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His Dark Materials Trilogy: The Golden Compass/The Subtle Knife/The Amber Spyglass

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In an epic trilogy, Philip Pullman unlocks the door to a world parallel to our own, but with a mysterious slant all its own. Dæmons and winged creatures live side by side with humans, and a mysterious entity called Dust just might have the power to unite the universes--if it isn't destroyed first. Here, the three paperback titles in Pullman's heroic fantasy series are unit In an epic trilogy, Philip Pullman unlocks the door to a world parallel to our own, but with a mysterious slant all its own. Dæmons and winged creatures live side by side with humans, and a mysterious entity called Dust just might have the power to unite the universes--if it isn't destroyed first. Here, the three paperback titles in Pullman's heroic fantasy series are united in one dazzling boxed set. Join Lyra, Pantalaimon, Will, and the rest as they embark on the most breathtaking, heartbreaking adventures of their lives. The fate of the universe is in their hands. The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife, and The Amber Spyglass pit good against evil in a way no reader will ever forget. (Ages 13 and older) --Emilie Coulter


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In an epic trilogy, Philip Pullman unlocks the door to a world parallel to our own, but with a mysterious slant all its own. Dæmons and winged creatures live side by side with humans, and a mysterious entity called Dust just might have the power to unite the universes--if it isn't destroyed first. Here, the three paperback titles in Pullman's heroic fantasy series are unit In an epic trilogy, Philip Pullman unlocks the door to a world parallel to our own, but with a mysterious slant all its own. Dæmons and winged creatures live side by side with humans, and a mysterious entity called Dust just might have the power to unite the universes--if it isn't destroyed first. Here, the three paperback titles in Pullman's heroic fantasy series are united in one dazzling boxed set. Join Lyra, Pantalaimon, Will, and the rest as they embark on the most breathtaking, heartbreaking adventures of their lives. The fate of the universe is in their hands. The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife, and The Amber Spyglass pit good against evil in a way no reader will ever forget. (Ages 13 and older) --Emilie Coulter

30 review for His Dark Materials Trilogy: The Golden Compass/The Subtle Knife/The Amber Spyglass

  1. 5 out of 5

    Emily (Books with Emily Fox)

    I can't believe I had never reread this series! Such a fascinating world, such a good story!

  2. 5 out of 5

    Corie

    Until recently, this series had somehow flown under my radar. It wasn’t until I saw the trailer for the upcoming The Golden Compass movie that I was introduced to Lyra’s world. The trailer made the movie look AMAZING, so naturally (as I always do), I thought…”I MUST read this book!”. His Dark Materials creates a beautiful, vibrant world with characters as deep as if you had known them your whole life. The books themselves deal with heavy subjects. Nuclear Physics, Parallel Worlds, Quantum Partic Until recently, this series had somehow flown under my radar. It wasn’t until I saw the trailer for the upcoming The Golden Compass movie that I was introduced to Lyra’s world. The trailer made the movie look AMAZING, so naturally (as I always do), I thought…”I MUST read this book!”. His Dark Materials creates a beautiful, vibrant world with characters as deep as if you had known them your whole life. The books themselves deal with heavy subjects. Nuclear Physics, Parallel Worlds, Quantum Particles and Theology snuggle right up against equally introspective looks at Love, Friendship, Loyalty, Family and Honor. Quite frequently, I found myself looking at the cover of these books again and again to ensure that I was indeed reading a “children’s” novel. When did this genre get so deep? I don’t remember reading anything this remarkable when I was younger. No offense to you, Encyclopedia Brown, my dear friend. While I hesitate to compare to Potter, I want to point out one main difference which I think is very important to anyone thinking about purchasing this series for their intrepid young reader….while HP deals with the strong ideals of good vs. evil, HDM leans heavily into the actual concepts of both, dissecting each, questioning the origins, challenging the pedestals each stand on. In HP, evil is simply evil. HDM doesn’t assume any such nonsense. If there is evil, it forces the reader to consider why they think that something is evil. Is it really? Or are you just looking at it from a different perspective? Also….for those who thought the HP series was too religious, reader beware of the HDM series. Pullman isn’t vague. He labels his players in the battle of good vs. evil – calling the church, the creator and religions out by name. Note this example: In book three, this sentence appears: “The Christian religion is a very powerful and convincing mistake, that's all.” Again – I wondered if this was merely an adult book cloaked in child’s clothing (as I lapped up every word). I thought that the struggles between the Church, The Authority, the Creator, Dust, The Council etc. were deep but thoroughly engrossing. I embraced how Pullman questioned the very beginnings of organized religion and of the creator himself. He turned everything on its ear: Ghosts, Angels, Witches and even Death. He is essentially challenging every reader, regardless of age, to look at the world around you. Why do we trust, why do we believe, what is faith, what is truth? Maybe things are different than what they seem. Perhaps there is more out there than our extremely limited view of physics, theology and cosmology is currently telling us. Maybe the world isn’t round after all. Maybe it’s infinitely layered and unbearably more beautiful than we ever knew. I’m putting this in my top five for now. Those of you who know me know that this category fluctuates a bit here and there. New favorite reads come along, old one’s fade away as I forget why I loved the world it painted for me. But for now, this series goes in my five. Because, as with every other book in my top five, the characters stayed with me long after I closed the back cover. I cared about them, I felt like I had made new friends and was physically sad to say goodbye to them. And THAT is what makes a book better than just “good”. That is what makes it endearingly wonderful, to the point that you carress the book's cover lovingly everytime you come across it. And becomes one you would recommend to others without hesitation.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Seth T.

