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His Dark Materials 3-Book Paperback Boxed Set: The Golden Compass; The Subtle Knife; The Amber Spyglass Paperback – Box set, May 27, 2003
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From the Publisher
|His Dark Materials: The Golden Compass (Book 1)||His Dark Materials: The Subtle Knife (Book 2)||His Dark Materials: The Amber Spyglass (Book 3)||The Book of Dust: La Belle Sauvage (Volume 1)||The Book of Dust: The Secret Commonwealth (Volume 2)|
|Enter the world of His Dark Materials||The modern fantasy classic soon to be an HBO original series – HIS DARK MATERIALS!||The second book in the HIS DARK MATERIALS series – soon to be an HBO original series!||The third book in the HIS DARK MATERIALS series – soon to be an HBO original series!||Set in the same world as HIS DARK MATERIALS - meet Lyra before the events of The Golden Compass!||Set in the same world as HIS DARK MATERIALS - discover what happened to Lyra after The Amber Spyglass!|
"Marvelous." —The New Yorker
“Pullman is quite possibly a genius… Using the lineaments of fantasy to tell the truth about the universal experience of growing up.” —Newsweek
Praise for THE SUBTLE KNIFE
“Just as quick-moving and unputdownable as The Golden Compass. . . . The mysteries deepen and the wonders grow even more extravagant.” —The Washington Post
“Pullman’s imagination soars . . . A literary rollercoaster ride you won’t want to miss.”—The Boston Globe
“The story gallops with ferocious momentum . . . Devilishly inventive.” —The New York Times Book Review
Praise for THE AMBER SPYGLASS
"War, politics, magic, science, individual lives and cosmic destinies are all here . . . shaped and assembled into a narrative of tremendous pace by a man with a generous, precise intelligence. I am completely enchanted." —The New York Times Book Review
"Breathtaking adventure . . . a terrific story, eloquently told." —The Boston Globe
About the Author
The Book of Dust, Pullman’s eagerly anticipated return to the world of His Dark Materials, will also be a book in three parts. It began with La Belle Sauvage and continues with The Secret Commonwealth.
Philip Pullman is the author of many other beloved novels. For younger readers: I Was a Rat!, Count Karlstein, Two Crafty Criminals!, Spring-Heeled Jack, and The Scarecrow and His Servant. For older readers: the Sally Lockhart quartet (The Ruby in the Smoke, The Shadow in the North, The Tiger in the Well, and The Tin Princess), The White Mercedes, and The Broken Bridge. He has written a magnificent collection, Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm, and his essays and lectures on writing and storytelling have been gathered in a volume called Dæmon Voices: On Stories and Storytelling.
Philip Pullman lives in Oxford, England.
- ASIN : 0440419514
- Publisher : Yearling; Box edition (May 27, 2003)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 560 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0440238609
- ISBN-13 : 978-0440419518
- Reading age : 10 years and up
- Lexile measure : 930L
- Grade level : 5 - 12
- Item Weight : 2.15 pounds
- Dimensions : 5.25 x 3.38 x 7.88 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #1,890 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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★★★★★ Endless number of stars
His Dark Materials is a sweeping epic that tells of a story bigger than you can imagine, but it’s also a story told through the smallest characters – a story of a world, the fate of which lies in the hands of children. In a way, it’s all about the fight between good and evil, wisdom and darkness, but not in your usual fantasy sense. This is more philosophical than you might have expected it to be, but it’s also so imaginative, so full of adventure and unbelievable details, that you’ll never get bogged down with any of the philosophy. It’s a series that you can eat through a week – no matter how long the books actually are. You won’t sleep, if you have to.
Don’t You Just Wish Your Cat Was Your Daemon??
Daemons are talking animals that are… curiously, they’re part of you. They’re kind of your spirit animal, which also makes up part of your soul. It’s incredibly interesting, cute, and it goes so well with the story! You can talk to it, it will help you and defend you, and even if you’re utterly and completely alone, it will be your companion. It’s likely that by the end of the series, you will find yourself trying to figure out what your daemon would look like. Or maybe even does look like. (more on why I say that – in the actual book!)
There Are Wonders And Mysteries
Obviously, it wouldn’t be cool if I just gave it away to you, now would it. But let me just tell you that there are worlds to explore. That there are reasons the entire world is falling, and you need to find them out. And the reasons are all pretty grand as well. It’s not your typical overused YA tropes either, for example – oh, this or that super power has just decided to thwart the main character and their family, and you need a special snowflake to fix it. No, it’s far better than that! That said, the main character (who is a little girl) IS special, and she’s IS key to the saving of the world, but she’s no special snowflake. We’re getting to that in the next point.
