When a young Texan balloonist, Lee Scoresby, comes down to earth in the harbour of an Arctic town in the North, little does he realise that he is about to be embroiled in an out-and-out political brawl. Lee and his daemon, Hester, find themselves the target of political factions trying to take over the running (and oil) of the town.
Eleven-year-old Malcolm Polstead and his daemon, Asta, live with his parents at the Trout Inn near Oxford. Across the River Thames (which Malcolm navigates often using his beloved canoe, a boat by the name of La Belle Sauvage) is the Godstow Priory where the nuns live. Malcolm learns they have a guest with them; a baby by the name of Lyra Belacqua . . .
A bundle of material has somehow slipped between Lyra's universe and our own, including another short tale from a just after the end of "The Amber Spyglass". Sitting on the roofs of Oxford, Lyra sees a storm petrel, the daemon of a witch, pursued by other birds, and a mystery unfolds.