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Once Upon a Time in the North - Philip Pullman

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Genre: Junior Books / Author: Philip Pullman / Hardcover / 112 Pages / Book is published 2008-04-04 by David Fickling Books

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    3 Reviews
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      23.11.2008 13:05
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      so so

      ____Once upon a time in the north ____

      It has been about 5 years since i read Phillip Pullmans Dark Materials Trilogy but when i saw this book i decided to read it as even though it had been a while the books were that good that i could still remember loads about them.

      This story takes place before the others and the book is less than 100 pages long.This put me off as how good can it be if it is that short but i liked how it showed you how Lee Scoresby and Iorek Byrnison meet.Its good because it introduces you to the characters.I think that this book is not very good on its own but would be nice in a collection with the other books( preferably free :/)The book feels rushed and the story line is a bit on the dull side.Not the authors best works.

      Isbn -9780385614320 and Price £9.99.I think that this is a little expensive and i probably wouldn't have paid that much myself(borrowed it from the library)It also comes with a little game which i think is pointless,why put a game in a book?

      Overall i think it is worth borrowing from the library or buying in a sale but not worth £9.99.

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        15.10.2008 09:55
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        A nice addition to the collection, but by far not the most enganging

        Philip Pullman is a man of great talent. A man so focused on giving his readers something that little bit extra than your average author. His worlds are rich in detail and his characters, greatly developed and life like. Often compared to CS Lewis, he is a man with countless works to his name, which sadly are underrated. His latest book, Once Upon a Time in the North, revisits the world best known from His Dark Materials Trilogy. It is in fact a sort of prequel to Northern Lights (The Golden Compass), but with only 104 pages, does it have enough substance to capture the attention of his loyal fan base?

        This short fantasy story tells the tale of how the widely popular and arguably important characters of Lee Scoresby and Iorek Byrnison meet. Texan Aeronaut Lee Scoresby and his Hare Daemon Hester are running out of provisions and so land in the small harbour town of Novy Odense. Upon speaking to a local journalist in the bar, he realises that Novy Odense is in the middle of a mayor election, where favourite Ivan Domitrovich Poliakov is winning the vote by campaigning to exile all of the Artic Bears that 'plague' the city.

        As the story progresses he becomes aware that Poliakov however has his own secret agenda and is really just a political puppet for the corrupt organisation known as Larsen Manganese, who plan to become the new law force in Novy Odense once Poliakov gets into power. Captain Van Barda us being stalled at the harbour and is refused access to leave with his cargo. Scoresby suspects it has something to do with Larsen Manganese, so with the help of the Artic Bear Iorek Byrnison, he sets out to free Van Barda's cargo and show the people of Novy Odense that they too can make a stand against these types of organisations.

        At first glance the story here may seem a little too rushed to fit nicely inside of the 104 pages, but in places it does pick up quite smoothly, pacing itself along almost melodically until the last page. Unlike Northern Lights or even its two sequels, Once Upon a Time in the North on the other hand does seem insignificant, hiding behind the characters themselves and this is a shame. As the reader, you cannot help but feel that the story, as a stand alone novel, is nothing but a little tiresome and forced.

        To be fair though, this is a book that isn't meant to be taken further than really just existing as a small gift to fill the void until Pullman's new major book hits the shelves. It's charming to be re-introduced to some of the elements of daily life fans know so much from past outings. Nonetheless, I've got to be honest. This is a book that is supposed to show how Scoresby and Iorek know each other, how they met. Truthfully it does, it tells a story along those lines, but you feel you should expect something more, something a little more detailed and interesting to say the least. They do make an acquaintance and help each other at the end of the book, but it takes up so little you can't help but feel disappointed.

        Despite being very short, the story does give us some very interesting themes. It is these themes that excel the story further in terms of depth and detail. Anyone can write a story, but it takes an experienced author to integrate a whole bunch of themes into it. A topic that stands out is political agenda and scandal. It's a theme perhaps which has been used over and over, but in spite of the unoriginality, it is strong and dynamic throughout. The effect of this particular theme is that it really doesn't enforce certain personalities to the characters, defining them as the main protagonists or antagonists in the story.

        Another reference used throughout is that of companionship. This is seen through the relationship between human and daemon and also with the newly built friendship between Scoresby, Van Barda and Byrnison. If this was used in an obvious way the result would have left the book rather light and fluffy, but instead it adds a strong element of emotion which ultimately captivates the reader further into the novel.

        Pullman's writing style is often quite formal and lucrative with times of intricate detail and imagery. He uses descriptive sentences to the full to explode his world into all colours and it works extremely well with adjectives, adverbs and contrasts flying all over the place. The result from all of this detail is that you can get sucked into his words and the pages can flow together with ease like a long coherent poem.

