British author Philip Pullman is seen during a photo call for his new book 'La Belle Sauvage: The Book of Dust Volume One' at the Bodleian Libraries, in Oxford, southern England, on October 18, 2017. (AFP/Daniel Leal-Olivas)
The 17-year wait for a return to the mystical world of British author Philip Pullman's "Dark Materials" series ended Thursday with the release of "La Belle Sauvage", the first volume of a new trilogy.
The "Book of Dust" series will take readers back to the parallel world that has captivated readers young and old, selling more than 17.5 million copies in over 40 languages.
"La Belle Sauvage" is set 10 years before "Northern Lights" -- the first volume in "His Dark Materials", released in 1995 -- and revolves around Lyra Belacqua, the headstrong heroine of the original trilogy.
Fans will once again be immersed in the world of alethiometers -- compass-like devices used to find truthful answers to questions -- and daemons -- creatures that express a person's inner-self in physical form.
"At the centre of The Book of Dust is the struggle between a despotic and totalitarian organisation, which wants to stifle speculation and enquiry, and those who believe thought and speech should be free," the 70-year-old author said.
"This volume and the next will cover two parts of Lyra's life: starting at the beginning of her story and returning to her 20 years later," he said.
"There are some characters who are new to us, including an ordinary boy who, with Lyra, is caught up in a terrifying adventure that takes him into a new world," he added.
Early extracts from the book revealed her companion to be 11-year-old Malcolm Polstead -- who had a walk-on part in the previous trilogy -- and his daemon, Asta, along with his boat La Belle Sauvage.
It also emerged that Lyra was being sheltered from her own father by nuns at Godstow Priory near Oxford in the new tale.
Pullman said he chose Lyra to be a central character because "she's not a special child" but is "brave, inquisitive, curious, disobedient: all those interesting things for storytellers.
"She doesn't know the things that are threatening her and she's in the same position as the reader, because the reader shares her sense of danger and excitement and curiosity about what's going to happen next."
Award-winning Welsh actor and self-avowed fan Michael Sheen will narrate the English version of the audiobook.
"It was genuinely one of the most thrilling and enjoyable experiences I've had as a performer, to sit in that darkened recording studio for three magical days and live inside the story of Malcolm and Lyra and their extraordinary journey," the "Frost/Nixon" actor said.
"The Amber Spyglass," the final volume in the "His Dark Materials" trilogy, was released in 2000.