Philip Pullman Will Bridge His Trilogies With New Novella Serpentine
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Philip Pullman Will Bridge The Gap Between His Trilogies With The Novella Serpentine

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BY July 13, 2020

The final book of His Dark Materials came out 20 years ago. But that has not stopped author Philip Pullman from returning to the world(s) he created. He began a new trilogy in 2017 that bounces around in time, with The Book of Dust acting as a prequel. The second book in the series – The Secret Commonwealth – is a sequel that follows an adult Lyra. A third book in the new trilogy is allegedly coming at some point, although Pullman has not made any recent announcements about it. Instead, Philip Pullman will publish a novella that he wrote years ago, titled Serpentine. The novella follows a teenage Lyra, promises to bridge the gap between the two trilogies.

His Dark Materials Has Seen A Resurgence in Popularity

His Dark Materials Series Premiere Philip Pullman Serpentine Novella Image via BBC One/HBO

His Dark Materials came to life onscreen once again with the debut of the HBO series last fall. The original trilogy is beloved by a generation of fans who grew up with Lyra, Will, and Pantalaimon. This resurgence in popularity coincided with the release of Pullman’s new trilogy. The Secret Commonwealth came out in October 2019, just before the release of the show. The novel is considerably more adult than the original trilogy, and even The Book of Dust that preceded it. In The Secret Commonwealth, Lyra and Pan are at odds. Their relationship has always been the core of the books. And it was painful to read the deterioration of their bond. The new novella Serpentine promises to explain how Lyra and Pan got to the breaking point we find them in The Secret Commonwealth.

In a statement, Philip Pullman clarified why the novella is coming out now. “Why are we publishing this story now? Because with the development of The Book of Dust, especially after the events described in The Secret Commonwealth, we can see a change in the way Lyra understands herself, and her relationship with Pantalaimon, which is prefigured in this little Arctic episode. When I wrote Serpentine, I had no idea that I was going on to write another trilogy, showing Lyra as an adult, but she and her world wouldn’t leave me alone. When it comes to human affairs, a billion invisible filaments connect us to our own pasts, as well as to the most remote things we can imagine; and I hope that, above all, these books are about being alive and being human.”

Serpentine Novella Joins The Ranks Of Other Philip Pullman Short Stories Set In The World

The Serpentine novella was previously only available as a handwritten manuscript. Pullman auctioned it off for charity in 2004. This is the first time the general public will be able to read this story. However, it is not the first novella that Pullman has written in Lyra’s world. In 2003, Pullman published the story Lyra’s Oxford. This short story is also set during Lyra’s teenage years, and will most likely directly connect to Serpentine.

There is also a novella called Once Upon A Time In The North that functions as another prequel to His Dark Materials. This story – published in 2008 – follows a young Lee Scoresby. It describes how Scoresby originally met and befriended the bear Iorek Byrnison. Another short story – The Collectors – was released only as an audiobook in 2014. The Collectors was a story about Marisa Coulter (Lyra’s mother). These stories do not appear to be directly linked to Serpentine, or the new trilogy. However, only time will tell if the events of those stories will reemerge in later books.

Serpentine Will See Lyra Return To The North

Philip Pullman Serpentine Novella Image via Penguin Books

An official synopsis from the publisher tells us the following about Serpentine, the upcoming novella from Phillip Pullman. “In Serpentine, a teenage Lyra returns to the town of Trollesund, the setting of her first encounter with Iorek Byrnison and Lee Scoresby in The Golden Compass. Lyra and Pan are older and a little wiser, and in search of an answer to a shocking, secret condition—their ability to separate—from the witch-consul, Dr. Lanselius. What unfolds is a tender, revelatory scene that foreshadows Lyra’s future struggles as a young woman, and provides insight into Pullman’s own early exploration of a previously unthinkable plot development that would emerge in his The Book of Dust sequence: the idea that a human’s bond with their daemon can be irreparably broken.”

The Philip Pullman novella Serpentine will be out on October 15, 2020 in hardcover. There is also an audiobook version on the way, read by actor Olivia Colman. Are you interested in the new stories? Are you excited for another story involving young Lyra? Let us know your thoughts by joining the conversation with Comic Years on Facebook and Twitter today.


Emily O'Donnell is a writer and photographer with roots in some of the earliest online fandoms. She cut her genre teeth on the Wizard of Oz books at the tender age of 6 years old, and was reading epic adult fantasy novels by the age of 10. Decades later, she still consumes genre fiction like there is no tomorrow. She is delighted to be living through the golden age of sci-fi and fantasy popularity. She is unashamed of the amount of fanfiction that still lingers online under her name.

Book NewsBooksFantasyGenre Fictionhis dark materialsNovellaPhillip PullmanSerpentine

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