        The main protagonist is clearly Lee Scoresby and what's great about his character is that he pretty much says whatever is on his mind. He's sarcastic, he's witty and he most definitely can hold his own in the story without the need for other, as strong, characters to back him up. His entire sarcastic approach to the world and indeed his visit to Novy Odense adds a lot of humour into the story, which otherwise would leave it lacking somewhat. At times, Pullman can surprise you with how far he is willing to go in terms of this dark device as at various moments Scoresby's humour is a little rude which questions how it will be taken by children who read this. This leads nicely on to his use of taboo which seems a little unnatural. There isn't many swear words in here, but when they are used it appears a tad bit unnecessary.

        Once Upon a time in the North is a book of merit at moments with some satire to capture any age's attention, but Pullman only just manages to hold the magic lingering through the pages. As the reader, you cannot help but feel like you have been duped into reading a second rate novel that came from such a high quality series. The story is short, at times dull, and not very engaging especially for a younger audience, as they will find it hard to associate themselves with Lee Scoresby unlike how they could have done with Lyra or Will. It most certainly is a nice little addition to add to the His Dark Materials collection, one that includes a little bit of extras in the back, such as a copy of the board game (Peril of the Pole) that appears within the story plus some little titbits to get fans excited for the next major release, but on the whole it is a story that cannot stand alone much without the backup of its strong predecessors.

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          20.04.2008 03:47
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          A short story in connection with the "his dark materials" trilogy

          On my weekly release from the asylum we call employment, I felt it was time to catch up with my friend who was delighted to inform me she had managed to give her kids to a charity somewhere deep in africa and will be getting some free clothing in return. Since we were going out later that night to lower the level of blood in our alcohol stream, we decided we should go shopping for something sexy to pull in the punters with.

          First stop, Starbucks, which just so happens to be on the top floor of the giant borders books they opend a while back. All those terrible capitalist organisations in one place. It's awful really. After attempting to order a mocha choca lata yaya with extra cream hold the coffee, we tramped down the stairs and out into the "teen fiction" section where I was staring at a wonderous sight.

          A whole row of Phillip Pullman books! When I realised what this book was, I could hardly contain my excitement, grabbed a copy and skipped past a group of moody, broody teens wishing them all a good day, to the cashier. Not only was he cute, he told me I was getting money off (making it £7.99 instead of the usual £9.99)and a free book bag with the northern lights on the front. I died and went to heaven at that point. Now that they have supplied me with a computer, time to review this baby!

          The book its self is the latest addition to the incredibly popular trilogy "His dark materials". Its a short(ish) story about a couple of the characters from the main books, giving us another glimpse into the world of "the northern lights"

          Pullman has previously let out a VERY short story in connection with his brain-child containing maps of the world the story is set in and other random bits. This story is a bit longer and is filled with things to keep us distracted.

          The story focuses on the first meeting of Lee Scoresby and Iorek Byrnison in a cold, nasty little town. As it's a short story, there's not much else I can really say without ruining it. Needless to say, Pullman hits the spot and keeps the action coming from start to end in this fast paced mini munch into his world.

          The thing I loved the most about this latest addition is that it gives the reader some great objects to really pull them into the the world Pullman has created. At a few points in the story when there are references to books or documents the characters have, you can find "photocopies" of the aforementioned items on the next page. At the end of the main story there are a few other extras.

          The first one being a board game that comes with the pieces you need to move and a spinny thing to help you play it. I found this utterly amazing as even in the instructions it talks to you like you are part of Pullmans fantasy universe.

          A few other bits and bobs include a newspaper story written about the events you have just read, rather comically backing up the statements made about the person who wrote the article.

          There are also two short letters included at the end of the book that are utterly fascinating for any fan of the "his dark materials". They don't have any meaning at all to them, but when you realise who is writing them, it may tug fondly on your heart strings.

          To add to the brilliant little extras, there are some lovely black and white illustrations throughout and, lets face it, we all stories with pictures.

          One thing I feel I should point out is that this book is aimed at those who are already aquainted with the "his dark materials" trilogy so if you haven't read them, you will need to either A: Blindly accept a few facts about the world you are now in, or B: go read the other books, you fool.

          I got through this in about 5 hours, but most people will probably get through it a lot quicker as I'm a slow reader. Definatley a welcome addition to my book collection and that of any HDM fans, with more extras than you can shake a sticky biscuit at. Even a jammy dodger!

          If you haven't gotten yourself hooked on these books yet, I suggest you give yourself a slap and get thee down to your local or otherwise capitalist book store.

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