I was surprised how much I enjoyed this book. The mythology is imaginative, well realized, and uses some really great iconography. The animal daemons are a great conceit, and I love the imagery of Dust. The individual characters are well filled out, as are the larger nations/cultures. At times the exposition is a bit blunt, I suppose— Iorek telling Lyra that his armor is his soul, e.g., or Lord Asriel explaining the power inherent in the daemon bond. But that bluntness has been typical of every fantasy/sci-fi book I've ever read, and it's handled as deftly here as I've seen in any other. Overall, this was a fun, engaging read, and I can't wait for my kids to read it so we can share a discussion.