One of those birthday presents I really like, the book I know nothing about. Whenever such a thing happens I try not reading the back of the book so as not to know what to expect. So if you feel the same (and enjoy a good all-age fantasy novel), just stop reading and buy the book.
For everyone else, this book, the first one of three, deals with the young girl Lyra who's being brought up by the scholars of Oxford College. But there is something strange going on; this is not our world but a parallell Earth. The differences are introduced as being natural in this world, leading to an immersive feeling where you must concentrate on what's going on (it took me quite a few chapters to realize that anbaric = electric (I think)).
Among those differences: The Catholic Church rules the world, all humans have their own daemon psychically linked to them, the panserbjørne are intelligent bears which are masters of metal handling, and finally the thing the book revolves about: The Dust, a strange elementary particle which is attracted only to adults, not kids who have not yet (in the view of the Church) been exposed to Sin.
An imaginative novel with dark undercurrents; despite the young heroine this is not a cosy novel. I'm looking forward to reading the last two parts.
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