The Northern Lights (also called The Golden Compass, particularly when it was made into a film with Nicole Kidman and various others) is the first book in Philip Pullman'sHis Dark Materials trilogy. It is about Lyra, a half-savage urchin nominally under the guardianship of the scholars at Oxford College. She wars with other neighbourhood ragamuffins and with the travelling "gyptian" children. But her uncle is very nearly murdered by her trusted scholars, and someone is stealing children from Oxford’s streets. When her friend Roger is taken, Lyra is determined to get him back.
The world is very similar to ours from a few decades back (the masculine grandeur of Oxford is palpable), but every human has a daemon (pronounced “demon”). It takes the form of an animal, and it is much like a soul. Quite apart from the central relevance of daemons to the plot, they are a wonderful device for showing character and internal feeling.
One arc of the plot does finish at the end of the book, but the overarching plot is only just beginning, so I don’t recommend reading just one book.
Rating: In general, M for very overt religious feeling (he genuinely set out to re-write Paradise Lost with the snake representing knowledge and all that is good – and he succeeded), and some reasonably strong violence (it all depends on your imagination). No sex in this series (although it is VERY strongly implied).
“Lyra stopped beside the Master’s chair and flicked the biggest glass gently with a fingernail. The sound rang clearly through the Hall.
‘You’re not taking this seriously,’ whispered her daemon. ‘Behave yourself.’”