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The Amber Spyglass: His Dark Materials Mass Market Paperback – September 9, 2003


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The Amber Spyglass: His Dark Materials + The Subtle Knife: His Dark Materials + The Golden Compass: His Dark Materials
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 10 and up
  • Grade Level: 5 and up
  • Lexile Measure: 950L (What's this?)
  • Series: His Dark Materials (Book 3)
  • Mass Market Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Laurel Leaf (September 9, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0440238153
  • ISBN-13: 978-0440238157
  • Product Dimensions: 7 x 4.1 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1,030 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #345,514 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

From the very start of its very first scene, The Amber Spyglass will set hearts fluttering and minds racing. All we'll say here is that we immediately discover who captured Lyra at the end of The Subtle Knife, though we've yet to discern whether this individual's intent is good, evil, or somewhere in between. We also learn that Will still possesses the blade that allows him to cut between worlds, and has been joined by two winged companions who are determined to escort him to Lord Asriel's mountain redoubt. The boy, however, has only one goal in mind--to rescue his friend and return to her the alethiometer, an instrument that has revealed so much to her and to readers of The Golden Compass and its follow-up. Within a short time, too, we get to experience the "tingle of the starlight" on Serafina Pekkala's skin as she seeks out a famished Iorek Byrnison and enlists him in Lord Asriel's crusade:
A complex web of thoughts was weaving itself in the bear king's mind, with more strands in it than hunger and satisfaction. There was the memory of the little girl Lyra, whom he had named Silvertongue, and whom he had last seen crossing the fragile snow bridge across a crevasse in his own island of Svalbard. Then there was the agitation among the witches, the rumors of pacts and alliances and war; and then there was the surpassingly strange fact of this new world itself, and the witch's insistence that there were many more such worlds, and that the fate of them all hung somehow on the fate of the child.
Meanwhile, two factions of the Church are vying to reach Lyra first. One is even prepared to give a priest "preemptive absolution" should he succeed in committing mortal sin. For these tyrants, killing this girl is no less than "a sacred task."

In the final installment of his trilogy, Philip Pullman has set himself the highest hurdles. He must match its predecessors in terms of sheer action and originality and resolve the enigmas he already created. The good news is that there is no critical bad news--not that The Amber Spyglass doesn't contain standoffs and close calls galore. (Who would have it otherwise?) But Pullman brings his audacious revision of Paradise Lost to a conclusion that is both serene and devastating. In prose that is transparent yet lyrical and 3-D, the author weaves in and out of his principals' thoughts. He also offers up several additional worlds. In one, Dr. Mary Malone is welcomed into an apparently simple society. The environment of the mulefa (again, we'll reveal nothing more) makes them rich in consciousness while their lives possess a slow and stately rhythm. These strange creatures can, however, be very fast on their feet (or on other things entirely) when necessary. Alas, they are on the verge of dying as Dust streams out of their idyllic landscape. Will the Oxford dark-matter researcher see her way to saving them, or does this require our young heroes? And while Mary is puzzling out a cure, Will and Lyra undertake a pilgrimage to a realm devoid of all light and hope, after having been forced into the cruelest of sacrifices--or betrayals.

Throughout his galvanizing epic, Pullman sustains scenes of fierce beauty and tenderness. He also allows us a moment or two of comic respite. At one point, for instance, Lyra's mother bullies a series of ecclesiastical underlings: "The man bowed helplessly and led her away. The guard behind her blew out his cheeks with relief." Needless to say, Mrs. Coulter is as intoxicating and fluid as ever. And can it be that we will come to admire her as she plays out her desperate endgame? In this respect, as in many others, The Amber Spyglass is truly a book of revelations, moving from darkness visible to radiant truth. --Kerry Fried --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

In concluding the spellbinding His Dark Materials trilogy, Pullman produces what may well be the most controversial children's book of recent years. The witch Serafina Pekkala, quoting an angel, sums up the central theme: "All the history of human life has been a struggle between wisdom and stupidity. The rebel angels, the followers of wisdom, have always tried to open minds; the Authority and his churches have always tried to keep them closed." Early on, this "Authority" is explicitly identified as the Judeo-Christian God, and he is far from omnipotent: his Kingdom is ruled by a regent. The cosmic battle to overthrow the Kingdom is only one of the many epic sequences in this novelAso much happens, and the action is split among so many different imagined worlds, that readers will have to work hard to keep up with Pullman. In the opening, for example, Lyra is being hidden and kept in a drugged sleep in a Himalayan cave by her mother, the beautiful and treacherous Mrs. Coulter. Will is guided by two angels across different worlds to find Lyra. The physicist and former nun, Mary Malone, sojourns in an alternatively evolved world. In yet another universe, Lord Asriel has assembled a great horde of otherworldly beings-including the vividly imagined race of haughty, hand-high warriors called GallivespiansAto bring down the Kingdom. Along the way, Pullman riffs on the elemental chords of classical myth and fairy tale. While some sections seem rushed and the prose is not always as brightly polished as fans might expect, Pullman's exuberant work stays rigorously true to its own internal structure. Stirring and highly provocative. Ages 12-up. (Oct.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

