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Here’s How to Read ‘His Dark Materials’ Books in Order

Promo art from HBO's His Dark materials featuring characters, including Lin-Manuel Miranda's Lee Scoresby.

Sir Philip Pullman’s iconic fantasy series, His Dark Materials, follows Lyra Belacqua and Will Parry across multiple dimensions as they fight against the oppressive Authority. In Lyra’s world, people’s souls take on corporeal animal forms; in Will’s, they do not. The three-book trilogy was adapted for an HBO Max series that ended in December, but Pullman is still writing in the universe he created in the early ’90s.

Fans are eagerly awaiting the third book in Pullman’s The Book of Dust trilogy, which may hit shelves as early as this year. Pullman tweeted in September 2022 that the book’s current progress would give it a potential publication date of late 2023, though he doesn’t seem to have said anything since.

During the wait, you can watch or re-watch the His Dark Materials streaming series. You can also check out the books that have been published so far. Not sure where to start? Here’s how to read the His Dark Materials books in chronological order.

1. Once Upon a Time in the North

Once Upon a Time in the North: A Companion to His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman
(Yearling Books)

Once Upon a Time in the North is a prequel short story based in the His Dark Materials universe. It follows a young Lee Scoresby (the Texan aeronaut who becomes one of Lyra’s friends and allies in the original trilogy) after he wins his iconic hot air balloon in a poker game and flies north to the Arctic.

As soon as he lands, he and his daemon Hester get unintentionally involved in a conflict with Lee’s longtime nemesis, a corrupt mayoral candidate, and a greedy oil magnate. Lee forms an alliance with the outcast armored bear Iorek Byrnison (another of Lyra’s eventual friends and allies) to save the day, and the characters all come to blows in a Western-style shoot-out. This story is our first look into the longstanding friendship between Lee and Iorek.

2. The Collectors

The Collectors by Philip Pullman
(Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers)

The Collectors introduces the terrifying villain Mrs. Coulter as a young girl. When two art collectors sit before a fire in the senior common room of a college at Oxford (where Lyra later grows up), they discuss two new and unusual pieces. One is a bronze sculpture of a fearsome monkey. The other is a portrait of a beautiful young lady. What they don’t know is how these pieces connect, or how they’ll affect multiple worlds and timelines in the future.

3. The Book of Dust: La Belle Sauvage

The Book of Dust: La Belle Sauvage by Philip Pullman
(Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers)

La Belle Sauvage is the first book in Pullman’s The Book of Dust trilogy, taking place shortly after Lyra Belacqua is born and before she is delivered to Jordan College at Oxford University by her father, the explorer Lord Asriel.

The book follows a young Malcolm Polstead and his daemon, Asta, as they attempt to navigate an increasingly twisted mystery involving a note about Dust; a spy; a beautiful woman and her evil monkey daemon; enforcement agents from the Magisterium; and other figures who are all obsessed with Lyra, an infant. A storm is coming—literally—and it’s up to Malcolm to brave the tides and rescue Lyra before it’s too late.

4. His Dark Materials: The Golden Compass / Northern Lights

His Dark Materials: The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman
(Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers)

The Golden Compass (also known as Northern Lights) is the first book in the His Dark Materials trilogy. Here, we meet Lyra, a tenacious girl whose daemon Pantalaimon has not yet settled into his permanent form. She lives at Jordan College at Oxford University, where she occasionally receives visits (and empty promises of travel) from her beloved uncle. After one such visit, Lyra meets the mysterious and glamorous Mrs. Coulter, who brings Lyra on as her apprentice … which turns out to be a more dangerous endeavor than Lyra could have ever imagined.

From there, Lyra makes the long and cold journey north to find her friend Jordan, who’s been snatched by the “Gobblers” alongside dozens of Gyptian children. Along the way, Lyra makes powerful friends and terrifying enemies and discovers that Mrs. Coulter is as evil as her golden monkey daemon. Lyra also learns that her role in this world is far bigger than just being an explorer, or a good friend, or a troublemaker. In fact, the fate of every world rests squarely on her shoulders.

