Lyra is a rebellious child who has grown up in a college with scholars because her parents were killed in an accident. She doesn't care to learn much, but would rather explore, play with her friends, and make fun of the scholars. Her daemon, Pantalaimon, has not yet taken a permanent form because Lyra is still a child. Each person in the world has a deamon, an animal that is the soul of the person, showing their emotion, defending their human counterpart and speaking to them.
When Lyra hides in a closet as her uncle comes over, she learns about the North and sees a child standing beside a man with a stream of dust coming out of the sky. Lyra is in awe and wants to travel to the North. She soon gets her chance when a woman asks Lyra to become her assistant in preparation for travelling North. But soon Lyra learns that there's more going on in the North than just scientific experiments. Children are being snatched from their home and they are never found, but there are rumors. Rumors of experimentation on children and their daemons.
For a fantasy novel, I was surprised at what a page turner this book was. It doesn't take too long to understand the alternate world that Pullman has created and get completely enveloped in it. The ending, however, isn't too satisfactory but this is because there's a book #2 and #3. I'm looking forward to reading the next one and seeing what else Lyra gets up to. She's a smart girl for a 12 year old!
First Line: "Lyra and her daemon moved through the darkening hall, taking care to keep to one side, out of sight from the kitchen."