    Day late and a dollar short with this one. My hope was to have read and reviewed His Dark Materials trilogy before the film adaptation of the first third, The Golden Compass, came out last Friday. And I would have too - if it weren't for that sheer enormity of suckiness that was the third book in the series (The Amber Spyglass). *sigh* But then, life doesn't actually work out perfectly for us as often as we'd like. Sometimes there are earthquakes that level cities in Turkey. Sometimes Spinach is Day late and a dollar short with this one. My hope was to have read and reviewed His Dark Materials trilogy before the film adaptation of the first third, The Golden Compass, came out last Friday. And I would have too - if it weren't for that sheer enormity of suckiness that was the third book in the series (The Amber Spyglass). *sigh* But then, life doesn't actually work out perfectly for us as often as we'd like. Sometimes there are earthquakes that level cities in Turkey. Sometimes Spinach is found to test positive for Salmonella. Sometimes a country introduces democracy to another. And sometimes, just sometimes, Philip Pullman writes a book. Now I don't want it to sound like the series is the worst ever written. It's not. It's not even the worst I've ever read. Not entirely anyway. The fact is there are three books and they should be treated separately before we get to the series as a whole. So then, to the review! (times three.) Oh yeah. And there'll be some spoilers in there. Not that it matters. Seriously. ________________ The Golden Compass A third of the way into Pullman's first installment of His Dark Materials, I was excited. While Pullman wasn't the most eloquent of writers and his characters had yet to really develop at all, it was clear he had an exciting imagination and was as good at world-building as nearly any fantasy author. He had developed an alternate history for our world that while completely foreign was largely analogous to our own that it didn't seem like a different world entirely. They have science and electricity and particle physics and everything - they just call it by a different name. The real joy and conceit of the series though is Pullman's use of daemons, animal expressions of every character's soul. These familiars are constant companions of every human, expressing through their animal nature the nature and quality of their human companion. And the daemons of children have yet to find a stabilized form and so flit forth and back and over and again through a host of forms - from owl to ermine to tabby to dolphin to moth to monkey. Et cetera. Throughout the first book's clumsy storytelling, there is still something that approaches near to wonder. Enough to satisfy some readers. The first four-fifths of the narrative are brisk and enjoyable, and the book only begins to falter when Lyra (the heroine) leaves the bear kingdom to meet her first-act climax. Pullman stumbles through an expository patch here and a finale that comes off as slightly less than readable. The book, much like The Fellowship of the Ring ends without an ending, leaving the conclusion for future installments. ________________ The Subtle Knife Typically, the middle chapter in a trilogy is its weak point, so the greater turn toward mediocrity wasn't so worrisome and I didn't quite see in it the grave portent that I ought to have (hindsight, eh?). The second installment introduces a hero into the mix. Will, who is on the cusp of his teen years just like Lyra, actually hails from our world. And through happy accident or fate or dull contrivance both finds himself in league with Lyra and the chosen wielder of a knife that can cut through the fabric between worlds. The two team up and have a number of relatively dull adventures as we learn more about the great war brewing between heaven and earth and about the prophecy that Lyra is to be the new Eve and that she is to perpetrate a great betrayal and the freedom of all the worlds is at stake. Also introduced is an ex-nun-now-particle-physicist named Mary Malone who is prophesied to be the serpent/tempter to Lyra's Eve. An interesting set-up for the final book despite being introduced by three-hundred pages of boredom punctuated by moments of ingenuity and interest. ________________ The Amber Spyglass Book three was just a mess. It's almost nonsensical as it strives against reason and its own narrative to bring the story to some kind of resolution. The great betrayal prophesied? Not really a betrayal at all. Lyra being tempted? Never happens. Mary playing the role of the serpent? Nope. She just kind of stands around. Oh, and the big plan to take war to heaven and kill God? Has nothing to do with anything in the story really. Though they do end up killing the Enoch from some world. The last 250 pages are baffling. There is no climax. The plot contrivances are painful. I'm not even sure what the point of the story was. Things happen because in Pullman's mind they need to, not because it would make any sense for something to happen a certain way. It's hard to believe it but this book was worse actually than The Da Vinci Code. At least that was merely stupid. This was stupid, senseless, and (perhaps worst of all) boring. It's what I imagine Eragon would have been if I would have made it past page one hundred. ________________ So then, as a whole? His Dark Materials is bad news for readers. From a moderately strong start it quickly turns into a preachy, meandering production of less than an infinite number of monkeys typing for slightly less than eternity. This is probably what half those monkeys would hit upon after about a year and a half. Pullman sets in motion things in volume one that never bear fruit. He never satisfactorily explains the things that one would expect that he should have explained. He provides no climax. His narrative is a shambles. He creates a character (Father Gomez), sends him on a mission to kill Lyra, follows him around for an inordinate amount of time, and then kills him without there ever being a confrontation between himself and his prospective victim. And then there are the mulefa. Don't get me started. Additionally, his characters are cardboard cutouts who express whichever motive Pullman decides is necessary - no matter the fact that there is no reasonable expectation that these characters should behave so. The aeronaut decides really out of the blue that he loves Lyra (a girl he doesn't even really know) like a daughter and will do anything to protect her. The principle witch meets Mary Malone, talks with her for a few minutes, and then declares them sisters for life. It's all just baffling. Recently, having criticized those who expressed how well-written the series is, I was put to notice that His Dark Materials has won a number of awards. I find this a chilling revelation and it wasn't 'til I recalled that Left Behind was a phenomenal bestseller that I was comforted that this was just business as usual for a civilization that is so steeped in mediocrity that it awards the title of Greatness to that which dare not even approach the servant quarters of Greatness for fear of overstepping its bounds. I think people want so badly to think highly of something, to think it the next whatever-recently-great-thing-comes-to-mind, that they abandon all sense of what is in order to do so. Shame on Philip Pullman and shame on our society for encouraging such dreck. Remember, if you praise it, it will be emulated.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Bookdragon Sean

    In just under a month La Belle Sauvage (The Book of Dust #1) will be released, so I thought I’d do a summative review of my experience with this trilogy. Here’s what I thought of each book, I read them over a period of four years and my reviews are what I thought at the time; they’ve not been edited since: Book 1: The Golden Compass- 5* This novel is an absolute work of pure genius, and is in my top ten reads of all time. Before I go into the depths of character and plot, let me start by saying In just under a month La Belle Sauvage (The Book of Dust #1) will be released, so I thought I’d do a summative review of my experience with this trilogy. Here’s what I thought of each book, I read them over a period of four years and my reviews are what I thought at the time; they’ve not been edited since: Book 1: The Golden Compass- 5* This novel is an absolute work of pure genius, and is in my top ten reads of all time. Before I go into the depths of character and plot, let me start by saying this book is up there with other fantasy hard hitters: by this I mean books like The Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia: the books that define the genre. This is high praise indeed, and this novel is worthy of it. The protagonist of the book is Lyra, a young girl, who is parentless and seemingly friendless. She has grown up in an Oxford College and has developed a detachment to her guardians. She spends her days enjoying her youth and harassing those that turn out to be some of her greatest allies. For her, this book is a journey of self-discovery: a way of exploring the limits of her character and potential. Her adventure sees her befriend an armoured polar bear and become the wielder of the golden compass. This is initially described as a lie detector but it is apparent that the depths of its power have not been fully explored. "It lay heavily in her hands,the crystal face gleaming, the brass body exquisitely machined. It was very much like a clock, or a compass, for there were hands pointing around the dial, but instead of the hours or the points of a compass there were several little pictures with extraordinary precision, as if on ivory with the slenderest sable brush. She turned the dial around to look at them all. There was an anchor; an hourglass surmounted by a skull; a bull, a beehive…..Thirty-six altogether and she couldn’t even guess what they meant." This book retains all the classic elements of fantasy: magic, mythical creatures and supernatural phenomena. The world Pullman has created is physically intertwined with our own; there are references to cities and countries in which his idea has been planted. Each human has a daemon that is essentially their soul. These take on the form of an animal that is representative of the person, for example someone who is enthusiastic and friendly has a colourful cat whereas as solider has a wolf or a hound. The author does very little to explain this. It is just thing “thing” that we are told about at the start but through the book but we begin to see the significance of it. The fact that children’s daemons change is a subtle hint how children can be influenced and have not found their identity where as adults are secure and confident. In this the author has created an air of mystery as we explore the true meaning of the bond as we read further. The plot is fantastic. The author manages to surprise the reader on several occasions as he drops several, massive plot turns. This sees the story go into unexpected directions. From the beginning of reading a book, you begin to predict what will happen. Some books are completely predictable and obvious in their direction; this one was not. I physically gasped at some moments as I found myself awed by the author’s storytelling; this is when several characters origins, in relation to Lyra are defined. The book begins as a simple rescue mission but ends as a story that is questioning the morals of all characters involved. The fate of the characters is destined in the mysteriousness of the northern lights; the gateway to beyond. This is one of those books that is applicable to all ages; it originally appears to be a children’s book, but it can be enjoyed by anyone. Much of the content in here touches on themes that most children would not comprehend fully, never mind be able to philosophise about. The author considers spirituality, religion, morals and the existence of the soul, amongst other things. Most children would not pick up on these references and understand the significance of them; however, they would still adore the book. The book can be seen as two separate entities existing at the same time; the first, and most obvious, is the one that appeals to children; the saving of innocents from despotic adults with lots of exciting characters. The second is on a deeper scale; the author explores the conflicting powers of science and religion, manipulation and morality in terms of actions being for a greater good. In this the author is a genius, he has wrote a book that can be both a children’s bed time read and an adult’s point of pondering. Book 2: The Subtle Knife-3* When I read this the first time I completely overlooked a main component of the book. I approached it as if was the second book in the series, a massive mistake. I wrote a review criticising the fact that the novel felt awkward; it had no beginning or end: it just felt like the typical content you’d find in the middle of the story. The ironic point of this is that most critics take the trilogy as one whole book, rather than three separate works. And this really is the best way to approach the story. The Golden Compass is the beginning of it all, the setting of the stage. This, then, is the middling part of the work. The second protagonist of the series, the Adam to Pullman’s Eve, takes the lead here. Initially, I was very resistant to this idea. I had grown to respect Lyra; she’s a really strong heroine, but after a while it started to make sense. Pullman has expanded his story considerably. Lyra has three chapters told from her perspective. The same amount, roughly speaking, is told from the perspective of Will. The rest of the chapters are from side characters of the previous book. So there’s a strong move away from a Lyra centred story. I have mixed feeling about this. It felt like an odd authorial decision. At times this felt like an entirely different series altogether, again, something I eventually got over. There is no sense of closure at the end of this. The first book had a strong ending, but this has very little. This book seemed to be a mere set-up for the next instalment, which makes it rather difficult to review; it’s like picking out the middle bit of a story and trying to criticise it as a separate entity from the rest of it: it’s not easy to do. Any criticism you make are negated by the fact that this is not a separate book: it’s a chunk of a greater work. So I’m going to read the third book before I speak any more about this- I need to see where these elements Pullman added go to. Perhaps a review of all three works together would be the best option. At this moment though, I find the witches one of the most interesting aspects of the work. I’m not entirely sure what to make of them as of yet. Hopefully, the third book will give me all the answers I need. "All through that day the witches came, like flakes of black snow on the wings of a storm, filling the skies with the darting flutter of their silk and the swish of air through the needles of their cloud-pine branches. Men who hunted in the dripping forests or fished among melting ice-floes heard the sky-wide whisper through the fog, and if the sky was clear they would look up to see the witches flying, like scraps of darkness drifting on a secret tide." Book 3: The Amber Spyglass-3* I’ve been putting this book off for almost four years. I’ve been truly terrified to read it for such a long time. The first book, The Golden Compass, is one of the best fantasy novels I have ever read. I adore it. The second book is something else entirely. I was horrified when I read it and truly disgusted with the unexpected direction the series took. I did not want to read this one because I did not want my memories of the first book shattered completely. So I finally picked it up and I approached it expecting to hate the thing. I expected it to be worse than the second book, but my expectations were unfounded. The biggest problem this trilogy has is the fact that it’s not really a trilogy. It’s essentially one big book, one story. Each book is not self-contained but needs to be read in sequence; they are not structured like individual books: the story keeps flowing to the last page. And this book, whilst nowhere near the same level of mastery the first book possessed, was not entirely bad. It managed to piece everything together quite nicely, but this series had the potential to do so much more. I was delighted with the first book, for many reasons. One of the main things that impressed me was the strength of its protagonist. She’s a very young girl who is very much human. She is not a messiah figure and was prone to make mistakes but she was also capable of moments of real brilliance. I rooted for her. I wanted to see her grow and conquer those that would seek to use her for their own ends. She had power in her. With the introduction of Will she took a backseat in the story, he became the main hero and overshadowed her completely. She seemed happy to follow his lead and became subservient to his decisions. This was a big mistake. Whilst Will did actually develop some personality in this book, it was at the tragic cost of Lyra’s. Pullman seemed unable to balance the two personalities together without one unfortunately dominating the other. And the ending they pushed towards was so very (how shall I put this?) closed. It was not the ending this series needed. I feel that Pullman sacrificed the situation he had blooming to fit the writing into the allegory he had been devising since the first book. It became too forced, one the story would have been much stronger if it was allowed to breathe and go where it needed to go. The redemptive themes towards the end seemed drastically out of place. Two characters that clearly didn’t care much unexpectedly had a change of heart. I found it a little unbelievable. You may wonder why I even bothered to give it three stars. I’m wondering that myself. I think a lot of it has to do with Iorek Byrnison. He was in the last book, and his presence here helped pull the story up in my estimation. But His Dark Materials will always be a series that ruined its own potential. ******************************************* I’m excited to read the new book, but I’m also a little bit nervous. I’m not sure if I will actually like it. I have very mixed feelings about this trilogy as, if you read my reviews here, you can probably tell. The start was spectacular, but then it went in places I didn’t think it should go. I know man readers agree with me, but there are also many who love the series as it is. I hate the direction it took and I hate how the female protagonist was a shadow of her former self by the end, dominated by Will’s personality. Four stars is a very fair rating I think for the series as a whole is my opinion. The initial brilliance was distorted as the series expanded, but in reality all it did was detract the magic and limit the power of the storytelling. I will approach the new book with an open mind, and I hope that it is as fantastic as it could be.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Mathew

