I read Northern Lights and The Subtle Knife with a couple of books gap in 2014, and I was thinking to just write about them altogether once I finished the series. But lo and behold, I only managed to read The Amber Spyglass recently, in the beginning of 2016! Why did it take me so long? I have no idea. But I’m happy to finally finish them, as a new TV series is in the making. About time! I always wonder why they never continued making the films, and stopped at Golden Compass (the other publication name for Northern Lights). People say it’s because the controversial nature of the books – the whole war against “god”. After reading book 3 in particular, I can see how it could ruffle lots of people’s feathers. Take this example:
“Well, where is God, if he’s alive? And why doesn’t he speak any more? At the beginning of the world, God walked in the garden and spoke with Adam and Eve. Then he began to withdraw, and Moses only heard his voice. Later, in the time of Daniel, he was aged – he was the Ancient of Days. Where is he now? Is he still alive, at some inconceivable age, decrepit and demented, unable to think or act or speak and unable to die, a rotten hulk? And if that is his condition, wouldn’t it be the most merciful thing, the truest proof of our love for God, to seek him out and give him the gift of death?”
So the books definitely managed to be daring. I’m not religious so nothing here offends me. What I was looking for was a story that I could love. I don’t read many books in the same genre as adult, so I could only compare the series with Harry Potter.
I liked Harry Potter series more. I loved the daemon concept in His Dark Materials – how every individual has an animal shape alter-ego following them everywhere (mine would be a cat, hah), but the world building wasn’t as expansive and believable in my opinion. I kept doubting the decisions of the plot, characters and their motives at various points in the book. There were plot holes, or what seemed like ones. There are many worlds in this book. At certain points it is extremely difficult to jump between worlds, and at others it is skimmed over, and make you think: Wait, how did they..?
I am also not a huge fan of the two main characters: Lyra and Will. I like how Pullman made an effort to create 2 very strong young characters, and I could see how they may appeal to a lot of people, but to me they are almost too strong – to the point of being unsympathetic. It doesn’t help that I could not connect with Lyra in particular, as the female character. Her power and strength is… LYING. She lies so well that she’s named Lyra Silvertongue by another character in the book. I don’t like lying, and I can’t see lying as any kind of virtue in real life or fiction.
A big point of the books is separation between young persons and their adult caretakers. There are sort of rites of passage where you have to choose to leave everything behind, including your parents, and live your own life. Again I can see how this could be appealing to many people, but it didn’t sit quite right with me. It seemed a bit heartless to not care very much about your parents.
Mee’s rating: 4/5 – I’m giving the books 4 stars for being a readable yarn. I don’t read many series, so reading 3 books in a series for me is something. It’s a pretty fun read, but my heart didn’t fall hard for this tale and characters. For a book to get to that next level it needs to touch me emotionally, and this one didn’t.