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The Amber Spyglass - Philip Pullman

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Author: Philip Pullman / Genre: Sci-Fi / Fantasy

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      04.06.2013 16:49
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      A dramatic and emotional end to the His Dark Materials Trilogy.

      'Maybe sometimes we don't do the right thing because the wrong thing looks more dangerous, and we don't want to look scared, so we go and do the wrong thing just because it's dangerous. We're more concerned with not looking scared than with judging right.'

      PLOT

      Lyra is being kept prisoner in a save by Mrs. Coulter. But has she got a good reason for keeping Lyra hidden away? Will,Lyra's friend, is instructed by two Angels, to take his Subtle Knife to Lord Asriel, but he refuses to go until he finds Lyra. With the help of Iorek Byrnison, an Armoured Bear, and Balthamos, one of the Angel's, Will must find Lyra before the Magisterium find her, and kill her.

      Dr. Mary Malone, a Scientist from Will's world, stepped through a strange opening, and emerged into a world beyond her imagination. She befriends strange creatures called the Mulefa, who rely on giant seed pods from trees to use as wheels. But something is wrong with the trees, they've never died so often before. Can Mary help the Mulefa save their trees, and save their way of life?

      MY OPINION

      So, this is the last(and longest) installment in the His Dark Materials Trilogy and every bit as heart wrenching as the first two, maybe even more heart wrenching.I learned a lot of surprising truths about the characters that I thought I knew in this book. This was definitely an exciting read for me, and I really connected with the characters, feeling their joy and their pain throughout. I think that this was a fantastic end to the His Dark Materials Trilogy, one that had me gripping the book in anticipation, and fearing for my favourite characters.

      THE AUTHOR

      One again, Philip Pullman has pulled off a masterpiece here, every page kept me in suspense, and everything was described in such detail, that I could imagine everything, even the Mulefa. I'll definitely be reading this whole Trilogy again one day. If you've already read the first two books, then I recommend you read this one too. The series is suitable for all ages, it's primarily for children, but adults can enjoy the complex plot and beautiful language on a different level.

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      09.12.2011 16:16
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      A very slightly flawed book, but nevertheless a magnificent climax to an outstanding trilogy

      ** ...the dawn is surely coming **

      The Amber Spyglass is the third and final volume of Philip Pullman's remarkable His Dark Materials trilogy. For me this book marks a return to form after the merely excellent middle volume, The Subtle Knife, and although it is not without its little flaws here and there it makes a very meaty and generally deeply satisfying conclusion to the series. Those who have read the first two books and are still wondering just why His Dark Materials is so hated in certain religious quarters will without a doubt find the answers here: although there are nasty priests and fallen angels, that's not the half of it. In fact, without trying to spoil things for newcomers, it's reasonable to say that what the increasingly complex Mrs Coulter (surely one of the best female characters of recent years, and mesmerising here) would doubtless describe as "heresy" reaches right to the heart of things.

      This book moves between universes more than either of the previous two, and it's a tribute to Pullman's wonderful powers of description that you very rarely get any more disorientated than do the characters themselves. That qualification is an important one, however, as Lyra and Will are not always entirely in control of their journeys, despite the latter's now fairly assured use of the subtle knife. In particular, a long sequence set in "the world of the dead" brings in some extremely strong emotions, and contains one particular chapter involving Lyra that some reviewers have opined - with reason - that you never really recover from reading. It's a shocking, devastating sequence, and yet it makes perfect sense from the point of view of what has gone on before. That cold logic may well be what makes it quite as bad as it is.

      ** Dramatis personae **

      Several important new characters are introduced in this book, not least the Gallivespians, pint-sized spies from (yet) another world who get about on dragonflies they've bred themselves. This sort of thing would come across as a ridiculous flight of fancy in many novels, but Pullman not only gets away with it but makes the Gallivespians' existence of immense importance to the plot, and the fates of their characters of great interest to the reader. Angels, too, although encountered in a minor way in The Subtle Knife, are of far more significance in this final book; it's more than likely that at least some of the problems His Dark Materials had with some of the more reactionary American churches were down to the way Pullman portrays the relationships between them as well as between angels and human beings.

      Naturally, there are plenty of continuing characters too, and these are handled with great skill. I've already mentioned Mrs Coulter - if you thought you knew how you felt about her, don't get too comfortable with that - and Lord Asriel will return in style too. Iorek Byrnison makes a reappearance, though not for as long as I suspect a lot of Northern Lights fans will have liked, and even some people you thought you'd seen the last of do in fact return. As for the two main protagonists: I felt that The Subtle Knife showed Will as slightly too much the old-fashioned square-jawed young hero, but although there's still a bit of this here it's rather more nuanced, and I think the book is the better for it. Lyra remains to my mind a more interesting and complex character than Will, and so I'm pleased that she gets more "screen time" in this book, starring in the novel's most memorable and heart-wrenching scene.

      ** Plot (lots) and problems (few) **

      You may have noticed that I haven't yet actually said a great deal about the plot of The Amber Spyglass. That's partly for the usual reason - avoiding too many spoilers - but it's also because the plot is extremely difficult to summarise in a paragraph or two without its coming across as banal and boring, neither of which is the case. This is much less of a conventional adventure tale than Northern Lights or even The Subtle Knife, and whole chapters are often given over to quite slow-moving, descriptive passages; this is especially the case in those parts dealing with the our-world physicist Mary Malone and her encounters with the mysterious and (as we come to realise) remarkable other-world animals known as mulefa. Because of this, the book's 500-plus page length seems entirely reasonable, with very few sections that feel like padding.

      Slightly disappointingly, I think that the ending of The Amber Spyglass is its least successful part, and just occasionally you do get the feeling that Pullman is getting a tad didactic about religion. I don't want to imply that it turns into some sort of atheistic tract, because that's very far from being the case, but there is just the odd occasion when a character seems to be uttering something of a pre-prepared speech on the author's behalf. This really is a very small proportion of the book, however, so don't worry that it's going to ruin the exquisitely building tension. I do like that certain things are left unexplained and unresolved, in the way that real life works, and I also felt that the very, very ending was beautifully written, offering a conclusion that - once again - makes perfect sense in the context of the tale but that you probably won't see coming. I'll confine myself to saying that it's neither a conventional "happy ever after" ending nor a horrible anticlimax.

