His Dark Materials: Philip Pullman

Includes The Golden Compass; The Subtle Knife; and The Amber Spyglass

The first 2 books – they were ok. The third, what a let down. I feel that I have a knack for picking trilogies that start out promising only to be utterly disappointed with the ending. The authors open hostility with the “magisterium” (it wasn’t hard to see the the comparison to organized religion – especially on the Christian side) was almost amusing from an adult’s perspective during the first 2 books. They had fantastical elements and yet I truly felt like the universe that Lyra was living in could have been an alternate universe for ours. The Ice Bears were a treat during the first book. The second book – well, that too was fantastical, but I wondered where things were going to go, because it got dark and creepy and the idea of the creatures that were created by the tares in the dimensions from the knife – I still after finishing the third book wasn’t sure how that got resolved, or what their point in the whole story was.

The first book was, despite the religious thing, fantastical and mythical and had an interesting plot. The gobblers stealing children; Lyra being able to read the compass (I can’t spell what the book called it!); Oxford; the Ice Bears (awesome idea). And Pan – I absolutely adore Pan. I think he is my favorite part of the series. The idea of your conscious (or soul, maybe?) as a separate but integral part – the manifestation in the animal – is unique and I though was clever. But the turn this book took towards religion, yikes. I for one took it as hostility towards organized religion. But that was me. And to me, it wasn’t veiled in the least. It was open and there for all to easily attempt to digest.

The second book left me confused and disturbed. Getting introduced to the boy’s universe was uncomfortable to say the least. The creatures that were created – were way to dark and creepy for me. I am in a lot of ways glad they haven’t (yet anyway) attempted to make the second book into a movie – because I don’t see any way it could reasonably be turned into a family film. It was more horror book then YA/fantasy. And, I still, after finishing the third book, wasn’t sure how that got resolved, or what their point in the whole story was. The knife and the idea of what it could do was almost a distraction. Honestly, I think a slightly different ending to book one should have been the end to the series. The author should have left well enough alone.

The third book… well, I guess this was supposed to be the redemption? Learning about how a world/dimension/universe (what ever) gets created? And yet the hostility towards the Magesterium didn’t stop. So was the message supposed to be that we should embrace religion but be weary of organized churches? That is certainly one way I could have felt. And I guess I did. But I was more bothered by issues left unresolved by this book. And I was still bothered by the idea that was left “out there” that hitting puberty turns one evil. I mean really, is that what children should be taught? I guess there are certain groups of people that believe that way, but I am not. And I took some offense to what this series seemed to stand for in many ways. I understand the hostility towards the church, but I think books aimed at children that are so overtly religious should come with warnings, so that I know to avoid them. And I think teaching intolerance, which is one of the themes I got from this series, is unacceptable no matter what age the audience is.

The third installment made me draw a lot of similarities towards the Magician’s Nephew (I think… the one were we see the development of a new world). And it’s not a novel take on the idea. And frankly, the writing isn’t as good. Point me towards the Narnia Chronicles anytime over this set. (And, the religiousness isn’t quite as in-your-face in those as it is here).

I read a review where there was a quote that stated: “Philip Pullman contends that ‘There are some themes, some subjects, too large for adult fiction; they can only be dealt with adequately in a children’s book.’ ” I hate to disagree, but I think there are clearly some themes that should not be dealt with in a children’s book, and Philip Pullman should have steered clear of some of the themes he tried to tackle. I don’t know if they were too big for a children’s book (and honestly, should have been dealt with in an adult book) or if they were just too big for Mr. Pullman himself. Either way, I felt he didn’t know how to end the series without getting so religious, I might as well have pulled out a bible if I wanted that much religion.

As previously mentioned, I felt there was a lot of open hostility towards the church (and I am by no means a staunch church-go-er) during the first book (at least) so the turn around with how religious things got and how the message seemed to be that religion saves, caught me off guard.

And the notion that hitting puberty turns you evil – is just something that I feel has no place in a child’s book. A similar review I read called this a children’s book that is “Christian” the same way the Chronicles of Narnia are Christian – and I wish I would have seen that review before reading these. I remember loving Narnia when I was younger, and now, as an adult who loves YA/Fantasy books, I can only read certain portions of the Narnia series because others are by far to pro-religion for me (and given what I said earlier about pointing me to Narnia anytime over this series… that says something!). And so, while to moral of the 3rd book has something to do with the establishment of religion (honestly, I wasn’t sure exactly what it was) – I should have read the first 2 and then just read the Wiki article to see how the third concluded the series. I would not recommend this SERIES to anyone who doesn’t want an opinion (good or bad) about religion shoved down their throat.


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