Wednesday, December 28, 2011

That Awkward Moment...

when you finish a book and wander around your house in a daze for hours because your life has lost all meaning.

It's been a long time since I've read a book that was that good. But wow. Philip Pullman, you did it to me again.

Really, this is a review for all of the His Dark Materials trilogy, even though the picture only shows The Amber Spyglass. Here's the synopsis Amazon gives for the whole series:

The Golden Compass
forms the first part of a story in three volumes. The first volume is set in a world like ours, but different in many ways. The second volume is set partly in the world we know. The third moves between many worlds.

In The Golden Compass, readers meet 11-year-old Lyra Belacqua, a precocious orphan growing up within the precincts of Jordan College in Oxford, England. It quickly becomes clear that Lyra's Oxford is not precisely like our own—nor is her world. In Lyra's world, everyone has a personal dæmon, a lifelong animal familiar. This is a world in which science, theology and magic are closely intertwined.

The Subtle Knife is the second part of the trilogy that began with The Golden Compass. That first book was set in a world like ours, but different. This book begins in our own world.

In The Subtle Knife, readers are introduced to Will Parry, a young boy living in modern-day Oxford, England. Will is only twelve years old, but he bears the responsibilities of an adult. Following the disappearance of his explorer-father, John Parry, during an expedition in the North, Will became parent, provider and protector to his frail, confused mother. And it's in protecting her that he becomes a murderer, too: he accidentally kills a man who breaks into their home to steal valuable letters written by John Parry. After placing his mother in the care of a kind friend, Will takes those letters and sets off to discover the truth about his father.

The Amber Spyglass
brings the intrigue of The Golden Compass and The Subtle Knife to a heartstopping close, marking the third and final volume as the most powerful of the trilogy. Along with the return of Lyra, Will, Mrs. Coulter, Lord Asriel, Dr. Mary Malone, and Iorek Byrnison the armored bear, The Amber Spyglass introduces a host of new characters: the Mulefa, mysterious wheeled creatures with the power to see Dust; Gallivespian Lord Roke, a hand-high spy-master to Lord Asriel; and Metatron, a fierce and mighty angel. And this final volume brings startling revelations, too: the painful price Lyra must pay to walk through the land of the dead, the haunting power of Dr. Malone's amber spyglass, and the names of who will live—and who will die—for love. And all the while, war rages with the Kingdom of Heaven, a brutal battle that—in its shocking outcome—will reveal the secret of Dust.

I read these books first when I was seven or eight despite the warnings of grown-ups who thought the books were way too anti-religious. I got all the way to the end of The Amber Spyglass, past all the atheist themes and anti-Christian stuff and was just find...until (spoiler alert) Will and Lyra had to part. I was shocked and devastated, and threw down the books promising never to read them again.

And now, when I thought I was a little wiser and stronger, I read them again. And I cried all over again like I did when I was seven, but WOW! The ending is phenomenal.

For those of you who are Mormon, or who are devoutly religious, these books are definitely a challenge to read. The Golden Compass and The Subtle Knife aren't too bad--really, they just seem anti-Catholic--but The Amber Spyglass is a little more candid. But if you can not get offended and see Pullman's point (or even just get past it enough to enjoy the storyline) you will be blown away. And I can guarantee that you will cry at the ending. I think I will be depressed for the rest of this day, and probably for the rest of the week.

But hey. That's when you know the book is good, right?

Rating: 5/5. (I promise--I won't give every book I review a 5. We just got lucky.)

Don't forget! If you see this post, please give me a book to read!!! Please.


  1. Hi there. I've just found you through your comment you posted half a year ago on my blog, which I totally forgot existed until now. I like your blog a lot. I've never read the His Dark Materials trilogy because I think I'm not allowed to, but this review makes me think that I may read them some distant time in the future.
    Are your reviews supposed to be mostly about your reactions to books, or will you be adding more elements of rhetorical analysis?

    P.S. How do you follow this blog? I can't seem to find an option for it :P

  2. Oops. Sorry for the double post, but I just read your last sentence.
    Have you ever read Elantris by Brandon Sanderson? If not, I highly recommend it.

  3. Del,
    Thanks for your reccommendation! And no, I haven't found the "Follow" button on the new Blogger layout, but I'll look for it. And yes, normally I try to include the literary framework stuff, but today I was lazy and still angry at Pullman for ripping my heart out, so I didn't. But I definitely will next time.

  4. I'm absolutely reading these now.

    Now I know why I wasn't allowed to read these when I was younger. I asked my mom if I could because most of my friends were reading them at the time and she just looked at me and said quite sternly, "NO." Now I know why.

    But I'm so reading these now-- I can't say I've read a book with really atheistic themes. Thanks for writing the review!


  5. Haha I'm not sure normal teenagers jump at the chance to read a book specifically because it's atheist, Jude. But you definitely should--they are legit.


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