      ** Buying and verdict **

      The Amber Spyglass can be picked up from Amazon for around the £5 mark in a variety of editions; my favourite is the 2007 Scholastic paperback with its gorgeous feline cover art as well as an Appendix with some extra material (which should be left until you've read the story itself). There's absolutely no point in reading this book unless you've read (and enjoyed) the previous two, as it assumes far more background knowledge than could possibly be picked up from all its 38 chapters put together. However, I feel fairly confident that if you have read the other two books, this is a hugely worthwhile conclusion to the trilogy. It's not quite as good as Northern Lights, which was close to perfect, but it's still a fantastically written story, the work of a truly gifted storyteller. Easily worthy of five stars.

      [Thanks to Al Stewart for the title!]

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        02.01.2011 14:25
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        great read

        I recently reviewed both 'Northern Lights' and 'the Subtle Knife', the acclaimed first two parts of the 'His Dark Materials' trilogy. This is the final volume in the series, and to my mind a suitably excellent continuation and final conclusion to the overarching story.

        It is a little longer than its predecessors, but this is by no means to its detriment. There is rich description here that was slightly less evident in the rest of the series, and this is necessary to gain a picture of the diverse locations and items encountered during the course of this book, more so than in the others.

        In this book the mystery explored through the first and second novels deepens and is finally resolved. The novel begins where the second book ended, namely, on a bit of a cliffhanger. I don't want to say too much in case someone who reads this has not yet read the second book, but suffice to say that there are appearances by many old friends, and one or two intriguing new faces. The title of the novel refers to an item discovered by the scientist Mary, who becomes a very important, or even central, character. The three-dimensionality of the characters, even some minor, continues here. Most impressively in a book aimed at younger people the evil force's identity shifts somewhat so that the reader gets an idea of complexity in people's motivations and goals. This really adds more depth and is pretty unique (I think) in a book aimed at teens.

        As mentioned, this book is geared towards the younger reader. I read this aged around 12, and again only fully understood some of the things discussed until later, although this did not result in less enjoyment over the first reading! I'm 20 now and would still very happily curl up with this and take something different from it that I've not considered before. For this reason I'd say that it would also be suitable for adults. One of the themes explored in some depth is that of religion, but especially religious organisations. These are not necessarily portrayed in a positive light, so something to be aware of if that kind of thing offends. To be honest for me the religion aspect is quite easy to ignore, and the book easy to read as just an adventure, despite angels occasionally popping up, and Church people appearing left, right and centre!

        As the third book of three, I would not recommend reading this as a stand-alone novel. The first reason for this is that Northern Lights and the Subtle Knife are both cracking reads and should not be missed, and the second is that a lot has happened and a great deal explained prior to the start of the third novel, and I am just not sure it would make sense by itself. Finally, in my opinion the full joy of the final book can only be experienced when you've followed (main characters) Lyra and Will's full journeys.

        For those who have followed them, the ending is genius and also very beautiful in a way, although at the same time a little frustrating. If that hasn't intrigued you, I don't know what will, but I highly recommend this novel as part of the trilogy. By itself it doesn't really work, which is unfortunate as it's so well-written. This is an important criticism, but is easily remedied by reading all three books in order! As a series I really couldn't sing its praises any higher, for young readers as well as adults.

        For the novel alone, I'd like to give it 9/10, but it's going to have to be 4/5 again...

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          01.11.2010 17:34
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          An excellent read, but remember to read "Northern Lights" and "The Subtle Knife" first.

          I had been recommended to read the dark materials series by my boyfriend, who thinks I need a break from chick lit (what does he know :P) so having read the first two books in the series: The North Lights and The Subtle Knife. I thought I would read the final book in the series: The Amber Spyglass.

          NEVER JUDGE A BOOK BY ITS COVER
          This book has several covers, there is the one pictured and the one on my copy. I have the copy that has an image of the "amber spyglass" on it. I think it is a much better fit for the novel than the image on this review.

          THE CHARACTERS
          Below is a brief overview of some of the main characters:

          Lyra the main character, goes through the transition of puberty while fighting an epic battle throughout the book and dealing with separation from her daemon.

          Will, Lyra's friend, is also going through the same stage in his life, while dealing with the loss of his father and the realisation that he does have a daemon after all.

          Mary, the scientist from the previous book, plays a bigger role in this book and is the creator have the amber spyglass itself.

          Mrs Coulter, Lyra's mother, keeps the reader on their toes. Who's side is she really on? And is she trying to help Lyra or hurt her?

          Lord Asriel, Lyra's father, is building up an army but I don't feel like Phillip Pullman pays that much attention to him.

          THE PLOT
          I don't want to ruin the book for anyone planning on reading, but basically you continue following Lyra (from the last two books) and her friend Will (from the previous book) on their journey. Both of them know that they have to do "something" but they don't really know what it is yet they know the alethiometer and the subtle knife will lead the way.

          They journey through several worlds including the land of the dead, because Lyra needs to apologise to Roger for leading him to his death and Will needs to see his father, who he only met for a brief moment before being killed by a witch. Thoughout their journey, they are helped by angels, witches, bears, harpies and other creatures from different worlds in the war against authority (religion) whom believe Lyra to be the cause of original sin like Eve in the garden of Eden.

          GENRE
          I am not usually a science fiction / fantasy reading (excluding Harry Potter) but I found this book like the rest of the series pretty gripping so I recommend that you give it a chance even if it isn't your usual type of literature as it is a well written novel with a good pace of plot.

          PRICE
          This book retails at £6.99, which is not bad for a book. You can get it cheaper from Amazon and Ebay if you don't mind second hand books. As someone, who only reads a book once I traded for it on a website called BookMooch.

