s a satirical campus novel set in the fictional Ariel University in 1985. If you enjoyed Tom Sharpe’s Porterhouse novels, Willy Russell’s ‘Educating Rita’, David Lodge’s campus novels or Malcolm Bradbury’s ‘The History Man’ back in the day, you may enjoy revisiting the ivory towers of 1980s’ academe thirty years on. See what you think. “It is December, 1985. The year is winding gently towards its close until Fergus Girvan, a Classicist at Ariel University, finds his research has been stolen by the man who is also seeking to steal his daughter. But which man is, actually, the more unscrupulous of the two? And is there hope for either of them?” In the autumn of 2015 I published a volume of short fiction: 'Ice Cold Passion and other stories'. I am also the author of novella 'Little Mouse', a shortish piece of historical fiction which I published in 2014 and, a sequel to it, 'Is death really necessary?', my eco thriller set in the near future and which, confusingly, I published in 2009. All the books are available from all good online bookshops and FeedARead on paper, and as e-books on Kindle. On a semi-regular basis, and about a month after the event, I post here reviews which I do for Big Al & Pals, the premier reviewer of indie books, based in the States. My interests tend to thrillers, SF, magic realism and other quirky stuff. On this blog are also posted the reviews I did for Leighton Buzzard Music Club over some five years up to the end of 2015. LBMC present annual seasons of eight monthly chamber music concerts at the Library Theatre in Leighton Buzzard, Bucks. They select young musicians just beginning to make their name - and the concerts are usually magnificent. I was very proud to be associated with them. I review other music, books, theatre and exhibitions which I've particularly enjoyed. BTW - it says the link to Facebook is broken. I dispute that. Click it and see, why not?

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