    Could you imagine a story that weaves history, quantum physics, theology, cosmology, trepanning, shamanism, love and the seriousness of adolescence into a coherent narrative? I could not. Yet Phillip Pullman has done just that, and a world more. This wonderful trilogy will lead you along a most unlikely path through some of the biggest questions of life - in philosophy, religion, history, science, and not least literature. That it does so as a masterful, child-accessible and wholly engaging stor Could you imagine a story that weaves history, quantum physics, theology, cosmology, trepanning, shamanism, love and the seriousness of adolescence into a coherent narrative? I could not. Yet Phillip Pullman has done just that, and a world more. This wonderful trilogy will lead you along a most unlikely path through some of the biggest questions of life - in philosophy, religion, history, science, and not least literature. That it does so as a masterful, child-accessible and wholly engaging story is a feat of imagination and storycraft easily on par with Madeleine L'Engle's classic A Wrinkle In Time and its sequels. The book has recently won an award for being "the best children's book in the last 70 years". I am inclined to agree. The first book, The Golden Compass, features the adventures of 11-year-old Lyra Belacqua, a precocious hooligan in a world almost but not quite ours, and the eponymous mechanism around which much of the story's plot is based. By itself, it might seem like a bit of a flighty read - fun, engaging, imaginative, but a bit strange at times, slyly heretical, even gruesome, leaving one to wonder "What is this really about?" Some critics (mostly of the sort that would have books like The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn banned) have come to the shallow conclusion that the series is nothing but a vessel for diatribe against certain religions institutions, never named but nevertheless obvious in reference. While Pullman shows a certain wicked zeal himself in creating a world in which wicked zealotry is as obvious - and as taken for granted - as political corruption in our own, his purpose is far grander than any partisan attack on stale religion. Rest assured, dear reader, every scene in the book is building towards a conflict simultaneously metaphysical and worldly which is only fully revealed in the third book. The Subtle Knife introduces Will, a boy of unquestionable grit who is destined to become Lyra's companion. Will hails from our world, but unexpectedly finds himself in a welter of parallel worlds, where he comes into possession of a knife. This knife has two edges; the first edge can cut any material in the world, while the reverse edge is "more subtle still", according to the knife's guardian. The knife quickly becomes the focus of a conflict that not only transcends worlds, but also intersects Will's troubled home life in a profoundly personal way. As new characters and new revelations enter the story, Will and Lyra come to realize that their struggles are part of something much, much larger. The third volume, The Amber Spyglass, brings into view the literally cosmic scope of a battle that centers on Will, Lyra, and the strange objects in their possession. The volume builds to a literally universe-shaking climax, as pivotal events never fail to surprise and yet mesh perfectly with the grand flow of the story. I will say no more, lest I spoil any of the surprises, except to reiterate that for once I agree wholeheartedly with the critics: this series, and in particular its masterful conclusion, is transcendent, magnificent, and astonishing.

