His Dark Materials

Warning: spoiler spoiler spoiler

Very, very early yesterday morning I finally came to the conclusion of Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy. I am stunned, sad, and haunted. I have already given several of my comments on book one: The Golden Compass. My favorite part of the series is book two: The Subtle Knife. The Subtle Knife took the story to greater heights by putting it on an epic scale and showing just how delightfully complex the story is. It was also a disconcerting novel because the anti-organized religion theme was much more apparent. The novel did not just explore the corruption and hypocrisy in the Christian religion - it also posed doubts about the nature and origin of God. As a Christian I squirmed at some parts of The Subtle Knife. But I believe in mutual respect and tolerance. I expect other people to respect my spiritual beliefs - and I respect other people's spiritual beliefs. There was a point where I couldn't help laughing inside at all the fuss over His Dark Materials because many people label it "atheism for kids." If your faith - whatever it may be - is strong, it will not be shaken by a book or a movie. I truly believe that only a real-lfe experience opens the possibility of shaking a strong faith. But then again, His Dark Materials is supposed to be for young readers, and young readers are very impressionable... Here's the bottomline for me: I am a Christian, and I think His Dark Materials is a good series. These are good books for many reasons, but I do not love them. And yes, if I were a mother - and I would be a Christian mother - I would allow my children to read these books, but I would make sure to discuss the ideas in the book with my children. The series definitely raises questions about the universe, the meaning of life, and the afterlife, and makes one ponder about God, angels, and good and evil.

The Subtle Knife is my favorite in the series because it is the book that makes the story so rich. It is also my favorite because it gave us Will. Did I say in an earlier post that Lyra is magnetic? I take that back. Lyra is great. I love her because she has so much spunk. I love how she does what she wants and doesn't really care what other people think. I love how she always questions authority. But Will is the magnetic one. He is young, but already so strong and even powerful. He is so good to his mother and such a good boy overall, but not a goody-goody. He is interesting, reliable/dependable, and responsible. Will is my favorite male character out of all the books I have ever read. (As many of you already know, Lucy from the Chronicles of Narnia is my favorite female character out of all the books I have ever read.)

I can see myself happily re-reading the great adventure that is The Golden Compass (it is one action scene after another) and happily re-reading The Subtle Knife. But I found I had to force myself to finish my first reading of The Amber Spyglass. I didn't find it as exciting as The Golden Compass and I didn't find it as compelling as The Subtle Knife - those two books really pulled me in and I was always resentful whenever I had to put them down to do other things like sleep or work.

I do like the parts in The Amber Spyglass about Dr. Mary Malone and the mulefa. The mulefa seemed like such kind, gracious, and sweet people. Their world and their lives seemed so simple and beautiful. I especially like how the mulefa would groom each other out of pure sociability. Mary would clean her friend Atal's claws and wheels while Atal would massage Mary's scalp and play with Mary's hair. I always secretly wish that someone would play with my hair out of pure sociability. :D

I was astonished by the turn around of Mrs. Coulter. She really is one of the most complicated and dynamic characters in fiction. I was truly taken aback and pleased (even touched) when Lord Asriel and Mrs. Coulter stopped being so selfish and sacrificed their lives to make sure their daughter Lyra would be safe and live a long and full life.

The ideas behind the Magisterium, the Kingdon, the Authority, Dust, the many universes, and the Republic of Heaven were so grand. And because the story and its themes are so grand several important things in The Amber Spyglass seemed weak: the worlds decaying because Dust was leaking out of the windows made by the subtle knife; a Specter being born every time the knife makes a window; less Dust flowing out of the mulefa's world just because Will and Lyra fell in love. Lame lame lame! I am not satisfied with the tying up of loose ends, and I feel some questions were left unanswered.

I cried when Will and Lyra had to separate so soon after they realized they were in love. :( (They realized it towards the end of The Amber Spyglass, but readers can already perceive that love in the middle of The Subtle Knife.) They decide to be on the same bench in Oxford's Botanic Garden, noon, on Midsummer Day every year - Lyra in her world and Will in his. That is the closest they can be with each other. :( Reading Lyra's cry to do that "as long as I live, as long as I live" really tore at my heart. :(

His Dark Materials is a stunning narrative with a melancholy finale and a beautiful story of young love that haunts me.


campbellgirl said…
Hi. I read The Golden Compass several years ago, and although I enjoyed reading it, I was so disturbed by the separation of children from their souls that I couldn't face reading any of the others. Now that I've read your post I feel that I might just give the other books a chance after all. Thanks. Merry Christmas!
Tarie said…
Thanks for visiting, campbellgirl! The rest of the series is disturbing too, but they are good. I think you will enjoy reading them. Happy holidays! :)
Anonymous said…
As I understand, the trilogy wasn't originally written for kids, but for adults (at least older teenagers) but since the main characters were children some publisher shoved them into the kids sec tion.
Tarie said…
Hi, Anon! I think one of the many beautiful things about His Dark Materials is that it appeals to children, teens, AND adults. :o)