JohnDesu Reviews

The Amber Spyglass by Phillip Pullman


Lyra and Will, the two ordinary children whose extraordinary adventures began in The Golden Compass and continued in The Subtle Knife, are in unspeakable danger. With help from the armored bear Iorek Byrnison and two tiny Gallivespian spies, they must journey to a gray-lit world where no living soul has ever gone. All the while, Dr. Mary Malone builds a maagnificent amber spyglass. An assassin hunts her down. And Lord Asriel, with troops of shining angels, fights his mighty rebellion, a battle of strange allies—and shocking sacrifices.

As war rages and Dust drains from the sky, the fate of the living—and the dead—finally comes to depend on two children and the simple truth of one simple story. The Amber Spyglass reveals that story, bringing Philip Pullman’s His Dar Materials to an astonishing conclusion.


The third and final book of His Dark Materials, the Amber Spyglass, is the longest and largest of the series. By largest, I’m not just referring to the size of the book, but the scale and breadth of the story and worlds. The story takes place in quite a few different parallel worlds and there is a lot going on.

Before I delve into any plot points, let’s revisit something I brought up in my review of The Golden Compass: the anti-religious themes of the series. Well, they are there for sure, but I don’t think they are as blatant and egregious as many would make them out to be. Depending on the age of the reader, I would say that many children would have a hard time distinguishing Pullman’s rhetoric from the plot of the story. They all may just kind of meld together. In fact, when I originally read this book, I didn’t pick up many of the anti-religious themes or details. One point I’ve seen brought up in other reviews, is that Will and Lyra kill God. For a certainty, it does happen. But God isn’t ever really described as the one God in the novel, and they don’t really kill him. He just kind of falls apart due to his fragility. I’m sure there are plenty of ways to read deeper into the moment of his death (I can think of a few), but I don’t really understand why people seem so caught up on that happening.

Alright, back to Lyra and Will, our two protagonists. A couple interesting things to note about these two that I think is somewhat rare for young adult literature. Will is (as he says many times through the books) a murderer and Lyra is a liar. Will isn’t any axe-wielding maniac or anything, but he does kill people and does identify himself as a murderer. Also just as true is categorizing Lyra as a liar. To me she doesn’t seem much worse than many children, but she does lie a lot to escape problems or even just embellish a story. Saying all that, I think that both Lyra and Will are extremely convincing protagonists and watching their relationship develop throughout the books is one of my favorite parts of the story.

So, I’m going to start putting the summary of my reviews before the spoiler filled part of my review. That way you can read my opinion of the books I review and not have to risk the spoilers.

There isn’t much else to say about His Dark Materials that I haven’t already touched upon in my reviews of the other books. It’s a fast-paced young adult fantasy that I think is full of great characters, settings, and plot points. Read it if you’re young, read it if you’re old!


More on Will now. Will is loyal, clever, honest and strong. He always wants to do the right thing and that drives me crazy. By the end of the book, Will and Lyra are madly in love. Will decides he must do the right thing and they will leave open only once window between worlds, the window between the land of the dead and world of the Mulefa. That drives me insane! I appreciate Will’s want to do the best thing for the worlds by limiting how much dust can move between worlds, but I think that occasionally opening one more window just so he can be with Lyra and travel home when he needs to won’t mess every thing up. Alright, alright, so a Spectre will be created every time a window is open. Well, Xaphania says she has that situation under control. Okay, maybe that won’t last forever. Still, one more window being open can’t hurt the situation too much! Personally, I’d like to believe in True Love and that’s why the ending of this book is so painful for me. Will and Lyra belong together! It really sucks having to watch them split forever.

Mrs. Coulter. An intrinsically evil woman, who ends up giving up everything to protect her daughter Lyra. It’s cool how she never stopped being evil, she lied and seduced everyone all the way to her death.

Iorek. Still a badass armored bear. Enough said.

Mary Malone. I really liked her character and her role in the story. Her interactions with the mulefa were fun for me as well. They were spaced out nicely in the book alongside Lyra and Will’s storyline.

Finally, Pantalaimon. Man do I wish I had a dæmon to keep me company. I thought it was really fun concept that Pullman explored here and added a lot to the story. Probably boosted the enjoyability level for younger readers as well. I know it did for me when I originally read His Dark Materials.


This Book - B+

The Series - A