"In concluding the spellbinding Dark Materials trilogy, Pullman produces what may well be the most controversial children's book of recent years," wrote PW. As he asks readers to examine the ideas of organized religion, "Pullman riffs on the elemental chords of classical myth and fairytale. Stirring and highly provocative." Ages 12-up. (May) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In concluding the spellbinding His Dark Materials trilogy, Pullman produces what may well be the most controversial children's book of recent years. The witch Serafina Pekkala, quoting an angel, sums up the central theme: "All the history of human life has been a struggle between wisdom and stupidity. The rebel angels, the followers of wisdom, have always tried to open minds; the Authority and his churches have always tried to keep them closed." Early on, this "Authority" is explicitly identified as the Judeo-Christian God, and he is far from omnipotent: his Kingdom is ruled by a regent. The cosmic battle to overthrow the Kingdom is only one of the many epic sequences in this novel--so much happens, and the action is split among so many different imagined worlds, that readers will have to work hard to keep up with Pullman. In the opening, for example, Lyra is being hidden and kept in a drugged sleep in a Himalayan cave by her mother, the beautiful and treacherous Mrs. Coulter. Will is guided by two angels across different worlds to find Lyra. The physicist and former nun, Mary Malone, sojourns in an alternatively evolved world. In yet another universe, Lord Asriel has assembled a great horde of otherworldly beings-including the vividly imagined race of haughty, hand-high warriors called Gallivespians--to bring down the Kingdom. Along the way, Pullman riffs on the elemental chords of classical myth and fairy tale. While some sections seem rushed and the prose is not always as brightly polished as fans might expect, Pullman's exuberant work stays rigorously true to its own internal structure. Stirring and highly provocative. Ages 12-up. (Oct.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Philip Pullman's The Amber Spyglass concludes the trilogy which he began in The Golden Compass and continued in The Subtle Knife. These books are best read in order, for you need the foundation to understand and know the heroes, Lyra and Will, and their parallel words. Lyra lives in a world that has the feel of turn-of-the-century England where religion, alchemy and science vie for power, and innocent Lyra is able read a mystical instrument that tells the future. She meets Will in the second book. He comes from a world where specters can suck out your soul and he has a knife that can cut doors into other worlds. The first two books were so well-done that it seemed impossible for Pullman to create a satisfying conclusion. His triumph was known to his followers long before the Whitbread acknowledged it¾partly from his skill in making references to Dante, the Bible, Homer and Aeschylus, without bogging down the story. In The Amber Spyglass, Lyra and Will's relationship blossoms. Its guileless beauty contradicts the horrors of war that surrounds them, while their pubescent struggles correspond to the tenuous global situation where changes come abruptly and unexpectedly, and one often feels alone. Separation is both a symbolic and organizing structure; subplots coexist and the characters strain to find unity. Pullman doesn't end this series simplistically, but creates one last irony. After an Armageddon-like clash that is Blakian in concept and feel, Lyra and Will move forward in a bumbling way, their adolescence overwhelming a perfect symbol for the new order. For the good of their individual worlds and their shared universe, they must separate and struggle to regain what they've hadtogether. Part of the "His Dark Materials" series. 2000, Knopf, $19.95. Ages 14 up. Reviewer: Susie Wilde AGES: 14 15 16 17 18
Pullman completes his amazing trilogy with a masterpiece in this third volume. The action is relentless, pulling the reader forward through bright and dark images of alternate worlds. Pullman introduces intriguing new creatures at the same time that characters and concepts from the first two books in the trilogy weave in and out. How he completes the whole with the plot resolved, the characters dearer to the reader, and the themes coming to some closure, is a feat that is truly impressive. In his Acknowledgements, Pullman mentions his debts to the works of William Blake and to John Milton's Paradise Lost. His descriptions of angels, the journey of Will and Lyra to the World of the Dead, and the numerous metaphysical references do connect him to Blake and Milton. However, since the trilogy's concept of Dust is linked to theories in quantum physics, and a main character is Dr. Mary Malone, a physicist in modern Oxford, this fantasy could only be written in our time. As is true of all good fantasy, a reader is able to approach the trilogy primarily as adventure, filled with dangerous journeys and villains, with abiding love and friendships, with marvelous creatures and creations. Will and Lyra, brave children, struggling, sometimes nearly paralyzed by fear and grief, are heroes all readers care for and admire. At the end of the trilogy, Will and Lyra approach adulthood making difficult decisions and acknowledging their love for one another; in doing so, they become beloved, fully realized characters no reader will ever forget. When, in addition to this level of story, a reader discovers mind-expanding concepts, great themes related to the nature of God, man, and the universe, then it seemsto me that a classic work of literature has been created. And the language! The first chapter, The Enchanted Sleeper, begins: " In a valley shaded by rhododendrons, close to the snow line, where a stream milky with meltwater splashed and where doves and linnets flew among the immense pines, lay a cave, half-hidden by the crag above and the stiff heavy leaves that clustered below." Editor's Note: the first two books in the Dark Materials trilogy have received the highest acclaim in the field of children's literature and are also ALA Best Books for YAs. KLIATT Codes: JS*Exceptional book, recommended for junior and senior high school students. 2000, Random House/Knopf, 518p, 00-044776, $19.95. Ages 13 to 18. Reviewer: Claire Rosser; January 2001 (Vol. 35 No. 1)
