This book just makes me all kinds of happy. I'm not sure why it's taken me so long to read these, really... Granted, I do go to a Christian university and it is such a great time to see people's reactions when I say that I'm reading these. Honestly. My advice to those people would be to read them for yourself and stop letting other people make decisions for you. Because this book was lovely as well as relatively complex. The plot has a lot going on in it that you don't necessarily catch on to right away. With that said, usually I'm not a huge fan of talking animals (there are reasons as to why I never made it past the first Narnia book. I just couldn't handle the talking animals.) So I was a tad bit nervous as these books get compared to Narnia a lot (or should I say contrasted? The atheists alternative? whatever.) partly because of the animals aspect and I'm not a huge fan of Narnia... Anyway, comparisons aside, I loved the world that was built up. One in which each human had a daemon companion. I loved all the little rules that went with these daemons. They are always animals, they are always the opposite gender of their companions, they can shift fluidly through any animal shape until the human reaches adulthood in which they remain in a set form, and that touching another person's daemon is considered to be the 'great taboo.' Even though the daemons did talk, they only talked to their humans. So Pantalaimon is really one of the only animals that talks (thank goodness). Also, as a side note, I'm pretty sure that he doesn't stay in this form, but Pan's ermine form was always my favourite. I want an ermine daemon... The setting was amazing. It started out in Oxford and moved into the arctic north. I loved how the fantasy elements could be injected into the real world almost seamlessly. With daemons, witches, and giant talking bears, everything seemed to fit so perfectly in the setting it was given. And yes, there are talking bears... and, ok, they were badass so I let that slide. I mean, there's a battle between two armoured bears at the end. If that's not awesome, I don't know what is. I also am genuinely a fan of Lord Asrial but darned if i have any idea what his place in the story is going to be. Everything is really focused in on Lyra. So much so that it's hard to get a real grip on the other characters. Most of the time I'm ok with that, but occasionally it just became really boring for me. There's a dry patch around the middle of the book that i had a really difficult time getting around. Lyra is a girl who is bold, strong, and analytical. She's described as someone who really doesn't have much of an imagination, and while that seems kind of weird and something of an off putting trait, it fits with her. She's not like the typical girl protagonist and that was what I really really liked about her and the story as a whole. As a whole, I loved this book. It has controversy along with it, and personally I think that makes it even better. There's nothing wrong with a little controversy. I mean, yeah The Church was the painted baddy of the book, but it's not like it wasn't done in a way that was legitimate. The Dust (the thing that sets the whole plot into motion) was something that the Church thought was linked to original sin, and that it was connected with when a child's daemon set its form, thus if a child and their daemon were severed from each other, it would keep this 'original sin' away from the person. Thus, some pretty horrible experiments went on in the North. It all just added up to a genuinely interesting book. It was just good. The writing is fantastic and the story is interesting and just dark enough as a whole.