Monday, April 15, 2013

THE AMBER SPYGLASS


Review of THE AMBER SPYGLASS by PHILIP PULLMAN
(third in HIS DARK MATERIALS trilogy)

The final book his Pullman's epic HIS DARK MATERIALS trilogy opens with a powerful, building tension. I've already raved about his worldbuilding skills; this whole series feels real (extra impressive with fantasy) with vivid characters, striking settings, complex politics, and countless debates and themes one could probably contemplate over an entire lifetime.

In THE AMBER SPYGLASS, Pullman utilizes a unique writing strategy: little snippets of a scene between chapters. For an even more compelling twist, the excerpts from the scene cut off mid-sentence and pick up from the same place at the end of the next chapter. This approach slowed down the realization, for me at least, about what was going on, culminating in an even stronger reaction when the truth sneaked up on me.

I felt Lyra lost a teensy bit of her spunk in THE SUBTLE KNIFE. Apparently, what it takes to finally startle that child is tossing her into another world. Okay, that's fair. In THE AMBER SPYGLASS, though, she steadily gains back some of the confidence that lessened in the last book. She and Will set about changing the world - actually all the worlds - without even trying and Pullman pulls off the "prophesied-one" cliché with sincerity and depth.

Pullman also sprinkles tantalizing details about the infinite other worlds into the story, but there's a looming "tip of the iceberg" sense. These details wake your imagination past what's on the page, blossoming out into an endless list of possibilities: worlds, creatures, soul/dust manifestations, culture, etc.

I also admired how this vast, ambitious epic fantasy winds down and wraps up. Certain formulas become common in any genre, but THE AMBER SPYGLASS avoids any simplistic conclusions and delves into the sacrifices and complications still remaining even after bigger problems have been handled. It's no wonder HIS DARK MATERIALS has become such a beloved, popular classic! The trilogy definitely belongs on my all-time favorites list!

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