La Belle Sauvage is the first book in a new trilogy by Philip Pullman, author the His Dark Materials series.
La Belle Sauvage is set in the same universe as HDM, and begins as a prequel. Malcolm - a boy of about eleven who lives with his parents in The Trout, a tavern on the shores of the Thames - has a fairly simple life. He helps in the pub, he rows in his canoe, La Belle Sauvage, and he visits the nuns across the river to do odd jobs for them to earn a bit of extra money.
When the nuns take in a baby, Malcolm's life is about to change, but he has no idea how ...
The baby in question is Lyra, the main character from the HDM series, and rather a lot of La Belle Sauvage is taken up with trying to keep Lyra and her daemon Pan alive and away from the people who want her dead for various reasons.
When an extremely damaging flood covers most of London, Malcolm knows it's up to him to try and save Lyra and get her to the one person who might be able to keep her safe - her father.
He sets out with Lyra, his own daemon Asta, and Alice and Ben - the rather surly young woman who works in the kitchen of his parents' pub, and her daemon - to get Lyra to her father before it's too late.
I have to admit, I really enjoyed La Belle Sauvage. Malcolm is really well-realised - he has some honestly unexpectedly grown-up moments, but then he says and does something and you're reminded that oh, right, he's just a young boy. Alice as a character has a lot of growth - at first she comes across as little more than a surly and unpleasant young woman, but as she takes the journey in La Belle Sauvage with Malcolm to save Lyra, she comes into her own.
I'm very much looking forward to book two.