Tuesday, February 8, 2011

What Do You Mean You Never Read the Sally Lockhart Trilogy by Philip Pullman?

The Sally Lockhart Trilogy by Philip Pullman
Submitted by: Katie

I’d like to introduce you to someone. I’ve known her for over a decade now, but we only recently became reacquainted. And thank goodness we did, because she’s one of my favorite (fictional) people of all time. Her name is Sally Lockhart, and she’s sort of my hero.

Sally was Philip Pullman’s original tough-minded heroine, before he gave us The Dark Materials Trilogy and Lyra Belacqua. She lives in Victorian London, a gritty and dangerous place where trouble and adventure lurk around every corner. The opium drug trade, spiritualism, and political unrest draw Sally and her friends into some of the most intricately woven webs of intrigue that I’ve ever come across in YA literature. These are the sort of complex plots that leave a reader feeling completely drawn in, holding your attention to the very last.

When we first meet Sally in The Ruby in the Smoke she’s 16 and just arrived in England. By The Tiger in the Well, she is 24 and has seen her share of adventure and tragedy, always facing it head on. Despite the deception and mystery often surrounding her, Sally isn’t your typical girl detective, and she shouldn’t be taken for a 19th-century Nancy Drew. There’s something far too edgy about her to make that comparison. While quite pretty, she doesn’t have a “girly” bone in her body, carrying a pistol in her handbag and earning her keep in a man’s profession with a sharp mind for business. In fact, you would be doing yourself a great disservice if you were to write these books off as “girl books”, especially as Sally rarely works alone, relying heavily on the wits, loyalty, and bravery of her friends (and some of my other favorite fictional people) Frederick Garland, Jim Taylor, and, later on, Daniel Goldberg. Each of these young men is drawn in as much depth and detail as Sally herself as all their paths intertwine on the way to uncovering the truth.
Pullman has the ability to bring history to life, breathe life into characters both good and evil (and sometimes somewhere in between), open the reader’s eyes to social injustice, and somehow never sacrifice the story at hand. There are so many layers to these stories, don’t be surprised if you find yourself picking them up again years later only to have a new aspect revealed or a new favorite (fictional) person discovered.

The Ruby in the Smoke
In nineteenth-century London, sixteen-year-old Sally, a recent orphan, becomes involved in a deadly search for a mysterious ruby.

The Shadow in the North
In 1878 in London, Sally, now twenty-two and established in her own business, and her companions
Frederick and Jim try to solve the mystery surrounding the unexpected collapse of a shipping firm and its ties to a sinister corporation called North Star.

The Tiger in the Well
In London in 1881, twenty-four-year-old Sally finds her young daughter and her possessions assailed by an unknown enemy, while a shadowy figure known as the Tzaddik involves her in his plot to defraud and exploit the hordes of Jewish immigrants pouring into the country.

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