Book Review: The Elements of His Dark Materials: The Guide to Philip Pullman’s Trilogy, Laurie Frost (2006)

February 18th, 2013 2:04 pm by Kelly Garbato

No Sraffie’s library is complete without it!

five out of five stars

When the author of the source material readily admits to using someone else’s reference book to help write the sequel(s), you know it’s got to be good! Laurie Frost’s The Elements of His Dark Materials: The Guide to Philip Pullman’s Trilogy is an epic encyclopedia worthy of this most epic of series. (It’s my absolute favorite, in case you couldn’t tell.) Exhaustively researched and referenced, Elements covers everything you want/need to know about His Dark Materials.

The book is organized around eleven primary subjects, many of which are further divided into subsections (reproduced here since Amazon’s listing doesn’t include the table of contents):

I. Characters
* Cross-Reference of Characters

II. Places and Peoples
* The Words of the Worlds
* The Worlds
* Cities, Countries, Regions, Continents, and Elements of Topography
* Structures and Streets
* The Oxfords
* Peoples

III. Creatures, Beings and Extraordinary Humans

IV. The Alethiometer, the Subtle Knife, the Amber Spyglass
* The Alethiometer and associated entries
* The Subtle Knife and associated entries
* The Amber Spyglass and associated entries

V. Philosophy, Psychology, and Theology
* Multiple worlds, Prophecy, Stories
* Dust, Rusakov particles, Shadows/Shadow-particles, Sraf

VI. Applied Metaphysics

VII. Applied Sciences and Technology
* Clothing and Accessories
* Smokes and Medicines
* Food and Drink
* Information Technology
* Transportation
* Weapons
* Other Crafted Goods and Materials

VIII. The Natural Sciences
* Physical Sciences
* Animals
* Animals Exclusive to HIS DARK MATERIALS
* Plants
* Trees Exclusive to HIS DARK MATERIALS
* Scientific Studies

IX. Social Structures of the Worlds
* Ecclesiastical
* Educational
* Political, Military, and Others
* Juvenile Alliances
* Financial/Commerce

X. Languages and Diction

XI. Allusions
* Religious – Biblical and Otherwise

XII. Epigraphs
* Book Epigraphs
* Chapter Epigraphs

Reference
* Philip Pullman Bibliography
* HDM References
* Works Cited and Information Sources

(This TOC is from the 2006 US edition.)

Lyra and Will, Lord Asriel and Marisa Coulter, Baruch and Balthamos, Mary Malone and Atal the mulefa, Dust and daemons, Jordan College and Oxford – it’s all here, in such depth and detail that you might just find yourself inspired to reread the trilogy for the umpteenth time.

Addictively entertaining, Elements is the rare reference book that’s suitable for both serious research and casual reading. It has a permanent place in my bedside book pile, and I often find myself sneaking an entry or two before bed. Whether overcome with the sudden urge to brush up on a plot detail, or if I’m just killing some time by flipping it open to read a random entry, I rarely find myself disappointed. (I’d love for some of the entries to be a bit longer and more detailed – but then, like any good Sraffie, I can never get enough HDM!)

Though I’m no academic, it’s also proven invaluable in planning my HDM-themed menu for the upcoming Vegan MoFo. During the Vegan Month of Food – usually held in October – bloggers pledge to write about vegan food every day for a month. Some bloggers choose a theme; in 2013, I’d like to feature foods inspired by His Dark Materials. An ambitious project, that: with the exception of marzipan, food really isn’t central to the plot of His Dark Materials (unlike in The Hunger Games, for example) – and indeed, I had trouble coming up even just a handful of ideas. That is, until I remembered that Elements includes an entire section on foods! Eight months to go, and already I have enough possibilities to fill the entire month. There’s no way I’d be able to pull it off without Elements.

Seriously, I can’t give this book enough stars!

(This review is also available on Amazon, Library Thing, and Goodreads. Please click through and vote it helpful if you think it so!)

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