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Publisher's Summary

When Lyra and her daemon Pantalaimon decide to spy on a presentation her uncle, the commanding Lord Asriel, is making to the elders of Jordan College they have no idea that they will become witnesses to an attempted murder, and even less that they are taking the first steps in a journey that will lead them into danger and adventure unlike anything Lyra's unfettered imagination has conjured up.

Though she has been raised at the college in an atmosphere of benign neglect that has allowed her to become a half-wild child of the streets, Lyra soon finds herself apprenticed to the elegant Mrs. Coulter, and in possession of a strange device called the alethiometer, a "golden compass" that reads not true worth, but truth itself.

But truth is a precious commodity, and before long Lyra and Pan are running for their lives, the object of an obsessive hunt by mysterious forces who have been stealing children for dark purposes that no one understands. Lyra will need all her street-learned wiles if she and Pan are to survive.

An international sensation from the moment it was published, The Golden Compass comes to spectacular new life in this unabridged recording, narrated by Philip Pullman himself, with the support of some of the finest actors of the London stage.

Listen to the rest of Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials series.
©1995 Philip Pullman (P)1999 Random House, Inc.

Critic Reviews

"Superb...Wonder-filled." (Washington Post Book World)
"Very grand indeed...Scene after scene of power and beauty." (The New York Times)
"A rousing, page-turning adventure that promises to please fantasy readers of all ages." (Library Journal)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings


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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

A Terrific Book

My entire family has gotten hooked on this book, to the extent that we look for reasons to get in the car and drive with it. I was so enthralled that we ran out of gas. Imaginitive premise, interesting and well-developed characters, and many plot twists. I thought you could not top Jim Dale reading the Harry Potter stories, but this is right up there.
A word of advice: With different actors playing different characters, this did not play back well on level 2, and we almost gave up on it. Load it at the highest resolution you can play. If it seems a little slow at the start, hang in there. The characters keep getting more imaginitive, and the plot more suspensful.

34 of 35 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Bev
  • Alton, IL, USA
  • 08-28-07

More for adults than kids...

While I don't think this is a book for children, I do think this book is amazing - the narriator is very good as well. I loved these books when I read them - and I loved them just as much while listening. You won't be disappointed.

19 of 20 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Scott
  • Queen Creek, AZ, USA
  • 09-08-08

Thoroughly enjoyable

If you like Harry Potter you will enjoy this story of a little girl
and her journey in a world like ours, but a little different. It's
not magical like Harry but the supernatural is there, and so
is the suspense and adventure. Great characters that you
learn to love and hate. So much better than the movie.
Read the book!

I've already order the rest of the series and am busy reading
them all!

8 of 8 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Best Audio Book I've ever Heard

I've been listening to audio books for quite some time and this one by far is the best. Performed by a full cast where each actor assumes the role of one of the characters, the listener is transported into Pullman's world.

Set in the fictional past of early 20th century England, every human has what is called a "demon". As children these demons can assume any animal form, often changing depending on the mood of their child. Demons are animal representations of human souls, and no one is complete without one. After puberty, the demons assume one form and stay that way for life. Demons seem to take on the type of animal the person is in life, for example servants tend to have dogs as demons, loyal and obedient. Scholars have birds such as ravens, intelligent and far-seeing. One sailor has a dolphin or some such creature as a demon, thereby tying him forever to the ocean. Humans and their demons are mentally connected. What one feels, the other feels. They can talk to each other and cannot be away from each other, even at close distances or they feel great pain and anxiety.

Lyra, an orphaned pre-teen girl, and her demon Pan (yet to assume one form) find themselves in the middle of a political conspiracy. Unsure of who to trust and who their true allies are, their life was changed forever when they witnessed the Master of the college where they had spent all their years as a ward, attempt to poison Lyra's estranged uncle.

Her uncle, involved in some strange discoveries and experiments has returned to the college to ask for money to continue his work, investigating the origin of subatomic particles referred to as "dust". For some reason the scholars of the college are suprised to learn that this mysterious "dust" does not cling to children. After he receives the money and thwarts an attempt to poison him, he returns to his work.

What is dust? And why are children all over England disappearing? Lyra soon embarks on a journey to seek these answers.

107 of 118 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Unusual production is problematic

The Golden Compass is a well known and respected work such that I think I don't have to review the book itself. It's fun and has a lot of well-imagined characters and adventures and is well written.

