The first volume of Philip Pullman’s The Book of Dust – which has been speculated about for years – will be published on Thursday 19 October 2017.
The Book of Dust is a work in three parts, like His Dark Materials. The first part will be published jointly by Penguin Random House Children’s and David Fickling Books in the UK and by Random House Children’s in the US. 22 years after Northern Lights (July 1995) – the first of his world-famous His Dark Materials trilogy, which has sold more than 17.5m copies in over 40 languages – The Book of Dust will return to the parallel world that has enthralled readers young and old.
The plot and title of this first story will remain under wraps until a later date, but it can be revealed that the book is set 10 years before Northern Lights and centres on the much-loved character, Lyra Belacqua. Alethiometers, daemons and the Magisterium return to play their part, but the book also introduces a host of new characters, including a new hero.
Philip Pullman comments: “I know from their letters and tweets that my readers have been waiting patiently (mostly) for The Book of Dust for a long time. It gives me great pleasure and some excitement at last to satisfy their curiosity (and mine) about this book.
“The first thing to say is that Lyra is at the centre of the story. Events involving her open the first chapter, and will close the last. I’ve always wanted to tell the story of how Lyra came to be living at Jordan College and, in thinking about it, I discovered a long story that began when she was a baby and will end when she’s grown up. This volume and the next will cover two parts of Lyra’s life: starting at the beginning of her story and returning to her 20 years later.
“So, second: is it a prequel? Is it a sequel? It’s neither. In fact, The Book of Dust is… an ‘equel’. It doesn’t stand before or after His Dark Materials, but beside it. It’s a different story, but there are settings that readers of His Dark Materials will recognise, and characters they’ve met before. Also, of course, there are some characters who are new to us, including an ordinary boy (a boy we have seen in an earlier part of Lyra’s story, if we were paying attention) who, with Lyra, is caught up in a terrifying adventure that takes him into a new world.
“Third: why return to Lyra’s world? Dust. Questions about that mysterious and troubling substance were already causing strife 10 years before His Dark Materials, and at the centre of The Book of Dust is the struggle between a despotic and totalitarian organisation, which wants to stifle speculation and enquiry, and those who believe thought and speech should be free. The idea of Dust suffused His Dark Materials. Little by little through that story the idea of what Dust was became clearer and clearer, but I always wanted to return to it and discover more.”
Francesca Dow, Managing Director, Penguin Random House Children’s adds: “The Book of Dust is a story for our time, with themes that resonate with our world today. It is a story for everybody: a much longed-for treat for established fans of His Dark Materials as they meet Lyra Belacqua again and the chance for new readers to step into the magical world of Philip Pullman for the first time.
Pullman is a master storyteller, and Lyra has established herself firmly as one of the most-loved characters in literature, a worthy contemporary of the likes of Hermione Granger (Harry Potter series), Jean Louise ‘Scout’ Finch (To Kill a Mockingbird) and Katniss Everdeen (The Hunger Games). In this book, she is joined by a new hero readers will love: an ordinary boy who steps up to the challenge of a lifetime.”