The Characters Have Flaws, They’re Not Perfect
Having imperfect characters is great! Especially so, because it prevents the aforementioned ‘special snowflake’ syndrome. The main female character, Lyra, is as flawed as can be – she lies, she’s not loyal, she’s subject to other people’s manipulation. She is also ridiculously dramatic, and it’s maintained throughout the entire series in the way she talks (I specifically loved that!). The main male character Will is also a great character. He’s strong willed and he’s trustable, but he can also be ruthless, hard and cold. Both of them symbolize many things, but typical special snowflakes they are not. As for symbolizing? We get to point 4…
This story has layers upon layers of symbolism, mostly to do with mythologies, or namely – Christian mythologies, exposing them quite ruthlessly at times. This is magical and super interesting, merging religious symbolism with scientific fantasy (is that.. a thing, scientific fantasy..?), and weaving together a magical build of the world, of the universe. I will not tell you what the main characters (and many others) symbolize, because that would take away from your pleasure of discovering it yourself. However, if you are religious (not only Christian, basically, any religion that is based on a single deity) – be warned, as this book might seem controversial to you. It’s not kind to organized religion. You need an open mind to read it. If you are religious, and still really want to read it (which you should!), I suggest remembering that this is just fiction and it’s an invented world.
This series ends with a bad case of the feels. As bad as it gets. But it’s also the kind of feels you want in a book! Basically, the kind of feels we all read books for. But please, prepare napkins.
The Golden Compass, the first book in the series, is deserving of five stars and is one of my favorite novels ever. I am an avid reader and a librarian, and I particularly love this first novel because it features a strong, believable female lead, a well paced plot that focuses on ideas and politics and power play, and incredible world building. It also was the first time I read a comparison of university and street (or public) life that made me nod and say "yes, that's right." Unlike a lot of readers, I do not think this first novel or the trilogy as a whole is anti-organized religion on principle - I believe it does object to certain elements of organized religion which may well be deserving of criticism. One of the core strengths of the first book is its ability to communicate arguments about larger concepts in society while telling a genuinely good story -- it doesn't come off as preachy, or pushy, and it is eye opening, especially for the young adult target demographic, but these days, often as well for American adults.
The second book, The Subtle Knife, is a four star book in my opinion, because while it is an excellent novel, it does The Golden Compass a disservice by weakening the main character (Lyra) with a second protagonist who is male (Will). Will is an excellently written character, but his very presence makes Lyra's character weaker. If we had been introduced to Lyra in The Subtle Knife, I am certain it would be a five star book, but because The Subtle Knife is part of a series, I review it both as a novel in its own right and as a novel that exists in a series. Lyra's fierce independence is essentially in many ways stripped by a "love interest." Few authors have been able to produce a believable romantic relationship that involves a rebellious, independent woman, and Pullman is not one of them. This is not to say that he doesn't appreciate Lyra, rather, it is evident to me in reading the Subtle Knife that he struggled to produce the Lyra we knew who could also ally with something who was, in many ways, more powerful than she was -- that was something her character did not know how to do, and thus the only solution was to diminish her. It's a flaw that only lost the book one star in my own eyes because in every other way, the book lives up to expectation: it is excellently paced, it has a lot of Lee Scoresby (who is simply a phenomenal character), it continues to ask tough questions, it's hard to put down, and all of the new characters as well as some of the older ones get significant and interesting development.
The final book in the series, The Amber Spyglass, is one that I want to love. But the fact of the matter is, it has a significant flaw that I cannot overlook: it's all to clear, reading the third novel, what Pullman is trying to push. The story is sacrificed for the philosophy, the sentimentality in places is overbearing, and this makes the fact that the ideas are still compelling even more frustrating. The final book is probably a two star book, but if I was reviewing it by itself, I would probably give it three stars, out of loyalty to the series. Indeed, the redeeming elements of this book are all to do with its tying up of plot points, redemption of certain characters that is gratifying, its own seemingly self aware points about the power of story, and the core, strong arguments about society that are the backbone of the series as a whole. I can't honestly say that by itself, it is a good book, but I do think that as part of a series, it still worth the reader's time.
