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Once Upon a Time in the North Full Cast Audiobook

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In this prequel episode from Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials universe, Lee Scoresby -- Texan aeronaut and future friend to Lyra Belacqua -- is 24 years old. The story reveals the origins of Scoresby's friendship with Iorek Byrnison as well as Scoresby's aeronautical career. After winning his hot-air balloon in a poker game, Scoresby finds himself floating north. On the In this prequel episode from Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials universe, Lee Scoresby -- Texan aeronaut and future friend to Lyra Belacqua -- is 24 years old. The story reveals the origins of Scoresby's friendship with Iorek Byrnison as well as Scoresby's aeronautical career. After winning his hot-air balloon in a poker game, Scoresby finds himself floating north. On the Arctic island of Novy Odense, Scoresby and his dæmon Hester become involved in a deadly plot involving an oil magnate, a corrupt mayoral candidate, and a hired killer who is Lee's longtime nemesis from the Dakota Country. Forming an alliance with one of the island's reviled armored bears, Scoresby fights to break up the conspiracy. This clothbound volume features the illustrations of John Lawrence, a removable board game on the inside back cover, and the story that offers a glimpse into the origins of the friendship of two beloved characters in the His Dark Materials trilogy.


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In this prequel episode from Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials universe, Lee Scoresby -- Texan aeronaut and future friend to Lyra Belacqua -- is 24 years old. The story reveals the origins of Scoresby's friendship with Iorek Byrnison as well as Scoresby's aeronautical career. After winning his hot-air balloon in a poker game, Scoresby finds himself floating north. On the In this prequel episode from Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials universe, Lee Scoresby -- Texan aeronaut and future friend to Lyra Belacqua -- is 24 years old. The story reveals the origins of Scoresby's friendship with Iorek Byrnison as well as Scoresby's aeronautical career. After winning his hot-air balloon in a poker game, Scoresby finds himself floating north. On the Arctic island of Novy Odense, Scoresby and his dæmon Hester become involved in a deadly plot involving an oil magnate, a corrupt mayoral candidate, and a hired killer who is Lee's longtime nemesis from the Dakota Country. Forming an alliance with one of the island's reviled armored bears, Scoresby fights to break up the conspiracy. This clothbound volume features the illustrations of John Lawrence, a removable board game on the inside back cover, and the story that offers a glimpse into the origins of the friendship of two beloved characters in the His Dark Materials trilogy.

30 review for Once Upon a Time in the North Full Cast Audiobook

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jayson

    (B-) 68% | Satisfactory Notes: Its supporting characters are undeveloped, the story is unremarkable, and it expects familiarity with previous books.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Emily (Books with Emily Fox)

    The fact that I completely forgot to review this is very telling. After trying to read the new companion series to His Dark Materials, I was very disappointed. I still wanted to get more from this world and decided to try this prequel. You finally get the story of how Lee Scoresby and Iorek Byrnison became friends... and it was a let down. Big meh.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Trish

    I'm currently re-reading Northern Lights, the first in the His Dark Materials trilogy. Not too long ago I also found out about the two companion books and this is the first. This little cloth-bound beauty tells the story of Lee Scoresby, the hot-air balloonist that helps Lyra in the first volume, and how he became friends (the best of friends in fact) with Iorek Byrnison, the panserbjørn. It tells of old rivalries and a conspiracy that Lee has to fight and although we already know the ending to t I'm currently re-reading Northern Lights, the first in the His Dark Materials trilogy. Not too long ago I also found out about the two companion books and this is the first. This little cloth-bound beauty tells the story of Lee Scoresby, the hot-air balloonist that helps Lyra in the first volume, and how he became friends (the best of friends in fact) with Iorek Byrnison, the panserbjørn. It tells of old rivalries and a conspiracy that Lee has to fight and although we already know the ending to this story, it is very fast-paced and thrilling. Making this little book even more special are the illustrations as well as the board game that is included in a back pocket Peronsally, I love it when an author has his whole world shaped and fleshed out, filled with loads of interesting places and characters and Philip Pullman proves here that his world is indeed very much alive and detailed.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Kirstine

