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The Amber Spyglass
by Philip Pullman

Release Date: 6th Aug 2007
Publisher: Scholastic
ISBN: 978 1 4071 0406 5
RRP: £7.99

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In this, the latest of His Dark Materials trilogy, Lyra and Will have to battle against specres, cliff ghasts, harpies as well as the formidable Metatron in order to save the worlds.

Fortunately, they are not without help in the form of angels and the inimitable Lord Asriel, but still it is a mammoth task for two youngsters and at times it all seems overwhelming.

Mrs Coulter continues to surprise us – hers is truly a complex character that illustrates perfectly how one can be neither good nor completely wicked but that there is a vast ‘grey area’ in between. Nothing is more unpredictable than human nature, especially when emotion comes into it. We finally believe that she loves her daughter, despite her woefully lacking maternal skills and in inability to translate that love into anything less meaningful than self destruction.

Astonishingly, the depth of philosophical and religious thinking is immense. Pullman asks questions of God – Who is he? Where is he? Why has he abandoned us? The author’s answers to these significant questions may raise eyebrows, but still provides as good a repost as any to the widely held perceptions of God, Heaven and Hell. Indeed, the fact that Lyra and Will have to “free” the dead from a prison-like world so they can return to the atoms from whence they came, illustrates only too clearly a predisposition to query the validity of common religious thought.

The Amber Spyglass is harder going than its two predecessors, but Pullman throws so much theological debate into this children’s fictional book, that the fact is hardly surprising. What is surprising is that the manner in which Pullman achieves this is inoffensive and even as an adult, one can find some plausibility in his argument, despite the fantastical presence of witches, ghouls and such forth.

On a sour note, I found the ending disappointing. Not that it didn’t tie off the series nicely, it did. I just found it irritating that after suspending so much disbelief in order to engage with the characters and the different worlds theory, that in the end, Pullman decided that the salvation of everything depended on two small children awakening to the pull of their hormones and realising that they fancy each other. Ok, so Pullman calls it love – but that somehow doesn’t make me feel any better. I could have just done without the mush that consumed that latter pages.
A truly magnificent piece of writing. Pullman is phenomenal at creating a entirely new universe for us to explore.


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