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          17.09.2010 00:40
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          A good tail overshaddowed by writers style

          The Amber Spyglass is the third in the His Dark Materials trilogy. The story picks up immediately after the Subtle Knife lefts off and you will need to have read both The Subtle Knife and the first book Northern Lights in order follow the story at all. I admit that I came to this book sceptically as I really didn't like Northern Lights as I found it a real drag to read however I did rather like The Subtle Knife so in my mind this would be the book that decided weather I had wasted all those hours or not.

          The good points; In my opinion the level of writing in this book has improved dramatically compared to the first book. I also felt that there were some very well written characters, Dr Mary Malone who plays a much larger role in this book being one of my favourite. The story also had some very good plot twists and the tale itself was very engaging.

          The bad points; Although the writing style has improved I still found it lacking in places. The story seems to rush ahead too fast, making me feel as if I had completely missed half of what was going on or slowing down to a crawl and becoming boring. I also found that character development and character motivation left a lot to be desired. Characters seemed to make life threatening decisions at the drop of a hat without any great thought for the consequences. I also found that the Mrs Coulter & Lord Asriel characters changed their goals and priorities more often than I change my socks! I'm sure this was supposed to make them seem complicated but I found that it just made them unbelievable.
          The character development that bugged me the most came almost at the end of the story and I suppose this could be considered a spoiler so feel free to skip the rest of this paragraph... Ok, towards the end of the book Lyra and Will's characters suddenly go from acting and thinking reasonably normally for their characters who are only 12 years old to acting and thinking like someone much older. While this change might have been acceptable if it had happened gradually it seemed to jump within the space of a day. Even though you can see the plot development coming a mile away it seemed forced and sudden and very unrealistic.
          My final gripe with this book is the increasingly religious tone. Although religion plays a large part within the plot and I had no problem with any of the imagery or bible reference being used I did find that as the book went on there was a increasing amount of the writers personal religious views being injected into it which started to make me feel a little uncomfortable.

          So to summary, although this book has several good points, the strongest of which being the tail itself, these virtues in my opinion were overshadowed by poor character development, writing skill and the writers increasingly "preachy" tone.

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            01.10.2009 20:46
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            final installment of the dark materials trilogy

            The Amber Spyglass in by Phillip Pullman and is carries on from where the Subtle Knife left off. It is the third and final instalment in the Dark Materials trilogy.

            There's a lot going on all at once from the start of this book. Lyra and Pan are kept asleep by Mrs Coulter in a cave away from the searching eyes of the magisterium. Meanwhile the magistrium are trying to find an kill Lyra before she becomes the cause of original sin, recreating what Eve did at the beginning of mankind. Will and Iorek Bynison are also trying to find Lyra, but to save her from Mrs Coulter. Mary Malone has gone to a universe whilst is populated with 'mulefa', animals kind of like deer but with a trunk which they use to talk with. With Mary they are also trying to find out about dust before they are no longer able to survive on their planet. And Lord Asriel is gathering forces of witches, angels, humans, and people from other planet to wage war against 'the creator'.

            Well, I think there's a lot going on just there any that's only how the book starts!! There's been a lot of build up for the Amber Spyglass in the previous two books, so i guess there takes a lot of time to tie up loose ends and to complete the story. But once Lyra is out of Mrs Coulters grasp the book kind of focuses on, and leads up towards, the fight against the magisterium, the church. And to final figure out what is actually going on with dust, and what will be done about it!! I think that after reading all these books it is a relief to finally get to know what's going on, and I think the way we are taken to the ending is eventful, dramatic, and always enjoyable.

            Lyra and Will have to journey to the world of the dead, leaving their daemons behind, so that Will can finally find his father and so that Lyra and talk to Roger. They are from this point on guarded by two gallivaspiens, to spies sent by Lord Asriel to keep an eye on the children, although both are very small and ride on dragonflies (which i think sounds lovely!). But going here has its purpose, as does pretty much every thing in this book.

            A lot more so than the other books, this one is quite heavy with religion and Christianity. In fact, that is what the book is based around. As we have now found out, there was a prophecy amongst the witches that Lyra is considered to be Eve, and what she does when tempted will determine the fate of the world, and of dust. Her and Will are in the middle between Lord Asriel and the church, and at times this book feels a bit like an alternative creation story. It is good, and it is interesting, but I think that the religion stuff does get a bit much, especially as the other two books weren't overly about that. This once is much tougher going. But I don't want to put anyone off. There are some fantastic parts to this book, I couldn't stop myself reading at some points, and if you liked the other two you have to read this to find out what's happened. It's just not quite as good as the first two, but only by a margin.

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              22.07.2008 22:32
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              Weak by Pullman's standards but still... wow

              The third part of the "His Dark Materials Trilogy" is definitely the weakest of the three offerings, but still outclasses most of the books in this genre that I have read. I am not sure if Phillip Pullman had grown bored of the concept at this point and just wanted to get through it with minimal fuss, but there was an element of enchantment that I gleaned from the first two that were missing from this part. I stand by my idea that these books aren't really for children at all and are written for a much more adult audience because they manage to deal with adult themes very well without going for the kids favourite of grossing out. Death is dealt with in a very mature way and everything in the book happens for a reason. Definitely has to be classed as the most adult children's trilogy I have ever read and the ending is still perfect, if not just a little less passionate than the beginning and middle.

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                31.05.2008 19:48
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                the last of the His Dark Materials series

                Having reviewed the two previous books in this series, it's only right that I see them through to the end!

                Last but not least we have The Amber Spyglass (yup its third in the series, northern lights sometimes known as the golden compass, and then the subtle knife come pounding along first with some heavy action, twists turns and a lot of information you will NEED before we can go much further)

                You can't read this without having read the others unless you like being in the dark about....well...everything. Its not so bad though, the first two are amazing!

                Another small suggestion: get yourself a cup of tea or coffee. Hell plug the brewer in next to you. Stock up on snacks and unplug the phone. You are not going anywhere.