    It's been ages since I reread His Dark Materials, so I don't have a clear image of Lee Scoresby in my head - and I don't remember his, surprisingly kickass, daemon Hester at all. I'm ashamed of this, she is an energetic, cussing delight. I do remember being incredibly intrigued by Iorek and the whole idea of armored bears, and of course, I think we all wondered how on earth those two ended up as friends. This story does it justice, I think. It's very short, but it tells a fulfilling and engaging It's been ages since I reread His Dark Materials, so I don't have a clear image of Lee Scoresby in my head - and I don't remember his, surprisingly kickass, daemon Hester at all. I'm ashamed of this, she is an energetic, cussing delight. I do remember being incredibly intrigued by Iorek and the whole idea of armored bears, and of course, I think we all wondered how on earth those two ended up as friends. This story does it justice, I think. It's very short, but it tells a fulfilling and engaging story, with a lot of really nice moments for the various characters. To be honest, I think it's too short. Not because it rushes anything (it's perfectly paced - any rushing is Lee's fault for apparently being a firm believer in not doing tomorrow what you can do today), but because Lee is a proper adventurer, a good man and a ridiculous risk taker - a worthy combination - and I'd read countless books about his adventures if they existed, but alas. I'm happy we got this much.

  5. 5 out of 5

    James

    ‘Once Upon a Time in the North’ by Philip Pullman (2008) – with striking illustrations by engraver John Lawrence is a lovely and very well presented hardback book, which also includes the ballooning game – ‘Peril of The Pole’ tucked into the back cover. In ‘Once Upon’ Pullman revisits the universe of ‘His Dark Materials’ – the main protagonist here being the wonderful character that is Texan balloonist/aeronaut Lee Scoresby and is concerned in part at least, with his first meeting with the armour ‘Once Upon a Time in the North’ by Philip Pullman (2008) – with striking illustrations by engraver John Lawrence is a lovely and very well presented hardback book, which also includes the ballooning game – ‘Peril of The Pole’ tucked into the back cover. In ‘Once Upon’ Pullman revisits the universe of ‘His Dark Materials’ – the main protagonist here being the wonderful character that is Texan balloonist/aeronaut Lee Scoresby and is concerned in part at least, with his first meeting with the armoured bear that is Iorek Byrnison. Ostensibly Pullman’s book is on one level a relatively straightforward thriller, a classic cowboy adventure story or ‘ripping yarn’ even - except that being set in the world of ‘Dark Materials’ or course it’s not. ‘Once Upon’ is placed firmly in the world of daemons and of talking bears and in a world that is not unlike our own – but then again so very different. Even though ‘Once Upon’ comes in at a very compact 100 pages – as well as being a very well written and solid ‘Dark Materials’ story, Pullman has managed to work in underlying themes concerning corruption, power and lies – forces excerpted by powerful corporate organisations over the political and legal landscape for economic and political gain, power and ultimate control. Linked in with this theme is that concerning the marginalisation and demonization of a minority population, the engendering of prejudice – in this case concerning the bears…being a clear metaphor for similar portrayals and treatment of many minority populations in the non-Dark Materials world. So whilst a book as compact as this cannot hope to pack the same literary punch as the original ‘Dark Materials’ trilogy – ‘Once Upon’ is a very strong book and a more than worthy addition to Pullman’s ‘Dark Materials’ canon.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Scott Cooperstein

    So that's it. I've read every bit of writing that exists in Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials series. It's a sad day for me. I loved the whole thing, and I wish there was more to it. I've seen the movie (regrettably), read the original three books, and now these two side-stories. I cannot recommend the series highly enough. To me it's superior to Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Narnia, ect. The whole concept of this universe fascinates me. Books like these are why I fell in love with reading So that's it. I've read every bit of writing that exists in Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials series. It's a sad day for me. I loved the whole thing, and I wish there was more to it. I've seen the movie (regrettably), read the original three books, and now these two side-stories. I cannot recommend the series highly enough. To me it's superior to Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Narnia, ect. The whole concept of this universe fascinates me. Books like these are why I fell in love with reading. Thanks Mr. Pullman.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Paul E. Morph

    I really enjoyed this little prequel! I haven’t read the main books yet (they’re next) but I have seen both the movie and the t.v. show, so I had all the info I needed not to be completely lost... and it was really cool seeing some major characters meet for the first time. I wouldn’t recommend starting with this one if you have no prior knowledge of this world, though; you’d be wondering what the heck all this ‘dæmon’ business was, for a start, as there’s no explanation here...

