His Dark Materials: I Finally Finished Them! (And Here’s How I Feel)

It only took me a year and a half (maybe more, I can’t even remember) to finally get through all three books in Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy. It’s not because I didn’t like them, because I did! I was just having some struggles getting through them, they’re pretty meaty books and I haven’t had that kind of a drive since I read A Song of Ice and Fire (which I got through all five in a little over a month), and it took me a while to push myself through them. Now that I’m finally done, though, I can get around to giving my thoughts on them.


Golden Compass
“But think of Adam and Eve like an imaginary number, like the square root of minus one: you can never see any concrete proof that it exists, but if you include it in your equations, you can calculate all manner of things that couldn’t be imagined without it.”

The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman
Series: His Dark Materials #1
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Fiction
Release Date: September 9th 2003 by Laurel-Leaf Books
Format: Paperback, 351 pages
Rating: 5/5 Crabapples
Find it here: Goodreads || Book Depository

Here lives an orphaned ward named Lyra Belacqua, whose carefree life among the scholars at Oxford’s Jordan College is shattered by the arrival of two powerful visitors. First, her fearsome uncle, Lord Asriel, appears with evidence of mystery and danger in the far North, including photographs of a mysterious celestial phenomenon called Dust and the dim outline of a city suspended in the Aurora Borealis that he suspects is part of an alternate universe. He leaves Lyra in the care of Mrs. Coulter, an enigmatic scholar and explorer who offers to give Lyra the attention her uncle has long refused her. In this multilayered narrative, however,nothing is as it seems. Lyra sets out for the top of the world in search of her kidnapped playmate, Roger, bearing a rare truth-telling instrument, the compass of the title. All around her children are disappearing—victims of so-called “Gobblers”—and being used as subjects in terrible experiments that separate humans from their daemons, creatures that reflect each person’s inner being. And somehow, both Lord Asriel and Mrs. Coulter are involved.

The first book in the series, The Golden Compass, was fantastic. By far my favorite in the trilogy, I read through that sucker in no time. It started off a little slow for me but once Lyra got moving and starting working her way around to figure out what Dust was, I tore through the story easily. The idea of having your own Daemon representing your soul (which I hadn’t caught on was actually what they represented until later, I had just been using that relation in my mind in order to comprehend the idea of having something visible that couldn’t be separated from yourself for too long) was so interesting to me, and I’m sure I’m not the only one who wondered what their own Daemon would be if they were real. Part of my fast track through the book was simply to continue reading on and finding out what animals other people had for Daemons. The story surrounding Iorek Byronison was also a very interesting part of the first book. Aside from the bit where Lyra gets captured and has to live with the other children for a short time, that was my favorite part to read about. Honestly, I thoroughly enjoyed the entire book and rarely found myself bored. There were twists (Mrs. Coulter was a big one for me), there was heaps of adventure (literally the entire book), and there was more than just a little deviousness coming from the main character. If you don’t want to read the whole series, I recommend at least giving this first one a try.

Subtle Knife
“I found folly everywhere, but there were grains of wisdom in every stream of it.”

The Subtle Knife by Philip Pullman
Series: His Dark Materials #2
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Fiction
Release Date: September 9th 2003 by Laurel Leaf
Format: Paperback, 288 pages
Rating: 4/5 Crabapples
Find it here: Goodreads || Book Depository

Lyra and Will, her newfound friend, tumble separately into the strange tropical otherworld of Cittàgazze, “the city of magpies,” where adults are curiously absent and children run wild. Here their lives become inextricably entwined when Lyra’s alethiometer gives her a simple command:  find Will’s father. Their search is plagued with obstacles–some familiar and some horribly new and unfathomable–but it eventually brings them closer to Will’s father and to the Subtle Knife, a deadly, magical, ancient tool that cuts windows between worlds. Through it all, Will and Lyra find themselves hurtling toward the center of a fierce battle against a force so awesome that leagues of mortals, witches, beasts, and spirits from every world are uniting in fear and anger against it.