                We left our two heroes, Will and Lyra, just as the monkey doo had hit the fan (and this was a big, very pretty fan)

                Will has just done the unthinkable and only realised at the very last second. He now finds himself completely alone in a strange world with very little hope. Meanwhile Lyra lays in a deep sleep somewhere that is...well... not here, waiting to be saved.

                Will, devistated and learning more about himself every day, sets off to find Lyra and dispose of her captors, gaining some help from some old friends along the way.

                A new character is thrust into the middle of the action, determined to find out the truth about the universe off she pops, hobbling along quite happily, letting her instincts guide her.

                At the same time a member of the church has been promplty dispatched to kill. The church knows what she is trying to uncover and want it stopped. Now.

                In this book our heroes will travel through the most heart- wrenching torments, into the deepest darkest depths of hell and back again on the final strech of their incredible journey. They will meet some vicious deamons, some loyal spies and a handfull of angels.

                Throughout there are many battles between good and evil, in a race against time to make sure the secrets of the universe are not revealed and to make sure that Lyra fulfills her destiny.

                Pullman is on top form, blurring the lines between what is good and what is evil, making your stomach lurch with excitement and putting forward some amazing ideas, Ending in an epic battle that throws shadows over lord of the rings and chronicles of narina, this book pits all life against god himself.

                The ending is both heart wrenchingly sad and joyously happy, incredibly life affirming and just overall fan bloomin tastic!

                Written for children, this is possibly the best book (or series should I say) brought out in the last 50 years.

                Price wise its about £6-£10 and comes in a variety of covers so, again, make sure you get the ones that match what you have or the book police will come over and spank you silly. And not in the fun kinda way.

                Kids? Get lost. This is OURS!!!

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                  26.04.2008 11:58
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                  great book to finish the trilogy

                  The amber spyglass is the 3rd book in 'his dark materials' by Phillip Pullman. It is another tale following the story of Lyra and also for the second book Will. It follows staright on from the second book, the subtle knife so once again it is a book that must be read in order so that you can understand what is going on. The reason for this is that it is a very complex book that twists and turns and follows a few different charcters throughout. Despite being complex it once again has brilliant descriptions and imaganitive storylines and happenings.

                  In this book, following on from the second Will is now the bearer of the Knife, which is a powerful and dangerous weapon that he understands very little abot other than what it can do. His task is to deliver this weapon to Lord Asriel on the command of his own dying father. He is not alone on this task as he is accompanied by angels but they are by no means the biggest help. The task would seem relativly easy but he cannot go looking for Lord Asriel without Lyra who has gone missing and Will has no idea where to look for her. Will must find Lyra as quickly as possible not only because she is the only one who can help him figure out the plots which intrigue him and put him in danger but also beacuse there is a war coming between the two great powers of the many worlds. Finding lyra is not Will's only problem as once he has the two of them will have to head directly for war and it is likly they will be caught up in it.

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                    31.01.2008 13:25
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                    Very good way to end the trilogy, makes me want to read his other work.

                    A little short of amonth ago, I woke up on Christmas morning and opened my presents. One of these was Philip Pullman's 'His Dark Materials' trilogy. I had eagerly awaited these (guessing I would get them for Christmas) and tucked into them immediately.
                    The first two in the trilogy, namely 'Northern Lights' and 'The Subtle Knife', leave you thristy for more. Pullman creates a fantastic tale over the course of the trilogy, leaving the reader needing closure.

                    'The Amber Spyglass' is significantly longer than the first two books, over 500 pages long, and at points in the middle, it seems to drag slightly.I found myself pushing through long descriptive paragraphs without incidences of conversation to break up the monotony. These descriptions were integral to the plot, as is everything, but I felt Pullman was close to going off at a tangent in these parts.
                    Pullman touches heavily on the religious nature of the books in this third and final installment. I had to put that to the back of mind and regard it purely as work of fiction. 'His Dark Materials' has been used in the same sentence as words such as 'heresy'and 'blasphemy', and I could see why, but I just readit as an imaginative tale.

                    Having said that, there is little else I can say to criticise it. In terms of plot, it follows a few different paths of characters. The main character of the series is Lyra Belacqua, a girl who has the weight of saving the world(s) on her shoulders. Accompanying her is Will Parry, a boy the same age as her. Will is the bearer of the Subtle Knife (the title of the 2nd book), and together they travel through different worlds with the aid of the knife. They are aided by characters such as Iorek Byrnison,king of the armoured bears, and Lord Asriel, intrepid explorer and guardian of Lyra.
                    Dr Mary Malone,who is first mentioned in the 2nd book, sets off on her own adventure in another world, encountering a new species and learning about Dust, the essence of all beings.

                    All other characters are mentioned on a regular basis, and the book is split well into chapters, providing good stopping points for readers who find such an extravagant tale exhausting and too much too take in all at once.
                    The characterisation is brilliant. I found it easy to picture the characters in my mind, from the main characters encountered in the first two books such as Lyra and Will, through to the harpies and the Gallivespians (little warriors like the people of Lilliput in Gulliver's Travels). Everything comes together well and, in the end, nearly all the questions are answered. The suspense is excellent, and I put the book the book down at the end, feeling disappointed because the tale was over. I can only equate it to the feeling I had when I read the last Harry Potter book, and realised there were no more coming.

                    I was very glad to have read the whole trilogy, and will probably read it again. And, of course, they are making them into films (although giving them different names such as 'The Golden Compass'.
                    Availability for buying the book:
                    Paperback: You can find 'The Amber Spyglass' individually and as part of the trilogy set. Prices rangedepending on where you look, although buying the book new will cost you £6.99. Ebay you are looking at a couple of pounds if that for a used copy. Hardbackversions can be found for between £5 and £10.

                    One final word of warning: if you have not previously read the other two books in the trilogy, the book will not make sense in many ways and the experience will not be as enjoyable.

                    Also on ciao.

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                      09.06.2005 19:27
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                      The Amber Spyglass concludes the His Dark Materials trilogy, which began with Northern Lights and continued with The Subtle Knife. The size of the task Pullman has set himself in concluding the vast, expansive work he has set up thusfar is reflected in this 550-page behemoth of a volume, with 38 chapters, compared to the 23 and 15 of the previous books respectively.

