The Amber Spyglass

The Amber SpyglassThe Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman
Series: His Dark Materials #3
Publisher: Scholastic
Released: October 10, 2000
Pages: 518
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Will is the bearer of the knife. Now, accompanied by angels, his task is to deliver that powerful, dangerous weapon to Lord Asriel - by the command of his dying father.

But how can he go looking for Lord Asriel when Lyra is gone? Only with her help can he fathom the myriad plots and intrigues that beset him.

The two great powers of the many worlds are lining up for war, and Will must find Lyra, for together they are on their way to battle, an inevitable journey that will even take them to the world of the dead...

This book was a strange experience. I was thoroughly bored the first 100 pages. As with The Subtle Knife, I failed to immerse myself in the universe of the book enough to appreciate what was essentially an elaboration on the politics between, and within, the races established in the previous books. I put most of the blame for this on myself, and I should have seen it coming after The Subtle Knife. I knew that the book was probably giving me good stuff, I just didn’t appreciate what the book was giving me.

Then, after 100 pages, The Amber Spyglass started getting really interesting to me as well. Once Death turned up, I found myself getting on board. It then turned into quite an exploration of what Death is and isn’t, and takes elements of religion and, completely without respect (in a good way), tears them up and employs them in its own story-telling. I can imagine that much of the treatment of religion would probably be quite controversial, especially in a children’s book, but it got really entertaining.

The story also ties up very nicely, and sometimes it becomes properly emotional. While the mythology of the book might be subtle in places, there is nothing subtle about the plot. The emotion, the love, and the hard choices the characters have to make are all used for all they are worth – and then a little more for good measure. This works well, and the over-the-top’ness of elements of the plot kind of works well with the ambiguity (for me at least) of the universe it takes place in.

The Amber Spyglass is undoubtedly a good book, and I can really see how someone could love The Dark Materials trilogy. I didn’t love it, but I’m glad to have read it, and given the amount of people who absolutely love these books I think everyone should probably give them a try to see if they might be one of them.

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