  6. 5 out of 5

    David

    The first sentence that came to my mind after finishing this book was: anyone who would give this novel less than five stars has to be either a philistine, a charlatan, or a cynic. To add to that: a cynic grown so dull with the slop of the world that they have been rendered unable to see the raw charm of these characters Lyra and Will, and the amazing sad kind of beauty that comes with making the irreversible passage from childhood to adulthood. Pullman is able to weave together in the thread of The first sentence that came to my mind after finishing this book was: anyone who would give this novel less than five stars has to be either a philistine, a charlatan, or a cynic. To add to that: a cynic grown so dull with the slop of the world that they have been rendered unable to see the raw charm of these characters Lyra and Will, and the amazing sad kind of beauty that comes with making the irreversible passage from childhood to adulthood. Pullman is able to weave together in the thread of this narrative so many aspects of our worldly existence, including physics, evolution, literature, intraspective thinking (or meditative quieting of the mind, I'm not sure what to call it), religion, adolescence, and first love into a story that has all the charm and imaginative freedom of a fantasy work. Perhaps these themes could have been addressed without talking bears and animal daemon-companions, but the wonder of being able to explore this kind of magical world is what people who enjoy fantasy love about the genre. There are depths here to reward rereading of this novel many times throughout one's life, and it deserves to be shared with anyone who is sensitive, intelligent, and curious about the world around them. The story itself is thrilling at times, but there is such richness here in ideas that one does not feel the need to plow through the novel in order to find out about what happens in the plot. The chapters allow one to rest and think, and to feel the weight of what the characters are confronting in the deepest part of oneself. An amazing work that impressed me more and more as I read through it. It truly felt like I went along in a journey that mattered, and will be sorry if the virtues and ideals I saw played out in this work aren't made a model for myself in real life as well.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Kaitlin

    So, this is a bind up of all three books in this series and it's a reread for me. I first read these when I was very young (maybe 11/12) and I remember absolutely loving them. This still remains true to this day and they are excellent books the second time through too. Also, being 10 years older now than when I first read it helped me to notice a lot more of the subtle references to religion, souls, sex, body image and so on. None of these were things I was even considering when I was young, but So, this is a bind up of all three books in this series and it's a reread for me. I first read these when I was very young (maybe 11/12) and I remember absolutely loving them. This still remains true to this day and they are excellent books the second time through too. Also, being 10 years older now than when I first read it helped me to notice a lot more of the subtle references to religion, souls, sex, body image and so on. None of these were things I was even considering when I was young, but now these things become a vital part of the story, making this book one which bridges the gap between fun for kids and interesting for adults. This is the story of Lyra, and later Will. They are both children, one from an alternative world (Lyra) where they have deamons which act as an eternal companion and soul, and one from our world (Will). We meet only Lyra in book #1 but by book #2 and #3 we have a lot of Will's involvement too and it quickly becomes a series about friendship, strength of character, love and adventure. The character and worlds within this feel very genuine and expansive and I definitely connected with some truly horrific moments of the plot and felt deep sorrow, joy and sadness for the different characters at differing moments. On the whole and excellent one to reread and a solid 4.5*s on the reread becuase of all the new things I picked up and loved the second time through :) Highly recommended!

  8. 5 out of 5

    Duane

    I don't guess you could call this the "Gold Standard" of classic fantasy literature, that probably goes to Harry Potter, but His Dark Materials soars in that same stratosphere. It is so brilliantly conceived, so intricately constructed, and so well written that it leaves one in awe of Pulliam's achievement. This trilogy is composed of three separately published volumes, Northern Lights (The Golden Compass in North America) (1995), The Subtle Knife (1997), and The Amber Spyglass (2000). A sequel, I don't guess you could call this the "Gold Standard" of classic fantasy literature, that probably goes to Harry Potter, but His Dark Materials soars in that same stratosphere. It is so brilliantly conceived, so intricately constructed, and so well written that it leaves one in awe of Pulliam's achievement. This trilogy is composed of three separately published volumes, Northern Lights (The Golden Compass in North America) (1995), The Subtle Knife (1997), and The Amber Spyglass (2000). A sequel, or companion book, titled The Book of Dust is due to be published in 2017. The trilogy is categorized as for children and teens, but it is as much for adults as it's themes and views take on an anti-religious, anti-church point of view. Many Christians denounced the book as "atheism for kids". However, Pulliam says it is more about the dangers of strict, rigid religious doctrine and institutions than it is anti God or anti Faith. Pulliam refers to himself as agnostic atheist. Pulliam's primary influences for the book were the works of William Blake and John Milton's Paradise Lost. It's actually a flipped over retelling of Paradise Lost. I loved this book. I gave it 5 stars and put it on my favorites shelf. Wonderful characters like Lyra Belacqua and her daemon Pantalaimon, Will Parry, Lee Scoresby, and the great armored polar bear, Iorek Byrnison, and many more. The 2007 BBC Big Read put it at #3, behind only The Lords of the Rings and Pride and Prejudice.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Helene Jeppesen

    Great fantasy, amazing story! I think of all three books, I loved the first one "Northern Lights" the most because it introduced me to this amazing world, and it felt the most wintry to me with its polar bears, snow and magic. That being said, the two other books, "The Subtle Knife" and "The Amber Spyglass", were really good as well, and especially the second book kept my interest peaked. This is one of those series that is written for children on the surface, but that is highly relevant and rea Great fantasy, amazing story! I think of all three books, I loved the first one "Northern Lights" the most because it introduced me to this amazing world, and it felt the most wintry to me with its polar bears, snow and magic. That being said, the two other books, "The Subtle Knife" and "The Amber Spyglass", were really good as well, and especially the second book kept my interest peaked. This is one of those series that is written for children on the surface, but that is highly relevant and readable for adults as well as it contains layer upon layer of meaning and symbolism. I'm sure that you can read this trilogy again and again and still constantly discover new things - I certainly felt like a was missing out on a lot while reading just because so many things happened, and I knew there was more to them than what I realized. I was constantly surprised at how intricate this series is and how relevant it is to everyone in our world. It might be fantasy, but it is definitely true as well! This is a children's classic and I'm obviously not a child anymore. But still, I'm very happy that I finally got around to reading this trilogy that so many people hold close to their hearts.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Andrea

    (Spoilers below) I read the first two books when they came out (my middle school years) but got tired of waiting for the third. However, when this whole controversy over The Golden Compass film adaptation was started by the Christian right, I decided it was time to read the series again. I simply didn't remember Philip Pullman's message about God and the Church disturbing me as a regularly church-going 12 year old. Sure, it made me think about what a corrupt church could do, but it all seemed hyp (Spoilers below) I read the first two books when they came out (my middle school years) but got tired of waiting for the third. However, when this whole controversy over The Golden Compass film adaptation was started by the Christian right, I decided it was time to read the series again. I simply didn't remember Philip Pullman's message about God and the Church disturbing me as a regularly church-going 12 year old. Sure, it made me think about what a corrupt church could do, but it all seemed hypothetical at the time and certainly didn't present any doubt that hadn't entered my mind before. When various websites quoted Pullman as saying his books are about killing God, it just seemed to me like there was an obvious caveat to that, i.e.: my books are about killing a God in a fictional universe where false authority is used to corrupt, control and destroy lives. Now, having read all three books and knowing just a little bit more about faith, religion and the history of Christianity, I can see why parents would be concerned but not why they would forbid their children from reading the books or watching the movies. While Phillip Pullman is a known atheist and our "world" undeniably plays a part in Pullman's trilogy, the story is still fictional and Pullman's portrayal of God is just one many hypothetical possibilities. "God" is killed in Pullman's trilogy, but one must distinguish between Pullman's depiction of the Authority and the Christian image of God. Although Pullman's Authority is supposed to encompass all monotheistic and polytheistic beliefs in a god, God turns out to be just a corrupt angel and there is no one obvious creator. But even in Lyra's adventures I could not see anything refuting what I call God (an inexplicable higher force or reason behind all things). Although Dust makes up all living things in this trilogy, there is no discussion of why Dust came to be, just that for Dust to remain people must live truthful and full lives. So for me, it seems entirely consistent with my belief that there is an unseen God or higher uniting power in Lyra's universe that is ultimately good and has some relationship to Dust. Pullman's books absolutely do not preclude what I call God, or even the God I think most Christians believe in. Pullman does promote healthy skepticism and warns against blind faith and a failure to embrace life in this world, but if anything, I think his books would help parents talk to their children about these abstract and important issues. So whether parenting from an atheistic standpoint or a strong Christian (Muslim, Buddhist, etc.) perspective, I'd encourage parents to let their children read the books if they desire to. Just talk to them afterwards about it. After all, helping children and young adults to try and understand the world around them and discover truth in whatever form they ultimately find it, is never a bad thing and is actually a necessary part of the process of achieving a deeper faith. By the time a person is old enough to understand any anti-religion message in these books, he is old enough to start critically evaluating his belief system.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Brierly