  8. 5 out of 5

    Dannii Elle

    This is a prequel novella to His Dark Materials series, following side-character and aeronaut, Lee Scoresby, on his adventures prior to those that occur during the central trilogy. Lee pilots his hot air balloon to a secluded Arctic community and, upon looking for temporary employment there, discovers a dark figure from his past and becomes embroiled in darker political scheming instead. Whilst it was unrelated to the main story-line in any other way than featuring some of the same characters, I This is a prequel novella to His Dark Materials series, following side-character and aeronaut, Lee Scoresby, on his adventures prior to those that occur during the central trilogy. Lee pilots his hot air balloon to a secluded Arctic community and, upon looking for temporary employment there, discovers a dark figure from his past and becomes embroiled in darker political scheming instead. Whilst it was unrelated to the main story-line in any other way than featuring some of the same characters, I found it both a fun and fascinating tale in its own right, with plenty of bloody action scenes and underhanded tactics taking place. This beautiful, little hardback book also came with illustrations peppered throughout, some mock documents at the close of it, and even a fun little game for the reader to play upon completion.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Orient

    A nice short story to remind about the prehistory of "His Dark Materials" A nice short story to remind about the prehistory of "His Dark Materials"

  10. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    "Nice piece of oratorical flamboyancy." (--Hester) This book was a gift. I *love* the size and shape of it, its compactness, the cloth cover, the way it fits so perfectly with its companion book, Lyra's Oxford, which I perversely keep with my guidebooks rather than my other Pullman novels. I am almost certain I would have liked the actual text better had I not been consumed with jealousy over the presentation. The story is less than 100 small pages long, directed at no obviously definable reader o "Nice piece of oratorical flamboyancy." (--Hester) This book was a gift. I *love* the size and shape of it, its compactness, the cloth cover, the way it fits so perfectly with its companion book, Lyra's Oxford, which I perversely keep with my guidebooks rather than my other Pullman novels. I am almost certain I would have liked the actual text better had I not been consumed with jealousy over the presentation. The story is less than 100 small pages long, directed at no obviously definable reader of any age, and is surely nonsensical in places to anyone who doesn't know His Dark Materials. For all the story's artistry it would not be considered publishable if it hadn't been written by, well, Philip Pullman. Yet because it is Pullman's, it is illustrated with beautiful woodcuts and appended with faked photographs of newspaper clippings, letters and an actual board game folded in a paper envelope in the back. I know that this beautiful little book was expensive to put together. Lucky book. I am jealous. It is mean and childish of me. And reduces my own pleasure in the reading, which should be great--I adore Pullman and this world of his. In spite of my jealousy, I want about five more of these beautiful little books with their discrete tales from the world of His Dark Materials so I can stack them up with the rest of my guidebooks.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Andrew

    Ah so many distractions - especially when really I should be getting on with reading books I set out to read, but I guess when books like Once Upon A Time in the North come along you can sort of forgive me. This is another short special set in the world of His Dark Materials. This time it introduces us to Lee Scoresby and how he started on the path that would eventually lead him to Lyra. The story is short not reaching 100 pages however it does set the tone for what is to follow. He is a man on Ah so many distractions - especially when really I should be getting on with reading books I set out to read, but I guess when books like Once Upon A Time in the North come along you can sort of forgive me. This is another short special set in the world of His Dark Materials. This time it introduces us to Lee Scoresby and how he started on the path that would eventually lead him to Lyra. The story is short not reaching 100 pages however it does set the tone for what is to follow. He is a man on principles if prone to gambling (after all that is how he won the balloon that got him to this point) and this is something that earns him the respect and support you will see being drawn upon in the Dark Materials books. For a story this short as you can imagine it is not very deep or challenging but it is a fun read and is what it is - if you enjoy the series then this is a fun distraction.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Veronique

