The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman
Talk to novelists about Pullman, especially the first book of the His Dark Materials trilogy, and apart from everything else (everything else being the brilliance of his daemons conceit, the sparkly gloom of his alternate Oxford, and the tartness of Lyra’s unripe genius), they will talk about the awesome crystalline perfection of his plotting. The Golden Compass is a clockwork masterpiece, all its gears and catchments meshed and fitted with near-divine perfection, each image and chapter and character leading inevitably to the next. Also, it has polar bears wearing armor. Come on!