Phillip Pullman’s other series
By Renee Schmutz-Sowards, BCPL circulation specialist
If the name Philip Pullman rings a bell, it’s most likely from his wildly popular “His Dark Materials” series. These award-winning books, which include “The Golden Compass,” even had a film adaptation released not too long ago. Sadly, even though the film was all kinds of awesome, it didn’t do quite good enough at the box office to warrant making any further movies.
BUT! We aren’t talking about His Dark Materials today. We are talking about a new series by Mr. Pullman that I have just recently discovered. Okay, technically it’s an older series since he originally started it in the 1980s and the last one was published in 1994, a year before the Golden Compass was published. But it’s new to me!
I’m talking about the “Sally Lockhart Series”, which follows the life and adventures of a strong and intelligent young lady during the 1800s.
Here’s a great quote from the author’s website describing the series: “Historical thrillers, that’s what these books are. Old-fashioned Victorian blood-and-thunder.” The author goes on to explain that he intentionally wrote these stories around classic thriller plotlines, such as the cursed jewel or the world-changing weapon, yet he managed to do so in a manner that is believable. His characters are given such depth and personality that even if you don’t like them, you can sympathize with them.
How can you possibly go wrong with Victorian blood and thunder, I ask you?
I’ve found that even though these stories predate the current vogue for all things steampunk, you can start to see some of the beginnings of the genre in this series. While not nearly as fantastical as His Dark Materials series, or any truly steampunk-themed books by other authors, the Sally Lockhart books are filled with that same exuberant, brave new world, future-full-of-new-and-exciting-possibilities, and can do gumption, bound by restrictive Victorian morals and social hierarchy.
Our Sally often ends up filling the role of plucky girl detective, although that is rarely her intention. She is actually (get this for a twist) a financial consultant. Yet she ends up getting caught in all sorts of cunningly diabolical mysteries in connection with her consulting business. Plus her BFFs just happen to run a private detective agency on the side.
Rounding out the cast and crew are her companions: Jim Taylor, aspiring playwright and master of disguises; Mr. Webster Garland, gentleman genius; Frederick Garland, a brilliant photographer; and his sister Rosa, a caring actress. Another vibrant character and dear friend of Sally’s is her dog Chaka, who in one book is described as a “cross between a bloodhound, a Great Dane and a werewolf”.
I do have one confession I need to make for the sake of journalistic integrity. Quite by accident, I’ve ended up reading the series backwards and I haven’t actually read the FIRST book yet. So I don’t actually know how the whole story starts. But the ending and the middle bits are fantastic!
If, unlike me, you would like to try the series start to finish, here’s the order: “The Ruby in the Smoke”, “The Shadow in the North”, “The Tiger in the Well” and “The Tin Princess”.
All of which are available from your friends at the Boyd County Public Library. You can place a hold on it today by clicking here.