Thursday, 2 April 2015

His Dark Materials Readalong - Once Upon A Time In The North

As part of the His Dark Materials Readalong, here I am, talking about the last book in this readalong. A book I haven't read before (shocking, I know!). Once Upon A Time In The North is a weird creature. I think I never read it before now because I had read Lyra's Oxford and I think I went away from that going "was that all? Really? That was it?". So, I bought then gave away my copy of Once Upon A Time In The North when the book came out and now, several years later, I went internet hunting for a copy (thank you secondhand!).

Once Upon A Time In The North is a prequel where two characters meet for the first time, around thirty-five years prior to the events of the His Dark Materials trilogy. The Texan balloonist, Lee Scoresby, and the armoured bear, Iorek Byrnison.

When the young Lee Scoresby and his daemon, Hester, land their balloon in a small Arctic town, they find themselves flying straight into a political brawl. The political factions want control of the town and its oil, and the resident bears are treated with contempt and like second-class citizens. It doesn't take long before Lee and Iorek meet and their friendship begins. But with political tensions also at fever pitch, it wouldn't take long before blood will be spilt.

Ok, I admit it, it took me a good 20 or so pages before I found my stride with this story. It's very different from Lyra's Oxford - the book is longer than Lyra's Oxford (almost double) and the type is smaller, so we got more story. But because it has been so long since I read Scoresby (he wasn't exactly a character I remember really well, if I can be truthful with you all), I felt like I had to get to know him again. Which was nice. I feel ready to meet him again when I feel brave enough to try and reread the trilogy again (stupid reading slump).

But once I got into the story, it went into a western-type read and, for this book, I was excited for the change. It fit Lee's character a lot more and I was pleased over how it worked. Setting a western in the Arctic just fitted for some reason.

The illustrations/engravings by John Lawrence fitted the story very neatly and, unless I am mistaken, he also did the illustrations for Lyra's Oxford. I really liked these so I might write a seperate blogpost to show them off.

If I can be honest, the only thing that bothered me was, at times, one of the characters felt out of place. I can't put my finger on why I feel like this.

But I liked this a lot more than Lyra's Oxford. And if you're a fan of the series, this is a must. 

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