Lost in a valley by the snow line lies Lyra Belacqua, sleeping a drugged sleep under the control of her doting, deceitful mother. While she sleeps, she dreams hateful images of her own act of betrayal, her childhood companion whispering her name, entreating her from the depths of a dark place.
Lyra has a task, a fate to fulfill, and already her partner in that burden is seeking her. Will, the boy from another world, is approaching her prison. Together they have a journey to make, in strange company, before they reach the battle they have long been destined to face…
First published: 2000
After absolutely loving the second book in this series, The Subtle Knife, I was excited to read the final part of the story and find out how on earth this was all going to come to an end. I’m not gonna lie, I had pretty high expectations for The Amber Spyglass, because The Subtle Knife pretty much blew me away. I’m a bit sad to say that I was a little disappointed.
The Subtle Knife was criticised for introducing way too many new aspects to the story while no longer focussing enough on the already existing ones, and I didn’t agree with that. However, that was exactly what I felt concerning The Amber Spyglass. While it focuses on Will and Lyra, there are also so many other characters that get their own scenes or chapters and also a couple of new worlds. I simply wasn’t as invested in the entire thing as I was before.
A good example is Mary Malone, a scientist who plays a very important role in the book. I liked her as a characters but because she exists in complete isolation from any of the other main characters, her storyline, while important, didn’t seem to integrate well into the rest. It didn’t mesh, at least, not until the end, but there’s 500 pages to get through before then.
It’s not that I didn’t enjoy the story – I really liked reading about Will and Lyra again, and they met loads of interesting people and creatures on their journey. But there were quite a lot of eye roll moments for me. Things were just a bit too easy or too coincidental. They just happened to run into that person there, or somehow managed to convince a previously deeply evil character to help them. There was also a lot of “if we do this then that will happen” without a clear reason why that would happen or why they knew it would. I just didn’t buy it. Plus, I kind of despised the ending.
I was surprised by Mrs Coulter, Lyra’s mother, however. While before she’d just appeared to be completely evil, this book actually portrayed her as a very complex character. She did a lot of contradictory things, and I’m still not entirely sure what her motives were for everything she did, but she was really intriguing, and I liked it. She was much more interesting as a character to me than Lyra’s father, Lord Asriel, who also had multiple layers but just seemed to be a power-hungry jerk most of the time.
There were so many interesting concepts in this series, but for me The Amber Spyglass was a bit of a disappointing finale. While at some points it felt like way too much detail was provided about unnecessary things, at other points the plot felt much too rushed.
Nevertheless, I still think the universe of His Dark Materials is amazing and truly fascinating, and I remain in awe of Pullman’s storytelling abilities. I’ve also seen loads of positive reviews about this finale on Goodreads, so I guess it really is just a matter of taste, and I would still definitely recommend this series!.