Philip Pullman - Shastrix Books

Philip Pullman

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The Amber Spyglass

The Amber Spyglass

Philip Pullman

19th July 2013

The third and thankfully final book in the His Dark Materials trilogy completely failed to grip me, to the point where I had to give myself a reward of reading a chapter of another book after each chapter of this one. The Amber Spyglass sees Lyra and Will separated, as Will and the other diverse array of characters travel their separate routes towards a rather lackluster conclusion.

The writing style is awkward, with language that feels much more dated than I thought appropriate, and nothing that gave me an urge to continue. Similarly the plot seemed lost and wandering in circles for much of the book and it didn't feel like a self-contained narrative at all.

What I did enjoy was the world-building that Pullman does to create a world of diamond-shaped creatures, and particularly the society of the Mulefa. I previously found the worldbuilding to be the best elements of the first book in the series, and when creating another world here he is at his best.

Overall though I found it dry and tedious. My decision not to read the trilogy when it was originally popular was clearly the correct one, and I'm glad it's now over.

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The Subtle Knife

The Subtle Knife

Philip Pullman

10th February 2013

After finding the first book in the His Dark Materials trilogy an interesting read, I was keen to follow the rest of the story, as I felt book one was somewhat incomplete. Book two disapointed, lacking the characterisation, solid plot and detailed worldbuilding that I enjoyed in Northern Lights.

In The Subtle Knife, we meet Will, a child of the real world who is on the run, and finds his way through a portal into another world. I was hoping that we'd spend the book aligned with Will as he went on a quest, as we had with Lyra in the first book, but that wasn't to be, and the narrative instead flits about between points of view with little consistency, making the events hard to follow in places.

The ideas behind the book are excellent - the overall plot (though this does suffer from being a middle book which doesn't really advance much), the characters, the metaphors, the fantasy - but Pullman's execution does nothing for me. The writing feels a mix of patronisingly over-explaining things to the language of old-fashioned childrens' books like those by John Masefield, which now feels like the sort of thing a school curriculum would force on children as an example of literature. It's not a style that I found appealing or seemed like it would be approachable to young readers.

I found that I really had to push myself to finish this book, and after waiting several months to read it after the first volume I felt quite let down. I hope the final book picks the pace back up and concludes the story in a satisfactory manner.

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Northern Lights

Northern Lights

Philip Pullman

22nd June 2012

Northern Lights and the rest of the 'His Dark Materials' triolgy passed me by at the height of their popularity and only now have I got round to reading this first installment. Lyra is a young girl living in an Oxford college in a universe slightly different to our own, in which each person is constantly accompanied by their own 'daemon'. When children around the country begin to disappear, Lyra is unknowingly drawn into her destiny.

I'm not really sure what to think of the book. While I enjoyed reading it, I did find it hard-going and did not have the usual urge to keep reading at the end of each chapter. The writing style is quite classical, and perhaps it is this, to which I am not used, which is reducing my attention span. The language seems also to be a strange mix of high literature and children's novel that in places steps a little close to patronizing.

The worldbuilding elements were perhaps my favourite parts, with the daemons in particular coming across really well as an element that would obviously be unfamiliar to the reader. The actual story less so - it has a very episodic structure which moves on at quite a fast pace, with what I felt was too little continuity bridging the sections. In contrast perhaps, the overall plot doesn't really stand alone as its own story, with no sense of having completed anything at the end. I assume that this is because the trilogy is meant to stand as a single work, but it leave a disatisfied feeling after reading just one part.

Overall, I think I'm going to have to read the sequels before making a final decision on how I feel about this book.

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Top books

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  2. Northern Lights
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  4. The Subtle Knife
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  6. The Amber Spyglass