My rating: 3 of 5 stars
To be fair, I didn’t read the Darkest Materials series, but I was familiar with the storyline and the controversy around that series being a bit preachy and pro-atheism. But this book was recommended to me and it had great reviews on Goodreads, so I decided to go for it. It is part of a second series that is running parallel to his original series, and this book takes place before the first series started. So it’s kind of a prequel.
It follows a boy named Malcolm who lives on the river in an inn owned by his parents. Across the river is a priory of nuns and he visits and helps them frequently. When the nuns take in a baby that gets the attention of both the religious circles and a spy network, Malcolm finds himself in the middle of it all. After a natural catastrophe, Malcolm, along with a girl who works at the inn, Alice, have to go on an adventure in an effort to protect this baby.
Maybe it’s because I didn’t read the first series, but I found this book to be a little convoluted. The first half of the book read like a spy novel, and I was really intrigued. But then, it abruptly turns into a completely different book after a natural disaster takes place. It became more like a fantasy folklore story.
Also, even though Alice is in the synopsis in the back of the book, she only makes a few appearances throughout the first half of the novel. Granted, she does play a more pivotal role as the story progresses, but I was confused during the first half of the story just why she was included in the story’s summary. Malcolm’s character does have some transforming experiences throughout the book, but it takes quite a dark turn towards the end.
I don’t remember a whole lot of profanity, but there were some mentions of urination in public to describe the unsettled evil of the story. As far as sexual content, there is a sex scene that is used to show how manipulative one of the bad characters was. And there are some implications for Alice being alone with a man. For violent content, there is a good bit. The natural disaster was a flood, and there are mentions of dead people and animals floating in the water. Plus, there is a lot of fighting, shooting, and killing among the characters.
Overall, the book wasn’t bad. It might just not be my kind of book. I didn’t, however, feel like it was anti-religion or pro-atheism. There were good and bad people on all sides. Maybe if I read the original series first I might have a different perspective. So, if you have read the original series, this might be a good book for you to pick up!