Review: The Amber Spyglass

Philip Pullman (2000)

Whenever I’m asked to describe Philip Pullman’s young adult fantasy series His Dark Materials, I compare them to The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. And while I really enjoyed reading C.S. Lewis’ series when I was in junior high, I don’t recall holding my breath while I did it. The Amber Spyglass is a heart-pounding action adventure, epic in scope and so vividly told that the story fairly leaps off the page and pulls you along with it. Like the wild ride of an Indiana Jones movie, there were points in the book where I had to put it down and catch my breath before reading on.

Lyra and Will, the teenage heroine and hero of the series are back for one last adventurous trek through strange worlds populated by witches, armor-clad polar bears, angels, scientists, tiny dragon-fly riding spies, and harpies, just to name a few.  I’ve tried on three different occasions now to summarize the plot, but it’s just too complex and strange, and unfortunately too much time has elapsed for me to get all the details right. Suffice it to say that Pullman has crafted an excellent story and infused his characters with such genuine emotion and depth that it makes for a very satisfying read.

To put it another way, when this series comes to the big screen (Tom Stoppard is writing the screenplay for the first installment!!) if they do it right, His Dark Materials could surpass Harry Potter both visually and spiritually. (And this is coming from a die-hard Potter fan!) I’m looking forward to revisiting Lyra, Mrs. Coulter, Iorek the valiant polar bear king, the tiny Gallivespian spies, Lee Scorsby, Serafina Pekula and Will and experiencing their epic journey all over again. [**** 1/2]

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