Sunday, 7 February 2010

The Amber Spyglass

Yesterday I finished The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman, the last in the His Dark Materials Trilogy. After being amazed by the first book but underwhelmed by the second, I wasn't sure what to expect.

It is, in fact, a novel of extraordinary ambition, following the desperate paths of 5 key figures from Northern Lights and The Subtle Knife and introducing several more. The action moves between several worlds, as each of the protagonists seeks to achieve their aims.

Although published as a children's novel, the themes covered are far from childish - the use (and abuse) of free will, personal sacrifice, the redeeming power of love and how we treat the world around us are but four. Nor is Pullman afraid to confront death head on with several characters (over the course of the trilogy) meeting their ends with what happens after death a key theme in The Amber Spyglass.

The ambition of the novel - and indeed all three books - is largely achieved. That said, I did feel that some of the dialogue in the third book was a bit clunky where some of the more complex concepts were being explained. My biggest concern with the book was the unashamedly anti-catholic stance taken. This is not because I wish to defend Catholicism or organised religion - I just feel the metaphor should have been allowed to stand on its own terms.

Minor niggles aside, however, this was a satisfying read which left enough to merit a future reading - from which I'm sure I shall glean more. I will be thoroughly recommending the trilogy to all who ask and many that don't.


My previous book reviews can be read here.

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