Those of you who are also readers will recognize this sentiment: if you are just now coming to His Dark Materials, I am envious. There are few things in the history of my consumption of genre fiction (and even literary fiction) that come close to the experience of my discovery and subsequent reading of this series. I rarely say "such and such changed my life," but this series certainly changed mine, and I would love to have that experience in reading more often, it is so affirming.
Top reviews from other countries
The first book, the Northern Lights, tells the story of Lyra, who has been brought up in an Oxford college in a parallel world. This is a universe where part of everybody's nature is externalised, and embodied in an animal daemon. As a child, Lyra's daemon is constantly changing, in contrast to the fixed daemons of adults. Subject to the benign neglect of the scholars of Jordan College, Lyra is virtually feral, roaming at will around the college and its environs, constantly fighting with different groups of children. She is only tamed by the occasional visits of her "uncle" Lord Asriel, a famous explorer. Lyra's world starts to change when she learns about Asriel's search for Dust, a mysterious elemental particle which falls from northern skies. His search is seen as heretical by an oppressive, unreformed church. Then children start to disappear, snatched by the mysterious Gobblers. Lyra is, however, removed from danger by the arrival of her glamorous mother, Mrs Coulter, who takes her away to a seemingly civilising life in high London society. However, when a link between Mrs Coulter and the Gobblers is revealed, Lyra runs away into the arms of the Gyptians, benevolent travellers on the nation's waterways. What follows is a fantastical chase to the arctic to rescue missing children and uncover Asriel's secret work. It is a chase involving witches, a ballon borne aeronaut, armour clad polar bears, evil scientists and the malign influence of the church.
For me, Northern Lights is the best of the trilogy. It is a tightly plotted action fantasy where Pullman uses his story to illustrate his magical world. He is a supremely visual writer, creating pictures which remain as after images long after the book is closed, but in doing so he manages not to put any brake on the momentum of his plot. The world he creates is marvellous, with daemons, and armoured bears being particularly wonderful inventions. The whole thing has a kind of steam punk aesthetic, this is a world of dark wood and shiny brass, where Zeppelins cross the sky.
The beginning of the second book, the Subtle Knife, almost feels like a disappointment. Having created such a marvellous canvas against which Lyra's tale is told, Pullman pitches the reader straight back into our own world. Will, like Lyra, lives in Oxford, but his is a mundanely frightening existence. His father, another explorer, disappeared shortly after Will was born, and Will is left caring for his mentally ill mother. Will's world changes when mysterious men start hunting for information about his father, and while fleeing them, he finds himself stepping through into another world. In what seems to be a tropical paradise, he meets a wild but disoriented girl, none other than Lyra, who left her own world at the end of the Northern Lights on the unknowing coat tails of Lord Asriel. The second book in the trilogy is set mainly in our own world and in the tropical Citagazze, as Will and Lyra, pursued by malevolent forces from both of their worlds search, for Will's father. In "real" Oxford Lyra finds a different perspective on Dust in the lab of a particle physicist, Mary Malone. In Citagazze, a world where adults are killed by malevolent spectres invisible and harmless to children, Will becomes the bearer of the Subtle Knife, capable of opening windows between universes. The book is very much the middle of a trilogy, broadening out from the first, and setting things up for the finale. In this central position, the final line is remarkably similar to that of the Two Towers, "Frodo was alive but taken by the enemy". Turning to Tolkein, in the introduction to his masterwork, he states that "this is a tale which grew in the telling". That is a feeling I had with the Subtle Knife, that new ideas are introduced which don't quite fit with what went before. For example, for all of Asriel's historic attempts to blast a gateway between universes we find that others have been blithely stepping through windows for years. However while I may quible at some details, there is some fantastic writing, not least in the heroic death of a major character which brought me close to tears.
The third volume, the Amber Spy Glass is vast in its ambition, but I'm afraid I found it the most flawed of the three. It is the story of war in heaven, and one in which Pullman draws heavily on Milton's Paradise Lost, while also turning it on its head. This is the story of the triumph of humankind, its ascent rather than it fall.. The first problem I have with it is that it is simply over-written. One almost gets the impression that Pullman has grown in confidence relative to his editor. Scenes drag on unnecessarily, to the detriment of his narrative drive. Whereas the building of the world took place around the story in the Northern Lights, here the plot is subservient to the creation of new universes. Secondly, the plot starts to get a bit ragged. Comparing once again with Tolkein, Pullman has undoubtedly created stronger characters, and also provides rounded female characters. However one of the beauties of the Lord of the Rings is its internal consistency. This is less the case with His Dark Materials. Asriel, having apparently just escaped from his universe has seemingly built up a massive alliance and military infrastructure in no time at all. Mrs Coulter and Asriel go through enormous, scarcely credible character arcs, indeed in the case of the latter, it is less of an arc, more of a hairpin bend.