    Yes, it's taken me 3+ years to read His Dark Materials. I wanted to take longer pauses between the novels to really enjoy them. I've had my eye on this series for a while. Now I have a lovely bound edition with all three texts. I started The Golden Compass in high school but never finished it. In college I revisited Lyra's story and fell back into the rhythm of Pullman's storytelling. Lyra's characterization is vivid--truly a memorable character--and I liked the world building. Though, the pacin Yes, it's taken me 3+ years to read His Dark Materials. I wanted to take longer pauses between the novels to really enjoy them. I've had my eye on this series for a while. Now I have a lovely bound edition with all three texts. I started The Golden Compass in high school but never finished it. In college I revisited Lyra's story and fell back into the rhythm of Pullman's storytelling. Lyra's characterization is vivid--truly a memorable character--and I liked the world building. Though, the pacing of Compass did not continue in the latter novels. In summer 2016 I returned to the series with The Subtle Knife. Of course, this book suffers from middle child syndrome, but it was enjoyable all the same. I loved Will and Lyra as dual leads. Furthermore, the titular object was so much more to my interest than a alethiometer. One of those rare examples where dual lead characters balance one another... at least, for the time being. The story expanded here and grew much darker; favorite characters were revisited and new, compelling plot lines introduced. I listened to The Amber Spyglass in summer 2017. I was so very excited to finish the series, especially knowing how much longer Spyglass is than the previous installments. But, as many have said on GR, Spyglass is both too long and too short; it reads like a great draft but not as a finished work. New characters are introduced and die frequently; furthermore, I failed to understand the introduction of several new species, no matter how interesting they were. Additionally, the ending was anticlimactic. Far too many elements were distracting during my reading of Spyglass. But all the same, I appreciate the world building in addition to the exploration of religion and adolescence.

  12. 5 out of 5

    David Katzman

    This review only applies to book 1: The Golden Compass Growing up with an addiction to Dungeons & Dragons and reading through my town library's entire Science Fiction and Fantasy section before I was sixteen has left me with a life-long proclivity for the fantastic. Some of my favorite novels manage to combine the highly literary (or experimental) with the fantastical. I'm willing to take a chance on books considered straight fantasy or science fiction, but I haven't been making the best choi This review only applies to book 1: The Golden Compass Growing up with an addiction to Dungeons & Dragons and reading through my town library's entire Science Fiction and Fantasy section before I was sixteen has left me with a life-long proclivity for the fantastic. Some of my favorite novels manage to combine the highly literary (or experimental) with the fantastical. I'm willing to take a chance on books considered straight fantasy or science fiction, but I haven't been making the best choices this year other than Kraken. I gave Golden Compass a chance having found that many GR folks including friends have given it top marks. I didn't realize it was considered YA fiction nor had I seen the movie. Frankly, I was underwhelmed. I had expected the next Lord of the Rings and this was nowhere near the sophistication of that work. First to the good: I appreciated a certain feminist sensibility that surrounded the main character, Lyra. Early on in the book it was directly called out that females were "not permitted" to enter the private club area of the college where she was raised...but she snuck into it anyway, ignoring the rules. And this event led to all that followed. She was a clever street smart girl who despite her diminutive size and youth is directly responsible for saving the day. She is the heroine through determination, compassion, and wit. I felt enough urgency in the plot to want to know "what happens next." It kept me reading. The Gyptian tribal people demonstrate a certain level of "town hall" democracy in their decision-making process. It was nice to see the sort of communal Q&A between leader and individuals that doesn't happen in our society. Although, they still had a leader, he seemed to rule more by moral strength and fairness than by force or even by convention. Now to the not-as-good: I did not get the deep believability from the characters that the best writers manage to create. I never bonded with the main character nor her friends to the extent that they felt real. Neither did the villains of the piece. They seemed even more exaggerated and one dimensional than the rest. The Gyptian tribe seemed rather like a cross between Gypsies and Native Americans, and they were a bit too "perfect." As in, the noble savage. Occasionally weak logistics. By that I mean, when a writer needs to create an actual physical experience such as a fight or moving a character through a house, they must deal with logistics. Describing the actions in a way that allows the reader to visualize the event without bogging it down without too many words and mucking up the pace of the narrative. At times, I found Pullman's logistics awkward or vague. Distances were unclear and timing was off. Some of the relationships felt forced. Lyra manages to convince a warrior bear to join her quest and before you know it she "loves" him (in a platonic way). The build of this love was not very convincing--it seemed more like a device contrived by the author in order to increase the drama and emotional weight of the danger experienced by the bear. Lastly, I'll comment on the accusation of "anti-Christianity" some have leveled at this book. I was really looking forward to some bold blasphemy but found nothing of the kind. The book seems to actually endorse the premise that literal souls exist although it manifests our souls as visible spirit animals bonded to each human. There is a running theme through the book that the fictional Church is trying to hide certain revelations that might bring into question orthodox religious doctrine. And they are willing to do cruel and violent things to hide them. But this doesn't call into question religious beliefs so much as it simply accuses a religious institution of corruption. Even Roman Catholics recognize that their church has done horrible things in the past such as endorsing the burning of witches and so-on. Popes have fathered kids. Priests have molested kids, and the church covered it up. But all that doesn't necessarily invalidate Christianity so much as certain institutional behavior. So overall, nothing much to get excited about there. Although, I am modestly curious whether Pullman will go further in the subsequent books, I did not find this compelling enough to read further. End of story.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Karen

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. So, I was interested in reading The Golden Compass series by Phillip Pullman (The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife, The Amber Spyglass) because some parents have asked us to remove it from the shelf at the school library. After hearing the allegations about the books (that they are intended to persuade children to become atheists), I was feeling like people had not given them a chance. I had already begun to read The Golden Compass before I had heard about any of the controversy, after all, and So, I was interested in reading The Golden Compass series by Phillip Pullman (The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife, The Amber Spyglass) because some parents have asked us to remove it from the shelf at the school library. After hearing the allegations about the books (that they are intended to persuade children to become atheists), I was feeling like people had not given them a chance. I had already begun to read The Golden Compass before I had heard about any of the controversy, after all, and there was nothing that I could find that was questionable. So I continued to read. Even after the second book, it seemed as though he was only speaking out against corrupt religion, which I think is a good thing. Not too far into the third book, however, it was clear that he believes all religion is corrupt. The premise of the books is essentially that there was an angel a long time ago that put himself above the other angels and called himself God and the Creator (even though he was not) and that his goal is to keep people from gaining knowledge(that's why gaining knowledge was the original sin). The rebel angels (you know, that 1/3 from the war in heaven) have been fighting against him ever since and trying to help humans learn. And they enlist the help of two children to help them destroy God and create the Republic of Heaven (rather than the Kingdom). There's a lot more to the stories, of course, and they are well written and interesting, but they still really hurt my feelings. In his books, the only religious people are either power-hungry hypocrites or fearful and ignorant. He writes about love and accepting people even with their faults (his main characters are flawed on purpose, I think) and the power of human relationships and following your instincts and the great value of learning. I am in complete agreement with pretty much everything he writes about those things. He seems to have a good understanding of how we all interact with and need each other. But the major flaw I see is that his goal is to show that religion is the antithesis of all of those good things; it is only useful for repressing people. So, while he may know a lot about life, he is quite ignorant about religion and people's reasons for being religious. Maybe he should stick to writing about things with which he is familiar. For the record, I still don't think it should be removed from the shelves at school. As my sister said to me, "Nothing good ever came from censorship." I agree. It would probably create more problems than it would solve. And I want to have my freedom of expression protected, so I can't take away someone else's. Still, I think parents should be making informed decisions about what their children are reading.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Ashley *Hufflepuff Kitten*