5. His Dark Materials: The Subtle Knife

His Dark Materials: The Subtle Knife by Philip Pullman
(Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers)

The Subtle Knife is the second book in the His Dark Materials trilogy. In addition to following Lyra as she attempts to navigate the new knowledge that there are multiple parallel worlds, the book also follows Will Parry, who comes from another world where people don’t have daemons and their souls exist only in their human bodies.

Lyra and Will team up to find the meaning of Dark Matter and Will’s long-missing father, in addition to fighting soul-eating Specters and traveling with witches and angels. Together, they discover the power of a one-of-a-kind knife that can carve windows and doors between worlds, then have to figure out how to survive both together and apart.

6. His Dark Materials: The Amber Spyglass

His Dark Materials: The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman
(Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers)

The Amber Spyglass concludes the original His Dark Materials trilogy. The worlds are on the brink of war as Lord Asriel drums up support for a rebellion against the Authority, pitting Heaven and Hell against each other in the process. Everyone is affected and everyone has to take a side. Many will also have to make painful sacrifices.

Meanwhile, Lyra and Will have to navigate deadly waters to restore balance to the worlds, all while figuring out their feelings for each other and what they mean. They began this journey as children from separate worlds, and now they have started to grow up together and fall in love—which impacts not just them, but everyone and everything.

7. Lyra’s Oxford

Lyra's Oxford: A Companion to His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman
(Yearling Books)

Lyra’s Oxford is a companion short story to the His Dark Materials trilogy, and follows Lyra and Pantalaimon as they meet a witch’s daemon who crashes through the roof of Jordan College. Together, the trio attempt to track down a famed alchemist, only to be met with danger at every turn.

This story takes place two years after The Amber Spyglass, when Lyra is 15 years old and has already saved the world. In addition to illuminating what life is like for her after she returns to Oxford following her incredible, world-traversing journey, Lyra’s Oxford also gives more insight to the His Dark Materials universe in the aftermath of the war.

8. Serpentine

Serpentine by Philip Pullman
(Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers)

Serpentine is another short story that takes place after the events of Lyra’s Oxford. Lyra and Pantalaimon now have the ability to separate after their harrowing journeys in The Amber Spyglass, which is something only witches and their daemons should be able to do. In order to reconcile this new power and what it means for them and their relationship, the pair venture north once again to ask the Consul of Witches what’s going on.

This short story also serves as a precursor to The Book of Dust: The Secret Commonwealth, which follows Lyra as an adult.

9. The Book of Dust: The Secret Commonwealth

The Book of Dust: The Secret Commonwealth by Philip Pullman
(Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers)

The Secret Commonwealth is the second book in Pullman’s The Book of Dust trilogy, but unlike its precursor, it takes place seven years after the conclusion of His Dark Materials. In this volume, we catch up with adult Lyra, now a 20-year-old undergraduate student at St. Sophia’s College at Oxford University. She’s at increasing odds with her daemon, Pantalaimon, so when he witnesses a brutal murder and she isn’t with him, it makes things especially complicated.

Similar to the journey Lyra took to save her friend Roger in The Golden Compass, she now has to travel into the Levant, searching for a desert city allegedly haunted by daemons where they might finally find the truth behind Dust.

(featured image: HBO)

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Samantha Puc (she/they) is a fat, disabled, lesbian writer and streamer whose work focuses primarily on LGBTQ+ and fat representation in pop culture. Their writing has been featured on Refinery29, Bitch Media, them., and elsewhere. Samantha is the co-creator of Fatventure Mag and she contributed to the award-winning Fat and Queer: An Anthology of Queer and Trans Bodies and Lives. They are an original cast member of Death2Divinity, and they are currently pursuing a Master of Fine Arts degree in creative nonfiction at The New School. When Samantha is not working or writing, she loves spending time with her cats, reading, and perfecting her grilled cheese recipe.