Both Lyra’s Oxford and Once upon a Time in the North are side-stories to Phillip Pullman’s Golden Compass series, known as His Dark Materials. They have their good and bad, but I recommend them both to any fan of Pullman’s work.
Lyra’s Oxford is just a story about Lyra in Oxford and how her connection to her daemon Pantalaimon is very important. The book itself is full of realistic memorabilia on the pages, like boat tickets and photos of Oxford, as well as a well-illustrated map of Jordan College fitting into Oxford as a whole. The writing was not as impressive as His Dark Materials, but as far as side stories go, this one was pretty good.
Once Upon a Time in the North was much better. It lays out how Lee Scoresby met Iorek Byrnison and how they started their travels together. It gives a little bit of insight into Lee, who’s not the protagonist of any of the main novels, but still a key character with an interesting past.
This one had a bit of language that His Dark Materials did not. Given that Lee Scoresby is a fighting, gambling Texan, it’s almost to be expected, but be aware if you’re going to get this one. The binding might make Once Upon a Time in the North look like a children’s book, but it’s really a Young Adult short story.
3 stars each. Woo.