The story is only about a hundred pages, so naturally it left me wanting more. Still, it was a good way to tide me over until The Book of Dust is published (hopefully sometime before I die), and I’ve read there will be a third little green volume that tells Will’s story.
While I love audiobooks, listening to these books on CD would be unconscionable. Once Upon a Time in the North is a beautifully-made book, and it’s chock full of “extras” that require hands-on reading. Aside from the short story, the reader is also treated to two letters from Lyra concerning her doctoral dissertation, snippets from a manual on aeronautics, beautiful woodcuts by John Lawrence, and an honest-to-goodness board game in a pocket at the back, which I am going to coerce someone to play with me very soon. It has thick, high-quality paper and is all wrapped up in a beautiful cloth cover. It’s a perfect complement to Lyra’s Oxford, which contains similar extras, including woodcuts by Lawrence and a postcard from Mary Malone. Instead of a board game, the story about Lyra features a beautiful fold-out map of the alternate universe Oxford in which Lyra lives (pictured to the right). I have always loved the tactile feel of a book, but these volumes take my love to another level.
I’m interested to see how libraries deal with books such as these. At the library where I work, the copy of Lyra’s Oxford includes the fold-out map, but the copy of Once Upon a Time in the North does not include the board game. My local library, on the other hand, retains the board game as well as the map for patrons. I haven’t been able to get my hands on the library copy, so I don’t know if all the pieces in the game are still there or if the map has been torn.
I’ve always loved the extras that books sometimes have. When I was very into epic fantasy as a teenager, I’d pick the book with the map on the endpages over the book without the map every time. I especially loved it when the author’s world was so intricate and detailed, it merited a glossary at the back. Is there a particular book you’ve read where the extras really enhanced your enjoyment? How does your library handle books with easily torn components or parts that are easily stolen/lost?