Title: Once Upon a Time in the North
Series: His Dark Materials
Author: Philip Pullman
Rating: 4/5 stars
A prequel to the events of the His Dark Materials series, Philip Pullman's Once Upon a Time in the North tells the story of Lee Scoresby and Iorek Byrinson's first meeting, and how they came to be friends. While not delving at all into the mysteries or intrigues that were the heart of the rest of the His Dark Materials books, it was still a treat all the same to return to the world that Pullman created.
It is a short story (it is printed as a matching volume to Lyra's Oxford) and takes place over the course of a day or two, at most. Lee Scoresby has only had his balloon for a short time, after winning it in a hand of poker, and is still learning the ropes to flying it. He has traveled to the North to look for work, and after landing on the island of Novy Odense, is pulled into a political intrigue that he quickly discovers he wants no part of, yet his sense of honor prevails and he finds himself in the middle of a gun fight towards the end of the story, trying to help those he feels are being treated wrongly. Iorek Byrnison is also at odds with the same group, so befriends Scoresby and together they take on the enemy.
The gunfight towards the end of the book is well written, and even though I know Scoresby lives through this (as he plays a strong part in the later stories) I found myself still anxious as to the outcome of the story. I think that's a merit of Pullman's writing; that even though you know Scoresby will survive the situation, you still find yourself concerned for his well-being.
A nice edition and a good story to provide a little background to these two characters. The addition of "historically correct" documents to the book just add to the details.
There is a board game that is included in the back of the book, which has no bearing on the story whatsoever. I just thought that I'd mention that it was there.