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Literature / The Book of Dust

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The Book of Dust is a trilogy of Fantasy novels by Philip Pullman. It serves as both Prequel and Sequel to Pullman's His Dark Materials (described by Pullman as an "equel") and features its main protagonist Lyra Silvertongue.

The books are:

  1. La Belle Sauvage (October 2017, takes place prior to His Dark Materials)
  2. The Secret Commonwealth (October 2019, post-His Dark Materials)
  3. Final Volume. (TBD, post-His Dark Materials)


Provides examples of:

  • Allohistorical Allusion: A "Swiss War" is mentioned as being waged sometime in the 1930s, right around our World War II.
  • Ambiguous Disorder: It's not clear exactly what is wrong with Gerard Bonneville, but it becomes obvious that he's deeply disturbed when he's seen attacking his own daemon.
  • Attempted Rape: Happens to Alice, at the hands of Gerard Bonneville, and to Lyra, at the hands of a group of Anatolian soldiers.
  • Ax-Crazy: Bonneville.
  • Big Brother Instinct: Malcolm absolutely adores baby Lyra, to the point he would brave a flood for her sake.
  • Bus Crash: Several characters have passed away between The Amber Spyglass and The Secret Commonwealth, including John Faa and the Master of Jordan College.
  • Canon Character All Along: In La Belle Sauvage, Alice Parslow is a major character who just happens to have the same name as (and is presumably related to) Roger Parslow and his family from the original trilogy. Then The Secret Commonwealth reveals she’s actually Mrs Lonsdale, the stern, forbidding housekeeper at Jordan College who spent Lyra’s early life trying to keep her in line.
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  • Caper Rationalization: Malcolm and Alice discuss this when they break into a pharmacy during the flood to get supplies. They're effectively looting, but they need supplies for baby Lyra, and Malcolm leaves a note for the owner saying that they'll pay for the supplies and the damage they caused later on.
  • The Casanova: Bonneville is a very dark version. He seems to be extremely talented at seducing women, including Alice and Sister Katarina, but he's also a violent rapist and a murderer with a justified reputation for violence against women.
  • The Cavalry: Lord Asriel coming to save Alice, Malcolm, and Lyra when La Belle Sauvage is about to be torn apart.
  • The Chessmaster: Marcel Delamare.
  • Child by Rape: Gerard Bonneville seems to be implying that this is how Lyra was conceived.
  • Church Police: the Consistorial Court of Discipline.
  • Culture Police: The League of St. Alexander.
  • Darker and Edgier:
    • While His Dark Materials featured plenty of family-unfriendly fare, it was far more modest than it is in this series. Among other things, in La Belle Sauvage Malcolm witnesses two characters having intercourse, strong profanity is used on one occasion, Malcolm rescues Alice while the latter is being raped, Oakley Street is stated to be blackmailing someone with an interest in young boys and Lord Nugent apparently considers using Malcolm as bait, and the primary antagonist is a recently released sex offender who may have raped Mrs. Coulter.
    • The Secret Commonwealth is also much darker. Many characters employ frequent profanity, a violent assassination is described in graphic detail, and Lyra is left badly injured after an attempted gang rape.
  • Department of Child Disservices: The Office of Child Protection is treated as one of these.
  • Dirty Business: Malcolm feels this way about killing Bonneville in self-defense, or so he thinks.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: When Lyra is forced to travel without Pantalaimon, she is met with open hostility, disgust and fear from almost everyone she meets, and is told she shouldn’t be allowed in public as she is, called a freak or a monster, and accused of frightening the children of “normal” people. Later we meet other people whose dæmons have left, and they too are shunned by society, forced to take menial jobs such as clearing detritus and human waste out of the public eye, and live in squalor.
  • Everyone Can See It: As an adult, Malcolm has a crush on Lyra, which he’s not proud of since he’s 31 and she’s 20. Several people around him comment on how bad he is at hiding it, and try to reassure him that it’s not that big a deal since they’re both adults.
  • Everyone Has Standards: Hannah is very peeved when Lord Nugent suggests her to sabotage her academic career and reputation for the sake of her spying. She's also horrified when he plans to use her barely-teenage pupil Malcolm as bait for a high-placed paedo.
  • Evil Cripple: Bonneville’s dæmon only has three legs, which just adds to the feeling that there is something off about the pair of them. During the course of the story, she loses another leg.
  • The Evils of Free Will: The woman who announces the League of St. Alexander's formation talks about laws being passed forcing everyone to convert to Christianity for their own good, and encourages the students at Ulvercote's to be like St. Alexander and turn in their friends, parents, and teachers if they so much as show signs of dissent.
  • Evil Uncle: Marcel Delamare, the main antagonist of the second book, is the late Mrs. Coulter's brother, and consequently Lyra's uncle.
  • The Fair Folk: Things get more mystical towards the end of the journey, with fairies, unreal lands, and river demigods holding tridents making an appearance.
  • Fire-Forged Friends: Malcolm starts quite annoyed by Alice, but the flood and Lyra's care forces them to work together. In the second book, Malcolm’s mother remarks how they left as bitter enemies and returned as the closest of friends.