                      In summarising and assessing the qualities of the third and final book of the series, I will inevitably have to make some reference to events which have gone before - which, for people who haven't read the preceding books, will probably be minor spoilers. I'll try to keep these to a minimum, only reflecting on the earlier events when strictly necessary, but you have been warned ...

                      ~ A Recap ~

                      In Northern Lights, our protagonist Lyra, a young girl, and her dæmon (a physical embodiment of one's soul, essentially, taking animal form) Pantalaimon, travel North with a band of Gyptians searching for a group of kidnapped children. For her own part, Lyra goes further, to Svalbard, where she finds her uncle, Lord Asriel, who has discovered a way to break through the Northern Lights into another world, in search of a mysterious substance known as Dust, which he believes to be a source of great evil. Intrigued, moved by a sense of duty, and feeling that Dust may in fact be a force for good, Lyra leaves her world (similar to, but different from ours) behind, and follows Lord Asriel through the sky.

                      In The Subtle Knife, Lyra meets Will, a 12-year-old boy from our world who, fleeing from pursuers, stumbled into Cittigazze, the world to which Asriel's gateway led. He is searching for his father, and following the Alethiometer's advice, Lyra decides to help him, soon realizing their quests may be linked. In the deserted city, Will becomes the possessor of Æsahætter, the subtle knife itself; a much-coveted weapon which could decide the fate of all the worlds. Just as they begin to uncover the true nature of Dust, and the scale of Lord Asriel's real plans emerge, the enemies who have been trailing them catch up, and the pair are separated, the extent of their task a daunting, looming presence.

                      ~ World-hopping ~

                      So then, we begin The Amber Spyglass precisely where its predecessor left off. Will has learnt what it is he is required to do, but realizes he faces a crossroads - does he join one side of the great war which is looming, taking the power of the subtle knife with him, or does he resist the wishes of others, finding and rescuing Lyra, held captive thousands of miles away in a different world?

                      Even if he can accomplish this, where would the children's loyalties lie? Lord Asriel is a vastly powerful man, and claims to be fighting to destroy evil once and for all, but can they possibly trust him? There are other, conflicting, priorities that are crying for attention, although to see to them would be to put themselves in mortal danger.

                      Then there is the question of Dust. Doctor Malone, whom we left partway through The Subtle Knife, has emerged into a new world herself, one which may hold the answers to the most essential questions of existence. However, the Church are aware of her presence, and have foreseen her prophesised role in a Genesis-esque resolution which would bring disaster to everything they stand for. Dispatching a representative to track her down, they resolve to stop her from meeting up with Will and Lyra, at any cost.

                      These multiple paths are all laid teasingly open, and The Amber Spyglass sees them slowly start to converge, but to what ends?

                      ~ Endgame ~

                      Pullman gave himself a tricky task to resolve coming into this book, with so many potentially unresolved strands; things that are only hinted at or briefly touched upon at first, but grow to demand substantial resolution. However, he doesn't just tie up these loose ends; he creates a number of new ones, introducing new characters and sub-plots even at this late stage. In the grand plan, this comes off superbly, as although they are in some ways stand-alone stories, contained in separate chapters to the "main" action, they suddenly come together within the last quarter or so of the story, to dramatic effect. In fact, it probably takes even longer than that for the connections and causal links to emerge, to the extent that you are left seriously wondering at how the author will manage to pull it all together within the ever-dwindling number of pages.

                      But pull it together he does. As the multiple plots all converge to make one final plotline, it doesn't take quite the space to conclude that one might imagine. But I'm jumping ahead to the ending here … back we go …

                      Although he introduces a number of new sub-plots to the tale, this book isn't quite the grand step forward that The Subtle Knife was from Northern Lights - whereas the second book extended the scope of the series dramatically, this instead sticks with most of the conventions established in the opening two books. The Spyglass of the title, for instance, isn't quite such a redefining innovation as the knife was in the previous installment.

                      This is more, then, about further developing the central characters, partly with the addition of new ones. There are principally two sets of major new characters - the Mulefa, a strange horse-elephant-antelope sort of hybrid who ride on "wheels" and inhabit the world that is crucial to discovering the truth about Dust, and the Gallivespians, a tiny human-like race of spies, who ride Dragonflies and possess a deadly sting. As ever, all new additions are superbly written, full of idiosyncrasies that make them easily identifiable. A host of minor characters are also used, chiefly in and around the great battle, and several notable individuals from the previous books are re-introduced, neatly resolving a number of untied ends.

                      However, this is very much Will and Lyra's book - here more than in any other part of the trilogy, we get to see them changing and growing up; the loss of innocence that is so much a part of His Dark Materials shown to stunning, and incredibly powerful, effect. The issue of dæmons, which was initially such a major innovation of Northern Lights, is further explored and defined here, and the reader is reminded of the genius behind the creation of these roles. In creating Pantalaimon (Lyra's dæmon) et al, Pullman has reaped the benefits that come with an extra character; an extra voice to offer opinions, establish and participate in the dialogue, affect or be affected by the story etc, but has also avoided the problems of having too many central figures (confusion, logistical issues), as Pan, though a separate character, is inextricably part of Lyra's personality. Although he adds a further voice and role to the story, this is simply another part of our heroine's character - and through his actions, Lyra herself is better defined, as we often see two conflicting sides of her at once.

                      This growth of the central characters is not always wholly comfortable to witness, however. As with The Subtle Knife, although this book is entertaining, emotive and impressive, it still lacks some of the "magic", for want of a better word, that made the first book, Northern Lights, the stunning revelation that it was. Our main characters (not just Will and Lyra, but dozens of individuals who have played important parts in the tale) have been deeply scarred by their experiences, and even those who we could say have come out happier than they went in have done so at considerable cost. This is not a "happily-ever-after" sort of read; Pullman doesn't tend to give into the temptation to throw in a happy ending or two just to placate the reader - this bites of hardship and sacrifice, to go with any triumph and happiness that may occur.

