Once Upon a Time in the North by Philip Pullman
Another glimpse into the world of His Dark Materials - it's 35 years before the trilogy, and young aeronaut Lee Scoresby has put down on Novy Odense in the North, looking for work and adventure. He finds the latter in spades. A corrupt corporation and a sleazy politician are obstructing a schooner's Captain from claiming his own cargo. Lee throws himself recklessly onto the side of good, operating on instinct and fearlessness. A bear-whom Lee thinks is named York Burningson-joins the deadly skirmish, shoving an enemy tanker-gun into the harbor while Lee engages in a gunfight in a warehouse. Scrawny, sardonic Hester-Lee's daemon-plays a key role in defeating a vicious hired gun.