    Northern Lights / The Golden Compass - 12Nov16 4 stars Breathtaking and smart and utterly brilliant. Reading several of Pullman's interviews has made me decide to re/read the Chronicles of Narnia at some point in 2017; the misconception that His Dark Materials is a direct rebuttal of Narnia has interested me for years, and then to finally read this and hear from Pullman himself that it is NOT said rebuttal makes it that much more interesting. I love the idea of the church being the ruthless/villai Northern Lights / The Golden Compass - 12Nov16 4 stars Breathtaking and smart and utterly brilliant. Reading several of Pullman's interviews has made me decide to re/read the Chronicles of Narnia at some point in 2017; the misconception that His Dark Materials is a direct rebuttal of Narnia has interested me for years, and then to finally read this and hear from Pullman himself that it is NOT said rebuttal makes it that much more interesting. I love the idea of the church being the ruthless/villain entity, much like the Library in the Ink and Bone series. And the daemons! Such a fantastic idea :) The ending was a sucker punch and I can definitely say I wasn't expecting it. I loved meeting the ice bears and I'm looking forward to the next book! I liked the film adaptation for its effects and the cast. The script just suffered unendingly, poor thing, and that made it utter crap overall. The Subtle Knife - 18Oct17 4 stars First of all, I'm amazed that I didn't make mention in my Golden Compass review of how fantastic the full cast audiobook is. If anyone wants to do a reread or even pick it up for the first time, it's really easy to follow. Pullman does the overall narration himself, and I swear to god he sounds like Liam Neeson. (Score!) This book follows the dark tone of the first; as in the real world, villains never look like villains and they're everywhere. No more ice bears in this one, but we are introduced to Will, and Serafina Pekkala and Lee Scoresby are back :) The idea of church/religion vs science breaks through a little more clearly in this book, so we can see that an inevitable war is brewing. And then it had to end on a goddamn cliffhanger, and it threw all my reading plans out of whack. (But I'm sure Amber Spyglass will be worth it, so whatever.) The Amber Spyglass - 1Nov17 4 stars The final chapter brings sadness, as final books always do. I wasn't able to start this as quickly as I wanted to, but once I did I actually found it tough to keep up in places. Between the angels and the Authority and using the subtle knife EVERYWHERE (or so it seemed), I think I lost the thread of the story for a short while early on. Venturing into the Land of the Dead brought me right back though; I definitely cried when Lyra had to leave Pan. And the ending wasn't the happiest we all could have wished for, but I think it gives the best closure. This is, after all, a story about growing up, and growing up means you have to do things you don't always want to do. Something about facing a choice between what is right and what is easy... different series, same idea ;) I'll be ever glad to have visited this world (worlds?) and I'm looking forward to the new Book of Dust series so I can come back! Trilogy overall - 5 stars This is one of those series everyone should read. It's brilliant. Sidenote: Funny how it took me exactly a year to read this trilogy.

  15. 5 out of 5

    mark monday

    i am actually assuming that i will be Left Behind, so my concern is more for others. i hate seeing families and friends split apart! when it does occur, i would like to be someplace like a church where there will be lots of people Raptured... that way, right afterwards, i'll be able to pick up all the wallets and purses that are also Left Behind. you don't need money in heaven, right? and with all the honest folk gone, i also feel confident that post-Rapture will be ripe for money-making opportu i am actually assuming that i will be Left Behind, so my concern is more for others. i hate seeing families and friends split apart! when it does occur, i would like to be someplace like a church where there will be lots of people Raptured... that way, right afterwards, i'll be able to pick up all the wallets and purses that are also Left Behind. you don't need money in heaven, right? and with all the honest folk gone, i also feel confident that post-Rapture will be ripe for money-making opportunities. no more guilt! i can indulge in all the hustles, scams, and grifts i've ever wanted, to my heart's content - but without feeling any sadness over cheating any of the Good People. yay, bring on those post-Rapture greenbacks! I'M GONNA BE RICH, BITCH!

  16. 4 out of 5

    Annelies

    Defenitely a winner! Normally this sort of fantasy books is not my cup of tea but I adored reading this book. The themes it handles are very grown-up (I don't understand how a child could understand all what is in the book). It never becomes trivial or laughable. Everyone thinks very logically. The plans are well taught over and everyone handles according to this plans. I don't know what to say more about the book. Just read it!

  17. 5 out of 5

    J. Bryce

    One of those books you don't want to finish. Wow. I could recommend this to literally ANYone, and if they have the gumption and persistence, they would get a helluvalot out of it. WHAT DO I HAVE TO SAY TO CONVINCE YOU?!? Just read it, think about it, enjoy it.

  18. 5 out of 5

    steph // bookplaits

    In three words: epic, heartbreaking, imaginative. "'But I stopped believing there was a power of good and a power of evil that were outside us. And I came to believe that good and evil are names for what people do, not for what they are. All we can say is that this is a good deed, because it helps someone, or that's a evil one, because it hurts them. People are too complicated to have simple labels.'" Challenge: #MyEverymansLibrary Note: This Everyman's Library edition contains all three books of t In three words: epic, heartbreaking, imaginative. "'But I stopped believing there was a power of good and a power of evil that were outside us. And I came to believe that good and evil are names for what people do, not for what they are. All we can say is that this is a good deed, because it helps someone, or that's a evil one, because it hurts them. People are too complicated to have simple labels.'" Challenge: #MyEverymansLibrary Note: This Everyman's Library edition contains all three books of the trilogy (Northern Lights, The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass), so some of this review might be a bit spoilery. I first read the His Dark Materials books a good few years ago, so, naturally, I barely remembered anything from books two and three. I was more familiar with the first book simply because I've watched the film in recent years (I think I might even have seen it twice, not because it's a great film but just because it happened to be shown on TV!). When I first read this trilogy, I remember not really liking the religious references - I found them quite heavy, a bit boring to read, and I can't say I really understood them either. While rereading the books, I did find that I still didn't particularly like to focus on this aspect of the story, and there were points where I found myself skimming a little bit just to get through the especially dense parts. There is a lot of detail in these books, and so many different themes are covered - religion, science, adolescence, death, and others - that I think there's probably something to interest everyone. Pullman does an incredible job weaving all these together in a way that is (mostly) very readable and thought-provoking. You might be wondering why I've still given this trilogy five stars (rounded up from 4.5) despite not liking the heavy-handedness of some of the subject matter, and the reason for this is simple: the characters. I've probably said it before, but characters will absolutely make or break a book for me. I'm a complete sucker for cute non-human characters, so although I loved the protagonist Lyra anyway, I of course completely adored her dæmon, Pan. And speaking of dæmons, I thought that Lyra's world (in which a part of everyone's soul is in the form of an animal called a dæmon, whom they can talk to and interact with) was so well imagined and richly detailed. (We've had the Patronus test... I need the dæmon test now, please and thank you.) Each book gets more complex than the last. Firstly, they start to move between worlds: book one is set in Lyra's world; book two introduces us to Will, who lives in a world like ours, and follows their adventures in these two worlds; and book three moves between several different worlds. And as well as the settings changing and increasing in number, Will and Lyra are growing and changing, and encountering all sorts of challenges. The finale of The Amber Spyglass is so heartbreaking but I also think it was really well done and a great end to the series. I think His Dark Materials deserves a place in my library because its epic scope and cast of vividly drawn and memorable characters means that it is well deserving of being called a 'modern classic'. It's definitely a trilogy that I want to reread again in the future - because it is so complex and detailed, I think I'll find something new each time I go back to it. Recommended for: people who wish to read a wonderfully imagined fantasy with a lot of heart and profound themes. ~~~~~ Review also posted here.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    Never has a book/series had such an impact on me as His Dark Materials, specifically The Amber Spyglass. It still stands as the only book that has ever made me cry. I was a wreck after finishing it, to the point where I literally could not sleep because I couldn’t believe it was over. Not only was the ending beautifully heartbreaking, but I had to accept the fact that these characters' journeys had come to an end, the series was over, and it was time for me to move on in my life. I just couldn't Never has a book/series had such an impact on me as His Dark Materials, specifically The Amber Spyglass. It still stands as the only book that has ever made me cry. I was a wreck after finishing it, to the point where I literally could not sleep because I couldn’t believe it was over. Not only was the ending beautifully heartbreaking, but I had to accept the fact that these characters' journeys had come to an end, the series was over, and it was time for me to move on in my life. I just couldn't accept that, because I had become so unbelievably attached to these characters over the span of the trilogy. And because of that, this is the best reading experience I've ever had in my life. I'll admit it, I read this series because of the movie release of The Golden Compass, and, of course, the appeal of how "controversial" it is. The film was incredibly disappointing (they stopped two-thirds of the way through the book, for God's sake) and wanted to see if the books helped clarify some of the plot holes in the movie. What I found was an incredibly absorbing and inventive world that the filmmakers only skimmed the top of. The alternate universe Philip Pullman has created is much darker than the movie (especially as you move into The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass). I know everyone's heard of how controversial this series is. Most prominently in The Amber Spyglass, Pullman subtly (and in other places, not so subtly) deals great blows to the Christian faith, or religion in general. He reacts to the Church's view of the afterlife, free will vs. obedience, the portrayal of God, and even gay rights. But he does this so unabashedly that it's hard not to appreciate (or in my case, adore) his declarations on religion. Through it all, though, this is simply a story about growing up. It is truly a masterpiece, and deserves to be more widely read. This is one set of books I will never part with for as long as I live.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Sara

