The Amber Spyglass (2000) – Philip Pullman

The final novel in Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy is on the book shelf this week, and I was curious to know if it would have the same effect on me as it did when I first read it eighteen years ago.

I remembered nothing of the final half of the book after a heartbreaking incident occurred. It’s as if I blocked it. I remember crying a lot. I made it through a little easier this time, but it was not without a number of tears being shed.

The story is epic in size spanning worlds as our young heroes, Lyra and Will find themselves drawn to their destinies, as Lyra’s father Lord Asriel begins his war against the Authority, planning to tear down the Kingdom of Heaven, and make all worlds the Republic of Heaven.

Lyra’s mother, Mrs. Coulter comes into play, and we also revisit a number of characters we’ve grown to know and love over the trilogy.

There are overtones of Milton’s Paradise Lost running throughout the trilogy, as religion, science, innocence, ignorance and wisdom are themes all explored.


Our young heroes travel through countless worlds, and the book takes on a mythic quality as angels, daemons, harpies, ghosts, talking bears, and beautiful beings are encountered. There is the exploration and discovery of love and wisdom, the restraining influences of churches and religion, and the oneness of the universe.

It’s a beautifully written story, one that wrapped me up in it so much that I forgot the world around me, losing myself in the words, the characters and the moments. There is a lot of depth and layers to the story, and on the surface it works as this wonderful epic tale of youth, discovery, love and adventure.

We see how religions sprang up from the Authority, and its true nature, as well as the beauty of life around us. It speaks to how the moments we have are the important ones. That perhaps we shouldn’t be concerned with the promise of a kingdom to come, one that can only be reached by following the rules of those in power, but should be more dedicated to the heaven around us every day.

The arc for Lyra and Will is so well written, and the resolution of the tale ties up all the loose ends, and while it caused no small amount of tears, it ends with hope and love, and the knowledge that we as a species can be more. We are more, if only we would see it.

There are obvious overtones and references to Christian mythology and while some may take offence to them, I think they are all handled well, and respectfully, while urging the reader to see things in a different way.

A beautiful conclusion to a fantastic trilogy.


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