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The Amber Spyglass By Philip Pullman

Reviewing: The Amber Spyglass By Philip Pullman Paperback/Alfred A. Knopf  |  Rating:
By bmused on
Badge: Publisher | Level: 5 | Fiction & Creative Expertise:

The Amber Spyglass is the final book in Philip Pullman's fantasy trilogy, His Dark Materials, which began with The Golden Compass and continued with The Subtle Knife. Pullman does a good job of resolving questions and tying up loose ends. The reader learns more about the mysterious substance, Dust, and Lyra's destiny and the meaning of the witches' prophecy about her are revealed.

If anything, the novel is too overpacked with important incidents. A bevy of new characters are introduced with dizzying rapidity in the novel's opening chapters--a variety of angels with different allegiances and different positions in the heavenly hierarchy; Lilliputian-sized people who serve as Lord Asriel's spies; and intelligent race of elephant-like mammals who have outfitted themselves with wheels. All of these plot and character strands were introduced in too cursory a manner and not developed sufficiently. One comes away feeling Pullman should have either cut a couple of these ideas out of the novel or else developed them all further and turned The Amber Spyglass into two separate books. The novel's fist third also suffers from the scarce presence of its plucky heroine--and the undeniable heart of the trilogy--Lyra. At the opening of the narrative, Mrs. Coulter has kidnapped Lyra and is holding her captive in a cave under the influence of a sleeping potion. The reader rejoices when she finally wakes up-- that's when the real fun begins.

The set piece of the novel is Lyra and Will's journey to The Land of the Dead. Lyra becomes obsessed with apologizing to Roger for leading him to Lord Asriel and his death, and Will wants to talk to the ghost of his father. Only Lyra could be determined enough to travel to the underworld while still alive, release all the ghosts held hostage there, and emerge alive and unscathed. Pullman has truly created a unique and unforgettable heroine in Lyra.

The other high points of the novel include the chapters that deal with Lord Asriel and Mrs. Coulter, both separately and together. Though both have acted with supreme selfishness in the past, they finally manage to unite in order to save their daughter. The reader will also be pleased to know that Will's daemon is introduced, and the final forms of both Will and Lyra's daemons are revealed by the end of the book. Iorek the Bear returns, although with not as much ferocious presence as he had in The Golden Compass, and we learn more about Mary Malone, the physicist introduced in The Subtle Knife. The ending of the novel is both uplifting and heartbreaking, a fitting culmination to Pullman's crtique of Christian doctrine, and brings to fruition Pullman's conception of the trilogy as a retelling of Paradise Lost--complete with Will and Lyra playing the roles of Adam and Eve.