Books

Get ready to meet a 20-something Lyra Silvertongue in Philip Pullman’s new novel

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Sarah Shaffi
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Ruth Wilson in His Dark Materials. Image: BBC/YouTube

She’s a beloved children’s character, and now we’ll finally meet an adult Lyra for the first time. Warning: light spoilers ahead…

The last glimpse of Lyra Silvertongue in Philip Pullman’s classic trilogy His Dark Materials showed her sitting on a park bench in Oxford’s Botanic Gardens.

She had just saved the worlds of the novel but, in what is one of the most heartbreaking moments in children’s literature, had learnt she couldn’t be with Will Parry, the boy she loved. Instead, they were confined to their own separate, parallel Oxfords.

Now we will finally learn what happened to Lyra when Pullman’s newest novel, The Secret Commonwealth, is released later this year.

It’s the second book in the author’s The Book of Dust trilogy and is set 20 years after 2017 smash-hit La Belle Sauvage, in which Lyra was just a baby. (For fans of the originals, seven years have passed since the end of The Amber Spyglass, the third book in the His Dark Materials trilogy.)

Philip Pullman. Image: Michael Leckie

Philip Pullman’s The Secret Commonwealth will be released this autumn

Lyra is now an “independent young woman, forced to navigate a complex and dangerous new world”, says a description for The Secret Commonwealth.

The book will see Lyra going across Europe and into Asia in search of an elusive town said to be haunted by dæmons – the external physical manifestations of a person’s inner-self that exist in Lyra’s world and that take on the form of an animal.

The Secret Commonwealth is described as a “timely exploration of what it is to be human, to grow up and make sense of the world around us”. As well as details of the novel, the publishers have also released a short extract which shows Lyra arguing with her dæmon, Pantalaiman, after they witness a murder.

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Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials: everything we know about the TV adaptation

It’s an exciting year for fans of Pullman and His Dark Materials, with a BBC adaptation of the original trilogy due to start airing later this year.

The teaser trailer for the programme has just been released, giving the first look at the stellar cast in action.

The BBC adaptation stars Ruth Wilson as Mrs Coulter, the villain of the series who was played in the 2007 film adaptation – called The Golden Compass – by Nicole Kidman. James McAvoy plays Lyra’s father, Lord Asriel, with Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda as aeronaut Less Scoresby.

The trailer begins with Lyra, played by Dafne Keen, spying on a meeting of professors at Oxford, before introducing us to the other characters.

A brief glimpse of the alethiometer – a compass-like device that is a key component of the novels – is seen right at the end.

His Dark Materials has been adapted by Jack Thorne, who has worked on Shameless and Skins, and who is one of the writers of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.

There will be eight episodes in series one, with series two already ordered. The BBC is co-producing with HBO.

There’s no confirmed air date yet but the publisher has said The Secret Commonwealth will be published first. That means we have time to read the original novels again so we can look forward to a Lyra-filled autumn.

The Secret Commonwealth will be published on 3 October (David Fickling Books/Penguin Random House, £20).

Images: BBC / Michael Leckie

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