Lyra stood up to lean on the stone beside him, her limbs full of warmth, and gazed out toward the southeast, where a dusty dark-green line of trees rose above the spires and rooftops in the early evening air. She was waiting for the starlings.These three books each take up a different story line from Pullman's His Dark Materials series. Lyra's Oxford checks back in with Lyra after the novels end, Once Upon a Time in the North takes us back to when Lee Scoresby and Iorek Byrnison first meet, and The Collectors is set some time after the novels and gives us a hint what Mrs. Coulter's been getting up to.
The three books are short; each can be read in an evening, and Lyra's Oxford and Once Upon a Time in the North are fun forays back into the world of the novel. Iorek Byrnison is one of my favorite characters from the books, so I enjoyed getting to spend some more time with him and Lee Scoresby as they thwarted their first villain together. Both books are illustrated beautifully with wood cuttings and have "primary" sources scattered throughout (maps, encyclopedia entries, newspaper articles." I especially loved the map (pictured above) of Oxford, complete with annotations and whimsical illustrations. Once Upon a Time in the North would make a nice introduction to the longer books, but Lyra's Oxford makes too many references to the novels to make sense to a new reader. Both were lots of fun for Lyra fans!
The Collectors is more of a short story than a stand alone books. It is dark and twisted and leaves you with more questions than it answers. Of the three, it is definitely the most adult (and certainly more adult than the novels themselves). If you haven't read the other Pullman books, or if you aren't quite one for YA fantasy, this story still works. The pacing and suspense I loved in the novels works just as well if not better in shorter form, and Pullman can pull of creepy pretty well.