    Add me to what I'm sure is a very short list of people who didn't get the whole "anti-god" sentiment that this series is supposedly laden with. I read this series for the first time several years ago while working in a book store and madly searching for something to tide me over until the next Harry Potter came out. I became a dedicated Pullman fan within a few pages of "The Golden Compass." I like young adult fantasy that doesn't pander and Pullman wouldn't dream of doing that to his readers. He Add me to what I'm sure is a very short list of people who didn't get the whole "anti-god" sentiment that this series is supposedly laden with. I read this series for the first time several years ago while working in a book store and madly searching for something to tide me over until the next Harry Potter came out. I became a dedicated Pullman fan within a few pages of "The Golden Compass." I like young adult fantasy that doesn't pander and Pullman wouldn't dream of doing that to his readers. He assumes you're smart enough to understand where he's taking you and how you're going to get there and he's smart enough to let you draw your own conclusions. The arc of Lyra "Silvertongue" Belacqua is a wonderful and satisfying one and her story is one of the few really strong ones for young female characters in young adult fantasy fiction. She grows gradually and beautifully through the course of a harrowing but never the less exciting adventure from an almost feral child into a breath taking young woman. Her's is every child's painful journey to adulthood. Pullman's wonderful world is based upon our own and there are strong elements of "steam punk" throughout though he doesn't get bogged down in fancy contraptions and top hats the way others do. His characters are the real story here and they are painted wonderfully and with incredibly detail. Its his daemons that I love the most and every time I pick these books up to read again, and I do often, I spend a considerable amount of time wondering what form my own would take. I also find myself wondering every time how a man who views the soul in such a wonderful way could be called godless.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Mike (the Paladin)

    This is not a series I would have exposed my children to. If you choose to (and I'm sure many will) that is up to you. There is a deal of indoctrination here, or if you consider the Narnia series indoctrination then maybe you won't use that term in this case. It's all I suppose in the eye of the beholder. So up to the parent, or if we're talking adults then, the reader. (view spoiler)[I gave a spoiler warning in case you don't want to read farther. This series is basically a set of books where wh This is not a series I would have exposed my children to. If you choose to (and I'm sure many will) that is up to you. There is a deal of indoctrination here, or if you consider the Narnia series indoctrination then maybe you won't use that term in this case. It's all I suppose in the eye of the beholder. So up to the parent, or if we're talking adults then, the reader. (view spoiler)[I gave a spoiler warning in case you don't want to read farther. This series is basically a set of books where what passes for the "church" is evil and it works to a point where the children with the help of their own demons finally "kill god". (hide spoiler)] As I said, you decide.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Collette

    This was a truly amazing story. I'm actually giving it a 4.75 instead of a 5. It was getting a strong 5 until the ending. It wasn't a horrible ending but it could have been better. I cried if that tells you something. : /

  23. 4 out of 5

    Lisa Vegan

    I got this edition containing all 3 books in the trilogy because of the author's lantern notes at the end of each of the three books. As of the first book, didn't find the notes worth reading; the second, they were slightly more interesting but not essential. I did appreciate those that came after the third book. I do not understand how I missed knowing about these books until late in 2007, but I’m really glad that I found them. The Golden Compass: 5 stars: I don’t consider fantasy to be “my” genre I got this edition containing all 3 books in the trilogy because of the author's lantern notes at the end of each of the three books. As of the first book, didn't find the notes worth reading; the second, they were slightly more interesting but not essential. I did appreciate those that came after the third book. I do not understand how I missed knowing about these books until late in 2007, but I’m really glad that I found them. The Golden Compass: 5 stars: I don’t consider fantasy to be “my” genre, although I’ve certainly enjoyed my fair share of fantasy books. I do enjoy books where the author has been able to create a fascinating “whole other world” and that is certainly been done here. This book was a rollicking good ride. I’m not sure that I would have gotten through the first 20 pages if it had not been recommended (thanks Ken!) but by page 50 I was hooked. Terrific story. After book 1, what is to happen remains a mystery to me, but one I am eager to read. Lyra is a wonderful character. I’m a huge Harry Potter fan, but it’s fun to read a fantasy book with a girl as the main protagonist. The Subtle Knife: 5 stars: The book is engrossing, suspenseful, with wonderful storytelling. It’s very, very dark. (This darkness reminded me of book 2 of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy; the first book was dark in many places also. This series might not be for everybody, but I’m loving it.) I especially appreciate how the child characters question the authority of the adults and of their worlds. Lots of fully fleshed out characters that I care about and that makes me especially eager to read book 3 of the series. The Amber Spyglass: 5 stars: This series is really fine fantasy fiction. Until toward the end of The Amber Spyglass, I was thinking how I had enjoyed the first book the most. But, by the time I finished reading The Amber Spyglass, I realized that all that happens in the 3 books of the trilogy come together so beautifully that what I now most appreciate is the whole story. Lyra, Will, Mary, and too many other characters to name will really stick with me.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Yeany Dahlan

    If Harry Potter series were considered heretic by some groups of people, I don't know what will they say when they read Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials as the books do reflect anti-Christianism with God portrayed as vindictive and authoritarian figure growing ..dare I say it? ...senile and need to be ousted (Oh my God).. His Dark Materials is a trilogy beginning with the shocking The Golden Compass, and followed by The Subtle Knife and ends with The Amber Spyglass. And if we disregard the ant If Harry Potter series were considered heretic by some groups of people, I don't know what will they say when they read Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials as the books do reflect anti-Christianism with God portrayed as vindictive and authoritarian figure growing ..dare I say it? ...senile and need to be ousted (Oh my God).. His Dark Materials is a trilogy beginning with the shocking The Golden Compass, and followed by The Subtle Knife and ends with The Amber Spyglass. And if we disregard the anti-christian feeling, it's a fast paced and fantastically imaginative fantasy story. The heroine is Lyria partnered with a young boy as the solid companion - where they battle dark angels, facing encounters with the talking polar bears and brave many near death experiences in their quest to save the world from Armageddon. It's interesting to read the metaphors and philosophies in the books - in Lyria's world, everyone has "daemons" or in our world "souls" which resemble animals and keep changing until a person reach adolescence and losing one's "daemons" is a catastrophy. Very much like losing one's soul I guess where a person is like losing his essence or being. Then the battle of good and evil and the shaking of our belief of what has always been considered good may not necessarily be good. His Dark Materials delight and entertain as a fantasy novel even though there are some parts which I think wander too much out of the story...however, regardless all that - it's an interesting read.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Bruce

