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Author: [[]] {DAYSSINCEBIRTH(birth=,birthphrase=Release)}{DAYSSINCEBIRTH} I read: November 29 - December 16, 2007 Non-spoilery short description:
Totally spoilery summary:

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|<td> This book takes place in a world parallel to our own. There are plenty of world/political similarities and differences, but the most different thing about the reality itself is that there is more... magic involved, to put it simply. Every person has a daemon, a sort of spiritual companion or external part of the self. Children's daemons can shift shape between types of animals, but once adulthood is reached the daemon becomes locked to one form.

<p>The main character of the book is Lyra, young girl aged a dozen or so. She starts out a real troublesome brat, but when in harsher, more serious situations later on her tenacity and ability to bullshit come in very handy. She lives at Jordan College in Oxford, having been left there by her important uncle Lord Asriel after the death of her parents. At the beginning of the book, having snuck into a room to see what the college upper-ups meet about, she prevents some from poisoning her visiting uncle, and learns a bit about a mysterious city in the sky seen in the aurora and Dust during their meeting while hidden away, but doesn't get the real gist of it.

<p>Elsewhere in the world there is the mystery of the Gobblers; a group who seems to be stealing children. There are some victims around Oxford, including Lyra's best friend Roger.

<p>Eventually, she is told by those at the college it's time for her to move on to a different phase of her life, so she goes to live and learn with Mrs. Coulter. Before leaving, she's gifted by one of the professors with an alethiometer which he says to keep secret. At first Lyra and Mrs. Coulter get along smashingly, but during a sort of fancy party while talking with people who don't realize how little Lyra knows of the real situation, she learns that Lord Asriel is imprisoned by armored bears and that Mrs. Coulter is with the Gobblers, so runs off. She's pretty sure Coulter's daemon has gone through her stuff and knows she has the alethiometer, though.

<p>Within a day or so of running off, she meets a gyptian family she'd previously known in her life, and they take her in on their boat and keep her hidden, though there's a big search going on. They know there's something important about her, and so they're going to a big gyptian gathering. Once there, Lyra learns some interesting things. Lord Asriel is her father. Mrs. Coulter is her mother. The alethiometer is a sort of mystical device used to answer questions; there are books on how to interpret the various complicated combinations of symbols on it, but Lyra has an innate knack for how to interpret it, and gets very detailed information after practice.

<p>The gyptians are going to send a party to the north to try and rescue children taken by the Gobblers. Lyra of course wants to go along, and they begrudgingly allow it because they'll need her skill with the alethiometer. Along the way they gain the help of lorek Byrnison the armored bear, whose armor Lyra helped him find and recover with the use of the alethiometer. Armored bears are an intelligent sort of bear that can talk, wears armor, and are often used as mercenaries. A balloonist Lee Scoresby joins the party as well.

<p>Their travels continue, and one night Lyra and lorek go off, following a clue from the alethiometer. They find a surviving victim of the Gobblers, but something horrible has been done to him: he's been separated from his daemon. He's brought back to the party, but dies in the night. The next day the group is attacked, and Lyra herself is taken by hunters and turned in to the Gobblers for a bounty, though they don't realize she's someone of importance. She meets up with Roger there, and with the help of a witch's daemon (who can unusually separate from their person by far distances) they break into the right places and find many separated daemons, who they set free. Causing more trouble at the right time, an attack by the gyptians and lorek allows the children to escape and be rescued.

<p>Lyra isn't told it, but others including the witches know she's meant for a special destiny, which is part of why there's such the hullaballoo about her. Though the gyptian party has met their goal, Scoresby, lorek, Lyra, and Roger are escorted by some witches to see what they can do about helping Lord Asriel. However, they run into trouble along the way, and Lyra ends up falling out of the balloon they were traveling in. Luckily they were low enough that she wasn't badly hurt, but she is separated. She ends up caught by armored bears. The king of the armored bears is a weird one. lorek was in line for the throne, but this other one schemed things so lorek became an outcast. He wants to be more humanlike, and wishes he could have a daemon. Lyra bullshits him a story about how she's lorek's daemon, and if he can beat lorek in a fair fight she'll be transferred to him. He goes for this, loses once lorek arrives, and lorek becomes king. With his new capabilities, he and a party of bears escort Lyra and Roger to where Lord Asriel is.

<p>Asriel is shocked to see Lyra, but calms down when he sees Roger. Lyra tries to give him the alethiometer assuming it was meant for him, but he doesn't want it. Talking in the night, Lyra learns about Dust from him. Dust is a sort of elementary particle that accumulates on people with time, and is somehow tied to the way people's daemons lose the ability to change shapes. The church believes it has something to do with original sin, which is why they had the Gobblers gathering children to do experiments with. Asriel thinks they haven't gone far enough. He thinks the power unleashed in a separation could allow people to travel to the city sometimes seen in the aurora, which is said to be an alternate reality. He's got the idea that somehow if Dust can be stopped, so can sin. Lyra and he get pissy with each other about how he'd kept the truth from her and how he still doesn't appreciate all the hassle she's been through to get to him.

<p>Lyra is awoken by Asriel's servant, who tells her that Asriel has left with Roger. She realizes he's going to try to separate Roger from his daemon to find his way to the other world. Lyra and lorek try to chase him down, but run into trouble in the form of Mrs. Coulter and a zeppelin. The bears bring the zeppelin down with a sort of cannon, but eventually there's a place in the snow only Lyra can cross, due to weight concerns. She goes on alone, but before she can stop anything Roger is separated and dies. She sees Mrs. Coulter arrive, and Asriel try to convince her to go with him to the other world, but she won't. Asriel goes. Lyra's daemon Pantalaimon makes a simple case to Lyra: if so many assholes think Dust is bad, it can't really be bad, can it? Then shouldn't we stop them trying to stop it? So they walk into the other world, too. </td></tr>

Followed by HDM2.