Not gonna lie, this was wholeheartedly disappointing.I was expecting the level of brilliance Pullman brought to His Dark Materials. And well this had none of that. It also lacked the charm and sense of wonder HDM provided.Yes, I understand this was written far earlier in his career, and did not expect it to be on par, but I am astounded by how lackluster this was. It is told in there sections. The first section had promise and lead me to think this was going to get much better. He introduced his main characters, and while none are who you want to be friends with, he filled them out and presented some motivations.Then it moved on to the 2nd & 3rd sections where Pullman became so overwrought in his writing, I had to think the editor fell asleep and left him to his ugly didactic ways. He makes Chris, the protagonist in the story so naive that he believes anything, with little hesitation. Quite a change in characterization, but fine. I can buy this. But then he turns around and presents him as a moral fundamentalist who can only see black and white answers to any solution. In doing so he stops accessing the grey matter in his head. These shifts are sloppy and nonsensical.I get that the lesson Pullman is trying to teach is that fundamental positions are dangerous to you and those around you. But he is a writer not a teacher. And I thought he was a skilled writer to achieve his goals without being sloppy and preachy about it, but this really proved me wrong.I honestly am not sure where he became a much better writer, because he so obviously did. The HDM series and Clockwork are fantastic books full of wonder and promise. This sadly has none of what made those such special reads.I guess this is encouraging, as it implies with enough practice and editorial help, one writing can improve exponentially. I guess this means I should perhaps look at later works of other authors I have dismissed as utter garbage, for perhaps they too will improve.