    It seemed illogical not to read this small volume after having consumed everything related to His Dark Materials, and once again I was charmed. These novellas from Pullman are so compelling, pulling you back into this huge and complex world. Add to this that Lee Scoresby and his daemon Hester have always been favourites of mine, and it’s a winner :O) The extra material at the end gives another layer to the story, connecting Lyra to this narrative and offering some details of her life since the ev It seemed illogical not to read this small volume after having consumed everything related to His Dark Materials, and once again I was charmed. These novellas from Pullman are so compelling, pulling you back into this huge and complex world. Add to this that Lee Scoresby and his daemon Hester have always been favourites of mine, and it’s a winner :O) The extra material at the end gives another layer to the story, connecting Lyra to this narrative and offering some details of her life since the events of the trilogy. Lovely! I cannot wait to see what Pullman gives her in the second Book of Dust.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Maciek

    This short, little tale is a prequel to Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials, set decades before the events in Northern Lights. Here we meet Lee Scorsesby and the armored bear Iorek Byrninson, and learn how they came to know each other. Once Upon a Time in the North is a lovely story, and the title suggests a homage to Sergio Leone's Once Upon A Time in the West. But the influence does not end there. Pullman's writing is fantastic and he conveys the steampunk atmosphere of a small port town perfec This short, little tale is a prequel to Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials, set decades before the events in Northern Lights. Here we meet Lee Scorsesby and the armored bear Iorek Byrninson, and learn how they came to know each other. Once Upon a Time in the North is a lovely story, and the title suggests a homage to Sergio Leone's Once Upon A Time in the West. But the influence does not end there. Pullman's writing is fantastic and he conveys the steampunk atmosphere of a small port town perfectly; at such little amount of pages he is able to convey excellent descriptive narrative, fast-paced action and the development of many characters. Not a word seems to be missing, and the story is an adventure! Everybody loves an adventure, and there certainly is one here. This short tale is signature Pullman, and reminded me a lot of Northern Lights, my favorite of his trilogy, in the sense of adventure and wonderful atmosphere. On such small amount of pages the novella manages to encompass everything important; the plot might sound simple, but it works on multiple levels. The story is a standalone which can satisfy both fans of His Dark Materials and newcomers to Pullman's world. Pullman's writing draws the reader into the story, and its lenght is perfect for an evening reading session, in a warm chair, with milk and cookies. It was good to feel the cold winds of the north again; it made me want to read Northern Lights again. The volume is beautifully illustrated and contains a number of bonuses, such as photographs of Lyra's Oxford disseration and a board game, Peril of The Pole. Pullman has taken his time with writing this story, but he delivered splendidly.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Cyndi

    A novella that introduces the characters used in the series. This makes me want to read the rest of the series. I hadn't realized it would be so interesting. A novella that introduces the characters used in the series. This makes me want to read the rest of the series. I hadn't realized it would be so interesting.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Nat

    3.5 stars

  16. 5 out of 5

    Quirkyreader

    See my review on my book blog: http://quirkyreader.livejournal.com/2... See my review on my book blog: http://quirkyreader.livejournal.com/2...

  17. 5 out of 5

    Kaethe Douglas

    A nice arctic Western. I'm totally down with authors of popular series publishing little related books like this, when they're such good stories. A nice arctic Western. I'm totally down with authors of popular series publishing little related books like this, when they're such good stories.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Erin

    Do yourself a favor, and read this quick little story. A fantastic little read in a very well presented format. Pullman has a command of language not to be missed. In this little tale we get a beguiling introduction to Lee Scoresby and his dæmon Hester, and who doesn't love Lee and Hester--a wry Texan with a heart of gold and his delightfully sarcastic companion. A sample-- after crash-landing his newly acquired air ballon: The pilot gingerly untangled his fingers from the rope he'd been holding on Do yourself a favor, and read this quick little story. A fantastic little read in a very well presented format. Pullman has a command of language not to be missed. In this little tale we get a beguiling introduction to Lee Scoresby and his dæmon Hester, and who doesn't love Lee and Hester--a wry Texan with a heart of gold and his delightfully sarcastic companion. A sample-- after crash-landing his newly acquired air ballon: The pilot gingerly untangled his fingers from the rope he'd been holding on to, worked out which way up he was, shifted the tool box off his legs, wiped the oily water out of his eyes, and hauled himself upright. 'Well, Hester, looks like we're getting the hand of this,' he said. His dæmon, who looked like a small sardonic jackrabbit, flicked her ears as she clambered out of the tangle of tools, cold-weather clothing, broken instruments and rope. Everything was saturated. 'My feelings are too deep to express, Lee,' she said.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Winter Branch