This book is blowing me away, it really makes you think about things differently.
Shellee J. Bruckman
I can understand how Christian readers of this book might be offended at first glance by Phillip Pullman's allegorical depiction of their god and church.
Cinnabar
This last book was really a bad ending to the trilogy although it did have some good times it just wasn't the same as the first two.
Andrew Hoang

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

89 of 104 people found the following review helpful By E. Dalton on November 21, 2000
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I loved "The Golden Compass." I was intrigued by "The Subtle Knife." And I tried to prepare myself to be a little disappointed by "The Amber Spyglass"-- trilogy conclusions are rarely as good as the first book. But I had hopes. The first two were so good....
This was nowhere near as good.
The various plot threads are all wrapped up, more or less. But the ending is forced. Other reviewers have pointed out the flat and inconsistent characterizations, the scattered plot, the valueless sub-threads (like Father Gomez). The useless spyglass. And even those who loved the book found the ending of the romance disappointing.
Ultimately, the book fails to deliver on the themes that were begun in "The Golden Compass," including one of the most important. Am I simply not getting it? How was Lyra's position anything comparable to Eve's? She finds love (with almost no character build up), she gives it up for the sake of the world(s). As other readers have noted, she's arguably a Christ character. But not much like Eve. Unless you count the temptation to sex (in a world with giant apple trees that contain the essence of sentience), and frankly, I don't think that was especially plausable. Eve, according to Judeo-Christian theology, succumbs to temptation (for knowledge, not sex) and gets everyone kicked out of Eden. I suppose Lyra resists temptation (to continue a relationship) to help everyone build a new Eden. But it's a tenuous connection at best, because the "only one window, not two" argument is so weak and last-minute, and she and Will can only affect one world each at best, with no way to travel between them. (And if Pullman wanted to redefine Eve to mean something else, a lot more work was needed.
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35 of 39 people found the following review helpful By R. M. Fisher TOP 1000 REVIEWER on November 5, 2004
Format: Hardcover
At the end of "The Subtle Knife", things were dire. Lyra had been kidnapped by her mother Mrs Coulter, whilst Will was left in the company of two angels with the subtle knife (which can create windows between worlds) and the altheiometer (that communicates with the mystery substance known as `Dust'). Refusing to accompany them to Lord Asriel, who is on the verge of war with Heaven itself, Will enlists the angels help in tracking down Lyra, and is soon joined by Iorek Byrnison, the king of the polar bears. Meanwhile, Lyra herself is forced into an enchanted sleep by her mother, whilst the powers of the Church and the Authority close in to end her life and thus the terrible threat she poses against them. When the two children are reunited, they hatch a plan to go right to the end of where the subtle knife can take them; right into death itself.

Mary Malone, who has been told that she must "play the serpent", has reached a world where elephantine creatures wheel along on giant seedpods, and may just have the final key to unravelling the mystery of Dust. Pullman brings out all of his previous creations: witches, Spectres, angels, gyptains, daemons and cliff-ghasts are all here in full force, each with a part to play in one of the most exciting, controversial, imaginative and thought-provoking books in recent history. Yet unlike the previous books, "The Golden Compass" and "The Subtle Knife", "The Amber Spyglass" has a few faults that does not make it quite the awe-inspiring finale I had hoped it would be.

Out of all three books, this one is the most blatantly anti-religious; in particular anti-Christian. Now, I have my own religious convictions (though what they are irrelevant to this review), and a critique of faith is hardly going to endanger them.
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71 of 85 people found the following review helpful By Mr. T. Pitt-payne on December 12, 2000
Format: Hardcover
This book brings to an end a rich and strange fantasy trilogy. The books tackle huge themes: the nature of consciousness, the Fall, the relationship between body and soul, and the conflict between what Pullman calls the Kingdom of Heaven and the Republic of Heaven.
It's interesting to think about this trilogy in comparison with C S Lewis's "Narnia" chronicles. Like Lewis, Pullman writes out of total immersion in the Western literary tradition. His obvious influences are Blake, Milton and the Book of Genesis: but there are also traces of Homer (e.g. the fight between Iorek and Iofur in the first book of the trilogy reads like a clash of two Homeric heroes). At a less exalted level, I suspect that Kingsley Amis's "The Alteration" contributed something to Pullman's picture of an alternative Oxford. But in Tolkien's words a book like this is written "out of the leaf-mould of the mind", and if one can discern the shape of one or two of the leaves that doesn't in any sense devalue the originality of the work.
Both the Narnia Chronicles and Pullman's trilogy are imaginative responses to the Christian tradition. The difference between Pullman and Lewis is that Lewis's reading of the Bible is that of orthodox Christianity, whereas Pullman's reading derives from Blake and from Gnosticism. In Pullman's version of events, the God of the Old Testament is not the creator of the Universe, but is a lesser figure (like a very powerful angel), and also a tyrant; the serpent in Eden is an embodiment of wisdom, not a malevolent force; and Eve is a heroine, whose choice of experience over innocence is the very thing that makes us human.
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