An exciting and thrilling end to a fantastic trilogy

‘The Amber Spyglass’ – Philip Pullman

The Amber Spyglass - Philip Pullman

The Amber Spyglass – Philip Pullman

Will and Lyra, whose fates are bound together by powers beyond their own worlds, have been violently separated. But they must find each other, for ahead of them lies the greatest war that has ever been – and a journey to a dark place from which no one has ever returned…

Philip Pullman pulls out all the stops with ‘The Amber Spyglass’. Considerably longer than the other two novels, this thrilling and face-paced novel leaves you breathless with anticipation about what is in store for our two heroes, Lyra and Will.

Pullman uses the same tricks that worked so well in the previous novels and delights fantasy readers with witches, small people, and heavenly wars, all moving between different worlds. It is brilliant to imagine the worlds that Pullman has created and each time the landscape changes, the reader is left wanting to go back to the previous, but at the same time being drawn into the next twist of the story.

The religious debate is far more prevalent in this novel. If readers had not picked up on the subtle undertones previously, it is difficult to miss it in ‘The Amber Spyglass’. It does not ruin the story but I think you could become easily distracted by what Pullman is suggesting. Don’t let yourself be one of those readers, but enjoy the story for what it is; leave the religious debate in the back of your head until you have finished.

There are few books where you have a physical reaction to the ending and this is one of them. I found the novel charging towards its ending and although I had an inkling in the back of my head of what was to come, I had to read faster, as if to prove myself wrong. It is this inevitable ending – both with the how the story finishes, combined with the fact that this is the final book in the series – that made me sigh when I had read the final words. This was a sigh of satisfaction, knowing that I had read a well-written novel; a sigh of exhaustion – like I had been on the adventure with Lyra and Will; and a sigh of despair – that I couldn’t change the ending.

If nothing else, read ‘His Dark Materials’ to feel satisfied about reading a solid fantasy novel; I hope everything else will just come from the pleasure of reading this great piece of literature.

For my review on the first novel in this trilogy, ‘Northern Lights’, click here
For my review on the second novel in this trilogy, ‘The Subtle Knife’, click here


A darker instalment to the fantasy trilogy

‘The Subtle Knife’ – Philip Pullman

Image courtesy of wikipedia

The Subtle Knife – Philip Pullman

Will has just killed a man. He’s on the run. His escape will take him far beyond his own world, to the eerie disquiet of a deserted city, and to a girl, Lyra. Her fate is strangely linked to his own, and together they must find the most powerful weapon in all the worlds…

Continuing with ‘His Dark Materials’ Trilogy,  the reader is a little thrown when we are presented with a new character in a world that is identical to our own. A couple of chapters in and we begin to recognise the fantastical elements that had us hooked in the previous novel. And I think it is this slower paced start that made this novel a bit of work getting in to, especially after the momentum that had built up at the end of ‘Northern Lights ‘.

Pullman has made this novel a lot darker than the previous story; it is as if he anticipates his readers have “grown up” and so has created the more complex character of Will. His situation is so bleak that the reader can quickly sympathise with him and when he does finally meet Lyra, you know it signifies a positive turn in his life.

Part of this story is set in the world that we know. It is entertaining to read about Lyra’s perception of “our world”, and it is like role reversal for the reader from the first novel. That said,  Pullman has once again created another new universe in which the action takes place,  and in comparison to the others,  again shows a more darker side to his writing, something that I expect to continue in the final instalment.

All that aside,  once you get started with the story,  it is a very good read with plenty of moments of surprise and tension. The pace does build after the initial slow start and whilst there is a lot more fighting in this story,  it is great to see some characters return from the first story.  If ‘Northern Lights ‘ hooked you,  then I would definitely recommend reading this to see what happens to Lyra next.

For my review on the first novel in this trilogy, ‘Northern Lights’, click here

A fantasy that ticks all the boxes

‘Northern Lights’ – Philip Pullman

Image courtesy of thebigbookreview

Northern Lights – Philip Pullman

When Lyra’s friend Roger disappears, she and her daemon, Pantalaimon, determine to find him. The ensuing quest leads them to the bleak splendour of the North, where armoured bears rule the ice and witch-queens fly through frozen skies – and where a team of scientists is conducting experiments too horrible to be spoken about.

Lyra overcomes these strange terrors, only to find something yet more perilous waiting for her – something with consequences which may even reach beyond the Northern Lights…

Undoubtedly, Philip Pullman’s ‘Northern Lights’ (or ‘The Golden Compass’ if you are reading the American/post-film publication) is the ultimate fantasy. With daemons, armoured bears and witches, Pullman whisks readers away to a not-quite parallel universe that delves into issues of religion and the church that become more profound and thought-provoking on a second reading.

Set in Oxford, the story follows Lyra and her daemon (basically your soul/personality in animal form), as her best friend is kidnapped by the “Gobblers”. Her adventure is spell-bounding as Pullman gives the reader everything they can expect of a traditional fantasy. It is delightful to go on this adventure with Lyra and her being such a hot-headed character makes her all the more likeable to readers.

Pullman has cleverly set this novel in an Oxford not quite like the one we know. The slight differences in geography and language makes the reader find connections with what they know of the world; whilst at the same time more obvious differences, like a person’s daemon, can leave you wondering what you would be like in her world. Frequently I found myself wondering what my daemon would be like and which of the characters’ daemons I preferred!

The novel keeps you gripped from start to finish with many surprising turns along the way. Pullman’s writing gives readers a glimpse into his imagination as the descriptions are so vivid. Admittedly when I first read this book I found my mind was wandering, and without hesitation I recommend you read this a second time to really appreciate all of the flavours that this book can offer. It is only then that you start to become aware of Pullman’s commentary on organised religion, something that he was criticised for when the novel was first published.

This is an awesome book. It is so enjoyable and has so much to offer that I think it was inevitable that the film could never live up to expectations. There are so many elements within the story that delight your imagination, that by the time you have reached its gripping conclusion, you are left still day-dreaming about the alternative universe that you have just experienced.