It is twenty years since the events of La Belle Sauvage: The Book of Dust Volume One unfolded and saw the baby Lyra Belacqua begin her life-changing journey.
It is seven years since readers left Lyra and the love of her young life, Will Parry, on a park bench in Oxford's Botanic Gardens at the end of the ground-breaking, bestselling His Dark Materials sequence.
Now, in The Secret Commonwealth, we meet Lyra Silvertongue. And she is no longer a child . . .
The second volume of Sir Philip Pullman's The Book of Dust sees Lyra, now twenty years old, and her daemon Pantalaimon, forced to navigate their relationship in a way they could never have imagined, and drawn into the complex and dangerous factions of a world that they had no idea existed. Pulled along on his own journey too is Malcolm; once a boy with a boat and a mission to save a baby from the flood, now a man with a strong sense of duty and a desire to do what is right.
Theirs is a world at once familiar and extraordinary, and they must travel far beyond the edges of Oxford, across Europe and into Asia, in search for what is lost - a city haunted by daemons, a secret at the heart of a desert, and the mystery of the elusive Dust.
The Secret Commonwealth is truly a book for our times; a powerful adventure and a thought-provoking look at what it is to understand yourself, to grow up and make sense of the world around you. This is storytelling at its very best from one of our greatest writers.
The Secret Commonwealth
I was born in Norwich in 1946, and educated in England, Zimbabwe, and Australia, before my family settled in North Wales. I received my secondary education at the excellent Ysgol Ardudwy, Harlech, and then went to Exeter College, Oxford, to read English, though I never learned to read it very well.
I found my way into the teaching profession at the age of 25, and taught at various Oxford Middle Schools before moving to Westminster College in 1986, where I spent eight years involved in teaching students on the B.Ed. course. I have maintained a passionate interest in education, which leads me occasionally to make foolish and ill-considered remarks alleging that not everything is well in our schools. My main concern is that an over-emphasis on testing and league tables has led to a lack of time and freedom for a true, imaginative and humane engagement with literature.
My views on education are eccentric and unimportant, however. My only real claim to anyone's attention lies in my writing. I've published nearly twenty books, mostly of the sort that are read by children, though I'm happy to say that the natural audience for my work seems to be a mixed one - mixed in age, that is, though the more mixed in every other way as well, the better.
My first children's book was Count Karlstein (1982, republished in 2002). That was followed by The Ruby in the Smoke (1986), the first in a quartet of books featuring the young Victorian adventurer, Sally Lockhart. I did a great deal of research for the background of these stories, and I don't intend to let it lie unused, so there will almost certainly be more of them.
I've also written a number of shorter stories which, for want of a better term, I call fairy tales. They include The Firework-Maker's Daughter, I Was a Rat!, and Clockwork, or All Wound Up. This is a kind of story I find very enjoyable, though immensely difficult to write.
However, my most well-known work is the trilogy His Dark Materials, beginning with Northern Lights ( The Golden Compass in the USA) in 1995, continuing with The Subtle Knife in 1997, and concluding with The Amber Spyglass in 2000. These books have been honoured by several prizes, including the Carnegie Medal, the Guardian Children's Book Award, and (for The Amber Spyglass) the Whitbread Book of the Year Award - the first time in the history of that prize that it was given to a children's book.
I was the 2002 recipient of the Eleanor Farjeon Award for children's literature. At the award ceremony for that prize, which I was very proud to receive, I promised to spend my time in future making fewer speeches and writing more books.