Ever since I discovered that Proxis ( does not charge postage costs above a certain pretty low minimum purchase amount, I have found myself buying books rather more often. Books are eminently suitable for on-line purchase, as are CDs (after you've downloaded them to check 'm out, that is). Sometimes, however, the threshold is perhaps too low. Someone told me to check out Philip Pullman's "Northern Lights" so I went ahead and ordered it right away. Normally, that person has a pretty sound taste. Not this time.

"Rarely if ever have readers been offered such a rich casket of wonders."

"This is one of those books which one can hardly bear to close...astonishingly gripping and convincing."

"The threads of fantasy, terror and grandiose follies are merged with unusual and mesmerising skill."

These are just a few of the praises printed in and on the book. I wonder, however, if perhaps these people intended their words of praise for a different book altogether. Had the cover been soiled by the wrong review snippets? If you ask me, yes, it had.

I would have liked to know that I was ordering a book for younger readers. Or, at least, I can but assume that it is. I don't mind reading books intended for teenagers, though, and with all the kind words splattered on the cover I figured I'd be in for a most enjoyable read.

Although the universe in which the story takes place is indubitably original, that is about the only positive thing I can say. I was never much gripped by the tale, I never thought it was particularly full of wonders, nor convincing, nor mesmerising. Worst, I never thought it was particularly well-written. It is never nice to find yourself thinking, "I could have written that." Last time I felt like that was after reading books by Craig Shaw-Gardner.

Suffice to say I won't be reading further parts of this series.

Released 1998, ISBN 0-590-66054-3

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Written October 2003


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