    Short and sweet. It was nice to read about Lee Scoresby and Iorek Byrnison again. This time around, Scoresby seemed a bit brash and more quick-witted than I remembered but he was 30 something years younger so that might have something to do with it. I’m sure everyone’s main complaint will be that the book is too short (and I admit I was hit with a ting of dread around page 50 knowing that I was already closer to the ending than the beginning). However; just like Lyra’s Oxford, Scoresby’s story i Short and sweet. It was nice to read about Lee Scoresby and Iorek Byrnison again. This time around, Scoresby seemed a bit brash and more quick-witted than I remembered but he was 30 something years younger so that might have something to do with it. I’m sure everyone’s main complaint will be that the book is too short (and I admit I was hit with a ting of dread around page 50 knowing that I was already closer to the ending than the beginning). However; just like Lyra’s Oxford, Scoresby’s story is the perfect length. It’s nice, and a rare thing, to find a book that can be read in one sitting and leave you with a smile when you are finished. It’s like receiving a letter from an old friend. You’re just happy to hear from them again. Now we sit and wait to hear from Will.

  20. 4 out of 5

    itchy

    just incredible; the fantasy elements are a bit too much for me, though

  21. 4 out of 5

    Alex Givant

    WOW, now I'm hooked and need more of this stuff! WOW, now I'm hooked and need more of this stuff!

  22. 4 out of 5

    Alex Telander

    Once Upon a Time in the North by Philip Pullman: It's been some time since Philip Pullman has published anything set in the world of His Dark Materials; the last offering was a very short story called Lyra's Oxford. In Once Upon a Time in the North, Pullman returns with an original tale about Lee Scoresby the aeronaut, weighing in at just under a hundred pages - and while fans would wish for three times as much, it's certainly much better than nothing. In a poker game in his native Texas, twenty- Once Upon a Time in the North by Philip Pullman: It's been some time since Philip Pullman has published anything set in the world of His Dark Materials; the last offering was a very short story called Lyra's Oxford. In Once Upon a Time in the North, Pullman returns with an original tale about Lee Scoresby the aeronaut, weighing in at just under a hundred pages - and while fans would wish for three times as much, it's certainly much better than nothing. In a poker game in his native Texas, twenty-four year old Lee Scoresby has just won his very own hot air balloon and half an instruction manual. His first voyage takes him across the world to the Arctic waters where he lands at Novy Odense. Looking for a place to stay and a way to make some money, Scoresby is immediately embroiled in the complex politics of the town. Mayoral candidate Ivan Poliakov hopes to take care of the bear problem, supported by the shady Larsen Manganese group. Taking no one's side, but not wanting the town to be exploited, Lee soon befriends a polar bear by the name of Iorek Byrnison - whom he mistakenly calls York - and finds himself in a fierce gun battle involving a hired killer with a familiar face on the other side. Once Upon a Time in the North is a great adventure tale with - at first glance - an entertaining and straightforward story. But in Pullman's usual style, there is a deeper and more complex subplot that is not fully explained or resolved here. So fans can hope that there is more to tell in the world of His Dark Materials. And if that were not enough, Pullman also created a special board game for the book, which is included as an insert to the inside back cover. For more book reviews, and author interviews, go to BookBanter.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Roxanne Hsu Feldman

    I cannot quite figure out who would enjoy this volume: for those who have never read the His Dark Materials Trilogy, daemons and the world around them might be too odd, without explanation at all. I like the "western-gunslinger" flavor but don't see how that can hold the interest of most young readers. Then, it is not enough, not meaty enough, not enough Iorek, at least, for a fan like me. I wanted to know MORE about their past and their earlier personalities and hardship/happiness -- this does I cannot quite figure out who would enjoy this volume: for those who have never read the His Dark Materials Trilogy, daemons and the world around them might be too odd, without explanation at all. I like the "western-gunslinger" flavor but don't see how that can hold the interest of most young readers. Then, it is not enough, not meaty enough, not enough Iorek, at least, for a fan like me. I wanted to know MORE about their past and their earlier personalities and hardship/happiness -- this does not really supply. Have to say that I am quite disappointed.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Kai Charles(Fiction State Of Mind)

