Books: The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife, and The Amber Spyglass (His Dark Materials)
Author: Philip Pullman
Published: 1995, 1997, and 2000 (Yearling)
Pages: 399, 326, and 518 (1243 total)
SPOILER ALERT right here at the top because I want to talk about the ending of this series RIGHT NOW, y’all.
It makes everything not matter. All the epic battles for multiple worlds’ happiness and sustainability? Turns out they were completely unnecessary because the love two 12-year-olds find for each other emits, like, happy sex rays that calm everything down before they have to part very melodramatically and seal up the window that lets them go into each other’s world. And they have to each stay in their own world because of magical rules that they have to follow to be good people instead of selfish teenagers who will never ever find anyone they love as much ever.
Yeah. So, I actually really liked this series. And the ending would’ve been fine, maybe a still a little eye-rolling, but neat and understandable as a wrap-up if the battles between Church and witches and armored polar bears and Arctic explorers and kids who can jump worlds with knives and angels and little animal soul companions were the bits that decided things and the romance was a bittersweet little postscript that brought the epic-scale epicness of everything else down to the personal level the whole story spiraled started out from.
But that didn’t happen.
Lyra was awesome through 90% of this, though. She’s a scrappy kid who grows up and uses her personality to mold her Chosen One destiny instead of the other way around. She’s nosey and brave, and when she meets Will in the second book, they balance each other out very nicely. Will is blander as a straightforward hero, but he still reveals complexity as he’s getting use to all the fantastic stuff he has to deal with after learning about it two seconds beforehand from creatures he never even imagined existed. He’s smart and good at blending in, from a lifetime of helping his mom navigate through her mental illness.
I loved the development of the other characters, too, especially Mrs. Coulter. She’s written so the reader can almost always see through her sweetness to her real motives but the other characters can’t. Pure evil, beautiful charisma that switches sides to whatever best suits her own next move. Everyone, including her, loves Lyra a bit too instantly, but, eh, that’s how it goes in these sorts of stories and it’s the only instance in which things go easily for Lyra.
The whole “He kills God!” thing leveled at Pullman: technically, yes. He does. But God is an extremely enfeebled angel who hasn’t had any real power in a long time, who wanted to die, and who was accidentally just dissolved when the kids pull back a curtain to see him better. So it’s not violent—it’s a merciful moment. And the Church here just kind of stands in for government and is only wicked at intervals when it felt like Pullman remembered it sporadically.
Everybody’s battling for Dust, which the Church says is original sin and…other people say it’s...life force? I don’t know. Everybody was trying to find out, and I don’t think anybody actually did. It turns out to be a good thing, and there are elephants with wheels who need it to keep their trees alive, and Lyra and Will young-love it into abundance. I don’t know what happens to everyone else, but I assume they turn out okay.
It’s an excellent adventure story with real characters, only the metaphysical plot doesn’t support itself as well as it should. Still recommended.
These are another Book Dispensary acquisition, and as such are mine to put in my bookcase after taking them off theirs.