His Dark Materials by

12 March 2006

Call no:
Genre: ,
Rated :
  1. Northern Lights / The Golden Compass
  2. The Subtle Knife
  3. The Amber Spyglass

First line [The Golden Compass]:
Lyra and her daemon moved through the darkening hall, taking care to keep to one side, out of sight of the kitchen

In the first of these three novels we meet Lyra, a young girl living in a University, lacking discipline she roams the college itself, and the streets of Oxford. Accompanied everywhere by her daemon, Pantalaimon(Pan). For in this world everybody has a demon, an extension of themselves. Daemons take the form of animals, children’s can flutter and change from shape to shape, but as they grow they settle on a form. A form which reflects the personality og the individual.

Lyra and Pan learn of a plot by an Oblation Board, and when one of her friends, Roger, is taken by them she sets out to track him down and rescue him. Along the way discovering the existance of Dust, and befriending one of the great armoured polar bears.

First line [The Subtle Knife] Will tugged his mother’s hand and said, “Come on, come on …”

In the second novel we are introduced to Will Parry. A boy of around Lyra’s age. He lives in out world, and accidently discovers a window into another world. There he meets Lyra, and together they discover the Spectres. Strange beings that they cannot see, or feel, or be harmed by, but the Spectres are very interested in adults. And once an individual is grown up enough to see the Spectre they are in danger from them. Those attacked by the Spectres are left without any will or desire and die.

In this other world Will becomes the bearer of the Subtle Knife. This gives him the ability to cut through from one world to another. And with Lyra’s help he sets out to find his father.

First line [The Amber Spyglass]:
In a valley shaded with rhodedendrons, close to the snow line, where a stream milky with meltwater splashed and where doves and linnets flew among the immense pines, lay a cave, half-hidden by the crag above and the stiff heavy leaves that clustered below.

The third book sees Lyra and Will travel to the Land of the Dead. We also learn more about the angels, and The Authority, as well as Lord Asriel’s plans. Through Mary Malone’s actions we discover that no matter the world there is a problem with the Dust.

These three books are, on the surface, children’s fantasy novels. Or young adult, to be more accurate. His Dark Materials tells of a quest by the two main protagonists to save the various worlds by discovering what exactly Dust is, and what role it plays.

But a cursory read will reveal that there is a deeper level. Much of the trilogy has been inspired, at least in part, by Milton’s Paradise Lost, and the idea that the angels who rebelled where the ones in the right.

In many ways it is an anti-religous book. God, or The Authority, is a creature who has taken on more than he should have. An ancient angel, he did not create the worlds, or verses, but has tried to keep everything under his control ever since he claimed he did.

No matter the message, however, the book works as a story. Perhaps it gets a little too preachy in the final book, but overall the story is one that grips and takes the reader along. Both main characters are engaging, and believable. And while the ending may not be as satisfying as could be hoped, these books are still well worth a read.

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