School Library Journal
Gr 6 Up-With The Amber Spyglass (Knopf, 2000), Philip Pullman completes his epic trilogy, collectively titled, His Dark Materials. The young heroine, Lyra Belacqua, is still battling the evil forces that inhabit the warring fantasy cosmos introduced in The Golden Compass (Knopf ,1996), and continued in The Subtle Knife (Knopf ,1997). In this volume, Lyra is rescued from her often unscrupulous mother by her trusted companion, Will. Will and Lyra endure a perilous journey to the land of the dead, and reconnect with Dr. Mary Malone who has made the all-important spyglass. After encounters with helpful angels, demons and witches, as well as difficulties with clergy and theologians, the pair fulfill their destiny. With this comes a deeper understanding of the dangers to their universe, and eventually, painful, but necessary choices. Pullman does a first class job as narrator of his language-rich text. He is joined by a superb cast of 40 British actors who bring the book's large and diverse array of characters into sharp focus. This fine recording is almost a stage play in a box, and it is a solid purchase for both school and public libraries. Considering the book's 500 plus pages, the recording is likely to be a very popular way for fans both young and old to conclude Pullman's classically-inspired saga.-Barbara Wysocki, Cora J. Belden Library, Rocky Hill, CT Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Familiarity with the prior novels in 'His Dark Materials' is essential for an easy understanding of Book 3 of the series. The Amber Spyglass continues the adventures of Lyra and Will, who journey to a dark world while an amber spyglass involves the world in war and chaos. The plot is compleXx and evolving but counts on a background developed in the prior books.
U.S. News & World Report
...rich in thought as well as adventure. Pullman knits religion, creation, evolution, death, physics, original sin, and growing up intoe his own personal theory of everything.
Malcolm J. Jones
...almost everyone who does read Pullman becomes a fan.
The longed-for third volume in this trilogy (The Golden Compass, 1996; The Subtle Knife, 1997) satisfies deeply: full of grand set pieces, resplendent language, and glorious storytelling. Lyra Silvertongue at 12, from a world like but unlike this one, is keeper of the alethiometerthe golden compass. She can read its ways to find the truth, but it has been taken from her. Will Parry, of this world, injured by the subtle knife that can cut windows between worlds, will bring it back to her. And in yet another place, an Oxford researcher makes a spyglass that enables her to see the golden patterns of Dust, stuff of the universe. All of the splendid characters of the earlier books make a return, like Pan, Lyra's daemon, part of her very self; Iorek Byrnison the bear king; and Lyra's bewitching parents, Lord Asriel and the terrifying Mrs. Coulter. Whole new races appear: a panoply of angels; the mulefa, whose triangulated legs use the wheel in a new way; the brave and dashing Gallivespians, who live but a decade and are small enough to ride dragonflies. Across this brilliant and vivid canvas, the largest of themes play out: life and death, goodness and evil, self and other, the redemptive power of love. Lyra and Will's quest is hard and heartbreaking: they can only rely on themselves and each other to save their worlds, and the cost is great. There are roaring battles and moments of great tenderness; there are unforgettable scenesLyra and Will leading ghosts through the land of the dead, for exampleand not a few echoes of Paradise Lost with some deeply unconventional theological implications. What matters at the last are the stories, and thetruthof their telling. Readers will be chastenedand warmedand sorry to see the last page. (Fiction. 12+)
From the Publisher
“Absorbing . . Like Harry Potter creator J. K. Rowling, [Pullman] invents a world filled with strange divinations and wordplays.”
“A LITERARY MASTERPIECE . . . [that] caps the most magnificent fantasy series since The Lord of the Rings and puts Harry Potter to shame. . . . A page-turning story that builds to a powerful finish.”
“IMPOSSIBLE TO PUT DOWN, SO FIRMLY AND RELENTLESSLY DOES PULLMAN DRAW YOU INTO HIS TALE . . . [A] gripping saga pitting the magnetic young Lyra Belacqua and her friend Will Parry against the forces of both Heaven and Hell.”
“Breathtaking adventure . . . terrific story, eloquently told.”–The Boston Sunday Globe
Read an Excerpt
THE ENCHANTED SLEEPER
In a valley shaded with rhododendrons, close to the snow line, where a stream milky with meltwater splashed and where doves and linnets flew among the immense pines, lay a cave, half, hidden by the crag above and the stiff heavy leaves that clustered below.
