[Archive] Review: The Amber Spyglass

The Amber Spyglass CoverTitle: The Golden Compass

Author: Philip Pullman

Type: Fiction

Release: 2000

Publisher: Scholastic Point

Original Review: December 9, 2012


I’ve got to review more books in this blog. In two years all I’ve reviewed were a textbook, and the first two books in the His Dark Materials trilogy. And only today will I get to the final book in Phillip Pullman’s trilogy: The Amber Spyglass.

Although the first two books impressed me, in light of this book they served as mere introductions to it. The jump in length is appropriate, because there’s so much more going on now! Now that we’ve met Will and Lyra, and gotten a good idea of the concepts underlying this world, it’s time for a real struggle.

As predicted, the philosophical undertones of this work are pretty strong. Pullman explores the afterlife and the intelligence of matter, among other things. He even presents us with a world in which four-legged creatures have a diamond-shaped body structure, and birds have one wing on the front and the other on the back!

I was much happier with the character development here. Both characters are starting to learn what they need to do, and you can see them both in terms of each other. Their relationship is really what drives the story, alongside the twisting intrigue of the adults in the story, particularly Mrs. Coulter, who is as untrustworthy to everyone as ever.

Pullman continued to keep me hooked by pushing imagination to its limits without making anything feel the least bit implausible. I have to say, I really was not expecting the direction this story ended up going in. While everything called for the characters to hurry up and jump to the final battle, they defied that and took a different route entirely, one that kept me guessing right until the end.

Now I’m going to go a little more in-depth about this here, but be warned: the rest of this review will spoil the book!


Coming into this trilogy, I had heard a lot of conclusions reached by other people that gave me preconceived notions about how it would end. The most common ones were, “It’s an atheist book,” and, “They kill God.”

There’s no doubt about one thing: Pullman’s work is not very sympathetic towards Christianity, and it tends to paint religious people in a negative light. Still, I can’t help but think that Metatron, the regent of the Authority, is the one who’s controlling everything to become this way, that he’s the real villain. When Will and Lyra cause the sad, old and decrepit Authority to vanish into thin air–accidentally, no less–can that really be considered killing God?

In fact, earlier on in the book, there is a conversation between characters that goes along these lines: They don’t actually know if God exists–but they know for a fact that the Authority is not God. So there you have it. There’s nothing atheist or God-killing about it.

Okay, it does have some pretty strong leanings toward the lack of any actual Heaven in the afterlife. It argues that there are particles of intelligence that stem from humanity first and foremost. I get that. But I also want to point out that there’s actually nothing scientific about this book. It presents some theories pretty strongly, but the most we can say about them is that they’re interesting–and they made for one hell of an adventure!


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