His Dark Materials: The Amber Spyglass – Philip Pullman

February 25, 2010 § 12 Comments

And so this book, The Amber Spyglass ends my 1016-page long journey through His Dark Materials. And I don’t know how to start telling you about what a wonderful adventure it has been.

Will and Lyra now share a strong bond between them, a sense of duty and protection for one another. There is something they must do, and they go to all extremes to get the job done. They get separated, but drawn together like two opposite sides of a magnet, Will seeks Lyra out, searching for her through different worlds, meeting angels who insist on his fulfilling his duty. They are held hostage, then take company with spies; they go to worlds they should never have entered. And war was never more imminent.

I don’t want to ruin the book for those who haven’t read it yet. So much of the story in this third book ties in back to the first and second, it’s hardly possible to gush about it without spoilers. But in more general terms, I think this book was probably the most complex of the three, possibly because it’s the one that took on the most difficult task of ending the trilogy. So many things that were left hanging now needed a place to land properly, issues that were left loose now needed to be tied up, and rough edges needed to be smoothened. In the midst of all that, new characters were still being introduced, more problems kept coming our way, and Lyra and Will were slowly but surely growing up.

Some parts of this book felt a little random, and I got confused a couple of times, but nothing too drastic, nor anything I couldn’t forgive Pullman for. Because for any of the flaws that this final book might have had, the story compensated for it, and more. Characters I thought I knew introduced to me this other side to them that I never knew existed; they did things that even they didn’t expect themselves to do, and always something would end, and I would feel this sudden jolt, or my heart would squeeze and I’d hold my breath. Sometimes, it got rather painful.


The trilogy as a whole is just one helluva story. It had everything you could ever imagine, and it had things you never would have imagined. While things were happening in front of you (that’s what it felt like, the action was just right in front of you), there was still this impending doom hanging over your head (again, that’s exactly what it felt like, just up there over our head). Even when Pullman does nothing to draw your attention to that dark cloud, you’d still feel it there anyway, and you want to warn Lyra and Will about it, but you don’t really know what it is. And that’s what keeps you turning those pages; the feeling that you know something is going to happen, but what is it? Does it happen? Does it not happen? After that, something else will happen, but what? And it goes on.

The back of the book has this quoted:

This trilogy is one of the great imaginative works in the English language. And it contains one of the best villians in all literature.

~ Terry Jones

The best thing about it is that there’s never really one person/character/thing that I can point to and say, “You’re the ultimate villian.” Because there isn’t. There is always a sense of it, and sometimes you think you can find a physical manifest for it, but most of the time, it’s just there, you know it’s there, and that’s all there is to it.

It’s a trilogy that I can just see myself wanting to reread some time in the future. The worlds that Pullman created in there were just so full of magic, yet so believable, I could almost taste the chill and frost in the air (and it’s summer here in New Zealand). You just can’t help but get lost and immersed in it.

This has got to be one of the best (if not the best) stories I’ve read this year.

Rating: 5

For: Random Reading Challenge


Note: Comparing the 3 books, I think The Subtle Knife stands just a fraction of an inch taller than the other two. Just that little bit. Click to read my thoughts on: Northern Lights and The Subtle Knife.


§ 12 Responses to His Dark Materials: The Amber Spyglass – Philip Pullman

  • Am really glad you loved the books! Your thoughts on them really makes me want to re-read them, but there are so many brand new books on the pile! Oh, the dilemma!

    • Michelle says:

      I definitely enjoyed it very much. Glad I made the decision to bring it home from the library (it looked really daunting..)

      There are just so many books to read, aren’t there? I’m getting a mild reading burn-out I think..

  • kiss a cloud says:

    I really did not like this series, but then I guess it was more of a faith issue than anything. I resented Pullman’s ideologies, especially in the last book and I just really hated that third book. I did like the first book, the second half-half, but after reading the third, the whole story just got pulled down along with it. It’s refreshing to hear how much you loved it though. =)

    • Michelle says:

      I can definitely appreciate where you’re coming from. I’m not huge on faith, but I do know how heavily it weighs for others. I’ve read that His Dark Materials was written to ‘counter’, sort of, The Narnia Chronicles. Do you know anything about that? I’m rather interested, and the fantasy genre doesn’t feel half bad now.

  • Nymeth says:

    I’ll definitely be reading it again and again too. So glad you loved it, Michelle. The third one was my favourite like I (think?) I told you before, but I really loved them all.

    • Michelle says:

      I think you sort of mentioned it. I think the third volume was a little too long for me, but like I mentioned, it didn’t do much damage. I think reading it for a second time would shed a little more light on it? But you, and Aimee and anothercookie were very encouraging. =)

  • Congratulations on finishing it! I’m so pleased that you love it as much as I did. Now you just have to wait for his new release in a few months time. I am really hoping it will be as good as this one.

    • Michelle says:

      His new release? Is it the book in the Canongate Myth Series? I’m definitely looking forward to that! It seems to have gotten its fair share of controversy already.

  • Vishy says:

    Nice to know that you liked the trilogy! I haven’t read it yet, but after reading your review, I will move it higher on my ‘TBR’ list πŸ™‚ I didn’t know that Pullman had written this book to make a point against ‘The Chronicles of Narnia’! That is quite interesting! Have you read ‘The Chronicles of Narnia’? It would be really great if, after you get to read ‘The Lord of the Rings’ you can write a post about what you think about the three great fantasy books – ‘His Dark Materials’, ‘The Lord of the Rings’ and ‘The Chronicles of Narnia’. Would love to hear your thoughts on them.

    • Michelle says:

      I hope you do read it soon. It’s a great trilogy.

      I’m still planning to get to the LOTR books this year, and after reading His Dark Materials, I’m quite interested in reading to see what The Chronicles of Narnia might be like. So I definitely have them on my to-read list.

  • Aimee says:

    Funnily enough, while Pullman detested the christian spin in the Chronicles of Narnia, they are two of my all-time favourite series and I found them to be quite similar in a lot of ways. I think Pullman respects C.S. Lewis’ writings, and perhaps even drew on his works for His Dark Materials, but I think he has tio openly hate it because you can interpret so many things in Narnia as overtly Christian.

    As for Lord of The Rings, I’ve only read The Hobbit and The Fellowship of the Ring, but I can’t say they float my boat half as much as other people love them.

    And did you know that C.S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien were mates and in the same creative writing class at uni? Imagine the tutorial discussions! Awesomeness.

    Oh and P.S. – loving that you thought Subtle Kinfe slightly edged out the other two πŸ˜‰


    • Michelle says:

      I’m really keen on reading The Chronicles of Narnia now after reading this trilogy. I should be able to get to it some time later this year.

      About C.S.Lewis and J.R.R.Tolkein, I think I read about it on Wikipedia some time ago that they were good mates, until a point when C.S.Lewis joined the Church of England, which was when their relationship turned a little sour. But you’re right, they must have had some super awesome discussions.

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