6 Things to Know About Philip Pullman’s ‘The Book of Dust’

Posted on October 18, 2017 by

Earlier this year, beloved author Philip Pullman announced a companion series to his epic His Dark Materials trilogy. Titled The Book of Dust: La Belle Sauvage, the first volume of the new trilogy is expected to be as enthralling and unputdownable as the original. Here’s what fans need to know before diving into The Book of Dust, which hits shelves on October 19.

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1. The Book of Dust is in set in the same world as His Dark Materials.

The story features the return of favorite characters from the original series, like Lyra and Asriel. However, neither is the hero of The Book of Dust. That honor goes to 11-year-old Malcolm Polstead, who lives in an Oxford inn and briefly appeared in a previous volume. Pullman told The Guardian, “He had a walk-on part in another book, but I’m not saying which, and in any case you have to look carefully.”


2. The new novel takes place a decade before The Golden Compass.

The events of La Belle Sauvage happen 10 years before those of The Golden Compass, but the latter two books in the Book of Dust trilogy will take place after the events of His Dark Materials. Given that the series jumps around in time and place, Pullman does not consider the new series a prequel or sequel, telling Entertainment Weekly:

“I don’t want to call them a sequel; and because I don’t like the word ‘prequel,’ I didn’t want to call the first book by that word. So I call The Book of Dust an ‘equel.'”


3. The title reveals much about the plot.

The Dust, a mysterious element that interacts with people and played a role in the original series, will return in The Book of Dust, becoming a main plot driver. The subtitle, La Belle Sauvage, refers to Malcolm’s canoe. Named after a famous inn, the vessel “is important in this part of The Book of Dust, because some of the story is set during a massive flood,” said Pullman. Overall, the new book will deal with “the necessity of the imagination,” and the ways in which imagination can inform how “we react to each other and think of each other.”


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4. Michael Sheen will voice the audiobook.

The story’s narrator is none other than actor Michael Sheen, whose dulcet tones will relate the tales of Lyra, Malcolm, Asriel, and their world.


5. Pullman has been working on The Book of Dust for nearly 15 years.

Pullman conceived of The Book of Dust in 2003, but as of 2016, it was still a work in progress. Vowing not to cut his hair until he finished the novel, he told the Telegraph in May 2016 that I’ll be so glad to reach [the end] so I can cut my hair.”

Pullman told the New York Times that he’s already at work on the next volume in this saga:

“The structure needs to be sawed up and reassembled, the sentences sanded smooth. The third book then needs to find its way out of his head and onto his two-holed paper. He warned there would be a delay, just as there was before the last volume of His Dark Materials.”


6. The book is earning excellent reviews.

“You should not use the word love lightly,” Slate writes, adding, “I am confident in pronouncing that people will love the first volume of Philip Pullman’s trilogy.” The New York Times says, “the book is full of wonder,” going on to call it “a stunning achievement.” Publishers Weekly writes, “The new characters are as lively and memorable as their predecessors,” adding that the book “will satisfy and delight Pullman’s fans.” The Washington Post says conclusively, “Too few things in our own world are worth a 17-year-wait: The Book of Dust is one of them.”

Do you plan on reading The Book of Dust? Tell us in the comments!


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