    I have finally been catching up on the novellas and other short stories associated with His Dark Materials. This story chronicles when two very popular characters meet for the first time. Lee has come to a desolate Island hoping to get some fuel and an easy job. Things go bad pretty quickly as Lee is unable to resist getting into trouble by doing what's right. Very nice adventure and the voice cast is stellar! I have finally been catching up on the novellas and other short stories associated with His Dark Materials. This story chronicles when two very popular characters meet for the first time. Lee has come to a desolate Island hoping to get some fuel and an easy job. Things go bad pretty quickly as Lee is unable to resist getting into trouble by doing what's right. Very nice adventure and the voice cast is stellar!

  25. 5 out of 5

    Meghan Hughes

    This book was an interesting add on to His Dark Materials series. It was a bit of an unnecessary blimp in time as for story development, but entertaining nonetheless! It followed the relationship of Lee Scoresby & Iorek Byrnison. I have to admit, I was a bit lost at times trying to understand the supporting characters. This story was under 100 pages, but had SO many names to keep up with. It was a bit overwhelming, but I liked how it built up at the end. It was well-written for a short story & d This book was an interesting add on to His Dark Materials series. It was a bit of an unnecessary blimp in time as for story development, but entertaining nonetheless! It followed the relationship of Lee Scoresby & Iorek Byrnison. I have to admit, I was a bit lost at times trying to understand the supporting characters. This story was under 100 pages, but had SO many names to keep up with. It was a bit overwhelming, but I liked how it built up at the end. It was well-written for a short story & definitely a fun read, but I wouldn’t say this was a MUST read even if you like Philip Pullman’s stories a lot. If anything, read his new Book of Dust series! I’m stoked to start the second book in that series in 2020. Anyways! Decent book.

  26. 4 out of 5

    lucie

    PLEASE I ADORE LEE SCORESBY SO MUCH!! no it was really good i love lee and iorek and pls the origins of the rifle 😌 not a fan of the thirty five years later reference however don't remind me xxox PLEASE I ADORE LEE SCORESBY SO MUCH!! no it was really good i love lee and iorek and pls the origins of the rifle 😌 not a fan of the thirty five years later reference however don't remind me xxox

  27. 5 out of 5

    Ashley Marie

    3.5 stars Now I'm excited to dive into the His Dark Materials trilogy, hopefully in a couple months. I'll most likely have to give this another listen once I've finished the trilogy, to get the full effect of it being a prequel, but for what it was this time around I really liked it. I'm not especially familiar with Pullman's work -- the most I remember is that a film adaptation (if you could call it that, from what I heard from enthusiasts the movie was crap) was released a few years back with N 3.5 stars Now I'm excited to dive into the His Dark Materials trilogy, hopefully in a couple months. I'll most likely have to give this another listen once I've finished the trilogy, to get the full effect of it being a prequel, but for what it was this time around I really liked it. I'm not especially familiar with Pullman's work -- the most I remember is that a film adaptation (if you could call it that, from what I heard from enthusiasts the movie was crap) was released a few years back with Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig. Anyway, I liked Scoresby quite a bit. He reminded me of Carswell Thorne from the Lunar Chronicles in his adventurousness, and Hester was fantastic from the beginning. I cracked up at the end when they found out she was an Arctic hare instead of a jackrabbit, that bit was fantastic. Pullman was a great narrator and reminded me of Liam Neeson vocally. This was also my first audiobook with a full cast rather than just one lone narrator, which was cool too. If you're a fan of the HDM trilogy and haven't read this, I'd definitely recommend it!