                      This though, is probably what makes the book (and the trilogy) so great; and I use the word aware of its over-employment, but few other terms do justice. It isn't always pleasant to read, but it is undeniably powerful; it slowly captures the reader, winding them up in the story until they are in too deep to extract themselves and attain a passive, ambivalent perspective. I've never been quite so caught up in the resolution of a book, and I doubt many, if any, will live as long in the memory as this one surely will.

                      Pullman creates a reality (or set of realities) that exists far beyond the confines of the three volumes and 1,300-odd pages of this trilogy, such is the strength of the writing and caring, indulgent construction of setting and plot. The characters, especially Will and Lyra, are unlike any I have previously come across - so well written are they, they really do seem worryingly real, and the reader feels every one of their emotions as the lengthy endgame reaches its climax. If there is any weakness in this book, it is in the amount of time and space it takes to reach its resolution, but although occasionally slightly over-stretched, this does serve to crank up the tension and anticipation for the finale, which certainly doesn't fail to deliver.

                      The author perfectly balances the large-scale story of two great warring factions, breaking and making worlds as they clash, and the small-scale story of two children on their own separate, but growingly inter-related quests, moving between Biblical grandeur and individual emotion effortlessly and seamlessly. The writing, as in the previous two books, is near-perfect in its concise, evocative narrative and involving dialogue; words are rarely wasted.

                      One of the most notable aspects of the trilogy at large, carried through here, is the way in which Pullman stays clear of being simplistic or formulaic; he resists, for instance, giving us simply "good" or "bad" characters (aside from the central two, perhaps). Even the individual who moves into the archetypal villain's role in the first two books shows sufficient signs of redemption to make us reconsider our view of them throughout the story. Other notable characters remain ambiguous enough throughout for us to never classify them neatly; once again, the author demonstrating his achievment in creating a trilogy which has no easy answers, and really makes the reader think.

                      The accusations of blasphemy have some grounding, especially in some aspects of the great battle, but these need not adversely affect what is a simply stunning story on its own merits, outside of this debate. I didn't always like what was written, but for me, it didn't obstruct the quality of the story at large.

                      Perhaps the story would have been better (or at least, allowed to be viewed with less of the focus taken up by relatively minor issues) if Pullman had toned down the blasphemy and sections which he must have known would cause offence - although, on the other hand, he might well argue that they are as much an essential part of the work as anything else, and could not be changed without compromising the story at large. Either way, I didn't find this side of the book to be worthy of the hype and controversy it has attracted. Certainly, don't let it alone put you off.

                      Doubtless, I could go on much longer, but if only for the sake of my aching fingers, and the fact it's actually sunny outside, I'll conclude here. I've never read a trilogy as powerful as this, nor any book with as much ambition and scope as any one of these. No-one with an interest in literature should go without reading these, for they are a simply awe-inspiring achievement, and an exceptional story. The greatest problem with them for me now is that they're over.

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                        02.03.2004 07:22
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                        WARNING- Spoiler info, slight summary inside! SUMMARY- The story starts out right where the last book leaves off, will is on top of a hill by the tower of Angeli. Will is the main character, along with Lyra. It was Will?s strong will that got them the subtle knife and now he must find Miss Coutler, who had kidnapped Lyra during the battle for the knife. He is guided by two rebel angles, Baruch and Balthamos, to Lyra. They agreed to help him find her if he would go with them to Lord Asriel when they did. Lord Asriel is gathering an army to fight against the Authority, or God. God is only a power-hunger angle, the first to come in to consciousness. Along the way to Lyra will meets up with Iorek, the king of the armored bears, and an old friend of Lyra?s. With his help, Will goes to the cave where Miss coutler is holding Lyra. The Church, under the rule of God seeks to kill Lyra. She is part of a prophecy about her being like the Eve of the bible. Lord Asriels Gyrocopters and Iorek battle the Church while Will grabs Lyra and cuts a hole to a new world, one of the many powers of the Subtle Knife. Will, Lyra, Iorek and two gallavespian spies of Asriels go through the portal and Will closes it. The knife was broken because Wills mind was torn while he opened the portal. Iorek, a master smith of the armored bears, helps reforge the subtle knife along with Will and Lyra. They must travel to the world of the dead and talk with Will?s father and Lyra?s friend Roger. They cut a way there with the knife. There they learn some shocking secrets about the knife, god, and the world of the dead. At the same time, the forces of lord Asriel begin a defining battle with the forces of the Authority outside his adamant Tower. Read to find out what happens to Lyra, Will, and all the realities in existence. REVIEW- Philip Pullman, the author, is a genius with his words. As in the other two books, you will feel as if y
                        ou are right there with them. The third book brings a higher level of importance, and of quality of the book, if that?s even possible. This book is my personal favorite as the best of the three. I would recommend it to just about anyone who is over 12, and I am sure any fantasy book reader will want to have this in his/her collection. Setting- Our time, various worlds. Genre- Fantasy Theme- Make the righteous choice. Zack.T

