I've just finished reading Philip Pullman's Northern Lights, the first volume in a British kids' fantasy trilogy. I'm over the moon with delight. This is a brilliant novel: gripping, funny, dark, heartwarming and vivid. I haven't been so glad of a BritLit book since The Borribles Trilogy — up until now my absolute favorite kids' fantasy books, not least because of their unflinching grimness and refusal to be even slightly twee. Northern Lights rivals Borribles, outstrips the Hobbit, and leaves Harry Potter in the dust.
The book revolves around the quest of a little girl to uncover the nature of the universes parallel to her own — beginning in an alternate, steampunky Oxford University and ranging through London, the fens, and Lappland. The fantastic creatures and the magic that fuels them is utterly captivating and brilliantly executed. The book reveals its oddities and back-story in tiny sips, interspersed masterfully through the fast-paced action. I've just contacted my corner bookstore to see if they have volumes two and three in stock: I plan on devouring them.
I'm intrigued to see that there's an audio edition with Pullman reading: sounds wonderful.