Lyra is a 12 year old girl who has been raised at Jordan College in Oxford by scholars. She has been somewhat neglected and hence has become a 'wild' child. She plays with Roger, one of the kitchen maid's sons. When Lyra sneaks into the retiring room and catches sight of the Aurora Borealis and visions of an alternate world, she is excited beyond belief. Roger disappears one day and Lyra is terribly concerned.
Soon thereafter she is apprenticed to a Mrs. Coulter who is planning a trip to the Arctic. Before long however, Lyra finds out that Mrs. Coulter is really one of the people who are snatching children off the streets. The rumors of what are done with these children are horrendous. Lyra begins a real adventure and rescue.
Pullman has created a fantasy world that is wonderful. Each human has a daemon who is attached for life. Animals talk, witches fly and there are polar bear kings. All the stuff of a really good 'fairy' tale.
First Line: "Lyra and her daemon moved through the darkening hall, taking care to keep to one side, out of sight of the kitchen."