The Amber Spyglass

- Philip Pullman

Goodreads Book Blurb:

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…

Series / Genres:

My Review:

enjoyable/easy to read:
3/5
The Amber Spyglass is an interesting read, but it’s incredibly dense.

It takes long practice, yes. You have to work. Did you think you could snap your fingers, and have it as a gift? What is worth having is worth working for.

So much happens in the His Dark Materials series that it’s hard to tell how much time passes. This is good because you get lost in the story, but it also means that some of the events at the end feel slightly uncomfortable. In Northern Lights, Lyra is a child, and Will, though he seems older than Lyra when we meet him in The Subtle Knife, is still awfully young. Especially since their daemons haven’t settled, and this all starts with kids Lyra’s age being experimented on because they are children. And yes, this series is a retelling of Adam and Eve, so we know where this is all going, but it still felt icky once we got there.
Especially because there is very little description about what goes on between Lyra and Will, it hints at it being a lot more than just a chaste kiss to cement their love after everything they’ve been through together.

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.

Pullman had a lot of threads to pull together here, and I think he did an incredible job. A biblical retelling in multiple worlds from different perspectives is a lot to try to tie together in three books. It was more interesting than meaningful for me, considering I’m not religious, but I can certainly admire the work that went into this series.

"Lyra Silvertongue, what is this plan to visit the dead?"
"It came to me in a dream, Iorek. I saw Roger’s ghost, and I knew he was calling to me … You remember Roger. Well, after we left you, he was killed, and it was my fault, at least I felt it was. And I think I should just finish what I began, that’s all: I should go and say sorry, and if I can, I should rescue him from there. If Will can open a way to the world of the dead, then we must do it."
"Can is not the same as must."
"But if you must and you can, then there’s no excuse."
"While you are alive, your business is with life."
"No, Iorek," she said gently, "our business is to keep promises, no matter how difficult they are. You know, secretly, I’m deadly scared. And I wish I’d never had that dream, and I wish Will hadn’t thought of using the knife to go there. But we did, so we can’t get out of it."

As is a pretty common theme in the His Dark Materials series, there are a lot of heartbreaking moments in The Amber Spyglass. By this point, there are so many worlds and characters that it didn’t feel like we got to spend enough time with any of them. Even saying that, though, I’m still upset over the loss of some of the best characters earlier in the series.

"When you stopped believing in God," he went on, "did you stop believing in good and evil?"
"No. But I stopped believing there was a power of good and a power of evil that were outside us. And I came to believe that good and evil are names for what people do, not for what they are. All we can say is that this is a good deed, because it helps someone, or that’s an evil one, because it hurts them. People are too complicated to have simple labels."

It took me a long time to get through The Amber Spyglass. As I said at the beginning, it felt incredibly dense and not as enjoyable as the first two books. I think I was more removed and interested rather than immersed and hooked. The narrative felt much more abstract, like a theological thought experiment – which I’m happy to read, it’s just going to take longer.

"I was flying high," she explained, "looking for a landfall, and I met an angel: a female angel. She was very strange; she was old and young together [...] Her name was Xaphania. She told me many things … She said that all the history of human life has been a struggle between wisdom and stupidity. She and the rebel angels, the followers of wisdom, have always tried to open minds; the Authority and his churches have always tried to keep them closed. She gave me many examples from my world."
"I can think of many from mine."
"And for most of that time, wisdom has had to work in secret, whispering her words, moving like a spy through the humble places of the world while the courts and palaces are occupied by her enemies."

Luckily, I’ve only just realised that there are several accompanying short stories/novellas for this series, as well as an entirely separate but related series! So I’m pretty excited to get to see more of Lyra (and fingers crossed for some Will as well?), especially some stories that I get to read with fresh eyes rather than as rereads. I hope they’re more like the first two books in this series and less like this last one.

I will love you forever, whatever happens. Till I die and after I die, and when I find my way out of the land of the dead, I’ll drift about forever, all my atoms, till I find you again

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