    Remember how, when the film version of "The Golden Compass" came out, evangelicals told their followers not to see it because the book is about a battle against God, and that God is defeated in the end? They were right. And it's really sort of childish. In the bad way. And I'm about as far to the left of the right wing religious nut cases as you can get. I'm all for a critique of how religion has hobbled civilization. I firmly believe that the church (pick your religion, not just the Christian ch Remember how, when the film version of "The Golden Compass" came out, evangelicals told their followers not to see it because the book is about a battle against God, and that God is defeated in the end? They were right. And it's really sort of childish. In the bad way. And I'm about as far to the left of the right wing religious nut cases as you can get. I'm all for a critique of how religion has hobbled civilization. I firmly believe that the church (pick your religion, not just the Christian church, but the mosque as well) has been responsible for atrocities that would never have happened without its existence and for a finite amount of good that could easily have been accomplished without its existence. But "His Dark Materials" is not that critique. It's just nastiness in the guise of fantasy--and poorly accomplished fantasy, at that. The first book is quite enjoyable, the parallel history fascinating, the world well-imagined, the climax compelling, the characters engaging and well-iimagined. The concept of all humans having a "daemon," an animal familiar that's a physical projection of aspects of their personality, which can talk with them and accomplish certain tasks, is quite brilliant. It's that concept that dominates the plot of the "Northern Lights" (called "The Golden Compass" in the U.S.), and the book is a good read. Then Pullman starts to expand his fantasy world, with "The Subtle Knife," and each addition tends to water it down and make the cosmology both more complicated and more incoherent. Bringing in the world we know seems smart, at first, but then he decides there has to be an infinite number of worlds, and each is imagined with considerably less aplomb than the last, until they become as two-dimensional as "Star Wars" planets. At the same time, the cosmology becomes both more twisted and more blatantly diadactic, even childishly vindictive, pretty much as rabidly anti-religion and anti-church as the right wingnuts would have you believe. It finally seems conceived not with wit and clarity of vision, just with bitterness and anger. The third book is long and winding (and long-winded) and poorly structured, and Pullman just keeps inventing more creatures and more worlds and more cosmological twists and more, more, more that results in a clatter of silliness as the series finally reaches its silly and unsatisfying climax. If ever there was a popular fantasy series with a "making it up as he went along" feel to it, it's this one (moreso even than the "Star Wars" movie series and the "Twilight" books). If I were to rate the "Dark Materials" books separately, I'd give "Northern Lights" four stars out of five, "Knife" two or three and "Spyglass" zero or one, but taken as a whole, the awfulness of the third book poisons the intelligence and good storytelling that has come before and the whole series comes crashing down.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Christy

    I've just finished The Golden Compass. I can't believe I waited so long to read this book. It was simple yet lovely, with interesting characters, setting, plot. It was so engrossing that I managed to read the last third of it at the courthouse, between jury duty sessions. I'm sure that a large part of my sheer pleasure at reading this comes from the setting itself, having long been fascinated by the far North, but I think there's quite enough there for those less enamored of snow, ice, and polar I've just finished The Golden Compass. I can't believe I waited so long to read this book. It was simple yet lovely, with interesting characters, setting, plot. It was so engrossing that I managed to read the last third of it at the courthouse, between jury duty sessions. I'm sure that a large part of my sheer pleasure at reading this comes from the setting itself, having long been fascinated by the far North, but I think there's quite enough there for those less enamored of snow, ice, and polar bears to also love this book. Can't wait to get started on the next book! ***************************** The Subtle Knife follows through on what is set up in The Golden Compass (although with significantly less snow and fewer polar bears). The characters continue to gain depth, the plot moves forward quickly and in interesting ways, and the world-building is fabulous. I really like the way Pullman plays with big and important ideas about the basic nature of reality and about faith without the book ever feeling preachy, heavy-handed, or overly intellectual. Moreover, he plays with these ideas at the same time. In Lyra's world, Scholars study experimental theology, which is in our world known as physics. I'm incredibly curious to find out how Pullman elaborates on this connection between science and religion, between these two different ways of exploring our universe and creating meaning, in the final book of the series. ***************************** Wow. I mean, wow. I enjoyed this book, this series, so much that I cannot wait until I get a chance to read them again. It's a beautiful rendering of the process of coming-of-age and exploration of both what makes us human and what religion can offer us. Pullman's concept of "the Republic of Heaven," as opposed to the kingdom of Heaven is moving and one that I will want to return to. I highly recommend this series. If you love fantasy, you can't not love this. If you like fantasy, this is the perfect series to illustrate what fantasy really can do. If you don't like fantasy, well, perhaps you should. Perhaps you will after reading Pullman's trilogy. Because this is fantasy that provides escape to another and very interesting world, but it is not merely escapist fantasy. It is also fantasy that speaks directly of and to our world and our experiences.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Sandi

    Very rarely do I start a book and not finish it. I've read some really awful books in my time and have managed to finish most. However, I gave up on this book on page 277. I think 277 pages is more than enough to get an idea of whether or not a book is worth finishing. This one isn't worth finishing. I really don't care about the controversy surrounding the author, his philosophy and how it's presented in the book. All I care about is that it's ponderous, preachy and annoying. I've read too many Very rarely do I start a book and not finish it. I've read some really awful books in my time and have managed to finish most. However, I gave up on this book on page 277. I think 277 pages is more than enough to get an idea of whether or not a book is worth finishing. This one isn't worth finishing. I really don't care about the controversy surrounding the author, his philosophy and how it's presented in the book. All I care about is that it's ponderous, preachy and annoying. I've read too many wonderful books this year to waste time on something terrible.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Louise

    #KæreWonders #ViLæserDarkMaterials

  29. 5 out of 5

    Brandon Forsyth

    I started reading this trilogy almost two years ago with my girlfriend, and despite taking some very long stretches off, we finally finished it today (her review in brief: the end drags a bit). These books were very important to me as a child, second only to maybe Harry Potter in terms of shaping my worldview. To be honest, I didn't understand the books, or the impact they had on me, until we started re-reading them last year. It's a re-read that got much richer with time, delighting and surpris I started reading this trilogy almost two years ago with my girlfriend, and despite taking some very long stretches off, we finally finished it today (her review in brief: the end drags a bit). These books were very important to me as a child, second only to maybe Harry Potter in terms of shaping my worldview. To be honest, I didn't understand the books, or the impact they had on me, until we started re-reading them last year. It's a re-read that got much richer with time, delighting and surprising me at every turn. I may have only really appreciated the polar bear fights, the sense of adventure (Lee Scoresby FTW) and the idea of daemons when I was a kid, but I truly grew to love the guiding ideas of the series, and the way its wonderfully human message filters through all of that stuff, at this point in my life. The end of THE AMBER SPYGLASS could never have meant as much to me as it did reading it to my girlfriend. This edition is absolutely beautiful, with some "lantern slides" added in between the books which function almost like deleted scenes. The final one, with an 18-year old Lyra, devastated me. I can't wait to read THE BOOK OF DUST now, and to re-read these again once I get the courage to tackle PARADISE LOST.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Joe

    I like my wild, adventurous fantasy tales as much as the next fella, but I have some issues with this series. First, it clearly wants to be the anti-Narnia, and that's fine, but I wish it wasn't so blatant about it. Many of the characters exist solely as two-dimensional metaphors and many of the plot developments and magical or fantastical elements of the world seem to exist solely to make the point that no, we're not in Narnia anymore, the lion is not Jesus and actually the church is trying to I like my wild, adventurous fantasy tales as much as the next fella, but I have some issues with this series. First, it clearly wants to be the anti-Narnia, and that's fine, but I wish it wasn't so blatant about it. Many of the characters exist solely as two-dimensional metaphors and many of the plot developments and magical or fantastical elements of the world seem to exist solely to make the point that no, we're not in Narnia anymore, the lion is not Jesus and actually the church is trying to destroy all happiness. It's all rather morally dubious, in fact, not because the church is cast in the villain's role (certainly it has been before, and often rightfully so), but rather that pretty much everybody is villainous if you get right down to it. It's a world where the central players will stop at nothing to get what they want, where running fatal experiments on children is just another day at the office, and where good-hearted people seem truly out of place, dropped in just to remind us that there are good-hearted people. The good-hearted people are also SO good-hearted, and also so likely to get violently killed in the midst of heroic sacrifice, that it's hard to relate to anybody in these books at all apart from the protagonists, who are actually characters rather than symbols. That said, the daemons are pretty cool idea, and it's imaginative and well written. Sarcastic angels. Amazing machines. I won't not recommend it. But still though, I just had to rant...

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