However, this recording is unusually "produced" for a recorded book. Philip Pullman acts as the narrator, reading all of the descriptive and background material, while a whole cast of actors fill in the dialogue of the characters. In my opinion, Pullman does a great job as the narrator, but I have some problems with the accompanying cast. I tried really hard to give this new approach to recording a book a chance, but in some ways it just doesn't work for me. One of the first jarring things is that the dialogue portions sound as if they were recorded in an entirely different room (which they probably were) and then spliced into the narrative.

Another of my problems is the performances of some of the characters, particularly the central female character, Lyra, who sounds either like a pre-teen girl or a woman trying to sound like a pre-teen girl. The voicing seems to me artificially light and high in pitch. That would seem to be appropriate for the character, but the problem is that almost every speech starts out sounding somewhat normal but progresses quickly to become breathless and even strident as the character apparently gets more excited. I found this more and more annoying as the performance continued. Especially given the prevalence of child characters and the lower-class British accents used, I frequently felt as if I was listening to a recording of Oliver (without the music of course)! To me it's overly dramatic, particularly for a reading which is NOT a real performance. My point, I guess, is that I don't want to be listening on tape to a live performance of the work. I want to be listening to a reading of the work, and this production crosses that line and not altogether successfully.

This recording might appeal to a younger generation of people who are more accustomed to watching live performances of written works than actually reading the works from cover to cover in book form.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Luke
  • Woodridge, IL, USA
  • 02-18-08

Highly Recommended

Fantastic audio and a great story--highly recommended.

I saw the movie, and I thought it was great. However, as with any great film adaptation there is still much to be said about the unabridged book. There was a great deal left out of the movie that I experienced through this novel.

I only wish I had discovered this unabridged audiobook before I saw the movie so I could compare my imagination to the director's take.

Again, the audio quality and imaginative story make for a thoroughly entertaining listen--I highly recommend it.

10 of 11 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

Yay for a female heroine!

I love that the heroine of this book,12-year-old Lyra, is a feisty girl who knows more about acting humanely than most of the adults in this novel. The world she lives is similar to the present day with some twists – namely talking polar bears, witches, daemons, and a splash of Norwegian folk-lore. The mix of reality and fantasy reminded me somewhat of “The Amulet of Samarkand,” by Jonathan Stroud, although if you know anything about the Stroud series you’d see profound differences regarding the role of daemons. Daemons in this novel are attached to each character and a reflection of their soul. The full-cast narration was superb and a joy to listen to. There are many great ambiguous moments regarding the decisions Lyra must make and you soon see that all is not as it seems. This is the first book in a series.

14 of 16 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Brilliant fantasy!

Although aimed at younger readers, like the Harry Potter books, The Golden Compass trilogy is very entertaining to adults, as well. The story follows young Lyra and her daemon Pan through adventures in an alternate universe, where magic is common and each person's soul takes on the external form of his or her daemon. Pullman's writing is brilliant and very dynamic, and this is much more than a simple children's book. While great for listeners of any age, younger children may need a little guidance, though shouldn't have too much trouble following the story. Highly recommended!

40 of 48 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars


This was hard to start listening to. The voice of Lyra was sort of manic, but she grew on me. And once "knowing" her, I realized that it is her character, not just bad direction.
The plot completely drew me in, until I was at the point of not wanting to turn off my Ipod. The story, along with the full cast really made you feel the intensity of their situations.
Now for the "anti-God" thing...umm...I didn't think that it was that bad. Especially since the world that Lyra lives in is basically a "parallel" world. Yes, the Church has done some incredibly horrific things in the past. So why is it such a stretch for someone to put it into a fictional story? And for the whole thing about "killing God"??? A bit over-hyped...but that is the fundamentalist way.
Young children wouldn't understand this story very well, and some parts would scare them. Older kids I think should read/listen to it. They should recieve more credit than many are willing to give.

21 of 25 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars

Better read than heard

In my opinion novels read by the authors are generally inferior to those read by actors, and this is a case in point. To make matters worse, the dialogue is read by actors but the editing is so poor that there is a jarring abruptness each time there is a transition from non-dialogue to dialogue, as in there is no pause at all between the two. This is a fabulous book and I recommend it highly, but this audio rendering leaves a lot to be desired.

37 of 45 people found this review helpful