Review: The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman (His Dark Materials #3)

SCHOLASTIC, 2001/2000

Will is the bearer of the knife. Now, accompanied by angels, his task is to deliver that powerful, dangerous weapon to Lord Asriel – by the command of his dying father.

But how can he go looking for Lord Asriel when Lyra is gone? Only with her help can he fathom the myriad plots and and intrigues that beset him.

The two great powers of the many worlds are lining up for war, and Will must find Lyra, for together they are on their way to battle, an inevitable journey that will even take them to the world of the dead.

To read my thoughts on the previous books in His Dark Materials series, see The Northern Lights (#1)  and The Subtle Knife (#2). Fair warning: As this is the third and final book in the series, this review might spoil something from the previous books.

I read the second book in the series, The Subtle Knife, in early December and was blown off my feet. The ending was a big and emotional cliffhanger, and I craved for more. However, the third book wasn’t in the library at the time so it took me  two months to get my hands on this book. I had forgotten some of the details by then, but luckily they all came back to me while reading the first chapters.

The story centers around Lyra’s destiny and the final resolution of the worlds. As revealed in the first book, The Northern Lights, Lyra is believed to be the second Eve, and her fall would be the end of life as we know it. The Church wants to prevent the fall and the opposing side, Lord Asriel, wants an end to the rule of Church. The book, and the whole series, does not explicitly take sides on this debate (until perhaps the very end). This forces the reader to form his/her own opinion. What I loved about the second book was the use of multiple narrators which gives more dimension to the story. This is also prominent in the third book, but because of the multiple storylines that are tied together in the end, it does get a bit confusing from time to time. The Amber Spyglass also introduces new characters such as the mulefa, angels and The Authority.

On the whole, I didn’t find The Amber Spyglass as interesting or intriguing as The Subtle Knife. Of the whole series, the second book was by far my favourite. The overall story is, however, very interesting and I applaud Pullman for his writing and the concept. The intertextuality in all of the books is amazing and after this I feel encouraged to pick up Milton’s Paradise Lost. The series challenges the reader and the books are not one of those light, easy-to-read novels. And maybe that’s exactly what I love about them. I definitely recommend this series for all of its intertextuality and debate on religion and power.


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.

My review of The Northern Lights (#1) AND The Subtle Knife (#2).


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