The woods were full of sound: the stream between the rocks, the wind among the needles of the pine branches, the chitter of insects and the cries of small arboreal mammals, as well as the birdsong; and from time to time a stronger gust of wind would make one of the branches of a cedar or a fir move against another and groan like a cello.
It was a place of brilliant sunlight, never undappled. Shafts of lemon-gold brilliance lanced down to the forest floor between bars and pools of brown-green shade; and the light was never still, never constant, because drifting mist would often float among the treetops, filtering all the sunlight to a pearly sheen and brushing every pine cone with moisture that glistened when the mist lifted. Sometimes the wetness in the clouds condensed into tiny drops half mist and half rain, which floated downward rather than fell, making a soft rustling patter among the millions of needles.
There was a narrow path beside the stream, which led from a village-little more than a cluster of herdsmen's dwellings - at the foot of the valley to a half-ruined shrine near the glacier at its head, a place where faded silken flags streamed out in the Perpetual winds from the high mountains, and offerings of barley cakes and dried tea were placed by pious villagers. An odd effect of the light, the ice, and the vapor enveloped the head of the valley in perpetual rainbows.
The cave lay some way above the path. Many years before, a holy man had lived there, meditating and fasting and praying, and the place was venerated for the sake of his memory. It was thirty feet or so deep, with a dry floor: an ideal den for a bear or a wolf, but the only creatures living in it for years had been birds and bats.
But the form that was crouching inside the entrance, his black eyes watching this way and that, his sharp ears pricked, was neither bird nor bat. The sunlight lay heavy and rich on his lustrous golden fur, and his monkey hands turned a pine cone this way and that, snapping off the scales with sharp fingers and scratching out the sweet nuts.
Behind him, just beyond the point where the sunlight reached, Mrs. Coulter was heating some water in a small pan over a naphtha stove. Her daemon uttered a warning murmur and Mrs. Coulter looked up.
Coming along the forest path was a young village girl. Mrs. Coulter knew who she was: Ama had been bringing her food for some days now. Mrs. Coulter had let it be known when she first arrived that she was a holy woman engaged in meditation and prayer, and under a vow never to speak to a man. Ama was the only person whose visits she accepted.
This time, though, the girl wasn't alone. Her father was with her, and while Ama climbed up to the cave, he waited a little way off.
Ama came to the cave entrance and bowed.
"My father sends me with prayers for your goodwill," she said.
"Greetings, child," said Mrs. Coulter.
The girl was carrying a bundle wrapped in faded cotton, which she laid at Mrs. Coulter's feet. Then she held out a little bunch of flowers, a dozen or so anemones bound with a cotton thread, and began to speak in a rapid, nervous voice. Mrs. Coulter understood some of the language of these mountain people, but it would never do to let them know how much. So she smiled and motioned to the girl to close her lips and to watch their two daemons. The golden monkey was holding out his little black hand, and Ama's butterfly daemon was fluttering closer and closer until he settled on a horny forefinger.
The monkey brought him slowly to his ear, and Mrs. Coulter felt a tiny stream of understanding flow into her mind, clarifying the girl's words. The villagers were happy for a holy woman, such as herself, to take refuge in the cave, but it was rumored 'that she had a companion with her who was in some way dangerous and powerful.
It was that which made the villagers afraid. Was this other Steing Mrs. Coulter's master, or her servant? Did she mean harm? Why was she there in the first place? Were they going to stay long? Ama conveyed these questions with a thousand misgivings.
A novel answer occurred to Mrs. Coulter as the daemon's understanding filtered into hers. She could tell the truth. Not all of it, naturally, but some. She felt a little quiver of laughter at the idea, but kept it out of her voice as she explained:
"Yes, there is someone else with me. But there is nothing to be afraid of. She is my daughter, and she is under a spell that made her fall asleep. We have come here to hide from the enchanter who put the spell on her, while I try to cure her and keep her from harm. Come and see her, if you like."
Ama was half-soothed by Mrs. Coulter's soft voice, and half afraid still; and the talk of enchanters and spells added to the awe she felt. But the golden monkey was holding her daemon so gently, and she was curious, besides, so she followed Mrs. Coulter into the cave.
Her father, on the path below, took a step forward, and his crow daemon raised her wings once or twice, but he stayed where he was.
Mrs. Coulter lit a candle, because the light was fading rapidly, and led Ama to the back of the cave. Ama's eyes glittered widely in the gloom, and her hands were moving together in a repetitive gesture of finger on thumb, finger on thumb, to ward off danger by confusing the evil spirits.
"You see?" said Mrs. Coulter. "She can do no harm. There's nothing to be afraid of."
From the Hardcover edition.