Again, while having criticisms, I also thoroughly enjoyed a book in which Asriel seeks to replace the kingdom of heaven with a republic; a book in which the church uses both WMDs and individual assassins in an attempt to kill Lyra; a book in which armoured bears sail a river boat through central asia, using a flaming catapult against those who refuse them refuelling; a book in which Will and Lyra descend into the world of the dead; a book in which Mary Malone, the particle physicist takes on the role of the serpent in a garden of Eden inhabited by wheeled pachyderms;a book which ends with a heartbreaking sacrifice, but also on a note of bittersweet hope.
His Dark Materials is frequently described as being anti-christian. I'd say that is misleading, for the simple reason that there is no Christ figure, or reference to one, in the book. The religion in Lyras world is more like a sort of old testament Catholicism. Pullman's target could much more readily be described as oppressive organised religion. One can certainly see why Rome would object to the work. Furthermore, while Pullman nails his colours firmly to the humanist mast, he still leaves a small agnostic gap. There is no deicide in these novels. Two characters impersonating God die, but it is made clear that neither is the original creator. Also, while Pullman is a humanist, he is no cold materialist. This us a deeply spiritual work, with characters having life beyond the purely physical, and a trinity existing within human nature. It is telling that Lord Asriel does not deny heaven, his aim is revolution, to set up a republic.
In the same way as it reflects and inverts Paradise Lost, this trilogy also spins around the stories of CS Lewis, reflecting their deep Christianity with its glory in human spirit and consciousness. The point at which the two come closest is in the character of MrsCoulter, who, along with her golden monkey daemon is both a gloriously threatening villain, and an extremely close relative of Jadis,the White Witch of Narnia.
In short, not that brevity is appropriate in a work of this scope, Pullman draws together theology, quantum physics, evolution and an explanation of consciousness in a book which draws heavily on both ancient and modern fantasy.
The book itself is magnificent - beautiful to look at, pleasingly heavy and incredibly high quality. It's printed on very thin paper in small-than-usual text too, so for those of you that don't have the best eyesight, this may present a problem - but for anyone else this is a definite must-purchase if you're a fan of well-written fantasy.
Thinking that these were going to be very much in a similar vein to the likes of J.K Rowling's 'Harry Potter' books, I started off reading the first book, expecting similar themes and tropes, but I don't think I could have been any more wrong. In fact, right off the bat it's clear that this is a much darker, more violent and sinister world than anything in the Potterverse - and it really surprises me that these are considered to be 'kids' books as some of the events in them are pretty gruesome and surprisingly mature.
I'm not going to delve into the plot, but suffice to say that Philip Pullman's imagination is amazing and the world he's created in these books is fully realised and rich with originality and intrigue, and it's definitely a series of books that will keep you briskly page-turning right until the end.
UPDATE: I sort of wrote this review before I had finished reading the book all the way through, so it is with a heavy heart that I say that although I loved the first book and enjoyed the second one, the third one is not of the same quality. It definitely has its moments, but any positive thoughts I had about the series evaporated in a puff of smoke after experiencing the saccharine, nauseating conclusion, which nearly had me blowing chunks on this book's pages.
I won't go into the story too much, because if you are interested, just read it - its fabulous. I don;t want to spoil it for you :) But in short, it's about a girl called Lyra, and her unusual world. If you or your children liked reading books like Harry Potter, and Narnia books, then this is along those lines, but just slightly older.
One huge word of warning though - if you give this to anyone, or read it for yourself, DO NOT READ THE FOREWORD INTRODUCTION!!!! It gives away so much of the story in the first few pages, its crazy. I couldn't beleive it when my daughter told me what was in it.....such a shame, as it has spoiled several of the surprise events in the books.
The books themselves get a solid 5 stars - they are a great read, and a fantastic page turner, each chapter enticing you to read on ....and on.....and on! The book itself feels solid in hardback, and a joy to hold and flick through.
Highly recommended to children of capable reading abilities, aged perhaps 10 years and older, and for any adults who like to dip into magical worlds every now and again :)