  28. 5 out of 5

    GraceAnne

    An elegantly imagined Western tale, even though it is set in the far North, when a very young Lee Scoresby and the bear Iorek Byrnison meet and find they are on the same side. It unfolds like a movie, in grey and blue and ice tones instead of dust and dun and gold, but the pacing, spirit, and tone conjure up every great cowboy movie you have ever seen. A coda offers a tantalizing glimpse into Lyra's life as a graduate student. An elegantly imagined Western tale, even though it is set in the far North, when a very young Lee Scoresby and the bear Iorek Byrnison meet and find they are on the same side. It unfolds like a movie, in grey and blue and ice tones instead of dust and dun and gold, but the pacing, spirit, and tone conjure up every great cowboy movie you have ever seen. A coda offers a tantalizing glimpse into Lyra's life as a graduate student.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Chinook

    This is a fun little yarn about the armoured bears, our fearless ballooner, Lee, some dubious politicians and companies and heroic Customs Agents. It was a lot of fun.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Chris

    A Texas cowboy. A gas balloon. A settlement by the Barents Sea. A polar bear. Local politics. Dirty secrets. And ... Action! Philip Pullman's fantasy of derring-do near the Arctic Circle paints a vivid picture that reads like a film script synopsis as well as playing in the mind's eye like a graphic novel. Set some 35 years before the events in the His Dark Materials trilogy Once Upon a Time in the North directly references a Sergio Leone spaghetti western in its title; like Once Upon a Time in A Texas cowboy. A gas balloon. A settlement by the Barents Sea. A polar bear. Local politics. Dirty secrets. And ... Action! Philip Pullman's fantasy of derring-do near the Arctic Circle paints a vivid picture that reads like a film script synopsis as well as playing in the mind's eye like a graphic novel. Set some 35 years before the events in the His Dark Materials trilogy Once Upon a Time in the North directly references a Sergio Leone spaghetti western in its title; like Once Upon a Time in the West we have a frontier town and potential conflict based on land exploitation (oil reserves here instead of a railroad), plus a hero figure determined to defeat a vicious gunslinger with whom he has unfinished business. But this is where the comparisons end. While Pullman may have been inspired by Leone's film, his main purpose is to introduce the story of how the young Lee Scoresby gets to meet Iorek Byrnison, a panserbjørne or fighting polar bear, and how they establish an alliance long before they meet Lyra in Northern Lights. This novella then is a prequel -- unlike the standalone movie -- giving us background on Lee and Iorek's characters and how it is that a cowboy appears to be an accomplished aeronaut in the frozen north. Pullman has a strong moral conscience which emerges in much of his writing. Here it is the corrupting power of big business, an issue which has long been with us but is even more evident in the 21st century. As Lee is informed by a supporting character, "The fact is this, Mr Scoresby: there is a struggle going on throughout the northern lands, of which this little island is a microcosm. On the one hand there are the properly constituted civil institutions [...] and on the other the uncontrolled power of the large private companies [...] which are dominating more and more of public life, though they are not subject to any form of democratic sanction." -- Lieutenant Haugland of the Customs and Revenue Board, Novy Odense (pp 87-8) The "little island" is the community of Novy Odense, but Pullman could equally have been thinking of Britain, which some see as in hock to multinationals. The town itself ("New Odense") is named from the famous Danish town, chosen perhaps because storyteller Hans Christian Anderson is one of the municipality's most famous sons, and maybe also because Odense itself derives from Odin, Norse myth's famous wandering god. That combination of fairytale, myth and traveller no doubt appealed to the author's sense of aptness. But the story's the thing that grips, much more than speculation about its possible origins. Lee is the archetypal stranger in town when he arrives in his balloon, reminding me a bit of Spencer Tracy in Bad Day at Black Rock. He soon finds that suspicion is endemic among the inhabitants, compounded by an imminent election for mayor and sly individuals who try to befriend him. This being a fantasy he not only has an animal daemon as his other self but he also makes the acquaintance of a talking bear, one who's invaluable in Lee's fight for justice on behalf of a Dutch sea captain. Naturally all the incipient tensions burst out into violent conflict, with a terrific climax in a dock warehouse described in nail-biting detail. In common with some editions of other volumes in this sequence, Once Upon a Time in the North also incorporates lovely little touches -- 'authentic memorabilia' like letters, receipts and pages from handbooks -- plus a board game called Peril of the Pole, all lovingly recreated by John Lawrence. Without the thrill of the narrative to sustain it they would mean little to the casual reader; but in combination with the tale they hopefully will not only tease any newcomers to Pullman's multiverse but also encourage them to explore further.

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