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Book Review: The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman

25th January, 2016

Book Review: The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman

This is the final book of His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman and the first children’s book to be long listed for the Man Booker Prize. You can read the review of the first book Northern Lights/The Golden compass here and the second book The Subtle Knife hereThis review may contain spoilers as it is the third book in the series.

The Amber Spyglass takes you to different worlds- the world of the dead, the world of wheeled creatures called mulefas and the worlds already described in the earlier books. It tells the story of the battle between Authority and those who believe what the Church calls ‘sin’ is perhaps just a way of life innate in human nature. The Amber Spyglass is more emotional and less fast-paced than its predecessors.


The first two books were marvelous in the imaginary world that they created and the Amber Spyglass is no lesser. We embark on a journey with Lyra through the world of the dead after being separated from her daemon. (Those who have read the first two books would know how heart crushing that can be). The book stirs up your courage and astonishes you with the bonds of friendships that spring up. Will wants to rescue Lyra from the forbidden lands, Lord Asriel still dreams of questioning the Authority and Mary Maloney (the serpent) tumbles onto a world of mulefas where she realizes her destiny and constructs the Amber Spyglass. Now what does the spyglass do? You have to read the book to find out.

“I stopped believing there was a power of good and a power of evil that were outside us. And I came to believe that good and evil are names for what people do, not for what they are.

Pullman takes some liberties with the Church in the third book of the trilogy. He doesn’t show religion in a good light. God (known as the Authority) in His Dark Materials is portrayed as weak and feeble. God seems to a puppet in the hands of an angel named Metatron. The Church is still bent on banishing original sin and preventing the second fall of man (as made clear earlier in the trilogy, Lyra is the Second Eve) . On the other hand Will and Lyra  become more intimate with each other as a part of growing up.

Book Review: The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman

Overall, I did not enjoy the book as much as the first two. Mrs. Coulter’s character keeps changing hues that I am unable to comprehend. Pullman does not give a solid definition for ‘Dust’ which has mystified us from the first book. Perhaps the author intends it to be that way, but personally I was expecting a far more defined explanation. Moreover I think many of the underlying themes require a lot of thought, so this should be more regarded as an adultish book rather than masqueraded as a children’s book.

“I have stolen ideas from every book I have ever read.”

Often I felt unnecessary characters (read ‘mulefa’) and plot deviations (again, read ‘mulefa) are introduced with the sole purpose of increasing word count. I did not enjoy the mulefa world at all and often wanted to skip through to read about the more exciting worlds beyond theirs. However I wanted to devour everything about the other worlds. Though slightly disappointed with the way the book has shaped up, it does comfort the soul to know how Will and Lyra’s story ends. And yes, it is an emotional (read heart stirring, tear inducing) end. Even though less loved than the first two books, this one should be read for the wonderful story it tells and for walking with our beloved Lyra a little bit longer.

Title : The Amber Spyglass
Author : Philip Pullman
Publisher: Scholastic UK
Published : 2014 (Originally in 2000)
Language : English
Pages : 544
Rating : 3/5

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The Amber Spyglass (His Dark Materials, #3)

About the Author

Philip Pullman is a British writer named by The Times as one of the “50 greatest British writers since 1945”. His most well-known work is the trilogy His Dark Materials. The Amber Spyglass, final book of the trilogy,won the 2001 Whitbread Book of the Year award and was the first children’s novel ever to receive this honour. It was named Children’s Book of the Year at the 2001 British Book Awards, and was also longlisted for the Man Booker Prize, again the first time this had happened to a children’s book.

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This Post Has 12 Comments
    1. I was very surprised too. I was looking up your blog actually. To tell that I am starting Shakespeare reading next month. Decided to start with Twelfth Night and got a good edition that has small notes at the bottom. So would be useful since I have not studied Shakespeare before. You asked me to tell you, remember?

  1. Great response! I think it’s hard to “de-classify” it as a children’s book when we’re reading them as adults. We get such different things out of what a child gets when they read it. It’s like Little Women being a children’s book. As adults we focus on the illness and the sadness, but as a child we focus on the excitement of Christmas and creation. It’s fascinating isn’t it? (Caveat, I haven’t read these in almost a decade so the story isn’t that fresh in my mind.)

    1. This was a re-read actually. As much as it was a relief that everything came to an end in this one, Northern Lights remains my favourite. Perhaps because the idea was so brand new for me when I read it. And I knew what to expect in the rest of the series. ANd yes, its a wonderful trilogy.

  2. It’s been several years since I read this trilogy, and now I really want to read it again. I’d almost forgotten how fantastic these books are.

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