The Golden Compass.
Del Rey: 1997.
A celebrated book and rightly so. The writing is simple enough for young adults yet good enough for adults, the plot is relatively coherent and complex, the characters are excellent, and the setting is superb without the author having to write long, encyclopedic paragraphs about his alternate universe.
The first part of a trilogy, this is the coming of age story of an orphan girl being raised by University dons. Mysterious things are afoot, including an assassination attempt on her uncle, and strange scientific discoveries are at hand, and so off she goes with some gypsies to the North Pole. The plot & setting mirror some of the boy adventure novels of “the good old days.” Very good book, appropriate for anyone old enough to read it, and a good one to find in hardcover.
The only drawback is that I have never found the plot device of a prophecy to be very fulfilling, if you’ll forgive the pun. It’s more hokey than coincidence, unless done in a new & interesting way, which this novel does not.