  • First-Name Basis: Lyra is astounded to learn Mrs Lonsdale is on this basis with Dr Polstead, hearing them refer to each other as Alice and Mal respectively. As she becomes closer friends and allies with both of them, they encourage her to do likewise, which she feels weird about.
  • Gratuitous Rape: Many reviews accused The Secret Commonwealth of this, due to a chapter late in the book in which Lyra is attacked and nearly gang-raped by a group of drunken soldiers on a train, which has little impact on the plot and seems thrown in purely for shock value.
  • Happy Ending Override: Well, the ending of The Amber Spyglass wasn’t exactly happy, but some of the more positive outcomes are undone. The Magisterium in Lyra’s world are still a threat, and she and Pantalaimon still have unresolved issues over the Land of the Dead situation, which are exacerbated by other disagreements and culminating with Pan leaving Lyra to try and discover why she’s such a different person.
  • Heinous Hyena: Gerard Bonneville is Obviously Evil partly due to his dæmon having this form. While Bonneville himself is Faux Affably Evil and some people think he himself may not be too bad, no one wants to go near his dæmon.
  • The Heretic: Gerard Bonneville is an experimental theologian whose research on Dust is suppressed by the church.
  • I Have Many Names: When the authorities are looking for Lyra, they maintain that she may go by the name Silvertongue, but her legal surname is still Belacqua. Guess the word of the king of the bears isn’t legally binding.
  • Insane Equals Violent: Played straight with Bonneville (but subverted with Will Parry's mother in His Dark Materials)
  • In Spite of a Nail: One of the books Malcolm borrows from Hannah's library is A Brief History of Time.
  • Mad Scientist: Gerard Bonneville is one, though this version is played much more darkly and realistically than usual.
  • The Man Behind the Man: Marcel Delamare is pulling the strings of much of the Magisterium to get himself instated as the undisputed head of the entire Church. On a more direct level, he is the employer of Olivier Bonneville.
  • The Mentor: Dr Hannah Relf becomes this for Malcolm, letting him borrow her books and discussing with him. Word of God said Malcolm later became a Scholar, just like her.
  • Missing Child: Malcolm disappears during a supernatural flood that's worse than anything his town has seen in the last 100 years, and knows exactly how awful it must be for his parents not to know what's happened to him.
  • My Beloved Smother: Marcel Delamare feels this way about his own mother, and feels particular glee about taunting her now that she’s too old and decrepit to really fight back and her only weapon is her mouth.
  • Orphanage of Fear: The Sisters of Holy Obedience evidently run one of these.
  • Out with a Bang: Happens to Sister Katarina.
  • Pædo Hunt: Downplayed with Bonneville trying to seduce and later rape sixteen-year-old Alice. She's certainly old enough for it to flirt with legality, but Bonneville's obvious Axe-Crazy makes it unpalatable.
    • More serious, Lord Nugent intends to blackmail a high-placed official with an interest in young boys, and thinks Malcolm would be a good bait. Hannah is very much not okay with that.
  • Persecuted Intellectuals: Scholars still have wealth and stature, but they're in for a bad time if the results of their research contradict church doctrine. After the League of St. Alexander is formed, all the teachers end up being pushed around by the students, and those who run afoul of the League disappear.
  • Prequel: The first book of the trilogy, La Belle Sauvage, was released 22 years after Northern Lights / The Golden Compass, but is set 10 years before.
  • Primal Scene: Malcolm walks into a shed and finds Sister Katarina and Gerard Bonneville having sex. It appears to be consensual, but what happens at the end most certainly is not.
  • Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil: While it's not actually rape, the scene where Bonneville's daemon pisses on a path in front of Malcolm serves to cement the book's Darker and Edgier tone and establishes just how loathsome Bonneville is.
  • Right for the Wrong Reasons: Delamare blames Lyra for the disappearance of Mrs Coulter, who died fighting the Metatron to protect Lyra, who remains unaware that any of this even happened. So while Lyra was the cause of Mrs Coulter’s end, it wasn’t her fault.
  • Self-Harm: The scene where Bonneville attacks his own daemon. It's also suggested that this may be why Bonneville's daemon is missing one leg.
  • Take That Me: In the second book, Lyra is obsessed with a book about killing God in which the characters do not possess daemons; pretty much an inverted version of the series' predecessor. It's implied her fixation on the book is contributing to a state of temporary soullessness.
  • Thought Crime: The people who are taken away after the League of St. Alexander is formed don't need to have actually done anything subversive—failing to show enough deference to the League seems to be enough.
  • Vow of Celibacy: The nuns obviously have these. Sister Katarina breaks hers.
  • Wife-Basher Basher: Malcolm, when Bonneville attacks Alice.
  • You Are Better Than You Think You Are: Or at least "You are prettier than you think you are," said by Malcolm to Alice when Alice opens up to Malcolm about how Bonneville tried to seduce her by playing on her insecurities about her looks.
  • You Killed My Father: Olivier Bonneville has a grudge against the protagonists over the fate of his father and the alethiometer he possessed.
    • Delamare loved his sister and blames Lyra for her disappearance. Turns out his sister was Lyra’s mother, Mrs Coulter.