Bookshelf: The Amber Spyglass

The Amber Spyglass – Philip Pullman

The third and final of the ‘His Dark Materials‘ trilogy sees the main two protagonists, Lyra and Will essentially just wandering around. I know they go to the land of the dead and it’s all quite scary, and we learn more about dust (remember that) and daemons, but it just comes off as, well, just wandering around.

Let me put this in perspective – given the build up of the first two books, I was expecting this last one to be something of a ‘Return of the King’, but somehow, the two key children seem to miss the great battle a little and what goes on afterwards seems like Mr. Pullman just didn’t want to type ‘The End’.

Will seems to have forgotten his mother for great chunks of the book, or at least not be too bothered, Metatron gets a nice build up then seems to be gone in a page, as does his boss and Lord Asriel and company, which is a shame as I was hoping that was going to become a showdown with neither or them being good nor truly evil, but probably a lot closer to the latter.

I suppose for many of the adult characters, the point is that they’re arrogant and have more interest in who has the power, rather than the Platonic notion of what they do with it.

The writing itself is solid, but somehow what could have been show stopping, seems to get caught at acceptable. Mary Malone gets scant to do with the rest of the cast, though the mulefa and that story arc was well thought out provided a nice counterpoint of evolutionary concepts to balance the other ‘religious’ sentiment in the books. Ironically, she’s the one who makes the amber spyglass of the title, which gets used but a handful of times.

Of the throwaway characters, the assassin sent by the Church should receive a prize, or be fired for incompetence, were he not done away with swiftly and almost by accident. I did like the concept of his pre-emptive penance though, a nice touch on the concept of the forgiveness of sin.

In all then, it’s an ending of sorts to the trilogy whilst leaving the door open (excuse the pun) for another novel in the universe. In itself its worth reading if you’ve done the other two, but in isolation, I cant help feeling that somehow it loses its shape in the last third.

The Amber Spyglass @ Random House