Now, The Subtle Knife, the second book in the series. While I adore Will as a character, I found myself a little less excited about the journey in this second book than I was in the first one. I’m not certain if it was because it was a little slower (I’m not even certain if it WAS slower or not), or if it was because the chapters often switched points of view, which confuses me. I still loved the book, especially when Will and Lyra met and started travelling together, and the part where Lyra is trying to get her alethiometer back from the man with the snake daemon (I can’t recall his name at the moment, either one of them, I just remember disliking him). I also found myself waiting eagerly to see what Mrs. Coulter was up to, and I’m not sure if I was still reeling from the realization that she was a bad character in the first book or if because I was starting to like her for what she was. The most boring bits of the story, for me, were the ones involving Seraphina Pekkala, and I would account that to the fact I was much more interested in what was happening to Will, Lyra, and Mrs. Coulter than I was to what was happening to the other characters involved in the story. I have a bad habit of favoritism when it comes to lengthy stories involving various points of views. Regardless, this was an excellent second book in the trilogy and I loved it almost as much as the first.

The Amber Spyglass
“I stopped believing there was a power of good and a power of evil that were outside us. And I came to believe that good and evil are names for what people do, not for what they are.”

The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman
Series: His Dark Materials #3
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Fiction
Release Date: September 9th 2003 by Laurel Leaf
Format: Paperback, 467 pages
Rating: 4/5 Crabapples
Find it here: Goodreads || Book Depository

In the astonishing finale to the His Dark Materials trilogy, Lyra and Will are in unspeakable danger. With help from Iorek Byrnison the armored bear and two tiny Gallivespian spies, they must journey to a dank and gray-lit world where no living soul has ever gone. All the while, Dr. Mary Malone builds a magnificent Amber Spyglass. An assassin hunts her down, and Lord Asriel, with a troop of shining angels, fights his mighty rebellion, in a battle of strange allies—and shocking sacrifice.

As war rages and Dust drains from the sky, the fate of the living—and the dead—finally comes to depend on two children and the simple truth of one simple story.

The final book in the trilogy, The Amber Spyglass, was both my least favorite in the series and also the one I feel like hit me the hardest. This was the one that took me the longest to finish, which was roughly a year, and it wasn’t because it was a bad story. Again, this is where my favoritism issue came into play, I found myself dragging through the chapters focusing on the characters I didn’t care much about. I didn’t personally care much for Mary’s parts of the story despite her being a central character to the entirety of the book, and that was more just me being stubbornly focused on Will and Lyra. It was, by all means, a very strong and interesting story to read and if you take it slow and look for the little hidden bits that reference back to the story of Adam and Eve, it makes it all the more interesting to read through. By this point, you’re also emotionally attached to all the characters (or, at least, I was) whether you wanted to be or not. Every time something happened to any of them, I found myself feeling for them, even if I didn’t particularly like them. An example of this would be when Mrs. Coulter was lunging for Lyra’s hair in order to save her. I was endlessly antsy with the story that followed that part because I wanted to know what had happened. Thinking back on this now, that may have been another reason it had taken me so long to get through the book, I was endlessly frustrated with the wait that came with each twist and sense of peril, and tired of getting distracted with a new peril before the former one had been given resolve.

Not that I disapprove! I think it’s fantastic that Pullman was capable of keeping so much going on and was able to keep me on my toes constantly with more than just one story, I’m just personally still a little bit easily frustrated and discouraged sometimes, and that flared up this time around. This final book, though, was amazing.

The entire series was amazing. The ending lacked a little for me simply because I wanted more (and I’m getting more! There’s a new book coming out that is supposedly in Lyra’s point of view, and she’s around sixteen), but it was far from being a bad ending. I hurt for Will and Lyra, and I was so excited to see the final forms of both Daemons. In fact, that may have been the most exciting and satisfying thing of the whole series for me.

I think it doesn’t really need to be said, but I highly recommend this series to all who are interested. It has that hype surrounding it for a reason, and it’s definitely worth a shot at.

I may or may not be doing a book to movie review for this one due to the fact I’ve heard the adaptation is horrendous. I mean I could, but it would probably just consist of me pointing out all of the things they did wrong and why I wasn’t happy with that, and you can find that kind of stuff anywhere else most likely. So I’ll spare you my brand of ranting this time around.

I’ll end this by saying, if you have the chance to listen to the audiobooks by The Listening Library (and happen to like listening to audiobooks, of course), then I highly, highly, highly suggest giving them a go. They were, by far, my favorite audiobooks to have listened to, and I’m not much of an audiobook person. I just have long commutes and a lessening interest for the radio.

Thanks for reading!

xoxo Nova, drowning in the Florida humidity.

Find the series on Book Depository.

2 thoughts on “His Dark Materials: I Finally Finished Them! (And Here’s How I Feel)

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