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                        23.11.2003 20:16
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                        Right, I?ve dealt with The Northern Lights and The Subtle Knife so I guess it was kinda obvious that I was gonna get around to The Amber Spyglass sooner or later ? so OK, it?s sooner rather than not ? like the Guitarist Gary Lucas said: a little pain is good for you. There is no pain, however, in The Amber Spyglass, unless you take into account that it has, at some point, to end. It?s really is that simple. In many ways great stories are made by their climaxes. If only because it leaves the final and most indelible imprint in our minds. If all that went before is brilliant and all that ends is dross, we have a tendency to forget the beginning and mourn the end. The Amber Spyglass comes together brilliantly. As I mentioned in my review of The Subtle Knife (I know, I?m painfully self-referential) the final novel comes towards a kind of convergence; of themes, characters and story arcs. Everything is pulled together tightly like the pull-string of a bag. The stakes are raised, the risks become greater and the threats more imminent. Without changing tone, or pacing, Pullman careens towards crescendo. And what a crescendo! Why? Because by the end everything has changed. We are not necessarily on the same side as we were at the beginning. It?s taken for granted that ultimately we are still rooting for Lyra and Will, because they are the mainstays of the novel, they are what keeps us grounded while all else shifts. As our respect for them grows so does that of characters within Pullman?s fictional world; so enemies become friends and new enemies appear. Lyra and Will are put in distinctly greater danger and under a more terrible emotional strain. Yet in many ways most of the characters seem to attain or approach a kind of personal emotional climax. Even the dastardly Mrs Coulter finds her true emotional self. There is a removal of baggage, like a re-birth occurring within the novel; for because the final nov
                        el is about a revolution in the most broad and basic sense. It is a revolution of self against the ultimate establishment. Here Pullman?s true tirades against organised religion come into full force, and yet he gets away with it because he does so with such create verve and vigour that it is flawless. I know some think that the anti-religious aspects of the novel obscure the story, but I think that one feeds the other and it gives Pullman the passion and the energy to keep going at such a furious pace. His passions for freedom and desire to put across a message fuel his storytelling and the results are staggering. I keep using superlatives a lot about His Dark Materials but I think that they are well placed for Pullman never lets us down. Even in the quieter corners of the novels there is no sense of superfluity. We do not question the relevancy of the material, we accept that it has a place and function within the greater scope of the story, and everything so does. The upheavals in the story as Lyra and Will tumble closer to the end are perfectly matched because we have the war, where chaos rages; the violence and danger of which are clearly tangible threats to Lyra and Will mirrored by the violence and danger to Lyra and Will within themselves, as they grow up and change. They are forced to confront themselves and the consequences of their actions; they ask extremes of themselves ? in terms of body and spirit - and in many ways betray themselves. They choose greater danger when they are already surrounded by it. Once again there is the question of choice. They are not pushed or cajoled into danger, it is already there, but they choose to walk further into it because there lays redemption, and the chance, if any, for a better future. They are taking responsibility for themselves and the freedom of a multitude of people at large. This is not necessarily because they are great heroes seeking fame and fortune but because of their own inner
                        demons and needs. They are living up and look forward to their maturity. We are watching the two youngsters evolve into people that we would be proud to be: brave yet flawed and always so very human and humane. Pullman again avoids cliché. It is often the mark of a poor storyteller that the protagonists are never given a moments rest, that they are forever in a state of danger; this avoids the need to fully flesh out character. Here we are given breathers within the action, because Pullman realises that it is action as well as inaction or immobility that illustrates character. Someone with time on their hands, such as Mary, uses it well, and doesn?t mooch around going, oh well, I?ve not really got much to do in the story at the moment so I think I?ll mope. There is no such childishness at all. There is a purpose and choice behind each purpose in the novel ? even possible lack of purpose. We are entertained because Pullman is as interested in intellectual, moral and spiritual excitement as he is in visual, visceral, and action orientated excitement. He is not over weighting one side of his story to the detriment of the other. He creates a delicate balance, just as he does between character and story. Neither one ever truly dominates. This is perhaps the mark of a master storyteller. I think as well that the end is beautifully fitting, because though as readers we want everyone to be happy, we are not allowed a cliché happy ending. It is entirely bittersweet and all the better for it, as it illustrates the distance Pullman?s characters have gone that they can deal with their more extreme emotions in a mature, sophisticated way. As the novels begin we have no doubt that Lyra or Will can deal with these feelings, and as The Amber Spyglass comes to an end we see what fine people they have become and rejoice in their progress. It is hard to put across the sheer emotional weight of these novels. They are staggeringly imagina
                        tive; the characters are lovingly drawn and their development beautifully crafted, and yet the terrible emotional impact that they have is quite stunning. I felt quite bereft having finished them because there was no more left to read. Also I wanted to explore these worlds and these characters even further. I wanted to know more, see more, feel more, to delve deeper and deeper till I was steeped in the lore and machinery of these places. This is because the worlds and characters that Pullman created are fully real and existed before The Northern Lights and will exist after The Amber Spyglass. It is a truly moving experience. There is nothing else to say.

