book review

So I just read The Amber Spyglass by Phillip Pullman and…

And it’s safe to say it’s been a slog. I’ve already spoken about the other two books in this series here and here and I made it pretty obvious I didn’t like any of them but I had heard so many amazing things I was determined to get to the end. The thing that pushed me through the second one was people said that the second one was a little slow but it picked up in the third and then by that point I felt way too invested to give up. So, that’s the book about?

Will is the bearer of the knife. Now, accompanied by angels, his task is to deliver that powerful, dangerous weapon to Lord Asriel – by the command of his dying father. But how can he go looking for Lord Asriel when Lyra is gone? Only with her help can he fathom the myriad plots and intrigues that beset him. The two great powers of the many worlds are lining up for war, and Will must find Lyra, for together they are on their way to battle, an inevitable journey that will even take them to the world of the dead…

I wanted to start with the things I liked about this book and then move on to things I disliked and finally do a wrap up of my thoughts on the whole series and how I think it could be improved. 

I loved the chapters based around Mary Malone and the Mulefa, the Mulefa were so fascinating to me and following Malone’s journey was really interesting. She had a really interesting character arc and I would have quite happily read a whole book just about her. 

I also liked the section based around the land of the dead, everything from when they first arrived to the awful ordeal of having to leave their Daemon to working out how to get around the harpe. Again, I wish more of the book was set in this section. 

So now onto things I disliked about this book. The main thing is the ‘love development’ of the two main characters. I knew from the start that this was going to be how the book ended, with them falling in love, but I had hoped that things would feel more organic and like they had fallen in love over time. Instead the I love you came out of nowhere, you were left feeling cheated out of a love story. It almost felt like Pullman had sent this book to the publisher but they had demanded at least one love story and so he pushed in the ‘I love you’ at the end. 

I did love the idea that they were unable to be together and the fact they made a promise to be at the same spot every year but I loved that for the idea more than the emotions. I feel this would have had a much more emotional impact if they had stayed as friends or their love story had been much more developed. 

I also really struggled to keep up at times. Before I get into this I do want to give a disclaimer that this may have been an issue to do with my dislike of the series and book, that my lack of interest affected my concentration. I feel like the fight with Metatron was hard to follow and I would have missed important details if not for the fact a friend had already told me about certain things. 

I really didn’t like Marisa Coulter, I felt like her character was all over the place and often couldn’t decide what side she was on. If her love for Lyra was an act or if she did really love the girl. I feel like Pullman was going for a ‘flawed mother’ character but it didn’t come across in a way that was appropriate. 

Finally… Does Pullman not know the world chest? His use of the word breast constantly makes me feel wired. 

So my final thoughts. This book was my favorite in the series but that’s really not saying a lot. I do understand why people love this series so much, it really does have some cool aspects, but for me I didn’t enjoy it. The concept and idea was so interesting and it really got you thinking about religion and death, but I don’t think it was executed well. 

But please let me know your opinion in the comments! 

Check out my last blog post here where I talked about my bookshop dreams and maybe consider subscribing to my newsletter on the right.

Find your local independent bookshop here and check out Hive or Abebooks here to find ones that deliver, shops need your support now more than ever.