Thursday, March 17, 2011

Book [Series] Review: His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman

I'm choosing to review all three books of the His Dark Materials series in one post instead of reviewing them separately.

The Golden Compass (His Dark Materials #1)

Book Description

In a landmark epic of fantasy and storytelling, Philip Pullman invites readers into a world as convincing and thoroughly realized as Narnia, Earthsea, or Redwall. Here lives an orphaned ward named Lyra Belacqua, whose carefree life among the scholars at Oxford's Jordan College is shattered by the arrival of two powerful visitors. First, her fearsome uncle, Lord Asriel, appears with evidence of mystery and danger in the far North, including photographs of a mysterious celestial phenomenon called Dust and the dim outline of a city suspended in the Aurora Borealis that he suspects is part of an alternate universe. He leaves Lyra in the care of Mrs. Coulter, an enigmatic scholar and explorer who offers to give Lyra the attention her uncle has long refused her. In this multilayered narrative, however, nothing is as it seems. Lyra sets out for the top of the world in search of her kidnapped playmate, Roger, bearing a rare truth-telling instrument, the compass of the title. All around her children are disappearing—victims of so-called "Gobblers"—and being used as subjects in terrible experiments that separate humans from their daemons, creatures that reflect each person's inner being. And somehow, both Lord Asriel and Mrs. Coulter are involved.

The first book of the series was the hardest read for me.  I'm not an avid fantasy reader, and sometimes it's hard for me to fully enter a world and "see" things properly while I read.  Even though I struggled through this one a bit, I never lost interest.  By the end I was fully invested in the characters - Lyra! - and ready to immediately pick up book 2.

The Subtle Knife (His Dark Materials #2)

Book Description

Here is the highly anticipated second installment of Philip Pullman's epic fantasy trilogy, begun with the critically acclaimed The Golden Compass. Lyra and Will, her newfound friend, tumble separately into the strange tropical otherworld of CittĂ gazze, "the city of magpies," where adults are curiously absent and children run wild. Here their lives become inextricably entwined when Lyra's alethiometer gives her a simple command: find Will's father. Their search is plagued with obstacles--some familiar and some horribly new and unfathomable--but it eventually brings them closer to Will's father and to the Subtle Knife, a deadly, magical, ancient tool that cuts windows between worlds. Through it all, Will and Lyra find themselves hurtling toward the center of a fierce battle against a force so awesome that leagues of mortals, witches, beasts, and spirits from every world are uniting in fear and anger against it. This breathtaking sequel will leave readers eager for the third and final volume of His Dark Materials.

The second book of the series was set in a world much like our own.  This was a much easier read for me.  I was so hooked and loved the new characters Pullman introduced - Will and Mary Malone.

The Amber Spyglass (His Dark Materials #3)

Book Description

The Amber Spyglass brings the intrigue of The Golden Compass and The Subtle Knife to a heart-stopping end, making the final volume of His Dark Materials the most powerful of the trilogy.

Along with the return of Lyra, Will, Mrs. Coulter, Lord Asriel, Dr. Mary Malone, and Iorek Byrnison the armored bear, come a host of new characters: the Mulefa, mysterious wheeled creatures with the power to see Dust; Gallivespian Lord Roke, a hand-high spymaster to Lord Asriel; and Metatron, a fierce and mighty angel. So, too, come startling revelations: the painful price Lyra must pay to walk through the land of the dead, the haunting power of Dr. Malone's amber spyglass, and the names of who will live--and who will die--for love. And all the while, war rages with the Kingdom of Heaven, a brutal battle that--in its shocking outcome--will uncover the secret of Dust. Philip Pullman deftly brings the cliff-hangers and mysteries of His Dark Materials to an earthshattering conclusion--and confirms his fantasy trilogy as an undoubted and enduring classic.

The third book contained a world completely different than ours, but one I had absolutely no trouble losing myself in.  In fact, I didn't want to leave.

As stand alone books, these are good reads.  As a series, however, they become something great.  I ended the series with that ultimate feeling of having lost a friend.  I don't experience that often so I am quite fond of this series.  If you want to be captivated by something new, I highly recommend you check it out!

Have you read any of the His Dark Material books?  I love when I can lose myself in a new world and make new friends through a book!


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  1. I absolutely adore these books. The Amber Spyglass is my favorite of the three. After reading them, I really, really wanted my own daemon.

  2. I loved these books.
    However I found it's really hard to read the third. It took a long time till I can finish it.

  3. I've wondered what my daemon would be. :)

    I wouldn't mind the third book lasting a while. I really loved the world Mary Malone was in. This is a series I will reread.


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