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                          13.04.2003 23:00
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                          The Amber Spyglass is the third and final part of Philip Pullman's highly successful His Dark Materials trilogy. Although I finished the book some days ago now, it has taken me quite some time to try and commit my thoughts on it to a review. The entire trilogy has been dense, absorbing and rich in ideas and sub-plots, but the Amber Spyglass is the longest and most challenging of them all, and it takes some time to work out quite where to begin. I think it is worth doing, though. As winner of the Whitbread Book of the Year 2001, this is a story that is just begging to be read and enjoyed by children and adults alike. -The Story is About... The His Dark Materials trilogy is set in a universe where there are countless parallel worlds, all overlapping and close to one another, yet never quite touching. In the first book of the trilogy (Northern Lights) we are introduced to a girl named Lyra in her world - an Oxford similar to the one we know, but with many differences. In Lyra's world, everyone has a daemon (an external being appearing as an animal in form, which reflects their person's true personality; Lyra's daemon being Pantalaimon) and the Church has become very powerful, regulating the lives of the people it governs. In this Oxford, Lyra lives in Jordan College, with the scholars as her guardians and teachers. In the second book (the Subtle Knife), we meet out other protagonist, Will. Will is a boy from our own world, living alone in Winchester with his sick mother and who is on a quest to find his missing father. The destiny of these two children is akin to that of Adam and Eve, it is there actions that will either save or condemn all the worlds in the universe and those people within them. By the start of the Amber Spyglass, Lyra and Will have both travelled through windows into a world other than their own - the Italian Renaissance-style world of Cittagazze - and joined forces. They are each armed with a power
                          ful device; Lyra with her alethiometer or truth reader that will answer any question she asks of it, and Will with the Subtle Knife, a blade that has the ability to cut windows between the various worlds. It becomes apparent to them both that the mission intended for them is to travel to the world of the dead, one of the many realms of their universe. This particular world was not a natural one, but rather a creation of The Authority (God), who built a grey and miserable land policed by harpies to punish all living beings for the original sin of Adam and Eve. To get to this world means leaving their souls/daemons on the other side of the River Stix and entering a state where they are neither alive nor dead, but suffering a feeling of heart wrenching loss for the absence of part of their selves (Will only realises he too has a daemon the moment it is torn away from him). This is a huge gamble for the children to take - by betraying their daemons in such a way they may have lost them forever. Meanwhile, Lord Asriel (Lyra's father) has created a vast fortress in yet another world and is preparing for war. This is to be a grand battle between Asriel and the Kingdom of Heaven, the base for The Authority and his Regent, the angel Metatron, the outcome of which determining the safety of the children to complete their destinies. In another world again there is Mary Malone - a physicist from our world who has travelled through another window - who is to ultimately play the role of the tempter in this modern Garden of Eden. It is Mary who creates the Amber Spyglass itself and who plays a pivotal role in the discovery of the secret of Dust, a mysterious form of particle that that been present throughout the trilogy. Between them, the characters are set for a conclusion of Biblical proportions. - But what did I think? Although initially published as a children's book, this is unlike anything for children I have ever read - it is on a
                          huge scale, mixing philosophy, religion, myth and science into a richly imaginative fantasy adventure. It is perfectly clear that Pullman is an atheist from the word go, from his use of the Church as an oppressive and cruel governing power in Lyra's world, to the cowardly actions of the angels and Asriel's war on the Kingdom of Heaven. Religious symbolism abounds in this book in more subtle ways, too, such as the naming of Asriel (after Azrael, the angel of death - rather fitting when considered in light of his final role in the downfall of the Authority) and the final scene of the two children together in a garden (reflecting Eden and reinforcing the Adam and Eve theme). Although making for a very original storyline, it has not been without controversy. Some people have accused Pullman of promoting Satanism over his use of such symbols, and one boy in America even wrote to the author to say he was going to sue because his religion had been criticised! I think this is a little unfair though - Pullman is not promoting devil worship, but rather looking at Christian mythology from a new perspective. The writing is every bit as good in the Amber Spyglass as it was for the previous two instalments in this trilogy. I enjoyed it, though I didn't feel the same sense of urgency to find out what happens next as I did before. This is not to say that the story didn't bring things together into a satisfying conclusion, but rather that the new worlds and secondary characters brought into the trilogy in this book weren't quite as vivid and fascinating as the earlier ones were. In the first two books, the attention to detail and characterisation brought everything to life so well, and you couldn't help but identify with and feel empathy for the two children. I somehow couldn't "get into" things as easily as I had been doing here though, and the new characters seemed a little two dimensional in comparison. Still, this is larg
                          ely irrelevant. Anyone who had read Northern Lights and the Subtle Knife will inevitably want to finish things off by reading the Amber Spyglass. Overall, this is a cracking set of books and suitable for readers aged 12 and up in my view (in light of the complex themes, especially in the third volume, I think it may be unsuitable for younger readers). I would certainly recommend all three. - The details The Amber Spyglass was published in 2000 by Scholastic publishing, and came out in paperback in 2001. The paperback edition costs £6.99, but the whole trilogy can be bought for £8.00 from BOL.com at the moment (just search under "northern lights"). You can access a reader's guide for the Amber Spyglass at: http://www.randomhouse.com/features/pullman/amberspyglass/rgg.html

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                            24.03.2003 17:16
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                            'The Amber Spyglass' is the third book in a trilogy. More than that, it is the drawing together of many thoughts stories and characters in a stunning conclusion that will leave you thinking. The problems are these - it is not a standalone book, if you haven't read the other two, it won't make much sense. If you haven't read the other two and you read this op then inevitably there are going to be some plot spoilers, I'll do my best to avoid spoiling the first two, but it isn't going to be easy. The background - William Parry is a lad from our world who has a fantastic knife that can cut anything, even reality itself. Lyra is a girl from a different world entirely, part of her soul is manifest outside her body and can take various animal forms. Her father, Lord Asriel, has declared war on god - 'The Authority' while her mother, Mrs Coulter, has strong ties to the church. By the end of the second book you know that Lyra has a destiny, and you even know what it is, but not quite what it means. Scroll on if you don't want spoilers for books one and two. After finding her way into another world and meeting Will, the two children get the Subtle knife, but before the witches who were helping them can get them to Lord Asriel, Mrs Coulter kidnaps Lyra, taking her to a hidden valley. While Will searches for his friend, Lyra dreams of the world of the dead and of her lost friend Roger who is trapped in this grey, unending land, not really alive, but still aware. These nightmares decide Lyra's future for her, and take her and Will on a strange journey through many worlds where they will meet may strange beings - ghosts, harpies, deaths, tiny and deadly Gallivespians, armoured bears, witches, Mulefa (who ride around on seed pods). Meanwhile Mary Malone (the scientist from book 2) has travelled into another world and is studying the mysterious dust with the Mulefa - four legged, trunked sentient bein
                            gs who roll about on wheels using ancient lava flows as roads. Mary knows it is her job to tempt Lyra, to 'play the serpent' but how will she do this? It soon becomes evident that there is more at stake than anyone could possibley have imagines. Whiel Mary struggles to solve the riddles of dust, the Church have sent out an assassin to kill Lyra before she can fullfill her destiny. This is a fascinating book which brings the trilogy to a striking conclusion. It has a lot to say about the church and the effects of Christianity on the development of intelligent thought. Devout Christians may find some of this troubling. There's a lot of material that is inevitabley going to generate philosophical thought. There's a lot of science - evolution, and physics mostly. The book is bursting with concepts, and after reading it, there are one or two things you may never think of in quite the same way agin - especially the Christian creation myths. Having read the trilogy, I can see why they have been so highly acclaimed in Pagan circles. I think this third book is by far the best of the three, its a stunning piece of work and well worth reading, but only after you have read the other two or you aren't going to have a clue what's going on. Furthermore, the books are beautifully written, with a fine attention to detail and some well developped ideas, settings and characters. I cannot praise this book enough. All I wonder is, what on earth would a younger reader make of it?

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                            Third in the 'His Dark Materials' trilogy